Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ferrets and Breaking Mirrors and Vinegar

Dear Family and Friends,
Right after I finished my emails last week, Soeur Christensen and I started heading to a car wash. We both noticed the car was acting strangely, so we drove back to the office, a member took the car to a repairshop, and we got a ride back to our apartment by a another member. Since we didn't have a car, and the nearest town is a 30 minutes walk away, we stayed at the apartment for our pday. It was pretty nice, I took a 4 hour nap and watched a video about the life of Thomas S Monson. All in all a good pday. Then another member picked us up and dropped us off at the office, where our rental car was waiting. I will send a picture eventually, but for now, I will just descripe it. It was a little two door sports car, highlighter yellow and with words taking up both sides of the car, saying LOUEZ MOI! ( Rent me!) We got a lot of stares this week as we were driving. On wednesday, we got our car back and found out that ferrets had been climbing around in the car and chewing on the tubes. The workers didn't find any actual ferrets in it while they were working on the car ( I kinda wished that happened though, that would have been really funny, to have some ferret attack you while you were working on a car) but they found ferret bite marks on a lot of the tubes. So that was why it was driving wierd. But now it is driving great. Hopefully the ferrets don't come back. Now time for a lice update. After a lot of showers, and combing, they are all pretty much gone. We will double check in a week, but I think they are gone. Poor S Christensen has been so worried, she didn't have very many, but she still went out and bought this expensive shampoo and has the other sisters check her hair constantly. As long as they leave, I'm not too concerned about it. I think I was more upset about washing my hair with vinegar ( I still cringe) than having bugs living in my hair. But they are gone. :) And I don't have to wash my hair with vinegar. :D  (Mom's note - I would MUCH rather have to wash my hair with vinegar than have lice!  But to each their own, I guess...)
Also this week, we went to this really cool store that sells the extras from other stores for really cheap prices. We bought some mirrors (because sisters apartments always need more mirrors) and put them on our wall. They had these adhesive things to put them on with and we lined all the eight little square mirrors on a wall to make a full length mirror, admired our handiwork and went to bed. That night, at about 2 am, two of the mirrors fell off the wall and broke with a giant crash. All of us woke up scared to death, but too tired to leave our beds. We glanced in the other room, saw that a mirror broke and decided to clean it up in the morning. Right after I fell back to sleep, three more fell with a louder crash, and woke me up again. After that, I couldn't go back to sleep, but I was too tired to get out of bed. So I watched from my bed as mirror after mirror fell. And in the morning, we tiredly cleaned it all up.  8 x 7 is 56 right? I currently have 56 years of bad luck.
This has been a strange week, a lot of wierd things happened, but a lot of good things happened too. We got to serve three different members, I got to teach three amis that I haven't taught yet and I got to eat at three member's houses. And each of those members gave me chocolate bars before we left. We are constantly eating chocolate here that people give us. I'm definitely not complaining though. Bring on the swiss chocolate!
What an amazing chance I have to be here, not just because of the chocolate and the gorgeous veiws and crazy stories, but miracles follow missionaries around like nothing else. I'm constantly seeing little miracles everywhere. God loves us and wants to bless us, we just have to let him;
I love you all! Make somebody smile today! God loves you!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Sunday, August 25, 2013

More fun bug stories

Dear family and friends,
This week has been pretty interesting. The work has been moving a little slowly, but that is because it is vacation month in France, so the entire country has closed down their shops and such and are off doing nonportequoi (I love that word) in other places besides here. But weather has been fantastic, I haven't needed to drive yet and the ward is amazing. One fun thing that happened this week is, while we were driving back to the apartment (it was dark at that point), we were driving on a little road with cornfields on either side and the headlight suddenly illuminated this figure. It was a tall guy covered in reflector gear, wearing an oversized biking helmet and carrying a giant pitchfork. He was just standing at the side of the road, staring forwards. We saw him for just one second and then we drove past. Very interesting and creepy. At another point this week, we were going door to door/porting ( gotta love the french missionary lingo) and we were about to knock on this one door and suddenly we heard sombody say, Coocoo. French people say that all the time but it scared us half to death seeing at it was coming from a dark corner of the garden. it was just an nice old lady, but we were a little jumpy for a while after that. But she offered us a drink and we sat in her garden for a while and chatted. Just having a quick glass of lemonade in this gazebo covered in roses in a french village in the middle of the mountains. Just your everyday kind of thing. :)
By our apartment, there is a ski lift that goes up the mountain behind us, but we can never go on it because it only runs on Saturdays and our pday is on monday. But, one day, while we were looking for houses to port, we took a wrong turn and found ourselves at the top of the ski lift, in a little village, overlooking this gorgeous valley. It was absurdly green and you could hear the bells from the cows they had roaming the sides of the mountain. We now know where we are going for next pday. I know, every week I talk about how gorgeous it is here, but you would be talking about it constantly too, I promise.
But we discovered something not so pretty just yesterday. I have lice. I do not recommend it. We think that I got it while I was in St Etienne, because my head was itching then and it has been since. But I never considered that it would be lice or rather I didnt want to consider it. Then yesterday, I was sitting studying, when after scratching my head, I looked at my hand and found a bug that I didnt recgonize hanging on for dear life to my finger. I stared at it for a little bit, then called the sisters over and they stared at it together for a bit and then we looked at my hair. We came to the conclusion, that I might have lice. We then called the mission president's wife, who described what it looks like and what to do and we came to the conclusion that I probably have lice. And then we went to a member's house, whose children had lice at some point and she looked at my hair and said, yep thats lice.  And my companion has some too. The member gave us her lice comb and told us to use vinegar to wash our hair and to wash all our clothes ans sheets. Which we have been working on since then. So a pretty wacky mission experience. And I know how to get rid of lice now. I never expected to learn that on my mission. I'm so glad that I am not freaked out by bugs. That would be hard.
So a pretty exciting week.
I'm pretty excited for a nap today.
I love you all! God loves you! Despite lice, I am so grateful for the chance to be here serving the Lord! Any thing is possible with faith in the Lord! Trust Him!
Je vous aime!!
Soeur Russell

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fat cats and absurd amounts of lasagna (sounds like a Garfield comic book)

My dear family and friends,
This place is gorgeous. I can't even describe it, it is so beautiful. I just need to bring everyone here later and then you would see how amazing it is, but for now, just imagine the alps one direction, green mountains the other, and flower covered cottages and trees and lakes and sunflower and hay feilds in between. Amazing. Hard for contacting, but gorgeous. Everytime I walk out the door, I just think, yeah, I live here. See that village full of cottages and flowers? yeah, I'm porting that. So cool. I feel like I have seen such variety on my mission. Carcassonne was pretty and had a giant castle, St Etienne was modern city and here is gorgeous with mountains and villages out of postcards. Anyways, this week, I watched a mission video about how to drive in France and S Christensen has told me stuff about driving stick and demonstrated a little (most of it didnt make sense and Ill probably make her repeat it 6 times or so). So this week, at some point, I'll probably actually get behind the wheel. I'll be sure to tell you how that goes. Also this week, about eight flies were in our apartment and we got to watch S Loder swat them. It was actually really exciting. It felt almost like I was watching an action movie. She would barely miss one and it would fly away and then we would all sit in our chairs looking around trying to find it again. And then one of us would see one and everyone would watch as S loder tried to sneak up on it. It was great. We live in the basement of a members house (they are awesome) and they have three cats. One has gray stripes and whenever she sees you, will practically roll over trying to get away from you and then if you succeed in petting her, will sit on your shoe until you nudge her away. Another one is black and naps on top of the lawn mower almost all day. Sometimes we will leave at around luch and then come back for dinner and she will still be there just napping. The last one is this fat gray one, who apparently gets even fatter during the summer. Its kinda hard to imagine what she would be like fatter. This week we got to attend a french wedding (we were allowed to because of the amount of nonmembers there and it was a chance to do service) which was beautiful. It was cool because some people were wearing top hats and carrying fancy canes. I was suprised to not find anyone wearing a monocle. Yesterday, we had church where I anounced over the pulpit that I am from Iowa. I corrected myself, but I've had tons of members tease me about it already. This ward is huge. Im not used to being in such a gigantic ward in France. And so many of them speak English. The family that lives above us are Italian, so they speak italian, french and english fluently and some spanish. How cool are they? We had lunch at their house yesterday, where we had the best lasagna ever. It was so good, so I ate a lot. Then an hour later, we went to another members house for dinner and we had....... lasagna. By that time, I had eaten so much that I felt ready to burst. Then they placed this giant peice of lasagna in front of me and I could actually feel myself starting to tear up, how in the world was I supposed to fit that into my already full body? After a lot of pain and cutting lasagna and moving it around to make it look like less, I ate enough to not offend anyone. But it was definitely one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life. Do not eat lasagna twice in one day. The other sisters would agree with me.
Well I gotta go. Im glad that everyone is having fun on vacation and I love hearing about how everyone is doing. Lately, I've been asking people for their conversion stories, so please send me letters or emails about how you gained your testimony. I love hearing about those. I love you all so much. God loves everyone and expects big things from each person. Be worthy of his trust. Trust God in everything you do. Je vous aime!!!
Soeur Russell

McDonald's in Geneva and other fun adventures

My dear family and friends,
You may have realized this from my late email but............ I got transfered again! I'm currently writing you from the tiny but gorgeous village of Gex. It is right next to the swiss border and geneva is just 25 minutes away by car. Which is the other news, we have a car. Luckily, I probably won't ever need to drive it because my current companion knows how to drive stick and I don't. Which is the other news. I have new companion named Soeur Christensen. She and I are staying in a member's basement with two other sisters, Soeur Loder (who came in the same time as me) and Soeur Roberts. It is absolutely stunning here, every single building I see is postcard worthy and there are flowers and mountains and green everywhere.  It was very sad leaving St Etienne, but I am very excited to be here. It was sad to leave our progressing amis and it was especially sad to say goodbye to the elders there and Soeur Modersitzki. We got so much work done  but still had so much fun. The elder there that was our district leader is leaving to be district leader someplace else and his junior companion is going to get a blue companion, be district leader and be whitewashing in a middle of nowhere town. Crazy. Soeur Mod will get a blue companion too, which is awesome, she will do such a great job. I love her so much and I already miss her. Its her birthday today too, but we celebrated together before I left. Yesterday, I took a train to Lyon, then took a train to Geneve and was met there by two of the sisters. Soeur Loder didnt come in until four hours later, so we ate Mcdonalds, (which was the least expensive place to eat, but was still ridiculously expensive) and wandered around Geneva. It was the wierdest feeling, I was half asleep and it was burning outside, but here I was in Geneva, wandering around and staring at that famous fountain and the mountains. My brain wasnt really connecting everything, but, it was really cool. Thats one thing I love about being a missionary here, without even planning it or going out of your way, you get the coolest experiences. I feel like I should in a movie sometimes. You know the stories about the young women visiting in Europe learning more about the world and about themselves all within a beautiful setting. Thats me. So back to yesterday, we then got Soeur Loder and Juice (the drink not the person) and drove across the border and back to the apartment and visited some members and then went to sleep. Today we did studies, some contacting, helped one of the members prepare for her wedding later this week and now we are doing emails. We did contacting in downtown Gex and it is like a fairytale village, it is so darling. ( I dont think I have ever used that word in an email, it felt wierd writing it) I am so glad everyone is having fun on their trip. Take me again when you come back. :)  I love you all! God loves you! Have faith in Him, that he can help you!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russel

Figure eights and giant cucumbers

Dear family and friends,
 The work here is busy. We will be trying to find people and, during the day, it feels like there isnt pretty much anyone interested in our message and then, at the end of the day we look back and realize we actually found three or four people that day. I think there is this idea that france doesnt have any convert baptisms, but we are definitely finding people. We have so many amis Im always scared that I will be forgetting one of them. (its hard to imagine what that must feel like in Brazil missions and such) We only have two preogressing amis, but we have about 8 newer amis. One of our new amis is named Max and I want to see him and Daniel talk to each other. They would probably love each other. We have only been able to have 2 short lessons with him, but they were great. He is African, about 6"2 and huge, is married with two kids, has the biggest smile ever and he loves to laugh. He speaks english, so we always talk in english and we just laugh and laugh. We are realy hoping to get a longer lesson with him this week. We are also teaching an older cambodian man named Michel Lim. He is awesome and he has an awesome miracle story. His father died during the communist problems they had in cambodia and he and the rest of his family got seperated. After that, he would pray every night that he would find his family. His mom went all over the US showing everyone his photo and asking if they recgonized him. and one day somebody saw his photo and knew him and they were able to reunited, how cool is that? The rest of our investigators we are trying to help them start progressing. But we are busy, busy. 
Its been really cool to see both this transfer and last transfer, because we started with no amis both transfers and ended the transfer with many. It is so cool to be part of that process. 
Ive had a request for me to write what my schedule is usually like, alors. We usually wake up at 6:20 and go over to the park right across from us to work. S Mod will run up this hilly thing, run down, run over to some trees, sprint down the sidewalk and repeat. A lot of running. In the middle of the park, there are four trees in a line that I will run/walk around. (not as much running) I usually do a figure eight around them and, sometimes to mix it up, ill do a circle. Pretty exciting huh? then we have breakfast and personal study and companionship study and then language study and then the twelve weeks program for all those newer missionaries ( all those studies take about 4 hours) and then we have lunch and then we have lesson/ contacting/ passing less actives/ street boarding with the elders/ etc. and somewhere in there we have dinner and then we have planning and then I usually got straight to sleep after that. the schedule sometimes varies but it is usually the same. This week we had district meeting and we probably have one of the most unusual districts in the mission. We have our district leader and his companion, us ( two blues), a trio of sisters, ( two of which are blue), our zone leaders, a missionary couple and the assistants. So our district meeting was pretty spiritually charged with awesomeness. 
Food wise, we dont eat out too often, but sometimes we will get a pastry or baguette. At home, we eat lots and lots of vegtables with couscous, rice, pasta, meat, bread. We have cereal and PBJ and chips and banannas. So, not too different from I ate before. Just with more french baguettes. And lately, cucumber. One of the members gave us a cucumber the size of a small dog. Its like a foot and a half long and as thick as Avery. 
This friday will be transfer calls, so my next email might be from someplace new or with a new companion. (which would be a little sad because S Mod and St Etienne are both awesome.
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell