Monday, January 27, 2014

New sector, new companion, new adventure!

Well, I think that's the cheesiest title I've given to any of my letters so far...I've officially been doing this for a while. In fact, I think this is about my 24th or 25th time emailing home, if you can believe that! I'll be hitting my 6 month mark next Friday. That's pretty crazy too. This mission thing is going by super fast. 

So, I'm officially in Calais, finally. It was a long ride getting here, in more ways than one. First off, we took about an hour long TGV ride up to Lille, where our Zone Leaders are at. The TGV goes over 200 miles an hour, so it that's why it was so quick. But, due to low funds, I ended up staying the night there. Kind of crazy, doing an exchange my first day of the new transfer, but it happened. I was with Elder Oliverson, one of the ZLs. 

Arc de Triomphe
View from the top of the Arc

So, before I get too far into the week, P-day happened. It was just kind of a relaxed P-day, where we ended up on top of the Arc de Triomphe to end my time in Paris. It was just beautiful, getting up there right as the sun was setting. I got some sweet pictures and one final look at Paris before leaving.
Adam's Last Day in Paris
View from the Top of the Arc de Triomphe

I got to see Olivier one last time on Tuesday. We teach him in English, and the weirdest thing happened. In the middle of the lesson, I accidentally started speaking French! I went on that way for like, 30 seconds before catching myself. It was crazy.

Elder Bigler and Elder Perez
So, once I finally got here, we had a pretty good first week, I'd say. In fact, we set up two baptismal dates this week! That's pretty awesome. :) Elder Perez is pretty cool so far, he's goona be tons of fun to work with. I talk about him more in the letter I'm writing. I'm excited for the transfer though. :) We're in a 4 man, with the other Calais équipe (team/companionship) that just opened up. So they're white washing basically. Best thing about the apartment is the room we have. We have our two desks in there and our bunk beds and something I've almost never seen here in France: carpet! It's kind of old and dirty, but it's just so nice to have. It's such a cozy and home-y room. I feel more at home in that room than I have in a while. 

Oh, quick side note: Apparently an Elder Bigler served here forever ago, in 1969-70 ish, named Jeff. Anybody we know? (After a little family history research, we found out this is Adam's Dad's Cousin Jeff who served in Calais around that time as part of the Franco-Belgium Mission. Thanks Cousin Dean Bigler for the information. Small Mormon World. We're not sure how Adam came across that information so quickly in his new city.)

Anyway, that's about it for this week. It's gonna take some getting used to, but I like it so far. I'll be sending some pictures on dropbox too, and more next week. I love you guys! Sorry the letter was kind of disorganized this week, I hope it's okay! Be good!

Elder Adam Bigler

Batman Watches Over Paris
Adam Ate Pizza Made by Italians for
His Last Night in Paris, France

Monday, January 20, 2014

Je vais à Calais!

See what I did there with the title? :) So, yep, the time has come for me to leave Paris. Elder Alexander will be staying with his new companion Elder Angel and I'll be going up to the North of the North, Calais, in the Lille zone. My companion will be Elder Perez, the district leader, who actually also served in Nogent at one point. I'll be able to see England from my secteur, and go contacting on the beach. Which would be really nice if this was Florida or something, BUT, it's northern France... It's gonna be cold. Since my comp is the DL, I'll be doing a whole bunch of exchanges, one of which will be with Elder Tidwell, the one that you guys know somehow or something... Anyway, there's that.

Eiffel Tower Lit Up for the New Year
So, now I feel sad. I'll be leaving Paris on Wednesday, and probably not serving here again, just statistically. It's been a super amazing 4 and a half months. This place is incredible. The people are so French (I really don't know how to describe them other than that), the city is dirty, everything is busy, but it's so beautiful and really amazing. The Eiffel Tower is my favorite. I've made a bunch of friends, both in the ward and with other missionaries. And, I'm about two weeks from my 6 month mark, if that even sounds possible. It all goes so fast!

Notre Dame de Paris

So, like I told you mom, I got some sweet deals on clothes last week. Advice to America: Fix the economy people! 100 dollars becomes 75 here, and it makes it hard for us missionaries. Just sayin'. But despite all that, I now have some comfy new French shoes, and a sweet French suit to go with them. I look good. It was a really long, tiring day of shopping, but it all worked out in the end.

So, just being honest here, nothing super exciting really happened this week. I'm gonna keep my usual weekly summary pretty short because of that and cause I really want to have time to see the Eiffel Tower and all that one more time before I head off.

The Apartment View in Nogent
District meeting Tuesday we got to go contacting around the Paris-même area a bit, and that was cool. We got a phone number in 10 minutes, which is pretty good. :) Between our DMP meeting Wednesday and an emergency coat return for Elder Alexander (basically his coat was like, not warm at all, so we took it back as soon as we could), we didn't have a ton of time for much else. Thursday and Friday were pretty plain, except for our little RDV with Domingos, who is planning on getting married in just a few weeks and will be baptized shortly after. That's super exciting! He's such a great guy.

Saturday we got to watch the Restoration video with Yannick, and then visit the Lam-Yam family in the evening, who just got back from the States. This diet thing we're doing must be working cause one of the very first things Sister Lam-Yam said to me was "Elder Bigler, you've lost some weight since the last time I saw you," which is true, I think I'm down about 2 or 3 kilos. My pants are getting a little bit baggy (well, baggier, these American suit pants are like parachutes...) and my belt is about to the last little clicky notch. I might have to cut it shorter soon. 

Adam with Elder Alexander, the Sisters
and the Most Recent Convert to the Church
The highlight of the week though, easily, was yesterday. Sunday's are often the best day, I'm noticing. So, first off, we had a baptism! The Sister's did that is. I put the picture in dropbox, so you had better check it out. :) Their amie is from California, and speaks no French. She's been living here with her  boyfriend and sweet little daughter for 15 months. She came to church with her friend who is a member two weeks ago. And within the last two weeks, a lot of it even before the sisters asked, she gave up coffee, gained a testimony, moved out, and decided to get baptized. That's as fast as Elder Alexander was, and I thought his was a one in a million story. So, yesterday Elder Alexander put her under the water and we're that much closer to another eternal family!!! :) The service was all done in English (singing an English hymn after 6 months of French ones felt super weird) and she (Erica) made all the refreshments herself. It was really beautiful. It's times like that where you get to really feel the power and influence of what we're doing here, to see how truly happy the gospel has made this daughter of God. I love it. :)

Now, here's your story Kevin. So, we found this address in our apartment of somebody who was interested forever ago. And last night we decided to go see if we could find them again. We got on the metro, and rode that for quite a while and then got a bus for 12 stops. When we finally got off, we stopped for a second to figure out exactly where we were and find this guy's house. But, just like a minute later, this lady comes up to us and says "Can I help you?" which, in missionary translation usually means "What are you guys doing here, we don't want you here, go home" because people who come up to us like that usually aren't the nicest. But, turns out this lady was super nice! She actually wanted to help us. So I told her the address, and she had her daughter type it into her iPhone, but she couldn't find it. (The funny thing about this whole story is that I had the map in my pocket and we could've found where we were going in about 3 minutes, it was so close.) Then she told us "You know, you boys shouldn't be here, it's extremely dangerous." We had both kind of joked "wow, this place is super ghetto" when we got off the bus, but little did we know how right we were. Then she said "here, the police station is right here, let me take you over there." She was so nice, we had to say yes. So we walked down the street a little bit to the police station and proceeded to be introduced to the police. Just not one of them, but FOUR officers. Apparently, they had nothing better to do and a couple American guys with the name of Jesus on their chests were pretty entertaining... We talked for a little and they couldn't really find it, but they offered us a ride to wherever we were going to keep us safe...

Now, unfortunately, that's about as cool as the story gets. We turned down the ride in the French police car because we didn't really want to involved them, and it was kind of late by this time anyway. So we said merci and thank you and headed on our way. We ended up giving our card to the nice lady and feeling really thankful for the people that the Lord puts in our path. It's possible that without that woman, we could've walked into a super dangerous neighborhood and been robbed or worse. We're so blessed and protected. So there's your story for the week Kevin. :)

Batman Guarding the Arc de Triomphe
Well, I hope you guys enjoy your day off from school. :) I'm gonna go get some good pictures with Batman, and head off to the arctic on wednesday. :) Just kidding, it won't be that bad. I'll talk to you then. :)

Adam with Batman that Tyler
Sent for Christmas
Elder Bigler

An "Online" Conversation with Adam and His Mom

Mom (A portion of her letter to Adam):

Speaking of money, dad was worried about you last week because you said you were going on a shopping spree and he was worried if you had enough money in your account.  Do you know how much money is in there?  Do you need more?  Did you find the new clothes and shoes you were hoping for?  50% off is pretty savvy!

I hope you are doing well.  When is the next transfer?  Do you know if you will be going to a new area?  I think you really like Paris and will miss it when you get transferred, but dad can't wait for you to get out in some quaint little town somewhere too.  Also, when does the new mission president start?  Are things going ok with the other elders?  There are 4 of you in the same apartment right??  If so, it should feel pretty normal to you.  How is the weather there now?  Here it is cold and often smoggy.  We still have some snow on the ground from around Christmas time.  The mountain is really pretty around 5:30 when the sun starts setting and the white snow turns pink.  I have been making a point to stop and watch it each night.  It sometimes gives me a little boost of hope when I need it.  

Take care of yourself Adam.  Remember to use your eyes and your ears before you open your mouth and you will find some pretty interesting ways to do missionary work.
Have a great week,

Adam:Whew, lots of questions this week. :) Yeah, I was okay on money. I withdrew it all basically, to save on foreign charge fees. I didn't use it all, I'm trying to be reasonable with my money...I got a really sweet deal on shoes. Best shoe store in Paris, according to the French missionaries, and I got super sweet shoes for 40€ (the exchange rate is about 1.33 dollars per euro. It's steep, which was the real problem). I also got a suit for 85€, super awesome, slim fit, super french. I just have to get it hemmed up and I'll show you guys how classy I look now. :) Also a tie for only 3€! That was an awesome deal, 90% off. :) But that's all I bought. I'm probably gonna need some more stuff though now that transfers are happening. I'm going to a really cold place...I'll probably see snow on wednesday. New president starts in July. Haha things are going okay with the other guys. I had never thought about how that was kind of just like home... :) (Four Missionaries = Four Brothers) Weather: It's cold, wet, pretty much just "French". The sun sets around 5:30?? It's DARK by then here. I guess we're really far north though.

MomWow!  90% off a French suit!  Where did you learn to be so savvy? So you're moving on Wednesday?  Where are you going?  Will you have a new companion?  If you are already writing about that you don't have to write it again, I'll read it in a bit.

Adam :Okay, only 50% off the suit, but 90% off the tie. :) And yeah, I'm writing about it right now. :)

MomOh sorry - read that wrong.  50% is still pretty great. I wanted to tell you that Kalin had one of those picture frames with a place for a bigger picture in the middle and then a bunch of places for little pictures all around it - like you could put a school picture from every year from first grade through high school and then a grad picture in the center - anyway, he had his picture in the middle and then a picture of each companion in the smaller spaces.  It was kinda of fun.  What I'm really trying to say is that you should be sure you take a picture of all your companions at some point.  Also, I think you should take a picture of each place you live.  You know how here there is a "welcome to ______" sign as you go into a new city??  You could look for stuff like that.  Just an idea...   Any luck with Yannick?

AdamGood ideas, I'll see what I can do in the next couple days...  Yannick is still kind of Yannick...He knows it all, he understands it all, he comes to church, he reads, he prays, he does everything he needs to do to receive an answer, and he hasn't gotten one yet, or so he thinks. I've had my testimony reconfirmed with him so many times, and yet he still feels like he hasn't even felt the Spirit with us. I hope Elder Alexander can figure out what to do, because I really don't know...I'll keep praying for him. I feel like someday he'll be baptized.

MomHow do you say Calais?  How far away is it from Paris?  Do you have gloves?

AdamCu-lay, but more French-y than that. And the emphasis is on the second syllable. And no gloves yet....

MomRight now in AF it is 10 degrees (early morning chat).  Our high this week will be 40.  What is it in Paris?  Do you know what it will be in Calias?  Brian and I are taking bets - do you say the Cu like cub or like coop?

AdamI might, but we'll see. And actually, here in France, the seasons make a lot more sense and it gets really cold in February and starts to die down again in March so we'll see. It's about the same temperature here in Paris, but I have no idea what Calais will be like except as cold as France gets... And it's said more like Cuh, is what I meant. Like, somewhere between duh and ahh

Mom: Dad is up now.  He says "howdy".  He has heard of Calais.  He said it is the main ferry port between France and England.  I just googled it and saw a picture.  It looked like San Diego without the palm trees...

Adam: It's probably pretty cool then! :)  It's about time for me to go, I wrote a pretty big letter this week, I think, I hope it doesn't have too many spelling errors...

Mom: Got the letter.  Have a wonderful day in Paris.  Take lots of pictures with your camera and with your own eyes.  We love you Adam!!!!!

AdamOne more thing. Just talked to my companion on the phone. Really cool. I'm gonna miss Elder Alexander a ton, but he's like best friends with Elder Dussere, who trained Elder Alexander, and they are best friends now. And now Elder Alexander and I are really good friends, so Elder Perez and I are probably going to get along great, and we'll all be a big group of friends when this is all over. Oh, and the other big thing...he's a Francophone. As in native French speaker. Oh boy, my French is gonna improve pretty quick...

And a few closing photos:
New Year's Day in Paris

Adam and His New Christmas "Sweater"

Adam and Mike Sullivan

McDonald's in Paris - Lovin' It!

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Just so Rewarding to be a Missionary

Happy Monday everybody! I hope you've all had a good week. I had a great week personally, even though it was kind of just a standard missionary week. Sometimes the normal weeks are the best.

Entrance to the Louvre

Last week for P-day, as you might have heard, I went to the Louvre again, and hung out in the Apple store for a little. Crazy how fast technology gets ahead of you... It was a super fun day overall, with the all the guys from my apartment. This week, there's this huge sale EVERYWHERE that's going on, called Soldes. Basically, everywhere is selling everything for 50% off or more. Okay, not quite that crazy, but almost. So, since I need new shoes and some short sleeve white shirts for the summer, we're going to the biggest mall in Paris to find some sweet deals and some sweet new clothes. I'm probably getting a sock tie. And maybe some nice thin cut French slacks if I find a good enough deal. 

Quickly, I did hear that they called our new mission president. What do you guys know about him? We haven't heard much except that he's the bishop of the ward here in Versailles. Also, sounds like you had an awesome week with lots of spiritual experiences and all that. (Our weekend at home in our family saw a baptism of Adam's cousin Mikey Craynor, a missionary homecoming of cousin, Kalin Craynor, and his cousing David Barlow went to the temple for the first time as he prepares for his mission to Houston, Texas in a couple months.) Mikey getting baptized is awesome. Dad, I think you're right. The church says that you don't need to be baptized in his case, but if the parents wish it is definitely worth doing. It's really cool that they did. :)

Kalin Craynor, Adam, Tyler, Kevin, Brian
Kalin's Farewell January 2012
Kalin, Tyler, Kevin, Brian
Kalin's Homecoming January 2014

Tuesday was pretty much regular. Elder Alexander and I got to jam on the piano at church while we were waiting for a member to show up and we got a really sweet little song going on. We work really well together. We're good friends, similar, but different, and we're able to work off of each other's strengths. It's gonna be kind of sad for me to leave when I do, but it'll be a good new adventure. That evening, we went to the Kusseling's and had some pizza. Now, not to make you jealous or anything Dad, but it was real Italian pizza. As in, they had Italian friends staying over with them who made the pizza for us. I felt like I was living a dream as I sat there having an English conversation with Elder Alexander, French with the members, and the members were speaking Italian to their friends, all while I ate fresh, authentic Italian pizza in the suburbs of Paris. (head exploding sound) Crazy night.

Wednesday we woke up early and caught a 2 hour train to Auxerre for our exchange. Really fun exchange. I got to go inside my first French cathedral, and it was way cool. Picture (only one cause my camera died) next week. That night, we went to the Judas' house, which was super weird cause one of my teachers from the MTC is their daughter, so there we're pictures of her on the wall and stuff. Super weird circle it all made. Soeur Judas actually called up her daughter who lives in Provo and had me talk to her on the phone. One of the most awkward conversations of my life. I've pretty much completely forgotten how to talk to girls already... :) (No jokes Tyler...) We had duck wings for dinner, with some really good chicken stuff and some galette for dessert. Super good pastry stuff, with raspberries in it this time.

Thursday was Zone Conference, which was fun but not a whole lot to report. Just missionary talk about being obedient and working hard, all the usual stuff. A lot of thinking about what I want to accomplish this year as a missionary.

Friday and Saturday kind of came and went too, with the only things really standing out being that we fixed another baptismal date with Yannick. We're praying hard for him and really hoping that he'll have a break through and be able to feel the spirit more strongly in his life. Sunday was kind of normal too. Lots of French speaking at church and then just the usual missionary stuff in the evening.

So, that's about it for the week. Kind of bland, but in the best sort of way. It's just so rewarding to be a missionary, as I'm sure Kalin told you about. We see a lot, and learn a lot every day. I should be finishing up the Book of Mormon this week, which is way exciting. Keep working on the goals that you guys have set, I promise you that you will be blessed. Some of the biggest blessings come from doing the littlest things, like reading, studying, and praying. Dad, I hope you like Preach My Gospel and that you can see how big of a help it is for us as missionaries. We always talk about how useful it is for the rest of our lives too, so be looking for that stuff, not just missionary things. And sweet new hobby you've got! :) I've actually talked about that a bunch with missionaries, how you could comfortably pay for a car or something doing that. :) 

Well, I hope you all have a good week! Keep working hard, having fun and doing your homework! Just dig in hard, it's a lot easier to do it now than to make up for it later. Trust me, I know... Read your scriptures and pray a lot! Say hi to Kalin for me too. :)

à le prochain!
Elder Bigler

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bonne nouvelle année!

Bonjour tout le monde! Sounds like you guys had a pretty ballin' week! Meeting famous Olympians and seeing a Ferrari makes for a pretty good time in my book. (The rest of the family back home went to the Short Track Speed Skating Olympic Trials and saw Apolo Anton Ohno along with other skaters and a Ferrari Testarossa on the way there.)

Unfortunately, I don't have my journal or my planner with me right now (apparently remembering things needs to be one of my resolutions...) so I'm gonna do my best to recount the week without any real notes.

Oh, and before I forget, I need some things. Sort of. Particularly, my crazy hair pictures. You can email them to me, mail me a couple prints, put them on dropbox, whatever works, just the sooner the better. Also, I would like to hear some stories from your mission Dad. :) I'm realizing that I don't really know anything about it, like where you were or what you did or how missionary work even really took place back in the discussion days. :)

So, P-day last week was way cool! There was a Pixar exhibition here in Paris, with all sorts of original art and paintings and designs and ideas from the movie productions. It was so sweet! Unfortunately, pictures were interdit (that means prohibited, everybody just kind of says it in French) so I don't have any for you from it. It was a super classy little place. It had been in New York originally, the exhibit. Just super cool. Not many people can say that they've been to a Pixar exhibition in Paris. :)

After that, we kind of had just a normal week. Not much super exciting. New Year's Eve we went to the family Angulo's for dinner, which was awesome. With new year's happening, the rule about only one équipe at a house at a time was lifted, so we had the sisters there too. Really fun night, with a really awesome, Christlike family. The mom and the kids are recent converts (2 years ish) and they're just amazing. Really cool to see how missionary work can affect people. That night, since we didn't have to wake up early, we stayed up til midnight, but we didn't really do much. Just kind of hung around in the apartment. I drew a car. Haha basically just a tranquille evening. 

The next day I slept in til like, 10:30, which felt REALLY late. We had a rendezvous with the family Lasa and had some really good African chicken there. The rest of the day was kind of normal. We hit up the Champs Elysses again, but pretty much everything was closed. And, comme d'habitude, we ended up just looking at the Tour Eiffel for like an hour. 

It's just so beautiful. Oh, I totally forgot! Before that, we did the most French thing I've done on my mission. We went to a nice little café and just ordered ourselves some hot chocolates (they're surprisingly hard to find) and just sat there in the café while it rained outside, just hanging out talking for like an hour. Pretty cool. To finish off the night we watched 17 Miracles, which is always so great.

Then came Thursday. Pretty tough to wake up that morning, but we did it. Then the usual missionary work. A couple lessons, one with Olivier, who's doing really well right now. We gave him a blessing for the new year and got to hear about some miracles he's experienced in his life.

Friday, again, kind of regular, just busy going from one thing to another. Saturday about the same, with a really awesome lesson with Yannick. We had prepared really well, had Frère Mourier there, and it was just super solid. He (Yannick) even had a couple friends over who also seemed interested. Really awesome spirit there. He seemed like he was really feeling something. Then Sunday came and went kind of regularly.

Pretty quick week, all in all.

So, as far as my resolutions go, I'm planning on trying to floss every day (we're all kind of on a flossing kick in the apartment), which can only be good. Other than that, I've got the usual eat healthy and exercise goals, but I've actually got good plans for them this year. I hope to comfortably get through the whole Book of Mormon this year. I should be finishing it up in a week or two here. It's often hard to read more than a chapter a day, trying to prepare for lessons and all that. 

Also, in Preach My Gospel, there's a chapter on Christlike attributes. I highly recommend checking it out. It talks about some really good stuff, and at the end, there's a little quiz so you can check your progress on each of them. I'm gonna be working on that this year. At the beginning of each transfer, I'll quiz myself (it's not like a quiz quiz, more like, see how good you are, internal, thoughtful sort of thing) and pick one or two of them that I'm going to be working on for that transfer. I figure by the end of the year, I'll be that much closer to Christ and be able to be that much better of a missionary.

It's gonna be a good year. This is the start of what they call my blackout year, since I'll be year for the whole thing. It's a great chance for me to really improve myself and become more who I want to be.

Until next week,
Elder Adam Bigler

P.S. Do your homework y'all! It's good for your brains and smarts or something. But seriously, it's really simple to just sit down and do it and it'll help you so much in the long run. Bon courage!

P.P.S. I got Brooke's gift, wore the tie to church on sunday. :) Also grandma's. I really like the ties she got me, I'm impressed with how well she did. :) I appreciate all the love from everybody, it goes a long way. Thanks!