At the last second (which seems to be the way all things have fallen into place), the General Conference was able to arrange for three months of language study for us in France, at the Seventh-day Adventist school in Collonges-sous-Saleve.
We left our loving families and boarded the plane, knowing it would be many months, many countries, many continents and many changes before we would return. All-in-all, there weren’t many negative emotions, as we had both left our home country many times before (and for longer stretches) and we felt strongly that God was the One dragging us overseas.
Landing in Geneva after an overnight flight and a connection in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, we stumbled to baggage claim, only to discover our bags were missing. Sparing you the rest of the story, our bags arrived several weeks later.
We move into our dorm room. That’s right. For the next three months, we’ll be in a dorm room. Lyol has his little bed in the corner. Danae and I have two twin beds that we’ve romantically pushed together. We don’t have any sheets or blankets to cover both, so we keep to our respective beds. You know, living in a girl’s dorm isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
A few days later, we move to a different dorm room. Pretty much the same, but on a floor without students so Lyol won’t disturb people.
On placement test day, we guessed that I would get a better score than Danae, so Danae watched Lyol while I took the test. Turns out it wouldn’t have mattered. Debutant Francais for us!
The first Sabbath, I awaken with an uneasy feeling. What am I doing? I took my wife and infant son to France for three months before going to Africa. Is it really smart to take your family to Tchad? Is this really what God wants. I trudge to church with an empty heart. Lyol is fidgety, so Danae takes him outside while I sit in church alone. I can’t understand a word they’re saying. I can’t understand the songs, even with the words projected on the screen. My pronunciation is so bad it sounds like I’m singing a completely different song than anybody else. I’m too old to learn a new language. After a year in Bogenhofen I didn’t speak enough German to function as a doctor. Now I’m supposed to do it in three months? A dorm room. I’m 31 and living in a dorm room. The front door locks at night and I can’t get in and out after hours. And I’m 31. I can’t even enjoy church. This isn’t going anywhere. This is impossible. It’s too much.
Church is over. I meander outside to find Danae. As we’re leaving, Gosia finds me. Gosia is one of the language professors, although she doesn’t actually teach us any classes. We’ve already bonded, because she speaks German. I try to talk to her in French, but my French is so bad, that it usually becomes German. She’s actually Polish, but learned German and French. She introduces me to her husband, Philippe, and her two young sons, Sebastian and Thomas. She invites us over for lunch. I say great, but I hardly feel like it.
After a day with Gosia and Philippe, I feel rejuvenated. I’m reminded that, even though we don’t speak the language, we share so much in common. They speak so many languages, that surely we can learn enough French to help people. Now I know our time in France will be okay.
Three months in France fly by.
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