Wow, can you guys believe that I only have a week left on this continent? I sure can't!
I do have my travel plans now, I'll be taking the flight I was expecting before I came in. Salt Lake to JFK, on to Paris, and then into Benin. Guess when I get into the Charles de Gaulle airport? That's right, 6 AM. I get to overnight across the Atlantic. There go my plans for reading Jesus the Christ. oh well. Also, I'm leaving on the 28, not the 27 like was estimated. The Benin bound Elders are the last ones to leave, the France Elders leave on Monday and the Canada Elders leave Tuesday (they have to pack out at 4 in the morning, so much fun!).
This last week we've decided to do our best as departing Elders and Sisters to do a whole week in French. Obviously we aren't perfect about it, but it has been going pretty well for the most part. It has been a little harder today because on P-day you just interact more with people who don't speak French. I feel pretty good about where I am in my French skills.
During the Fireside on Sunday there was an interesting musical number. This group of Elders sang "Praise to the Man" with the original music. It was very cool. I was a little disappointed that they didn't use the original words though.
Also on Sunday there was another interesting musical number. It was a medley of O My Father and Come Thou Fount. It wasn't quite as well performed (some people weren't warmed up enough to hit the highest note), but the Spirit was there pretty strongly. Oh, and we did it while singing in French. I was really glad to have the chance to do that, for my first experience singing in a small group, it went very well. This Sunday, all of the departing missionaries in our zone will be singing Souviens-toi (It's only in the French hymnal, but it's really very good). On Thursday, we threw "birthday parties" for our teachers because neither of them had birthdays while we have been here. We scrounged up some white elephant-type gifts, like bubble wrap and tiny plastic Christmas trees. It was really fun, it was nice to do something totally different for once.
On Wednesday we had the opportunity to host the missionaries coming in. It is a very different experience to be on the other side of that curb, and to remember what it was like when that person was you. I got to host two Elders going to the South Salt Lake mission, pretty much as far away from my mission as possible. It was cool to just see how different people handled everything was thrown at them (and in one case, realize he still had library books in his backpack).
When we came back from hosting, we found out that they finally restocked on French bibles! It only took 50 days to get them. I think the last group that headed out never got any. The KJV was never translated into French I guess, and so we have this different version that sometimes doesn't totally match up to what you expect it to say. It's usually pretty close though.
I took in my suit yesterday to the dry cleaners. The girl behind the counter turned out to be a MESA major taking Arabic 102 right now. We talked a little bit about the program and stuff. We said a few pleasantries in Arabic, but it was clear to me that that was about all I could say, so we didn't try to really have a conversation. French mode has just overwhelmed all of that for now. Hopefully it will come back after the mission, but we'll just have to wait and see.
This week has been huge for learning about myself, teaching, and others. Every time that I feel like I'm getting to where I need to be, something else comes up and I realize that I'm nowhere close to perfect. In some ways, I feel farther from being perfect than when I first came here. That's probably not actually true, but I didn't self-evaluate back then as much as I do now. I am always finding out that I'm too prideful about something, or not serving enough, or slacking off too much. A big one that came yesterday is that I need to be more alert about how what I do affects my companions. I found out that several of the things I had done throughout the day had fairly seriously upset my companion, and I had been oblivious. I had known that he was upset, but not that I was the cause of it. So I am trying to be more alert about things like that from now on.
Oh yes, thank you for the Bacon pie!! It was very delicious! I was not expecting it at all. Everyone agreed that I had the best package that day.
Here is my challenge for you all. I have one week left before I arrive in the field. In that time, send me either a personal story about a doctrine or principle. An analogy would also be fantastic. I believe that analogies will probably be the driving force for learning words that don't have to do directly with the gospel. Also, analogies and personal stories are double-handedly the most effective way I know of to make a lesson interesting. When we finally began using them in lessons, that changed the whole pace of everything.
Lots of love,
Elder Ethan Christensen
Elder Christensen, Sister Christensen, Elder Christensen & Elder Christensen
Snow, how I will miss you for the next 2 years!