Tuesday, May 31, 2011

27:32

we ran a 5k today!

"you can doooooo it! yes!" says the girl directing runners on the
race course upon finding out that we are american.


this morning we noticed a flyer in our university e-mail account inbox promoting a 5k and 10k race to be held later this afternoon. it was a race promoting the "worldwide day of no tobacco" (journée mondiale sans tabac) in the park nearby (the Citadelle - hello, this park is gorgeous!). I've never ran (nor really had the desire to run) in any sort of organized race before, but emily, seeing that it only cost participants 1 euro and that we've been running a little in the mornings, asked if we should do it.

why not?

so, after our last english lesson at work we quickly changed our clothes, walked over to the citadelle, and signed up for the 5k with our 1 euro coins in hand. within 15 minutes the gun was shot and off we went. sure, I know that it was only a small 5k race and not an iron man or some grueling triathlon that entails obstacles with live wires or wading through mud pits (like this little beauty of a race), but it was my first real race (high school track excluded)
and, well,
it was in France.

and guess what that measly 1 euro bought us??
- 1 t-shirt
-a finish line apple, water bottle, and granola bar
- greater health
- 2 new running friends
- a new experience
- a chance to promote a tobacco-less world
- spontaneous living



afterwards, we decided that a good dose of falafel and french pastries were necessary for the replenishment of vital nutrients to our race worn bodies. good call.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

border in the backyard

with judith, marie and agathe lepoutre and emily

with veronique, cedric, pera, camille and manon lepoutre

another weekend of adventure and discovery!

last night the van peteghem family (the family of the director of the department in which we work) invited us to spend the evening with them in tournai, belgium, a little border town. the funny thing about crossing the border into another country (especially a european one without controls or stops) is that it feels like you are just crossing into another state. I will always remember what a friend told me about a certain tradition in their family when they drive into other states. they say, "hello nevada! goodbye california!"
as simple and perhaps silly as that tradition seems, I somehow found myself thinking last night,
"hello belgium! goodbye france!"

the countryside didn't change, the language on the signs did not become foreign to my eyes and the side of the road we drove on did not suddenly switch. nonetheless, I felt as though, at that calm moment of crossing, I was fulfilling a ever-present aspiration that I have had for many years: to see the world.

we meandered about the cobblestone paths of the main square in tournai taking in the sights of towering cathedrals (no less than three within a few hundred yards vicinity) and sidewalk shops until the rain and night pushed us into a cafe called tam tam (a name which reminded me of a certain unforgettably delicious brand of cookies from my mission). we ordered immaculate looking drinks (all non-alcoholic) and somehow I made a funny blunder in the process. when m. van peteghem ordered a pina colada, I commented by saying something to the effect of "you're going to Miami tonight with that type of drink" (okay, that sounds bizarre, but it made perfect sense in context). I guess the man taking our orders heard me say "Miami" and thought I was ordering the Miami drink (another not so non-alcoholic drink as we found out soon afterwards), so when the waitress came with her tray of drinks and asked who had the Miami, we were all quite confused until I realized my mistake. oops...

we were invited to the home of cédric lepoutre (another work collegue) and his wife today to have lunch with their family and take a bike ride in the countryside. I love how much the people here want to help us experience their culture and their country. The lepoutre's live in the outskirts of lille in a small french village. once at their home, I was shown around their secret garden-esque backyard. as I was introduced to their numerous flowers and berry plants (raspberries, red currants and black currants) cédric pointed over the hedge to a house down the street and said, "by the way, that house right there is in belgium."

the entire lepoutre family was so kind and welcoming to me. the youngest girl jumped on the trampoline and played hopscotch with me as véronique prepared lunch. during the meal, I noticed once again how different american eating habits are compared to those of the french. when we have family meals chez the cummins family, we prepare all the food, place it on the counter, take our plates from the table and then serve ourselves in a cafeteria-like fashion. there is no separation of salad and meat, dessert and potato casserole; all genres of food are welcome to mix and mingle on our plates. the french, however, take it one step at a time: the salad is placed on the table and served. we eat the salad. when all have finished, the salad is taken away. the entrée is then placed on the table and served. we eat the entrée. when all are satisfied, the entrée and plates are whisked away. we receive dessert plates. the dessert is on the table and served. we eat the dessert. we talk for an hour longer. we then clear the table. the process is slow but progressive and is enriched by conversation, storytelling, and laughing.
I love it.

after our meal, I was taken out into the countryside and given a personal bike tour of the area. every turn of the head, as we roamed through farmland and woods, rewarded my eyes with sights of green pastures, wildflowers, and ancient brick homes.

"You belong among the wildflowers,
You belong somewhere close to me.
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free."









.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

cobblestones and ch'tis sauce



wednesday night is our new eat-out night since, really, we need to taste france while we are here, right? though not exclusively french, we went to this frites (good, golden fries) place near the train station that has a whole line-up of fry sauces. we wanted to try them all, and we did: american sauce, samurai sauce, andoulaise sauce, hannibal sauce, pita blanche sauce (which was just glorified ranch), and ch'tis sauce. ch'tis is the french dialect that comes from the north of france, and while it a part of this region's culture and pride it sounds like someone speaking french while gargling mouthwash.
nonetheless, the namesake sauce was so good.

we had to have a dessert afterwards, and we happened upon the most eye-alluring patisserie in the city. it had pecan tartes and strawberry crumbles and all sorts of pains aux chocolat and merveilles and meringues and macrons dotting every glance. emily choose a chocolate merveille, I chose a speculoos covered merveille, and we shared a fig macron just for good measure. the speculoo's delight I had was composed of two meringues placed together and covered in a sweet cream and rolled generously in an area specialty: speculoos. speculoos is a mix between gingerbread and graham crackers and is DIVINE. we took our wrapped up pastries (before consumption) and wandered the cobblestone streets until we came across an old catholic church on a side road, sat down on its steps and enjoyed our sweets in european bliss.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

weekend at the pool

we went to "la piscine de roubaix" on saturday,
an old community pool ingeniously turned art museum.

not only is the museum's permanent art collection so well chosen and placed throughout the rooms, but the building itself is a work of art. the outside is constructed of the building material that is popular, particular and unique to the north of France: red brick. though, the plainness and heaviness of the outside is deceiving, for the inside is surprisingly light and cheery. the interior maintains the original eye-pleasing green and white tiling underfoot and on the walls along with the intricate detailing of the facades and the marble decorations. the showers have been turned into display cases full of ceramic art and the upstairs balcony contains displays of hundreds of samples of textiles that were created when this town was in its more industrial, factory days.

alexander dumas hangs out at the pool too. didn't you know?

welcome to ze pool of your dreams



of course, we dove in. but, unfortunately,
we didn't sport such good looking swim wear like the men.


before we went to the museum,
we wandered down the road
and spied the town hall and this
fancy church


Thursday, May 19, 2011

homme


tonight was the first time I have ever googled the names "laurel and hardy."
growing up I occasionally heard that my name was that of one man who the second half in a comical duo (with Hardy, of course) in the early 1900's. references were vague though and I could usually get away without really knowing who this name-stealing character was by finishing people's sentences:

"Oh, laurel? like laurel..."
"yes, just like laurel and hardy."
(end of dialogue and friendship)

I'm not sure how knowledge of this troupe transferred across the atlantic, but I joke not when I say that about half the people I meet (correction: half the people over the age of 40 that I meet) ask if I have heard of laurel and hardy. they then proceed to tell me that I have a man's name. then somehow, after having made this connection (of which they are usually quite pleased), they still end up calling me lauren.

(I'm the one on the left. can't you tell by the resemblance?)


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

we were planning on going to the grocery store when...

we decided that we wanted first to go buy baguettes. 
we got sidetracked from there...

and wondered into a holy place,

met up with some friends (as hungry as we were),
did a little sightseeing at the mini "arc de triomphe,"
and curbed our hunger with a little snack
(you're not supposed to go grocery shopping
on an empty stomach, you know).

have your cake and eat it too, gospel-style

this morning, I reflected.


oh yes, it happens every now and again, surprisingly. the little reflection rabbit leaps upon my head and sends my thoughts to distant pasts and places, sometimes fictional ones and sometimes literal ones. he's like the cheshire cat, this reflection rabbit - just with less questioning. 

I digress.


this morning's reflection took me to the distant past and I was thinking on how certain fork-in-the-road-this-is-kinda-a-big-deal choices have lead me to my current, happy state. I was reading some old journal entries and posts, meditating on the idea of perspective and how when we make difficult choices of considerable consequence we have to have a whole heap of trust that what we are doing is= what is right (even if it isn't the easiest path to choose at the time). remember when all I could think about was a study abroad in paris? remember how difficult it was for me to then switch gears when I realized, at that time, that I was really supposed to serve a mission? I felt like I was tossing my dream neatly off into obscurity. 

I must have forgotten about the principle of sacrifice.

to sacrifice is to give up something valuable or precious, often with the intent of accomplishing a greater purpose or goal. sacrifice has always been a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I remember it now. over and over I am reminded of this principle and the blessings that have come from living it. when you sacrifice something to the Lord, such as time, your talents and abilities, and anything else that He has given to you, your sacrifice becomes, in fact, a way for the Lord to bless you in the future, whether that be greater talent, help, edifying experiences, etc. I choose to "sacrifice" what I felt at the time was my dream in exchange for an experience (my mission). yet that experience was so indescribably multi-faceted, edifying, teaching, and the mold for who I have become today that I cannot honestly say now that it was any sort of sacrifice. It has only given me more.

if I had known then what I know now then it would have been a natural, desired choice. but, of course, I wasn't supposed to know then; I was supposed to trust.

now that "sacrifice" has come full circle:

I've been to paris 
and I live in france.

isn't that what I wanted from the beginning? even if it hadn't been in the cards of destiny for me to come here, I still would have been thankful that I trusted and gave up my momentary desires for an eternal richness. nonetheless, seeing that I am here after all this time, after having willingly put this aside until now (the right time), makes me sure that "all things work together for the good of those who love God."

and, it makes me sure that
timing is everything.




Sunday, May 15, 2011

dimanche

this was my sunday.

emily and I went to the métro this morning nice and early to catch a ride up to the church. just so you know, emily and I do pretty much everything together. we run together, we work together, we walk to the métro together (as you now know), we attend weekly church activities together, we share cookies together, we go to old french bookstores together, we watch victorian era movies via youtube and cry together, we scramble away from leechy men on the street together, we buy milk together, etc. someone at church today (who didn't know who we were) asked if we were sister missionaries, and even when I told him that we weren't but that we were interns here he kept referring to Emily as my "comp" (short for missionary companion - fyi).
 early this week to give a talk in church today (the bishop said that he wants to "take advantage" of my stay in lille) and my topic was on perseverance. I was able to use the scripture in John 6: 66 -68 where peter responds to Jesus Christ’s inquiry (after having seen many of his followers one by one choose no longer to follow Him) of whether he (peter) would not also leave his side. peter replies in saying that there is no other way to follow that promises eternal life. no matter how difficult it may be sometimes to follow Christ in our lives, there is no other road that this world can offer that will give us lasting happiness. king benjamin said it well in Mosiah 3:17.

a couple from north carolina (the daily’s) came to the church here today since the husband has a job interview here in lille in the next few days. they speak very little french, so for the third week in a row my translation services were in need – I love live translation, although sometimes I find myself adding in personal commentary, which is probably not a characteristic of an accomplished translator. bof. the couple invited emily and I to join them for dinner wednesday night after work, and we are thrilled because they were so kind with us and they said that this time, with our help, they will actually know what they are ordering (as compared to their recounting of a strange meal they had last night). they had this southern glow about them, and I felt as though the wife would just sweep me up into a motherly hug.
I'm saying all of this in an effort to express that I’m not sure what I am doing to deserve to be surrounded by such sincerely kind, welcoming and warm people, but I am so thankful. this experience in lille has provided me with such positive reflections and a wealth of insight into french lifestyles.

after church, the doit family invited us over for lunch. we sat at their table for nearly 3 hours eating (the highlight was the big round of muenster cheese), discussing all sorts of subjects and telling stories. this is something particular to french people: they are not quick to clear the table after a meal and join together in another room. the conversation, even over empty dinner plates and dirtied serving trays, lasts and lingers. bishop doit shared many of his humorous mission stories, and we all laughed and enjoyed them even though his children seemed to know each one by heart. their family dynamic was wonderful to witness. they are each so kind and affectionate to one another, and although they joke and laugh, there is never a touch of meanness in their expressions or demeanor.

when we came home, emily and I decided to stroll about in the huge park nearby that actually used to be a part of the city’s fortifications in the middle ages. the ancient brick walls still exist among the lush green of the park. It made for a perfect, long sunday walk.
later tonight, we decided that a good movie was in order and we watched BBC’s North and South on YouTube. this is, by far, one of my favorite cinematic productions.
(who can resist the brooding mr. thorton?)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

honk

dear street below my window,

it's late, and I'm a little confused.

is it New Years? 

did you all down there vote and 
decide to make May 14th 
“Favorite Day of the Year?” 

or is all that constant, jarring honking being 
provoked from a huge all night traffic jam?

I'd just like to know because
I'm awake
and, obvi, not sleeping
because of you
and your
honking.

love,
me


library discrimination

("bouquinerie" means bookstore)

oh là! this morning emily and I decided that we would go to the nearby library in order to accomplish a bit of work that we have for the internship courses we are taking. as we walked over to the library (conveniently 100 yards from our residence) and entered inside, we noticed that we needed to slide a student card in order to access the library. confused about the carded entrance, I asked the lady at the desk if we could enter since we are interns at the university. I said that we would even be willing to show her our student id cards from our university back home in america. she said that she was sorry but that the library was a library “priviligée” for the students of the university only and that we could find library services elsewhere in the city. we turn around and walked out. I was a bit shocked. 

what kind of elitist library system is that?
 refusing students to come and read from their books? 
isn’t this university one that is funded by the state? 

I think about BYU’s library – at least 20 to 30 times the size of this university’s, with more volumes than all the libraries in this region have combined (again times 30, I am sure), yet anyone and everyone is welcome within its walls to partake of the vast resources it provides. needless to say, I was mystified by the lack of perspective and modern thought held by whoever in the administration of the library at the catholic university of lille. and, even that, the very name of the university, stretches the argument even further: this is a Christian institution, or supposedly claims itself to be in name. Yet it is a respecter of men, denying certain rights and privileges which ought to be free and widespread to the masses?

can you tell that I am feeling the flow of righteous indignation coursing through me?

so, we walked the 2 extra miles and came to the city bibliothéque found in the center of lille and accomplished our work. it must be exam time because the study room we were in was completely silent and all the chairs were filled with students, heads down, folders, books and papers creating make-shift shelters around their heads, pens skewed out from their pencil pouches used to fortify the outside walls of these fragile forts. just a note on that: pencil pouches are very french. every student no matter the age or dedication level has a little pouch or tin that holds their rainbow of pens, pencils, their rulers (they love straight lines), highlighters, erasers, glue sticks, etc. this may be another one of the reasons I love the french – they have an uncanny obsession for school supplies.

we walked home after library time and came across a used book store. we stopped, of course. I found a few molière’s - Le Tartuffe, which we just read in 340 but which I checked out of our [fabulous] library, and L’École des Femmes, which jacqueline tells me is her favorite – and a little dessert recipe book. Each was 1 euro and, well, books are a weakness that I do not mind giving in to.

windows wide open



at work this morning, emily and I went into our little “bureau au coin” and checked our e-mails. we are getting excited because we have about seven students who write interested in meeting with us in the afternoons for english lessons. with this influx of students, emily and I decided that we needed to get a little more organized. thus, we did a weekly planning session, figuring out what we are going to discuss with each one of the students according to their specific needs (does this sound like a familiar practice to anyone?). pulchérie, for example, needs to increase her listening comprehension so we will give her more things to listen to as homework, while we will give articles to hubert who needs to increase his reading comprehension. Emily and I also discussed and planned out a “soirée cinema à la américaine” (american movie night) for the students with whom we do the english lessons. any ideas on what movie we should watch? we are asking our students what kind of food they like from america so we can prepare a strictly american fare selection. I definitely want to introduce them to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. whenever I tell a French person about pb&js' they all have the same disgusted reaction, “you eat zose two sings toogezer??” but, every time they have tried them (so far, anyway), they LOVE them. one of the girls we do english lessons with, angèle, lived in the US for a few months and her eyes lighted up when we said that we were thinking of bringing them. she also suggested that we do a sundae bar. nice thinking, angèle. she knows how much americans love sugar. we asked the dean, m. van peteghem, if it was possible for us to have the soirée and he was on board. yes!

in the afternoon today we had three english lesson appointments. the first was that charming girl, angèle, who speaks excellent english and just makes me feel as though all french people are, like her name sounds, angels. she told us about all her funny experiences in texas (she did an internship at a university there) and the differences she noticed between france and america. it seems as though lately a major discussion point that we have had with the students has been concerning the differences between the university systems here in france and those in america.
after work, I took the métro to the church (I had a meeting with the young women concerning the ward newspaper we are going to create), and this time I did not forget a book to read. trying not to make eye contact in the métro is hard when you have nothing but the floor to stare at. Thus, t. more came along with me this time.

(by the way, emily taught me how to open the windows in my 
room all the way! I was thrilled. opens the scope of imagination.)

thomas more


(a dashing fur throw about his shoulders, n'est-ce pas?)

as of late I have been spending some time with a certain thomas more and his Utopia. I read this as a sophomore in high school but I clearly retained nothing from that first time through. I am discovering all sorts of gems from t. more:

"when I get home, I have to talk with my wife, chatter with my children, and consult with the servants. All these matters I consider part of my business, since they have to be done unless a man wants to be a stranger in his own house. Besides, a man is bound to bear himself as agreeably as he can toward those whom nature or chance or his own choice has made the companions of his life. But ot course he mustn't spoil them either with his familiarity, or by overindulgence turn the servants into his masters."

AND this one:

"But to tell the truth, I'm still of two minds as to whether I should publish the book or not. For men's tastes are so various, the tempers of some are so severe, their minds so ungrateful, their tempers so cross, that there seems no point in publishing something, even if it's intended for their advantage, that they will receive only with contempt and ingratitude. Better simply to follow one's own natural inclinations, lead a merry, peaceful life, and ignore the vexing problems of publication. Most men know nothing of learning; many despise it. The clod rejects as too difficult whatever isn't cloddish. The pedant dismisses as mere trifling anything that isn't stuffed with obsolete words. Some readers approve only of ancient authors: most men like their own writing best of all. Here's a man so solemn he won't allow a shadow of levity, and there's one so insipid of taste that he can't endure the salt of a little wit. Some dullards dread satire as a man bitten by a hydrophobic dog dreads water; some are so changeable that they like one thing when they're seated and another when they're standing. Those people lounge around the taverns, and as they swill their ale pass judgment on the intelligence of writers. With complete assurance they condemn every author by his writings, just as they think best, plucking each one, as it were, by the beard. But they themselves remain safely under cover and, as the proverb has it, out of harm's way. No use trying to lay hold of them; they're shaved so close, there's not so much as the hair of an honest man to catch them by. Finally, some men are so ungrateful that even though they're delighted with a work, they don't like the author any better because of it. They are like rude, ungrateful guests who, after they have stuffed themselves with a splendid dinner, go off, carrying their full bellies homeward without a word of thanks to the host who invited them. A fine task, providing at your own expense a banquet for men of such finicky palates, such various tastes, and such rude, ungracious tempers."

wednesday at work

Worked on editing a lot of the FLSEG (Faculté Libre des Sciences Economiques et de Gestion) website’s list of alumni whose information is not up-to-date or may be a little false. Exhilirating.

We work in a little office at the end of the hall which allows Emily and I to have our own desks and not bother those at the welcome desk (l'accueil) and the main offices. It's our "petit coin" though some of the others refer to it as "exile". An older man named Nicolas works occasionally in our office as well along with another older gentleman named Jean. Jean was very kind to us upon making our acquaintance today and offered us cups of caramel chicory in thick little ceramic tea cups. How delightful, Jean.

I do like our little office when it’s just Emily and I. Our work is pretty simple enough to allow us to delve into serious conversations without compromising our effectiveness (although I am still a bit slow with the French keyboard). I appreciate Emily; she is one of those constant, diligent types that you know will never falter in doing what is good and what is right.

When I have unoccupied time at work, I try to read the rules and regulations handbook for the FLSEG, which gives me a lot of insight in the French university system. I learned today, for example, that if a student does not reach the half score (la moyenne – a 10/20) in one subject, but does pretty well in another subject that he can average out those scores to pass his classes – so, say I get a 7/20 in one class and a 13/20 in another. The average of those two class placed together is 10/20, so even though I didn't get “la moyenne” I still succeed in passing both those classes. AND, the French even have a system that if you do really well one semester and not so well the next that they will actually average out both your semesters! And, if you really do badly
in a class you can take what is called a “rattrapage” or a retake exam for that class at the end of the school, which can change your entire grade. Compared to the French, the American system is seems a little merciless...
After work, I did a lill(e)xploring. Mostly I was curious to find different ways to get to the Metro. I then walked down Gambetta street on the way to the grocery store (the one that sells the good raspberry jam for 72 centimes). Every turn of my head on my walks brings new, rich sight to my eyes. I am amazed by the intricate beauty in every step of this city.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

candy provisions

why is it that when you buy a bag of assorted candies that your 
favorite flavor always seems to be the one that is the least included in the bag? 
it must be one of those annoying clauses in Murphy's law.

these are a major factor in my performance at work (especially around 3pm), 
but there are too many orange flavored ones and not enough of the apple. 
it's tragic. I think I may lose sleep.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

les filles

It’s true. I'm caught up; It is Tuesday, and I am writing this on Tuesday.

Emily and I did another session of YouTube exercising this morning. This consists of typing in commonly trained body parts + “exercises” or just “yoga” into the YT search engine and doing the first videos that come up. So far it has been quite a success. We did this as it poured “ropes and ropes” of rain outside. The French don’t have the ‘cats and dogs” expression. They say ropes. And, supposedly there are lots of "ropy" days here in the north.

At work we were told that we are invited on the day-trip that all the faculty is taking up north on Thursday in order to attend a planning conference for the university. All I know is that no one could stop talking about the food that we'll be eating there. Bénédicte said that since she is retiring soon she won’t really have to listen to the conference but can focus on the gastronomic experience.

By the way, can I just say that I love it when people at work call us “les filles,”or my favorite when Amélie comes in and exclaims, “Ah, les filles américaines!”

We went to a orchestra concert in the chapel connected to the building we work in. The choir and the orchestra were absolutely majestic in their performance. And, the director put on a show with all his dancing/directing.

This "sower" was in the chapel. He looked just a little too concerned with his skirt than with the scattering of his seeds...
this was taken right before an old french women behind us 
taped me on my shoulder, shook her head disapprovingly 
and chided my use of a camera. oops!

“Tu n’est pas mal, toi”

Emily and I ran rather hard this morning. I couldn’t believe how fast she was going, and, of course, I had to keep up with her pace. At the end, I turned to her completely out of breath about to "tomber dans les pommes" and said, “Emily, wow, you really pushed me hard this morning.” She responded in surprise, “I was trying to keep up with you!”

At work the time speeds along so quickly, especially when there is work to be done. Today there certainly was work to be done, and the day went by in a flash as we entered in exam scores, prepared student interviews, and verified final grades for the economics and the business students. A nice plus in the workplace here is that everyone gets along pretty decently and there is no gossip, which seems so prevalent in offices elsewhere. And, did you know that we get an hour and 15 mintue lunch break?

Today during that blessed lunch hour, I came back to my room to take a powernap and read a little bit from The Rugby House Book Club (don’t ask me where or how this name was chosen and sustained for our club) summer choice: East of Eden. We chose a book that would take all summer to read, and this will do the job nicely. As I was reading, the cleaning woman, Severine, came to clean my room. She comes by once every few weeks and does the cleaning of not only our building but of each of our rooms. As I watched her clean, I told her that, at least where I was from, the students are the ones who are responsible for the cleaning of their own rooms and that I wanted to help her since I was used to doing my own cleaning. She said that being able to clean our rooms gave her a job and a task to do. I think it is good and all to provide jobs to those that want to work and need the money but I think in some ways it eliminates personal responsibilities and character building skills.

The last hour of work today, Emily and I had our first English conversation hour with a student named Hubert. We met in a classroom called “La Salle d’Espace des Langues” where you are not allowed to speak French. Emily and I have been very diligent in not speaking any English with each other, but it was a nice change when we were in the Espace des Langues speaking with Hubert in the mother tongue. Most of the students we will be meeting with in the next few weeks are preparing to apply to the “Harvards” of France for graduate studies and they have to pass an English oral exam as part of their application. Therefore, we set up times to converse with them, have them practice what it will be like in their exam, and give them an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses. Hubert was a good sport with us as we figured out the best way to do things.

As Emily and I walked back to the Métro tonight with Lucia (a friend from Peru) after FHE tonight, we passed through a less glamorous area and were nearly run over by a group of interesting men in a fast little car. The leechy driver, as he slowed down and then zoomed by me (unfortunately, I jumped out of the way one way as my two walking buddies scooted off by the passenger side of the car ), yelled to me out the window, “Ohhhh, t’es pas mal, toi!” How charming; the best compliment of the day, by far. It reminded me of when Kristina and Mom happened to get off the Subway in Harlem, New York and some delightful young man said, “Yuuuuummy!”

Mother's Day Sunday in Lille

Riding the Métro this morning was, of course, without consequence. It seems as though as soon as you say the words “subway” (not referring to the fine establishment that creates sandwiches of merit before your eyes, but to the transportation) or “metro” there are sure to be tales to tell. Anyway, it was 8:45 in the morning when I walked to the station near Le Palais des Beaux Arts. This station takes me directly to the stop (Pont de Bois) near the church building without my having to make any connections. At one point during the ride, a group of sloshed men came on right by where I was sitting. They swung their half-drunk bottles beer about in a precarious fashion as they said incoherent things at the top of their voice ranges before bumbling off at the next station. Beer has the most nauseating smell of any beverage I know, and its smell is so permeating and pervasive. Why would one willingly choose not only to consume beer and other alcohols but choose to ingest anything that causes a fully functioning, choice accountable person to forfeit any to all of ones' personal capacity to make well-formed decisions? It seems senseless to me.

Anyway, during the first meeting at church, little Ines Hussein sat next to me and sang both soprano and alto with me during the songs. In another meeting, I was able to translate for a girl that was visiting with her husband who had served a few transfers of his mission here. .

After church, I was taken aside into the Bishop’s office and given a calling (more like a task, actually) - they were quick to the draw there. I am in charge of creating a monthly newsletter in conjunction with the Young Women for the Lille ward. Kind of exciting. I love it when creativity is demanded of me, because then the wheels really start to crank. The Young Women’s leader found me afterward and said that this Friday evening they were having an activity and that I could have all the time I needed to talk about ideas and get the girls involved.

Little 7 year old Ines, during the first meeting, asked what I was going to do after church and invited me over for lunch at her house. After inviting me she said, “Oh, I’m just going to go tell my dad.” Being with the Hussein family is such a treat and they made our family feel so welcome last weekend when we were all here. This time I colored with the girls and set the table while Frère andSoeur Hussein made kebabs, a huge salade composée, and a stack of warm pitas. There home is always so full of life and good food. The elders came over and used the Hussein’s phone to call their mothers (for Mother’s Day) and then a returned sister missionary came by because she was visiting with her mother, her sister and her friend.

Well, coincidence of all coincidences (though I don’t really believe in coincidences – they are more divinely controlled than that, in my book) was that the returned sister missionary's friend that came with her was actually a sister missionary (Soeur Fillerup) that served in New Caledonia right before I came. I had heard all about her from two of the sisters I was companions with, had seen many pictures of her, and heard all sorts of stories, and there she was. Here I am in this little unknown French city and yet I come across someone whom I know (of) very well and with whom I have shared a very special, similar experience. This was/is one of those moments which allows me to understand that I am doing what has been planned for my life; one of many little trail markers that show me that I am following the right path.

After lunch I actually needed to get home because the director of the school of economics and business here at the university had invited me to have dinner with him and his family and was soon to come pick me up. The Husseins live about a 30-45 minute walk from my residence so the path made a nice Sunday stroll, and Mr. Van Peteghem’s (the director) picked me up as I arrived home. We drove through the French countryside on the southwestern outskirts of Lille where he lives with his sweet wife Marie and two children, Agathe and Charles. Marie ended up speaking English with me all night. She told me that she just loves to speak it, and I told her that I would speak only in English with her and her children in order to help their comprehension.

We had a wonderful dinner outside in their sunny yard and where able to laugh a lot. Marie is one of those wonderful human beings that wishes everyone to feel happy and at ease around here, and she became a fast friend. The French have a way of appreciating little gestures of kindness that are made towards them; for them, a little sweetness goes a long way. Marie, for example, has kept and cherished a post-it note that one of the interns had written to her last year expressing a simple thank you to her in English. Another BYU intern has sent Christmas pictures of her and her husband to the Van Peteghem family and they have been placed on the refrigerator next to pictures of the family. I was touched by the simple acts and the response they have received. By small and simple things...

After dinner and a rousing game of cards (I brought the cards in order to play a game in English), Marie loaded me down with a handful of French music CDs (a topic of conversation at dinner) and Mr. Van Peteghem drove me home. When he dropped me off at my residence I tried to shake his hand, but he, like a true French person, went in for the classic “bise.” Certain habits formed on my mission have been hard to break and I must admit that I still think it’s a bit strange to do the cheek to cheek kiss with a man. Especially so when that man is your superior. But, bof, when in France do what the French do (unless it breaks the commandments).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

8 May 2011 - How do I love thee, Mother? Let me count the ways.

dear mom,

it's mother day and I wanted to thank you for
everything you have done for me.
you are beautiful.
you are kind
and handworking.
you are attentive.
you have taught your children
that the path of true happiness is found
only by sincerely living the principles
of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You have been a missionary for us,
teaching us right from wrong,
directing us always toward truth.
I am thankful for your living example
of how to love,
how to sacrifice,
and simply
how to be a mother.

thanks for:

marrying this man in a place
that promises our family eternal happiness
together.

putting up with this face
and loving her
for the last twenty-three years.

letting us love you

letting us express ourselves
and be who we are
(even though we tended to be a little wild at times).

shaping our talents and
giving us opportunities.

allowing us to make our own
decisions and choices
(even if some of them ended up
in bad haircuts).

making sure we were always
warm and protected.

taking care that we prepare (hair and all) for the Sabbath
and give our best and be our best
for Heavenly Father.

teaching us that sometimes we have to
do hard things
(like waking up early)

sacrificing your time for our happiness
(this queen costume was my favorite
that you ever made for me.)

teaching us out of the very best of books
and cultivating in us a love for knowledge.

instituting lasting family traditions
which helped us love one another
more.


teaching us how to love
small and simple things.

oh mom,
I love you.
happy mother's day!