Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Down to the wire

I have exactly a week and a half left in this wonderful country of France... and that means mixed feelings! I am now back in Toulouse (it's a constant game of "Where's Abby" lol!!!) after spending 2 weeks in Northern France in Arras. I spent most of my time there typing things up and doing work on the computer for them although we did spend a day doing some deep cleaning at the church as well. I also helped a little bit with the that was an experience! I got there on a Monday, and they have midweek on Tuesday night. So that first Tuesday evening Bro. Valery (the pastor) asked me right before church to help with piano. As most of you know I am not someone that normally plays by ear or is all that great at playing by ear...but I said yes and he made sure to sing 2 songs that I knew. That went fairly well with only minor mess ups. The first Sunday I was there their regular piano player was there so I was able to just enjoy the service. The 2nd Tuesday night we sang without piano (he sang a couple songs I wasn't familiar with). Then this past Sunday, the piano player was out of town so Bro Valery asked me to play again. I agreed to if we could practice on Saturday evening so I could write out some chords for myself. Well we didn't end up practicing so Sunday morning rolls around and there I am on the piano plunking it out by ear again lol! We sang 9 songs that morning and there were at least 5 of them that I had never even heard before in my life! So the way we figured those out were he would tell me the key (say key of D for example), I would hit a D chord and wait for him to start singing since I had no clue if it was a fast song, a slow song or what the chord progression would be lol! I am proud to say I survived. It was not easy and was definitely not always pretty but overall I think it went rather well considering I don't really play by ear (well maybe I just learned that I do, I just need to practice it!). I normally would have been completely mortified by this situation and humiliated, but strangely enough I was only mildly embarrassed and was able to move on quickly from that instead of dwelling on it and beating myself up about it all day long like I normally would (I think this means that I've learned or grown or made some kind of life improvement or something cool like that! Self abasement is leaving me!!!! YAY!) Then before he preached Bro. Valery had me come up and say something. Again I feel like this was another little test from the Lord, like with the piano playing (was I going to say "yes" and risk humiliation doing something I'm not good at or was I going to be stubborn and proud and say "no" to save face?!). He had given me the option of speaking in either English or French. My first thought was to do it in English...but then I got rather disgusted with myself. Regardless of my lack of confidence in my French, the fact remains that I am capable of writing something out and saying it in French, and if I don't then I am a coward and a cop-out (2 things I strongly dislike) (Oh and I consider this healthy self-loathing...). So on Saturday evening I sat down and typed a short little word of encouragement out in French on my iPad and when he called me up I believe I shocked the whole room when I delivered it in French and didn't even stare at my iPad the whole time! Lol! It was a small victory in the life of Abby, but a victory nonetheless! I'm learning how to be brave! :D

So now to catch you up on some of the fun stuff I did during my 2 weeks in Arras. First of all Arras is a VERY old city. And beautiful. Here's some proof of that:

So obviously I took in a little bit of the town center, while eating some of the most delicious ice cream I have EVER tasted! We also went strawberry picking one day... we were going to visit the former pastor of the church and his wife (who are both elderly and he is not doing very well healthy wise) so we were going to take them some fresh strawberries :) It was fun! I hadn't gone strawberry picking (other than in our own garden...which isn't nearly as exciting) since I was little! The strawberry picking was on my first Friday, on my first Saturday Sis. Sophiat took me to the Louvre in Lens.. Len is a town close to Arras and 2 years ago they opened their own little "Louvre" it is obviously MUCH smaller than the Louvre in Paris but still had some great art!!!

The next week (Monday or Tuesday... I don't remember anymore) we toured the underground of Arras... it was pretty incredible! It's been around for centuries, dating back to the Middle Ages and Roman times!!! They used to mine rock from there and then once the city started building above where they were mining they stopped and then used it to store vendor's goods (mostly food) during the weekly markets to keep it cool and preserved. Then they used it to shelter the city's citizens during both World Wars while the city was being bombed (large parts of the city were destroyed 2 different times during the 2 World Wars). People would live down there for 4 or 5 days at a time sometimes. Then during World War II it was also used by the military. They hid 24,000 British soldiers in the tunnels until the right moment when they came out and charged the German trenches a few kilometers from Arras, catching them by surprise during breakfast and driving them back. So that was pretty amazing right?! Now some of the restaurants that are above the tunnels get to use the underground space beneath their restaurant for their wine cellar! How cool is that! You're getting to store your wine in an underground room/tunnel that's been around since at least the 1500s! The entrance to the underground tour is inside one of the cathedrals in Arras, so after touring the underground we headed to the top of the bell tower, where we were treated to a full, gorgeous view of Arras. Sorry there's so many pics in this post, but here's a few more lol!

Thursday evening (I think it was Thurs....) we met up with a friend and her fiance in Belgium for dinner. It was my 2nd time being in Belgium. I find it to be a beautiful country with terrible roads lol! You know the second you've crossed the border into Belgium because your car starts getting swallowed by potholes every 2 minutes... After a dinner of a delicious burger, a lot of fries and some peach ice tea we walked around the city for a bit before heading to Lille, France to see the city by night :) How about some more pics? Lol

The final touristy thing we did was visit a Canadian World War I Memorial. That was probably my favorite thing that we did. The monument was beautiful, we got to walk in the trenches built and used during World War I, there are giant craters in the ground from bombs and the area is all still fenced off with electrical fencing because there are undetonated bombs out there! They rent herds of sheep from surrounding farmers to stick in those fenced in areas to eat the grass down because the ground is so uneven (due to the war) and since there are still bombs out there they can't mow the grass with a lawn mower. If the sheep were to set off a bomb and be killed they would then have to pay the farmer for his dead sheep. I found it somewhat comical! I was seriously trippin when I was getting to walk through the trenches!!! Such a huge part of history and I was getting to experience it! If you know me AT ALL you know that I LOVE history and especially history related to the 2 World Wars. 

And now that I have thoroughly inundated you with pictures and stories you are all caught up on my 2 weeks in Arras! I flew from Arras to Toulouse on Monday morning and will be here for the next week. We went out yesterday to buy stuff for decorating and stocking the Sunday School room and will be working on painting the new building and getting the SS room put together while I'm here! I can't believe that this trip is already coming to an end.... it still feels like I just got here! Honestly though, thanks to my bucket list, I am a little bit excited to get back home because now I have all of these projects that I'm super excited and motivated to start and new things to learn and do! I know that for whatever reason, God wants me back home in MN right now, so I will go back and jump right in! My logic is that the faster I accomplish whatever it is that He has for me Stateside, the faster I can come back to France :) Lol! But to all of you that were hoping I'd find my French husband on this trip 1. I am sorry to disappoint you (I tried my best to prepare you for disappointment, so if you're still disappointed then it's your own fault... I told you it wasn't going to happen!!! lol!!) and 2. I'm happy that I didn't because that would majorly complicate and hinder me from accomplishing all the things I want to on my bucket list lol! So sorry you are all going to have to wait a while longer 'cause this girl has places to go and things to do before she's willing to settle down ;) I will try to get one or 2 more posts in before I get home! So until then.....

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