We stayed at our first "cheaper" hotel, which welcomed us to our new stage of cheaper hotels--our first little French adventure. It was like this apartment complex where you had to schedule a time for someone to be there to let you in. But we didn't know we were going to be staying in that town until like 30 minutes before. So, we had three awkward French conversations with people on the street and they called the place, and, voila! we had a place to sleep, which was my only concern at that point.
It turned out to be a great hub for us. Get this! We had a microwave. and a stove. and a desk. and a fridge. THE SIMPLE THINGS IN LIFE. I feel at times like a vagabond, with only my luggage to my name. I have to go out to eat or buy nonperishable food items at the store. It shocked me how much I appreciated space and comfortable electronics. I bought a lot of microwaved meals and enjoyed them to my hearts content.
Each day, we woke up and worked on our marriage dispensation project. Bayonne is the French part of the pays-basque or in English, the basque country. It makes the area interesting to study, and we are extracting information from their marriage dispensation records to find out what kind of impediments to marriage people had during 1775 to 1785. I'm not sure that makes total sense, but at least you can join my genealogy nerdiness for a second.
It takes lot of concentration. So in between the research, Marie and I made sure to take walks around the town. We had fun going to the Musee Basque and thrift shopping. Bayonne is absolutely beautiful with a river going through quaint Basque architectural buildings. I ate what they call a Basque Burger. I honestly don't know why its that different from a real burger. There was a hot sauce on it and bacon, but the coolest part was the little Basque flag in it. The cute little waiter kept teasing me for ordering it because she couldn't believe such a small person was eating such a large burger. I told her it was "pour la experience!"
Thursday was a game changer. It is what you might say was not a coincidence. It was a cultural fire hose. You see, on Sunday at church, we were invited to go on the ward hike on Thursday, which here in France was Ascension Day. Meaning there was no school and most shops were closed.
We had to change hotels because of the holiday (our hotel was completely booked). So in order to have a place to sleep, which as I mentioned earlier was the most important thing, we had to find another hotel. With all of our luggage, we checked out of our magical place and ran to the bus. Literally, the bus saw us running with all of our luggage and waited for us. MIRACLE.
The missionaries happened to be on that bus and helped us carry our luggage to the church where we kept it for the hike. Then, the rest of the experience was the longest and most French I have ever spoken . . . I think . . . in my life.
The hike was seven miles. We were not messing around. It was an uphill battle for sure. And not only was my out-of-shape self physically exhausted, but I was speaking broken French the entire way up and down. Boy, was it the best mental and physical work out of my life. But in the end the journey made me fall in love with all of these people, and the view was spectacular.
At first I was so intimidated. I just kept praying, and honestly was not sure how I was going to survive the day. But somehow I kept trying and they kept trying and the worlds of communication came together and I actually learned a lot.
There were two girls, Claire and Lea, my newest Instagram friends, who talked to us the whole time. They were so afraid to speak English because they didn't want to mess up or sound dumb, and they didn't understand very much. BUT IT MADE ME FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. I was like, we are so alike, we just feel comfortable in two different languages.
The two elders, Marie, Lea and Claire
Le Livre de Mormon
They asked me if I had a boyfriend. When I told them his name is Parker, they laughed and said, "that is such an american name!" They kept practicing pronouncing it. They also asked me what my family was like. We bonded over common dance moves like the dab, the whip and the nae nae, and even bottle flipping. We laughed hysterically over how they pronounce the names of American actors and TV shows. It is crazy! I have never heard Desperate Housewives said quite the same. Or Harry Potter, Scarlett Johansson, and Justin Bieber.
These girls . . . I was really sad to say goodbye!
There were wild horses everywhere.
The entire group
Who can tell how secretly stressed I was? Right in the middle of my French speaking success. ha.
I had an interesting missionary experience too. While walking next to the missionaries, a French couple walked by and said Bonjour and proceeded to ask the missionaries who they were. They asked me if I was a missionary too. I said no, and then they asked me if I voted for Trump or Hilary! ha ha
They started asking the missionaries about the Mormons and how it was an American church. It was weird to step into their shoes and feel what it must be like for the missionaries to teach in a foreign country every day. After a little small talk, they weren't interested, but it made me grateful for all the hard work missionaries are putting in every day to try and help the work progress.
Everyone we met was so polite, gave us bises (kisses on the cheek), and made us feel at home. Then, Francoise drove us to the church and then to our new apartment. It just kept surprising me how kind she was. We were essentially American strangers. All we had in common was our religion. Her kindness was done with such sincerity and without a second thought, like you could tell it was just who she was.
Then, she got my number and email and planned to meet us at the beach the next morning. What?? Not only did she serve us, but our bad French didn't scare her way from wanting to see us again!
So, we rocked the bus system once again and went to the beach. It was beautiful. It was called, Milady, and was by far the best beach I have been to in Europe. It wasn't as cold and the waves were big. After growing up in Hawaii, it felt so familiar to me to just sit in the water and be carried away by the waves as I observed the terrain around me.
We went on a walk with Francoise and Genieve (my other best friend). They taught us, loved us, and told us about their lives and culture.
Francoise and Genevieve
AND THEN THEY FED US.
AND THEN PRINTED OUR TRAIN TICKETS FOR US.
AND THEN GENIEVE DROVE US HOME.
Who are these people and can I keep them forever? It was so fun for me to get the chance to be with them and learn from them and practice my French with them. It felt good to keep failing and trying and failing and trying with real people. And to use hand gestures. And somehow they still understood. It felt good to laugh and laugh. And laugh.
One of the funniest things I learned is that here in France, if you are wearing a bikini, it means that you aren't wearing a top.
On that note, Bayonne has been the coolest cultural surprise. I just want to speak French better. I have had the biggest mental overload the last few days, but I am so happy to have experienced the kindness here. I just can't get over how much a religion can bind people to one another.