Us Seniors

Elder et Soeur Arn & Jody

Tuesday, May 29

Eysines Apartment

Well, there has been a change in plans. The people from the apartment that we thought we were going to move into next Friday, called us this last Friday and said that they could not rent to an association. This was after almost a month of their saying that it was all right to rent to an association. (The church has formed an “association” here in France and they rent the apartment for us and we pay them. This makes it easier because we have no gainful employment while we are here and it is a guarantee that the apartment will be paid for each month.) Anyway, they changed their minds, so we will have to begin looking again.

The apartment we didn't get under construction
When we told the Mission President of the situation, he immediately arranged for two of the Elders (Elder Brack and Elder Mackey) to move out of their apartment into another apartment with two other Elders (Elders Childress and Elder Lyman), and we are going to move into their apartment temporarily until we can find a permanent one for us. They are coming to move us on Tuesday (May 29). We feel terrible having to make the Elders move, but they are so wonderful and giving that they don’t make it sound like a sacrifice at all, even though we know it is.

We will now start looking for another apartment. Monday is another holiday, so there isn’t anything we can do until at least Tuesday.

It will be good for the Defranchi family that we are moving. We know it has been hard on them having us there. They are a busy family and the three girls have had to share one room. They have been wonderful to us and have not made us feel anything but welcome, but it is time to let them get back to their own lives. Please pray for us that we will be able to find something soon. One of the things that we dislike most is putting people out, and it is such a helpless feeling having to disrupt so many people and having absolutely no power to make it any different.

After all that, we were reading in the Book of Mormon and came upon this scripture that just made us smile. Alma 34:40-41

40 And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out because of your exceeding poverty, lest ye become sinners like unto them;

41 But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions.

There is hope that one day we will find a place to rest our heads.

We haven’t been able to get to the Internet café so have not sent the above. Hopefully, tomorrow we will get there. Arnold has been sick for three days. The Elders came over yesterday and gave him a priesthood blessing and he is feeling much better today.

We moved into the Elders’ apartment on Tuesday. It is a “studio apartment” and feels like living in a motel room.
There is one main room with two twin beds (bunk beds that the Elders took apart for us), a dresser, a small desk (that serves as a dining table), a large stuffed chair, a bookcase and two small chairs for the desk. There is a small kitchen attached, which has the washer and dryer, and there is a small pantry. There is no real stove. There are two burners, with a small refrigerator under the place for the burners, a small sink and the only cupboards in the apartment under the sink.There is a small refrigerator and a small detached toaster oven on top of the refrigerator. There is a small closet, a room with the toilet in it and another room with the sink and bathtub.

There were several things that needed fixing, so Arnold has spent a few evenings doing fix up jobs and JoAnn has worked to do a thorough “Mom” cleaning. The Elders tried hard we know to get things cleaned up and nice for us, but they just don’t have the time to be doing those kinds of things. They did buy us new sheets for the beds, a new ironing board cover, and a new shower curtain. They have been so good to let us stay here, that we can’t complain about anything. Arnold has fixed the handle on the metal roll-down window shutters, fixed the leaking washing machine, put on a new toilet seat, and put in a device so that we can take a stand-up shower. The bathtubs here come equipped with a hand-held shower head. It is very awkward to use – trying to hold the shower head while holding the soap and washing oneself all at the same time. Arnold put in a device that allows the hand-held shower head to be placed on the wall like a regular shower. JoAnn put some sticky things in the bottom of the tub to make it not so slippery – they look like rubber duckies – just what the Elders needed. It is wonderful to finally take a “real” shower. This is the first time since we have been in France except for a couple of days at the mission home. We are hoping that with all the fixing up, the Elders will be glad that we stayed here and not feel that it has been too much of a sacrifice for them to double up with the other Elders in their apartment.

We really like the area where this apartment is located. This is the view from our window.
It is across the street from a golf course. Not too far from here is the “Hippodrome,” where they have horse-related events. We drive by it on the way to work. It is very green and beautiful. There are all kinds of courses (race, steeple chase, etc.) with lots of grass and trees. After living in the very middle of the city, it is nice to be off in a more rural area. It is still crowded and there is a lot of traffic, but there are lots of trees, etc. here.
A yellow cat adopted the Elders that lived here so he greets us as we enter the apartment building and we’re sure he’d come in our apartment if we let him. They warned us he would try to open our door if he could. It was kind of cute how he stood on a ledge and smelled JoAnn’s breathe for a few moments the other day. He’s not unlike the black and white cat that adopted the mission president’s family at the mission home whom I think they named George. Haven’t thought of a name for old yeller out there yet… or did we just name him

Not sure why, but we ended up naming the cat Steve. He meows loudly outside our door and desperately wants in. We are not allowed to have pets on our mission, so having Steve around is a real asset to living in the Elders' apartment.

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.