Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Comme Un Petit Oiseau

We finished our first transfer--the first six weeks of the mission-- this week, and then my trainer Soeur Pfost got moved to Bordeaux, and now I'm with Soeur Witt. Let's talk about this for a second, because it is more or less the happiest thing that I could have imagined. Soeur Witt and I were in the MTC together. There, we said to each other that we would pray our whole missions to get to be companions. Voila. Second transfer, we are companions. Tender mercies.
Now let's talk about a few implications of this change:

Soeur Witt was a ballerina. She likes doing things like yoga and slow jogging.
She does all different kinds of painting, brought her SLR camera on her mission, loves art museums, France, and eating strawberries. Her favorite free time activity is going to old bookstores and vintage clothing shops.
And her favorite food is salad.
None of these things we knew about each other in the MTC. We just had a feeling we'd be 'amis du coeur.'

You know what this means? That this is going to be the best transfer of my life! We already have a million ideas for how to bring the things we love into our missionary lives. We got on the train together on our way to Bayonne and then preceded to talk nonstop for the next 2 hours about all our goals for how to bring the ward closer together, how to use our love of art to begin conversations and friendships with people, how to learn French faster and more lovelily, how to attract all the world to the joy we feel in living the Gospel, how to soak up more of the fact that we're living in FRANCE for Pete's Sake yeah! etc. etc. I woke up this morning comme un petit oiseau.
Oh and one other implication: Soeur Witt has been on her mission as long as I have, which means neither of us speak French. Which means everyday we get to witness miracles of God helping us speak. Yesterday when we were on the train back from Bordeaux, I started talking to this man across from us, and I don't know where it came from, but suddenly my brain stopped fussing and fighting and my mouth just started talking openly and freely, in French. I told him about the Restoration and about prophets and the Book of Mormon and priesthood authority. I got off the train and said to Soeur Witt, "I had no idea I knew that much French." And then of course I try to have a normal conversation with someone in a shop and can barely say anything. Interesting how that works. 
Our mantra for the transfer is Moroni 7:33. I love the clause at the end: whatsoever thing is expedient in me. That means that though our French and missionary skills are so tiny, they will be enough to do the things that are necessary for us to do here.
A few highlights:

1. I ate mussels this week for the first time. We were at a member's house, and she brought out a heaping bowl of mussels (all bowls or plates or dishes in France heap. SO.MUCH.FOOD.), sets it down on the table, and immediately her 8 year old daughter starts in on them. Like they're graps, she starts pulling them out of the bowl, popping them in her mouth, sucking them off, and tossing them on her plate. I have never seen anything like it. By the end of the meal, her plate was then heaping with empty mussel shells. (Oh and I really liked them. I was a little nervous, but

2. For the last two weeks or so Soeur Pfost and I decided to sing Christmas carols every morning as part of our morning studies. Best decision of my life (other than serving a mission of course). So do not fear, the tradition of beginning to sing Christmas carols earlier and earlier each year is still going on. Last year it was June when I started, I believe. This year it's May. Huzzah and fa la la.

3. Will someone please go see Great Gatsby for me because the billboards for it are everywhere here and it's killing me.

4. I'm finding new ways to conduct Nutella to my mouth. For a while it was wheat toast. This week it's a spoon.

5. There are several phrases that I love that the French people say:

First, 'C'est pas grave.' The closest equivalent is something like 'No big deal' or something. They say for everything--if you drop something, if you can't make a decision at the patisserie, if you cancel an appointment. I'll have to make a list of the weird times they use it, the times when it really isn't necessary. I love this phrase because my brain translates it as 'It isn't grave.' Which makes it seem like it actually, probably is.

Second, 'C'est gentil.' This is what they say when you offer to help someone, or when you offer to share the gospel with them.
Third, 'C'est normal.' This is what they say when you say 'C'est gentil' for helping you. Again, my brain translates this as 'It's normal.' Which is a really funny thing to say about someone going out of their way to help you get your enormous suitcases off the train. No, sir, that isn't normal behavior. C'est gentil et chivalreux.

Fourth: comportement. I think it means demeanor or something. And it's also a wordin English, but one we don't use enough. Let's change that, shall we.
Fifth: chercher, which means to fetch. This is what people say about other people-- I have to fetch my daughter from school, let me go fetch my husband, etc. I should look up how to say "fetching" so I can tell all these people helping me with my suitcases and what not that their comportement is fetching.

Sixth: "Dit-moi." Tell me. As in "Tell me everything." People tack this on to greetings of friends all the time and I love it.

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