Monday, February 1, 2016

Week 11 - Poudlard, Language, and District Meeting

The most "important" thing this week, so important in fact I place it before the traditional greeting, is that I learned that Hogwarts is not called Hogwarts in French. The iconic literature of Harry Potter has been seriously altered. Plain and precious truths were lost. Most proper nouns transfer over smoothly and sound cooler even in French: You just say the name as nasal as possible, don't pronounce the last two letters, and twirl your thin mustache. For some reason unbeknownst to me, Hogwarts is known in French as Poudlard. And that's really all there is to know about France.  (I kid!)

Hello my faithful readers! If you are a less than faithful reader feel free to simmer in guilt for a bit.

I wish you all a good day. And a good week to follow! This week started off with a district meeting in Paris. Interviews with the mission president ran long so there wasn't any time to go wander Parisian monuments but even the little taste in between the church and the metro and the train station is a fun experience. Paris has a very different feel and energy than here in Caen. The mission president and his wife shared advice for people we have been teaching, gave counsel on assorted personal problems, clarified a few policy changes, and all in all got us all excited to go back on the streets and share the gospel with those who will listen. It was a refreshing and fun experience.

As Victor Hugo warned there are indeed miserable people here in France! There are also happy people. And all sorts of people in between. I can understand when people speak reasonably well now! Provided the subject stays either general or religious oriented. The other caveat is that there are many different accents of French spoken here. A linguistic melting pot of Spanish, African, Arabic, Russian, German, and all kinds of other European accents make comprehension a little harder. It's also cool to ponder on how communication is just different here. With so many languages clashing. I've heard people who were speaking English to me and I thought it was a foreign language. I have heard people speaking French and it turns out it was Arabic. I've heard something I swore was Spanish or something but was apparently just really fast and slurred French. It's weird being in a place where not every couple of two people chosen randomly could communicate with each other. Or could only partially communicate. Occasionally, there is a fair amount of pointing at things. Like infants.

I have been meaning to tell you, since I was asked awhile ago and forgot to answer, that the shower pressure in our apartment is good---in fact, it is far too good and will likely only go downhill from here when I someday move to a new apartment.  I can even adjust the water temperature to specific degrees!

The food continues to be good here!  I afford myself the right to try a new pastry once a week or every few days. Those are never disappointing. I've had a lemon meringue thing, a tartlette au Normandie (almost apple pie), and a raspberry thing. At a lunch with some members recently I had a carrot salad, a bed of super amazing sauerkraut with sausages and ham and potatoes on top, and a homemade apple cake. They like apples in Normandy.

This p day we went to Liseux. It's a smaller city 30-ish minutes or so away! It has an incredible Basilica that looms over the whole town. We are trying to go to see Mont Sainte Michelle (Spelling?) and to set up a visit to the war beaches. The difficulty is we need someone to drive us there.   

Me outside the Basilica in Liseux

Me inside the Basilica in Liseux.  The colors inside were amazing!

French countryside here is pretty hilly, and the city has a lot of elevation change in general too. The sky is pretty here. It's usually pretty cloudy— I've bid Adieu (which is French! As far as I understand it was originally à Dieu, literally to God, like the most hardcore goodbye one can say) to the blue skies of Wyoming. There is a fair bit of wind which chases the clouds so the sky changes frequently. 

One quick story.  It was my turn to decide where to go for contacting.  So I prayed and thought that we should go near a cemetery to the north of us. So we go there and no one is there. And as we have been going along, I have been slowly feeling worse and worse about my decision. I really thought and felt as though it had been inspired and no one was there when we get there. So discouraged, we go into the cemetery to see what it looks like. It's something! More stone and marble than grass. The graves range from unmarked dirt mound to small houses. We walk around a bit and say another prayer asking if we should look for someone here or go elsewhere. My companion thought we should stay and look in the cemetery. So we do. And eventually we find an older lady who we contact. And she wasn't interested. So we go to leave and we're both discouraged, me terribly so, when I feel like we should go talk to her again. So ignoring the fact it's tacky to contact in a cemetery and it's obvious from a mile away we coming to talk to her again, we do so. Then we end up having a small plan of salvation lesson. And it was a great although small experience.  But although it wasn't  earthshaking, it was definitely what we were there to do. And it was a great chance to learn for us. To always listen to promptings. To have faith. To practice talking and testifying. I'm not sure if we were supposed to speak to her for our benefit or for hers. But it was an answer to my prayers. It would have been pretty discouraging if we'd left without accomplishing anything when I felt so strongly we were supposed to be there. 

I'm so happy to be here. It's still mind blowing ever day.   I love every day here. It's exhausting physically, spiritually, and mentally.   And there are so many great people even just in the streets.  The boulanger who lives down the road is a lovely woman from England. She speaks super French and English. Stephanie has been baking here for 8 years and likes it a lot. We also have a Turkish Kebab man who lives 20 feet from the apartment building. Whenever I walk by we wave at each other. I love to walk by so I can wave at them.  We are teaching several amis, but they all have challenges and impediments to progressing.  Salvation is a lot harder in practice.....

I have noticed two things in the streets a lot. The first one is cigarettes. There are a lot of cigarettes— thankfully pavement cannot get lung cancer. The second thing, is orange peels. There are many pro-citrus people here. The rinds of many orange, clementine, and their kindred lay in the roads. To see the bright orange peels contrasted against an ugly backdrop is unusual. And it gives me hope. When I see something beautiful in a hard time, it's slightly easier to keep going. When your hope wanes, combat despair by finding beautiful things, and give thanks for said beautiful thing. That sentence is the epitome of "easier said than done". It won't always fix but it sure does help. Look for the orange rinds in the field of cigarette butts. Turn to people who can help you, who want to help you: sometimes friends, sometimes family, and always the Savior. He suffered so that he can be someone to turn to in these times of difficulty.

I invite you to make a list of 5 metaphorical "orange peels"- grapefruit peels will suffice-that you can look to either now or the next time despair creeps in. Mentally or write it down if you actually want to remember. More or less than 5 will work too. I guess I encourage you to take some time to reflect and identify where you can go for joy and hope. Remember them and visit them often.

Until next week!
Elder Alex Hacker

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