Saturday, 22 November 2008

Language and technolgy

Blog – Saturday 22 Nov

We are coming to the end of a notable week for us in which two very significant things have happened. First, we have finished our twelve weeks at language school and secondly, we have received our “Freebox” (more about that later).

I ended up in a very small class at Alliance Francaise, one of whom was studying for fun (he is the deputy editor of the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica), one (a Brazilian) who is needing to attain a certain level before she can apply to take a masters course in Paris next year and another (an Austrian) who wants to teach Political Science at a university in Istanbul. She’s studying French as she is going to do a PhD here. I asked her how many languages she speaks and, unbelievably, she replied: “I don’t know”! In the circumstances, I think I must have brought the average ability level in the class down to a more realistic level!

It has been a very helpful twelve weeks for us both. We only got a little wet cycling to and from college on one occasion which is amazing.

I have mentioned a number of times that we had been waiting and waiting for a telephone line in the flat. Well after nine weeks the company Free eventually sent us their Freebox in response to our application in September. We opened it with great enthusiasm on our return from college on Wednesday. What we found was just under half a kilometre of different wires and cables, two magic plugs and two magic boxes, one for the phone/internet and one for the TV and, worse still, an instructions booklet all in French. I mean, really! Stage one was marked “required time: two minutes”. After 18 minutes I still hadn’t even found the end of the appropriate cable. Things were looking grim. I found myself looking ahead through the booklet and calculating that, if things continued at this rate, it would take a fraction over thirteen years to be fully up and running. By the end of a most frustrating evening, the internet, however, was working with a cable (no wifi), although the TV and the phone were proving much more stubborn.

Miracles do happen and suddenly, overnight, the wifi system started working (and still is!!) and we found that we could get a completely blue screen on the Portuguese TV our gardienne had given us. Following a piece of inspiration we tried our UK TV which had only ever given us blur and fuzz here before. Yippee, it worked. The problem then was deciding which of the 423 channels we wanted to watch. Yemeni TV looks rather dull by the way.

The phone still does not work. Sometimes it turns itself off when you switch the wall lights on. All rather strange really.

We had an excellent day last Sunday with David Pike from Cardiff who came over with Hazel and a couple from his leadership team. He and Hazel brought some very encouraging words to us as a church and we had a good number of people present and a great time of worship. I think that was our “best” Sunday so far.

We have next weekend with David Stroud from ChristChurch London which we are really looking forward to and are trusting that it will be an extremely significant time for us and for the church.

We have another agape meal all together after our meeting tomorrow morning as we are trying to make the most of Sundays in terms of building community as it is not easy to get together much during the week on account of time and distance.

All for now

Monday, 10 November 2008

Blog – Monday 10 November

We now have less than two weeks to go at language school together. Gill is considering continuing her studies at a place near the city centre someone told her about where you can do conversation classes.

We have a new record time for cycling to college – 10 minutes! Cycling is definitely the way forward. I was reading an article at college last week showing that in Paris, cycling is the quickest means of transport for up to about 3 km.

We also have a new record for unintentional distance cycled, or rather, Gill does! We were cycling separately from Gordon and Kerry’s house to William and Hannah’s on Wednesday evening to enjoy Hannah’s crepes. Gill left first and I followed ten minutes later thinking if I really pushed it I might even overtake her on the steep and long hill up to Meudon. I arrived to find Gill not there which surprised me. I was sure I had not overtaken her but wondered whether I had been going so fast that I might have passed her as a blur. After a further ten minutes she rang to say she was lost somewhere in Clamart which was quite a few miles away! William whipped out his A-Z equivalent and we established her location and gave some instructions. We went out to find her and eventually arrived chez Hannah et William.

In fact, I calculated that Gill must have cycled 55 miles that evening.

On Thursday evening Gordon and I travelled by Eurostar to Ebbsfleet for the France team meeting and returned on Saturday evening. We had a good time as ever with the other guys. We only have seven churches in France at present. There is a very long way to go to say the least, and we were asking the Lord to stretch out his hand to perform signs and wonders and to draw people to himself.

On the train for the whole journey I was engaged in a conversation with a young Tunisian woman living in Paris from a moslem background who grilled me with questions about my faith. It reminded me of 1 Peter 3:15 (always be ready to give an answer...). She did give me one break for five minutes while she did her nails! I have invited her to come one Sunday.

We probably have around 40 people who would consider themselves part of the church right now and seem to be receiving visitors each week which is encouraging. I preached a week ago on the power of the Holy Spirit coming on us to give us power to be his witnesses. We prayed for a few people at the end which was great and one, Nathalie, gave a wonderful testimony yesterday as to what God had done for her.

We have David Pike from Cardiff with us this coming Sunday which we’re looking forward to. He led the first French speaking evangelism team I went on (in 1996 I think it was) to Perpignan.

We had an entertaining evening yesterday. We had arranged with Jubilee Church Coventry to set up a skype link with them during their prayer meeting when they would be praying for us etc. As we still do not have a telephone line or permanent internet at home we had decided to go to the nearest McDonalds to make use, once again, of their free wifi internet service. We had agreed with Andrew to do a test at 7.00pm; so, before the appointed hour, we set off on the bikes for Denfert Rochereau, found the Mcds easily and entered. After setting up the computer and Gill getting in the queue for a fanta the wifi stopped working and despite all our efforts 7.00pm came and went without success. Plan B was to go to a friend’s apartment not far from there. I rang her only to be told she had no internet, but that there was another McDs at Alesia a mile or so away and a Starbucks. We set off in haste for Plan C (putting back on the fluorescent vests, bike lights and helmets). We found Starbucks quickly and entered. Gill went straight to the back to set up the computer and I went to pay for the internet. I had to wait ages for a French couple to decide whether to order English Breakfast Tea or Earl Grey and then, on the verge of paying, a new member of staff appeared and announced the wifi wasn’t working. I recovered my money, ran to the back, grabbed Gill and we ran out of the cafe to unlock our bikes from the nearby railings and put on yet again our fluorescent vests, bike lights and helmets! We set off for the next Mcds and arrived ten minutes later only to find that, in fact, it was opposite Starbucks and we could simply have crossed the road! Never mind, we found another set of railings and ran into Mcds and straight up the stairs only to find it noisy and absolutely packed. No good for a skype conversation. The time was now getting rather late anyway. We found a little table after a while and tried to log on. Failure. No connection. Couldn’t believe it. Asked some people opposite. They had a connection. Not fair. Considered throwing computer through the window. Didn’t. Good thing too as Gill who had got out her French books anticipating being in there some time, was suddenly asked by a lady whether she was reading the Bible (it was, in fact, her old schoolgirl dictionary!). That led to a ten minute conversation with the lady and her daughter as to why we were in Paris and ended up with one of them wanting to visit our church. Amazing. But we were now very late. Plan D: go home. We rushed home to find we had an intermittent internet connection. We managed to get about 5 seconds of visual before that packed up and, in the end, praise God, we did manage to have a sensible conversation which hopefully provided some material for the church to pray about. God works in mysterious ways...