Us Seniors

Elder et Soeur Arn & Jody

Tuesday, July 15


First a little background. We applied for and received our passports several months before our mission call. Before we came to France we had to go to San Francisco in person to apply for a visa. Otherwise, we would only be allowed to stay in France for three months. When we got to Bordeaux we had to go to the Préfecture’s office to get a carte de séjour (something like a green card) to make us legal for a year. Then at the end of the year, we reapplied for another one that would last another year, or until the end of our mission. Everything was right on schedule. We reapplied, turned in all our paperwork and waited for them to issue the new cards. Unfortunately, when they said they were ready and we went to pick them up, they had made several errors – JoAnn’s birth date was incorrect, our address was wrong, and they had them expiring before we even received them. We then had to turn our papers in all over again (the same papers we had turned in to them when we first got to France and then again only a month earlier). We again had to supply 3 more pictures and they gave us a récépissé (which is like an official receipt with our pictures on them and saying that we had turned in all our paperwork and were just waiting for the new cards). They were supposed to let us know when they were ready to be picked up.

In the meantime, we received the transfer to Belgium. Since the mission in Belgium also includes parts of France, we were told it would be okay to use our French carte de séjour to stay legal as that is what all the missionaries in the Belgium Mission do, and since they told us they would get them reissued within a few weeks, we were not concerned. However, as the time came for us to leave Bordeaux, they still had not sent us notification to pick up the cards. We had no choice but to leave for Belgium on June 25 without them. We had our récépissés so we were legal until they expired, which was on July 10, 2008.

We had the Bordeaux Elders check for us after a couple of weeks to see if the cards were ready to pick up. They wouldn’t let the Elders even inquire without our written authorization. So we sent them signed authorizations. When they checked, they found that JoAnn’s card was ready to pick up but whoever was doing Arnold’s apparently had quit in the middle and it was not completed. We were told we would have to go in person to pick up JoAnn’s card and again turn in the same paperwork with 3 more pictures to get Arnold’s started again. We thought we couldn’t possibly go all the way back to Bordeaux. After checking with our mission president and Jean Pierre Massela, the man who is in charge of us as Family History missionaries, we were told to book a train to Bordeaux and see what we could work out. They even told us that we could go first class and that they would pay for it.

We booked a super fast train called the TGV, which travels around 320 kilometers per hour. It was to take us only 5½ hours to go the same distance it had taken us several days to go in the car. We had to take a smaller train from Mons to Brussels and then transfer to the TGV to Bordeaux. Since the train stations can be a little intimidating and Toon thought we would get on the wrong train, he offered to drive us to the station and even rode with us on the train to Brussels to make sure that we got on the right train to Bordeaux.

Because we were traveling on July 14th, which is a French holiday – Bastille Day – the trains were crowded going to Bordeaux and we had to take second class seats. They weren’t bad, but there was very little leg room for Arnold. They have assigned seats just like on an airplane and our seats weren’t together. We thought we would have to ride the 5½ hours sitting away from each other. However, when we got on the train, there was a young man sitting in JoAnn's seat so he could be next to his friend to watch videos while they traveled. JoAnn told them that was okay and took a seat across the aisle. A very nice Asian gentleman offered to change seats with her so that we could sit together. It worked out very nicely.

Because the Préfecture's office is only open in the mornings for our type of business, we had to take a train on Monday, stay in a hotel, do our business the next morning, and return on the train that afternoon. We had had some trouble printing off the directions to the hotel where we were staying, but we figured we could just go to the big shopping center near the hotel and look at a map in the store or ask directions. We forgot about it being a holiday, so there was nothing open. Not even a restaurant. Nothing was open to even ask someone for directions to the hotel. We thought we were going to have to sleep on a bench. We wandered around a little and finally find an Internet Café that was open. We went online and found the directions, but again they wouldn’t print out. So we quickly wrote down what we could make of the directions from the map they showed and ventured out. We knew it was in the vicinity but not exactly where. It was, again, a very hot humid day in Bordeaux. We walked up and down the streets trying to find at least one of the streets listed on the map, but couldn’t seem to find one. We thought we were going to get permanently lost. We finally decided to give up and go back to see if one of the hotels near the shopping center might have a vacancy. We thought it had to be better to pay for two hotels than to keep walking around Bordeaux with our luggage in the heat – looking too much like the couple from the movie “The Out of Towners.” We thought we were undoubtedly going to be seen as an easy target and get mugged. Just as we turned a corner to go back, there was our hotel.
It was a cute, very out of the way, hotel with a tiny little kitchen. We thought we could buy groceries when we got there rather than carrying them with us on the train, etc. But, again, nothing was open. We thought we were surely going to starve.

We remembered that last year we had gone down by the river to see the fireworks and noticed that the restaurants down there were open, so we got on a tram and headed that way.
 We found a great little “Mexican” restaurant that we had been to a few times before on special occasions. The food was delicious, and the owner remembered us from before. He was disappointed when JoAnn had to tell him that she still didn’t speak much French. On the other occasions, he had offered us a free glass of wine or champagne. When we told him we didn’t drink alcohol, he offered us a cup of coffee (everybody in France has coffee at the end of their meal). Again, we had to refuse. This time you could tell that he had been thinking about what to offer us and he came up with a real winner. He offered us some “mint tea.” Not knowing what mint tea was, we thought we would offend him by having to refuse again. But it was not that kind of tea. He steeped some mint leaves in hot water and added honey. It was delicious. He seemed so happy to have found some way he could bring us pleasure.

We left after eating to catch a tram back to the hotel.
 We had noticed signs saying the trams would not be running after the fireworks began and it would have been a very, very long walk to our hotel. We sighed a sigh of relief as we got on the tram, only to hear the announcement that the tram would not be able to leave as there were parachutists coming down up ahead and we had to wait until they were through. We thought we would miss our transfer to the tram to our hotel. But soon the tram started up, we made our transfer in just the nick of time and were able to get back to the hotel before the trams stopped running.

The hotel was very nice and in a very quiet neighborhood. It was small, as most hotels are in France, but it was very clean, had a kitchen with a microwave, fridge, stove, dishes and cooking utensils.
But by then all we really wanted was a good night’s sleep.

It also was within easy walking distance to the tram stop and the Préfecture’s office. The only thing we had to do in the morning was go the shopping center and get 3 pictures for Arnold’s récépissé and head off to the Préfecture’s.

We had such misgivings that they would not accept that we had already turned in our paperwork and thought they would probably deport us. But, everything went very well. JoAnn got her carte de séjour, Arnold was able to get his récépissé with no problem, and they told him that he could come back to get his carte de séjour in about a month. The récépissé will be good for three months. The lady there was very apologetic. She remembered us from before and knew that it had been their mistakes and not ours.

Just before we left Bordeaux in June, JoAnn went to a doctor and got some prescriptions for her tendinitis. The pharmacy we went to would only give her one month’s worth at a time. We still had the prescriptions, but we thought that the French prescriptions wouldn’t be accepted in Belgium and that we would have to start all over with a doctor there. While we were in Bordeaux before we always went to the same pharmacist, who got to know us very well, as Arnold has many prescriptions that we needed to have filled. Arnold asked them if they would give us a 3-month’s supply, but the girl said the prescription said for just one more month. However, the other pharmacist that we knew very well said, “Oh, just give it to them.” So, we got a supply that should last until the tendinitis is healed.

We wrote some post cards while on the train and at the hotel. We haven’t found out where the post office is in Mons yet, so we thought they would be a long time getting mailed. But luckily, there is a post office right next to the pharmacist, so we got that taken care of also, and since we were sending them internationally, we got to go in a special room with no lines.

After lunch, we decided to get to the train station early just to be safe. We caught our tram but when we made the transfer they said that there was an “incident” with the tram up ahead and they couldn’t go beyond a certain point. Again, we thought we would miss our train and have to pay double to rebook. Fortunately, there was a bus that was able to get us to the train station in time. We finally found the right train and found our seats. This time we were in first class and it was very nice. The seats were large and there was much more leg room. It also was not very crowded. We thought we could just settle in and enjoy the next 5 1/2 hours back to Brussels.
We had barely made it in time for the train but the train did not leave. We waited about 20 minutes, when they told us there was something wrong with an engine and they were trying to fix it. We thought we would have to change trains and take a later one. Finally the train started, but after a little while it began to go very slowly. We thought we were going to be stranded out in the country on a broken down train. We limped into a little town and stopped for awhile and apparently they fixed the problem for we started up and were able to go at the normal speed for about 2/3 of the way.
Then apparently the train in front of us had broken down. We couldn’t get around the other train, so we had to just sit and wait. We waited for a couple of hours. No one seemed to know what was going on ahead of us. They said that they had tried two radios, cell phones, etc., but couldn't get in contact with the train station at Lille to find out what was happening. Finally, we started up again going very slowly so as not to run into the train in front of us. We were worried that a long line of trains must be stacked up behind us and hoped that they had gotten the word about the slow down. We thought for sure that one of these super fast trains would come roaring up behind us and crash into us.

During the wait we met some very nice people. The lady in front of us was from England and was very helpful in letting us know what to expect and what was happening. Evidently, if the train is delayed over an hour you can get a full reimbursement for your ticket. That will be nice for the Family History Department. Hopefully, they won't feel too badly about our having to go back in a month of two.

There were three children around the ages of 8 to 10 traveling with their grandfather. They were so well behaved and entertained themselves for the entire 10-hour trip. There also was a lovely older woman who seemed a little frightened by the experience, but she tried very hard not to show her concern. There was also a young couple and a few others. Everyone was so friendly.

All in all the delays lasted about 4 hours and we didn't get into Brussels until around midnight. Consequently, we missed the last train to Mons and thought we would either have to sleep in the train station or take a taxi to Mons (60 kilometers). But Toon came to our rescue. He is just that kind of guy. He is always looking out for us (and everyone he is around). He said he would drive up to get us, even though it was midnight. He told us to stay where people were because we would be easy targets at that time of night in the train station by ourselves.
 Luckily, there were others in our situation, so we all kept together. Some of them actually did have to sleep in the station until they could make another connection in the morning.

We finally got home about 2:00 a.m. We thought we would have a hard time getting up for work at the archives in the morning, but Toon told us to take the day off.

So the moral of this little tale is that most of the things we think can or will go wrong almost never do. We have been so blessed and watched over all through this mission. We know that what we are doing is what Heavenly Father wants us to do and, even though there are challenges, He is there to see us through and keep us safe. We could not feel more gratitude for this experience and the lessons He is teaching us. We are learning to not be so negative but to walk in faith.


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