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)


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