Monday, April 29, 2013

On Winning Over the Bus Driver

We learned the secret to contacting this week. It is walking around with a cake. We had people stopping US to talk. Unless you've ever contacted in France you really have no idea how monumental a thing that is--usually we say bonjour, and they put up their hand and walk away. If we get past "bonjour" to say we have a message about Jesus Christ, they usually start laughing actually. Which I find totally delightful, and totally weird. And then they walk away. I'm still working on figuring this one out. At any rate, the cake was surprisingly MAGICAL. At one point, a bus driver actually pulled over in an intersection (I kid you not), opened the doors, and asked if he could have some. Winning hearts one baked good at a time.

Also I ate an old potato this week and threw up all night. (But alas did not get to see Jacob Marley.)
And I bought 4 baguettes from the corner bakery shop for our district meeting tomorrow, for which we'll wake up while it's still dark outside, walk to the train station, take a train to Pau, and meet with the other missionaries on this side of France.
(Baguettes? Corner bakery? Train stations? Is this real life?)

Also, I bought a yoga mat today for 3 euros and a jump rope for 7 (memories of 4th grade when the Drzayich boys won every jump rope competition in our elementary school) and I seriously couldn't be happier with these purchases. The simple joys of being a missionary.
Surprisingly, I got really homesick on Sunday. I'm gonna blame the fact that I hadn't slept the night before (courtesy of the potato) and hadn't eaten that day (courtesy of the food poisoning the potato gave me)--althought probably more what I should blame is a selfish, centro-seeking attitude. So I learned a few things about what to do in times of homesickness, loneliness, or fear COLON (can't find the colon on this dumb keyboard) VOILA found it:
1. The character of Christ is that when bad things happen, when he was hungry, when he was lonely, when he was in pain, what did he do? He looked around for someone else to comfort, to heal, or to uplift. Search the scriptures for these moments. They're all over the place.

I've heard it said that the best way to stop being depressed is to look around and find someone you can help. I've always had a hard time with this, because I mean...old ladies crossing crosswalks and neighbors with no oven and hence no ability to cook dinner can be hard to come by. Well this week I learned a little better what that means, this "helping" someone else. It means to make them smile! To make them feel needed, to be the first to say hello, the first to call and ask how they are doing, the first to reach out to hug them. It means helping people see their true nature, by saying kind things. It means helping people acheive a little more of the dreams they have for their lives. These things are easy.
2. And along with that, I'm learning what it means to be a good companion. Every week we have "companion inventory," as it's called, where we talk about each other's strengths and "how we could each improve." I'm just going to say it: companionship inventory is the LIVING WORST. Mostly because I spend the whole hour before worrying about which of my faults they're going to have honed in on this week. Bleh. (It should be noted, my companions are always super nice and have never yet said anything that was remotely hurtful, thank heavens.) Anyways, so this week instead of asking what I can do to improve, I asked how I can be a better companion to Soeur Pfost. Because let's face it, I'm all too aware of what I can do to improve, and I will tell you, there are beaucoup de beaucoup (a really lot) of ways. But that's not really what I want to know from her. I want to know what she'd like me to do to support her better. Maybe that's running faster in the mornings (Have I mentioned yet how she literally runs circles around me in the mornings? And yes, when I say literally, I do not mean figuratively. Learn the difference, world. Winky face. But seriously.), or maybe that means smiling more, or reminding her to bring her badge in the mornings, or I don't know what. But that's the point: the laundry list is looong of things I can do to be a better Carolyn, and I know most of those things, and am already neck-deep trying to get them taken care of. But what can I do to be a better companion? Now that's information I need.
3. And on that note about being supportive, I had the realization (most likely mid-grumble in my mind when my companion wanted to do something I didn't really want to) that being supportive means working with, not against someone. It means taking their goals and desires as your own and trying to do everything in your power to get that thing to happen! Yes, these are elementary school lessons. Yes I am still learning. But isn't that a beautiful thing: that life is long and our natures can change.
In other news, I graduated this week. I think. I bought a celebratory religieuse at the patisserie shop today. Google that. It is a round chocolate eclair with cold chocolate mousse inside and thick chocolate glaze on the top, a dollop of chantilly (whipped cream, but chatilly is such a pretty word and I will heretofore use only it without the translation so remember), then a baby chocolate eclair on the tip top. Sorry that all I want to do is talk about food. I love it okay.
And on the note of things I love, here are some things I don't love:

forgetting my train ticket one day.

forgetting my missionary name badge another day.
Yeah, I'm still learning how to be a missionary.

PS: JM Dreher, email me so I can email you.

carolyn.carter [AT]

Monday, April 22, 2013

An Organ is not a Piano

So there's this phrase in French: J'ai malcompris. It means 'I have misunderstood.' My companion uses it sometimes, and every time, I think, 'Man, that is a cool way to say that! I've gotta remember that and start using it!' (Let's be real, I'd have like a bazillion opportunities to use it everyday.) This week, though, I got the chance to really use it. It goes like this: last week, a lady in the ward came up to me after church, and from what I understood, she was going to be gone the next week, and asked me if I could I play the piano for the hymns in sacrament meeting. Not a problem. She asked if I needed to know which ones we'd be singing beforehand so I could practice, or if I could just play them on the spot. Yeah, on the spot. Because I'm awesome (aka: I have an overinflated ego.)

So I show up to church on Sunday and they're all 'Where's Soeur Carter? Oh thank goodness you're here, you're playing the hymns in sacrament right?' And I'm all, 'Yeah, I got this.' You know, proud that I can at least contribute in some way to this ward. Maybe I can't speak French, but everyone speaks the language of music, blah blah blah. So I prance over to the piano. Which is when I see that it isn't a piano at all...but an organ.
So there are a few key differences between a piano and an organ, the first of which being that a piano has 88 keys and an organ has 20 billion. Oh and also the two keyboard thing. Oh and also the 50 pedals thing. Oh and also the fact that I have no idea where the sustaining pedal is and my hands are shaking so bad that the music is shaking too because I keep releasing then rehitting notes. Bahahaha, worst and best. Afterwards, the ward member who we work the closest with in our miussionary work, who also happens to be a professor of violin performance out here came up and said, 'Bravo Soeur Carter! You have learned how to play a new instrument in five minutes!' Hahaha, oh wow. In short: 'J'ai malcompris. I thought you asked me to play the piano, not the organ! 
Bayonne is lovely. Still. We run every morning over bridges and down to the river, and past a house that some mornings smells like warm baguettes and some mornings smells like the huge purple lilac bush draped over its fences. I eat toast every morning, sometimes with Nutells, sometimes Speculoos, sometimes butter and strawberry jam, and always with a little tub of yogurt. (The French people are apparently very serious about their yogurt: the grocery store where we shop has--no exaggeration--two entire aisles of yogurt, on both sides.)

We spend four hours studying every morning, and some mornings our apartment is unusually freezing, so I wrap myself in my white down comforter aforementioned, and am completely and utterly happy. We spend a few hours everyday talking to strangers, trying to make them smile, asking them if they'd like to learn about God, teaching them who Heavenly Father is and that He put us here on this earth to learn and become like Him.
We eat a big lunch, usually a baguette sandwich, sometimes an omelet. Nutella usually figures in there somewhere as well. In the evenings we sometimes have teaching appointments, which are my favorite times. This last week a family in the ward invited us over to eat and I had my first real French dinner--four courses! We ate shredded carrots and cucumbers with a simple balsamic vinaigrette, then a gateau de maiz from Chile that had beef and chicken and raisins and cheese and it was sweet and warm. Then the 8-yr old daughter went to the fridge and came back with her arms full of different cheeses, and the mom put a baguette and a steaming loaf of wheat bread on the table. I didn't know what to do, so another of the dinner guests cut me off a huge chunk of cheese (we're talking as big as a regular carrot) and we all sat around eating cheese and hot bread. And then the cakes--a banana bread cakes and a whipped cream and raspberry cake--chantilly et framboise. It was cool and fizzy and had little crystals of sugar all coating the outside. Soeur Pfost and I went home so so happy that night.

I am picking up more of the language. I can follow conversations a little better now...except for yesterday when the best I could make of what one lady was telling me was that because of her first mustache, she helped decapitated persons, and then something about mayonnaise...  (In other words, I've still got a ways to go.)
We're teaching a lot and learning a lot and all's well this side of the ocean.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Slow down, you crazy child. (Bayonne, France: Week 2)

So I come to France, guns all ablaze, ready to talk to people and teach people and be courageous and so on. Then this funny thing happened where I realized I cannot communicate with a single person. In the MTC, they really emphasized the importance of talking to every. single. person. And I took that to heart. But after a week of really badly bungled conversations and wearing myself thin trying to be the missionary I want to be in a year and a half, immediately, right now, from the beginning, I realized the following: perfection is a process! It takes many many moons and sometimes in life, it is the time simply to watch and learn. I think in my mission, that time is now. In short, I realized this week that I don't have to know how to do everything right now. Right now my job is to learn the language, to love people as best I can, and to smile.

My companion and I have been learning a lot about talking to people on the streets as well. Here is what we've learned: as soon as you say the word missionary, they say, "I don't have time" and walk away. This is understandable, considering we're strangers, and there are lots of weird people out there. So we've tried things like, "We teach that God has a plan for your life." Sometimes people nod and go along with it and let us explain a little more... more often they say, "That's nice. I respect all religions. Au revoir." and walk away. The best reactions this week though were when we went up to three adults by a park and asked if they'd like to hear more about the plan God has for their lives and for their families. They said, and I quote, "We don't have time. We're talking about football." And then there was the guy at the bus stop that rejected my offer to learn more, so I, being persistent and everything (I hate being persistent bleh) was like, "Maybe I can just leave you with our card, in case someday you are interested in learning more" to which he replied, "No really, I don't even do sports teams!" Hahahaha, me either, dude, me either.

I realize everyday how badly people just wanna feel loved. So instead of trying to push our message so quickly on everyone, for fear they'll walk away, we're asking them questions, about what they believe, about why they believe that, about what their life is like. We're joking around with people and complimenting them, and if nothing else, making them smile.

Also, since a lot of people think we're part of some crazy sect, I've busted out the hot pink lipstick this week. Amazing how a little lipstick can make people think maybe, just maybe, you are normal. Sheesh :)
P.S. Did I mention I live 10 minutes from the beach? Cuz I do.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Le Bleu (Bayonne France, Week One)

Bonjour! I am here here here in France, finally! On our last day in the MTC, I counted and discovered that I spent exactly 40 days and 40 nights in that blessed place...funny, no? I loved being there, but 6 weeks is long enough, and by the time I left, I was ready to go.

The journey across that big ocean took a lot longer than expected. Our first flight-- the one from SLC to Chicago was delayed (of all the flights to be delayed), so the rest had to be rearranged as well. We finally got to Lyon though. THe mission president picked us up from the airport--all 19 of us!--and we all spent the night in a hotel downtown. We spent the next couple of days in the city, doing training and legality and getting all in order before we received our first assignments. Wednesday night we had dinner at the mission president's home, just outside of the city. To have that evening, where we were all gathered around telling stories and eating fajitas and laughing, right before we walk right into the darkness of having absolutely no idea what we're doing, was so so precious. I've already thought back on that night several times--on how comfortable and happy it was--in the moments when I feel completely uncomfortable.

So let's talk about the last few days though! Because the air in France is magic, my hair falls perfectly with me having to do anything to it, and thus I have decided to never do my hair again on my mission. Yep. Other things I love about France include the baguette sandwiches I'm eating every lunch, the sound of the language, the bridges and the trees and the old walls and buildings. All of it is incredible. So Thursday morning we got our first assignments. I'm serving in Bayonne, with Sister Pfost. All the other missinoaries said, 'You are SO LUCKY. Bayonne is a paradise!' And I'm like, not about to believe it until I see it, right? I mean I've seen some pretty things in my 26 years (annnnd also I didn't want to get my hopes up). So me with my skepticism and all my suitcases and my new (4'11'') companion got on a train and rode our way across the country. I have only one thing to say about that train ride:
If you are ever in France, take the train that runs from Lyon to Toulouse, on a cloudy day if you can help it. I didn't know places like this existed. There were castles and cathedrals in pockets all through the hills, and the fields are emerald green and the vineyards and orchards sit beside them, and the houses re white and weathered and their blue shutters and rust-tile-roofs are as at home in the landscape as the hilltops and groves they're nestled among.
When we got into Bayonne the next morning, an elderly couple came and picked us up from the train station. I say elderly, but they have more energy than most people I know! He speaks almost only English, and she speaks almost only French, but they are delightful and happy and made our first moments in Bayonne welcome. Bayonne is the last stop on the line, because it's nearly on the coast, so we had plently of time to get our bags in order before getting off. And then off to our apartment, where the couple left us with a bag of groceries--a couple of baguettes, a few oranges, some butter...and so we sat at our little kitchen table eating our baguettes and looking out our windows at the cathedral that's right by our apartment...
Our apartment is the corner apartment in a little white building on a hill overlooking the city. We have windows in every room that swing open wide, and we have a washer inside the apartment (!) and white down comforters and warm water and our kitchen window looks out onto the city, meaning onto the cathedral that is enormous and gorgeous and in the centre of the ville. (A note: They weren't lying about this being a beautiful place. Nearly constantly, we are stopping and saying 'Whooooa, look over there. Whooooa, look at that street. Whooa, look at that cool cemetery. Bayonne is the quintessential small French town.)

Now. As for the actual missionary work. Man alive this is hard. It's hard because I don't know the language and I don't know how to talk to people about this. So mostly I just smile and nod a lot. Which gets me into trouble sometimes, so I'm instead learning to say 'Je ne comprends pas' all the time.
We spent most of our weekend getting to know the area and the Church members here, and watching general conference of course! Everyone has been so kind...and has been, I think, really entertained by how little French I can speak. They especially got a kick out of how I was wearing all blue the day they met me...and how I happen to be 'the bleu' (the new missionary).
We're whitewashing this area (which means all the missionaries that have been working here left, so it's just us, trying to figure everything out on our own!), so this first week has been a lot of logistical work, in figuring out where things are, etc, but I'm excited for next week to start teaching and so on!
POSTSCRIPT: We can now email friends, as well as family! I mean postcards are still obviously the preferred form of communication, but I like emails too! You can email me at carolyn.carter (AT)


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Les Missionnaires/Sœurs

Dear Missionary Family,

Here is a picture of your daughter extraordinaire and her new companion. Aren't they wonderful?

Sister Carters’ new trainer is Sister Pfost.

We are so pleased to have them serving with us. Thanks for your help and support.

Sister Jeppson
France Lyon Mission Secretary