Us Seniors

Elder et Soeur Arn & Jody

Sunday, May 27


We finally started work at the Archives on May 21, 2007. We arrived in France on April 14th and in Bordeaux on April 16th. It has been a long wait to get started. The problem has been that one of the three buildings that houses the Archives started to sink and tilt to one side (the building on the far left). This has caused all kinds of problems for them. They have to move everything out of that part of the building into the other two parts and then begin destruction of the sinking part. There are three buildings, but they are all right up against each other even with corridors leading one to another. These swampy conditions give a clue as to why the building began to sink into the soggy ground.
They have completely done away with the tiny little parking lot they had, so we are walking 15 minutes, taking two trams and a bus to get to work. Fortunately, we have discovered a parking garage a few blocks from the Archives that is fairly inexpensive where we can rent a parking space by the month. It will be cheaper than the tram fares, so we will probably end up doing that and driving (if the cost of gas isn’t too expensive).
This is part of our walk to the archives. We go through a small archway and then down "Doggie Doo Alley." No one picks up after their dogs in Bordeaux, and this small alley must have an inordinate amount of dogs living in the apartments lining the alley. One of the Frenchmen we work with told us not to worry because it was good luck to step in it. Thanks, but I'll take some bad luck if that is what good luck looks (smells) like.
On a lighter smell, these huge (we think) hibiscus are growing just outside of the archives. We have never seen any nearly this big before. We had to take a picture with JoAnn's hand in the picture so it would show just how big they are. They are truly beautiful next to the delicate pink roses.

At the Archives, we are working in a room about the size of the Relief Society room at church. It has metal shelves with documents and several large metal tables in the middle. Because of the need to help preserve the documents, it is very cold in there. They have metal chairs for us to sit on. The first day, it was very difficult sitting on icy cold metal chairs all day, working with our arms up on icy cold metal tables. That first evening we bought some cushions for the chairs and it has been much better since then. We mostly work in this room by ourselves, with an occasional worker coming in for something or another.
They have a woman who buys different kinds of grocery items (loaves of French bread, yogurt, cheese, lettuce, etc.) and people come in to get what they ordered – we are assuming for their lunch. We wonder how healthy it is eating food that has been in a room full of moldy old documents that may have had rats chewing on some of them?

We leave the building for lunch. There are two sidewalk cafes a couple of blocks away and across the street from that there is the river. There are nice benches that we sit on to eat our lunch and people watch. We found a cute little lunch box that we are using to bring our lunch from home. There is a compartment in the top that we put a bottle with ice in it to keep things cold. There are several restaurants along the river walk, but they look very expensive. They might be a good place to go for a special occasion or to take visitors. It has been very pleasant so far.

The work we are doing is quite routine. The records from each city are in small booklets with one for marriages, one for deaths, and one for births for each year. They are collected together into 10-year batches with special archive paper wrapped around them with a woven strap to keep them closed. Our job is to go through each packet, organize them in the correct chronological order, check for missing booklet covers, check for documents that are too damaged to work with, and then enter all that information into an Excel program on the computer. After we have done this, we will go through them all again to verify what we have done, put a new kind of paper jacket on them, make labels, put a red dot on those that are too damaged, and then give them to the microfilm camera operator to film.
These are but a few of the thousands and thousands of records that we are preparing.

The little booklets are very interesting to look at. We are working with records from about 1804 to 1880. Each booklet beginning in about 1814 has a preprinted cover and then distributed to the cities where someone there hand wrote all the information about the births, deaths and marriages in the appropriate booklet. Before 1814 it was all hand written including the cover.
Some of them begin with the Napoleonic year XII (actually 1804) through XIV (1806) which was an experiment invented by Napoleon which began with year I as the first year after the French revolution. They decided that it was dumb to be out of step with the rest of the world calendar-wise so it all ended in 1807 when they went back to the rest of the western world’s calendar system. They even renamed all of the months on the Napoleonic calendar. So we also work with records from 1807-1880. It is amazing that most of the records have been preserved very well, even though some of them are 200 years old. It is kind of fun to know that you are handling handwritten records dating to when Joseph Smith was born, when he had the first vision, when Moroni visited him, when he translated the Book of Mormon and when the church was organized. The handwriting is very fun to look at but very difficult to read. They wrote quite differently that far back.
One of the many corridors in the archives. We were never allowed to go down these, so we just assume that there are tons of records being stored there.

The head archivist we are working with at the Archives is Christian Cau (pronounced Koh). He is Spanish so he speaks French with a Spanish accent. He is a small white-haired man with a white beard. He is very jovial and so glad that we are there to help. He has been a little harried with all the problems with the destruction of the bad building.
M. Cau is an expert on the history of the Toulouse area and has written several books. One day after he found out that Arnold had an interest in history also, he presented us with copies of his book and inscribed them for us.
One warm day the ladies in the archives made little sun bonnets to wear when they went outside for their break. M. Cau was reading something and Arnold asked if he could take his picture. JoAnn then quietly placed the sun bonnet on his head as Arnold snapped this picture. M. Cau didn't miss a beat - he just kept on reading. What a good sport for such an important man.
These are the archive employees that we got to know the best. They worked in our little room with us once the destruction began until they were moved to another archive building across town. They are Francoise (in the front), Jerry, Jackie and Marc. They all were very fun and friendly. Whenever they were around there was always a lot of laughter.
These two gentlemen were assigned to help us with whatever we needed. Marc is on the left and Ahmed on the right. They would go to the inner archives and retrieve the records we need to inspect and then return them when we were done. That was almost a full-time job in itself. We really appreciated them. They were always joking with one another. Marc started calling Ahmed "mon pere" (my father), so then Ahmed started calling Marc "mon fils" (my son). Eventually, they started calling Arnold "mon grand-pere" (my grandfather).

We got some rather disturbing news at the Archives on Thursday. Because of the one building sinking and sloping away from the others, they are going to have to tear down the one bad condemned building. The people at the Archives are beginning to think that it will not be safe for the people in the other buildings while this is going on, so they are thinking of closing the Archives for a year while the demolition takes place. If they do that, we don’t know what will become of us.
Jackie LeMoine, the microfilm operator, is an employee of the church and would be out of a job for a year if that happens. There just isn’t much call for that kind of work. He says that there are two places in Belgium that are doing the same work we are doing in the Archives, so that is a possibility for us to be transferred up there. But, Jackie has a family here and it would be difficult for him to move to Belgium.
When we talked to President Merrell on the phone and told him that they might close the archives for a year he reacted with an astonished WHAT!!! Then he thought for a minute and said, “Well when the Lord closes one door He always opens another.” We discussed the possibilities and he said that he had some ideas for us, but that it would be up to the Brethren in Salt Lake City. We are having a meeting with the director of the Archives as well as our supervisor who is over the family history work in Europe on April 13th, so we will probably find out then what is going to happen. Apparently the decision is not up to the director of the Archives but the safety officer over the demolition project. When we were set apart President Shields told us that if the spirit prompted us not to enter someplace that we should follow that prompting so we will rely on the spirit as well. We’ve received no such prompting… yet. (Although we did get that prompting once when apartment hunting.) Meanwhile, we’ll just keep working as if nothing were going to change until we know something certain. We don’t know what to do, though, about looking for an apartment. I guess we will at least keep looking and if we find an apartment we like, we will deal with it then. All of this may explain why we have had such a difficult time getting a permanent long-term rent agreement for a good apartment.
They did decide to tear down the one building. Everything was disrupted during the destruction. Most of the employees, including Jackie, went to another archive building across town. We went on a temporary assignment to Paris and returned after the destruction was completed.


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