Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Provence in Lavender Season

It seems that in the Mediterranean world, the farther south you travel the more deliciously intense everything becomes.  So when our assignment this weekend took us to Aix-en-Provence, we knew we were in for an overdose "à la provençale".  

The route to Aix from our home base in Lyon skirts the Vaucluse department and the natural park of the Luberon.  In years past we have driven around many of the villages that cling to the cliffs of these rural mountains, but our visits here were always in early spring.  This year we are here in summer when lavender is blooming and cigales are performing.  Cigales are little insects that sing all day long like crickets on steroids.  In his fable  "La Cigale et la Fourmi" ("The Cricket and the Ant"), La Fontaine tells of the ant who worked all day all summer long preparing for winter while the cigale just sang.  When winter came, the unprepared cigale asks the ant what he should do now: the ant suggests that perhaps he should try dancing. 

During our self-reliance fireside in the Aix-en-Provence ward, we mentioned how much we enjoyed being there in the summer and how we even liked the cigales.  One ward member reminded us however that the cigale is not a very good example of self-reliance.  On this cue, French literature professor Sœur Geddes launched into a recitation of "La Cigale et la Fourmi" to a rather astonished group.  This is the first time that one of our self-reliance devotionals received a round of applause from the participants!

A cigale singing in a tree.

The village of Gordes in the Luberon

A Luberon wind-mill.

A field of lavender with our dear friends and fellow missionaries, the Egans.
They came and helped us with our assignment in Aix-en-Provence.

Rousillon, another of the many small villages of the Luberon.

Cliffs of ochre around Rousillon

The still active Cistercian monastery of Senanque in a field of lavender near Gordes.

Sœur Geddes loves lavender!


It would be impossible to describe the colors, sounds, smells, taste and feel of a provençale marché
like the Saturday market in Aix-en-Provence.  These pictures might give a little bit of an idea.
Provence during lavender season is "magnifique"!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

We Just Can't Help Ourselves

Last Sunday, a cute sister missionary from Tahiti asked us if we would tell her and her companion the story of how we met and got together.  A few months ago we had shared our story with a group of young missionaries, and even though most of them have since been transferred elsewhere, at least parts of our story was still circulating amongst the missionaries who are now here in Lyon.  Of course, we said yes to the request.  Since she was from Tahiti and because much of our connection took place in Hawaii, we thought we would have a little island food when the two sisters came to our little apartment.  I say "little" because you can plug in the vacuum cleaner anywhere you want and do the entire apartment without having to move the plug.  In typical missionary fashion, this initial little get together blossomed into a group of sixteen missionaries invited over for a luau.  We joked that if President Brown would come, he could count it as a zone conference!

One thing we learned in Hawaii about having people over to eat is that the WORST possible thing you can do is to run out of food.  And missionaries, like Polynesians, can really eat.  So we went to work preparing mountains of food: kalua pork, huli huli chicken, lomi salmon, green salad, rice, melons and tropical fruits, banana bread, and haupia (a typical Hawaiian dessert made with coconut milk).  We also had French bread and cheeses: not very Hawaiian but almost mandatory at any meal in France, even a luau.  We couldn't find any of the delightful purple-pasty poi that we grew to love over time, but we did have P.O.G. to drink.  They don't sell P.O.G. here in France like they do in Hawaii, but you can find Passion fruit juice, Orange juice, and Guava juice and then just blend them yourself. 

We didn't have to worry about running out of food.  In fact, we had so much left over that the following evening we invited all the senior couples in the mission over for round two of our Lyon luau.  Maybe we went a little overboard, but when it comes to missionaries and food, we just can't help ourselves!

Our international group of Lyon missionaries.  One from Tahiti, from Spain, the Netherlands, Togo, France, Switzerland, Germany, and the rest from the US.

The same group "at work".

We had lots of fun sharing stories and mission experiences after our luau.

Making a plate!

The clean-up crew of senior missionaries the next evening.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Stake "Anniversary" Conference in Belgium

We knew that we would have our 45th wedding anniversary while on our mission.  As June 3rd approached, we wondered what special thing we might do to celebrate this milestone occasion.  Should we go on a little "mission vacation" for the day to somewhere close to Lyon like the Swiss Alps or some little place on the French Mediterranean?  Even a day seeing some of the museums and other yet unvisited sites in Lyon would be nice, especially with the scores of wonderful buchons and restaurants that our city has to offer.  As it turned out, the decision was made for us by a phone call from the president of the Brussels, Belgium Stake.  On June 3rd and 4th they were having their stake conference.  He wondered if we would could come and take 40 minutes in the Saturday "our anniversary" session, and then 5 minutes each in the Sunday session.  This wasn't exactly the celebration we had anticipated!

So we went to work on our assignment.  Speaking in a stake conference is a challenge in any circumstance, especially for 40 minutes.  Doing it in French for a congregation of native speakers is a bit overwhelming.  But thanks to the topic of self-reliance with which we are now comfortable, thanks to one member of our missionary companionship who is a great French teacher, and because of many answered prayers, our stake "anniversary" conference in Belgium turned out great and was even really fun.  This was certainly a very memorable celebration for us.

Making our presentation on self-reliance in the Brussels, Belgium Stake Conference.  

The Saturday session of stake-conference was held in the Charleroi chapel.
Our son David served in Charleroi as a missionary 15 years ago.

The Rasolo family in Charleroi were good friends to our son when he was here.


In our mission area that includes both the Lyon and Paris missions, Brussels, Belgium is about the furthest distance away from our home in Lyon.  We hoped that we would have the opportunity to visit here at some point, so we were very happy to have received this invitation, especially since our son served here and loved it so much.  So in addition to speaking in both Charleroi and Brussels, we took the opportunity to visit a few historic churches and other sites in the area both going to and returning from this assignment.

The newly renovated Saint Barthélemy church in Liège, Belgium. 

The baptismal font in Saint Barthélemy rests on the backs of 12 oxen.

The Atomium: A landmark built for the 1958 world's fair in Brussels.

The Grand Place in Brussels is one of the most impressive city centers anywhere.

Just outside of Brussels are the battle fields of Waterloo where Napoleon met his fate.

Just north of Brussels is the city of Antwerp, the home of the Baroque artist
Peter Paul Reubens.  Reubens did this painting for his own tomb which is
in the beautiful Sint-Jacobskerk.

A fountain in the city center of Liège.

A statue of brothers Jan and Heubert Van Eyck by Saint Bavo cathedral in Ghent, Belgium.

The Van Eyck's, who are credited with the invention of oil paint, created the beautiful altarpiece "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" in Saint Bavo's cathedral.  The actual altarpiece is huge and magnificent.  But since photos of the original are not allowed, I took this shot of a small replica. *Notice Chris' hands holding the side panels open from the behind the replica.

No trip to Belgium would be complete with at least one visit to a waffle shop!

The road back to Lyon from Ghent goes through the pilgrimage village
of Laon.  

The 12th century Laon cathedral includes the oxen who help to build it.

The road home also passed by the city of Reims with its impressive and
enormous gothic cathedral.

The smiling angels on the facade are unique to Reims cathedral.

Some of Reims cathedrals windows that were destroyed in wars were 
replaced by 20th century artist Marc Chagall.