Bonjour tout le monde!
First, I must warn you that the keyboards here in France are weird and different and so it is REALLY hard to type. I am sorry if there are a lot of typos.
I'm in France! It was so good to talk to you on the phone last week. I'm sorry it was short, but we got to the airport late and they boarded they plane early, so there wasn't much time to talk. I am happy to hear that everyone and everything is well in the USA, and not too much has changed.
Our flight was long but great! I sat by a kind, old, french woman. We spoke for a long time but it was really hard to understand her french because she speaks really fast. I had prayed to have a missionary experience on the flight and I did! We spoke a lot about religion and beliefs. I told her about the gospel and why I decided to serve a mission. I offered her a Book of Mormon, but she politely declined it. She did accept a pass-along card though. Other than that, I slept well on the plane and the food was actually really good.
When we got to Paris, it was slightly overcast. We got our luggage and met President Stahli. He is INCREDIBLE!!! Then we put our bags in the van and took the train to downtown Paris for contacting. Paris is truly like a dream!!! Everything here in France is so beautiful, beyond description. There is so much history here. And I think that one of the things that surprised me the most is how kind everyone is here. Honestly, don't believe the stereotypes you hear about the french. I have not met a single person who has deliberately been mean to us. Everyone has been extremely kind and helpful. I think it's just the way you treat them. If you are nice and respectful to them, they will be the same to you. Also, they are very willing to listen to you when you talk to them. Of course they don't always accept the message, but they are very kind and I appreciate that.
Anyways, contacting was great and I got a few phone numbers for the Paris missionaries. After that, they showed us the church in Paris... which is incredibly old, but beautiful. Since I'm the only new Soeur, everyone kept telling me that they know who my trainer is and my first area. They didn't tell me anything except that I will be in good hands in a place that is having a lot of success. I was very excited!
Next we went to President Stahli's house and we got to relax a bit. Some of my friends and I took a walk around the area and it is like a fairytale! Then later that night we had a wonderful dinner that Sister Stahli made us. Then we had a testimony meeting and went to bed early.
The next morning President Stahli took us to an old castle on top of a hill, overlooking all of Paris, where there is actually a lot of gospel symbolism. We talked about our purpose and the importance of this work. It was amazingly spiritual! After that we went back to his house where he gave us our first assignment and told us who our companion will be. My trainer is Soeur Brough, from Orem UT, and we are serving in Evry (évry). When he told me about my first area he said "Well, Soeur McClaine, you will be leaving France and going to Little Africa". Let me tell you a little bit about Evry. It is a new city, built in 1980. Basically everything is brick or concrete. And everyone is African!!! There are actually a few Asians, but for the most part, everyone here is from Africa-Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Egypt; Etc. You can ask everyone here where they are from and it is always somewhere other than France. I kind of stick out becuse I am a tall, white girl, who has blond hair and speaks English. It is great though!! Another interesting fact about Evry is that it is the poorest city in France. The people are very humble and there are some rough places here but we always feel safe and protected by the Spirit. You have absolutely no need to worry about me here. Also, another fun fact about Evry is that we have the newest Catholic Cathedral here in France.... and it is made of red bricks and it is in the shape of the Pope's hat. We actually live right next to it. I'm not going to lie, I love it!!!! It makes me laugh everytime I see it. And really, you can't find a cathedral like that anywhere else in the world.
Another thing that President told me is that the work in Evry is amazing! And IT IS!!!!! Soeur Brough and I NEVER go porting (tracting) because we have rendez-vous after rendez-vous and when we are on our way to and from rendez-vous people contact us!!!! Whenever we are on the train or bus (which is constantly) people will see our nametags and start asking questions or talk about Jesus. We are teaching all the time! We are very busy here, and I love every second!!!! To be completely honest I was a little bummed to hear that I wouldn't be in a place with houndreds of years of beautiful history, but I LOVE SERVING HERE IN EVRY! This is even better than I could have dreamed. I know that Heavenly Father wants me here right now, and it is a blessing to serve here.
So.... Soeur Brough is INCREDIBLE!!!!!! I can't say enough about her! We are pretty much the same person, except that she is 5'2 and very petite. She is adorable! She is ALWAYS smiling and happy. She is kind to everyone and we have like the same sense of humor. I honestly couldn't have dreamed of a more perfect companion and trainer.
She is doing a wonderful job helping me with french and introducing me to all of the best french foods! I LOVE FRENCH FOOD! Everything here just tastes better. But somehow I've lost weight here. Wow! Life is good!
We are busy, we are having a blast, and we are loving every second here.
Today is Paris P-Day, when all of the Paris missionaries go to Downtown Paris and have fun. By the way Evry is just a little bit south of Paris but we are tecnically still in Paris area.
I'm sorry I don't have more time to write. We need to catch a train. I love you all and I will send photos next Monday. Remember it is a 9 hour time difference so I will be writing in the middle of your night.
I love you all!!!
Soeur Andrea McClaine