Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Week 49 - Thoughts on getting older...and macaroons

Hello All,

Just a short message this week.  Thanks to all who wished me a happy birthday.  Yes, today (October 24) is the big day and I've turned 21.  I still feel young, though slightly taller as of late. These last few years slipped away so quickly! I'm still trying to hold onto them weave them into something palpable, comprehensible, and useful but they seem to fall between my fingers! I'm growing up too fast! I'm not old yet! Surely it most slow down.?

As I think about how I am approaching this point in my life and my mission (next month will be 1/2 way), I sometimes think about how I have been gathering some of the greatest and most important memories of my life, I think. Such incredible souvenirs shoved in the folds of my suitcases and the fleshier folds of my brain. Missionaries give years of service and it feels like we get lifetimes of stuff in return. We are already forever grateful for the gospel and He only adds more on.

I am sticking around another 6 weeks in Dunkerque! It is very unlikely I will stay any more after so now there is an ultimatum of departure looming. Our district didn't really change much at all save one elder who is leaving is. Unexpectedly Elder Currie is taking off. He was one of my favorites. We got along flawlessly and it is a bit of a bummer. He was from New England and said goofy New England things. 

Mom and Dad, I did get the package. And I really enjoyed the crazy wrapping paper (see below for my favorite weird things on the paper).  Thanks for being so thoughtful.  And thanks to all who sent cards or messages or just thought good things about me.

Until Next Week,

Elder Hacker

Week 48 - The Other Side of Pocket Change

(From the Week of October 17. 2016)

Yooooo! What's up my phat dawgs!? 

Our daring heroes found themselves trapped this week! The university is situated on a wee little island actually. Island probably gives a more dramatic and exciting image that the reality, but that was done intentionally! In effect two drawbridges were up for about 40 minutes letting a tourist filled boat-- it is a wonder she stayed afloat with all the heavy Americans on board-- trawl at half a turtle's pace below. So we were stuck. And all the students were actually in class. An old fellow was pushing his bike along. And we had something to tell that man about. We had a message to share! I hope we all have enough direction in our life that we think we have something to tell others. Not necessarily a message to share but at least something to talk about! Though we had something to tell this guy. And so we go and start talking to him. The first thing he says is that he is really happy we started talking to him. He was lonely. So we told him he didn't need to be alone. He had never had anyone be nice to him. So we were very happy to be the first. He thanked us profusely. So profusely. He said he wanted to cry. And then we did a bit. 

In America you're walking down the street with for coins in your pocket and suddenly you see food to buy! Oh no! Unfortunately the maximum amount of money you could have is one dollar! But here in Europe those four coins could be up to eight euros! My change spending habits have changed dramatically over the months. In America it would just collect in a jar until the friendly coin counting machine would give its two cents. Now it is totally different. Pocket change is useful... and so so so likely to be spent. It is easier to impulse purchase pastries or fruit or whatever it is with these 2 dollar coins. Carrying coins is a much bigger deal! Personally and on a cultural level. The coin purse industry is consequently booming in Europe. They funded this email. Sponsor.

More crying this week! We have a buddy named Mike. Mike got a little lost in his life and found his life considerably far from what his vision was. He had changed his hopes, values, dreams in function of his environment. He forget who he was and what he wanted to be I guess you could say. I he really wanted to come back. To find himself, his God, his friends, his dreams again. And he had a lot of difficulty doing so. While sitting in church this Sunday a timid knock at the door sounded. Lo and behold it was Mike. I went to let him in full of emotion. I was so happy this man made it to church. Not because the building is magic, or because his life was about to change immediately, or because he was following what I think is the best way to be happy. It was what it represented to him. He was on the way home! He was doing what he wanted to do! He had finally put on the breaks enough to turn round! And oh how we both were pretty teary.

The view from our apartment

How are you all doing though? Your lives and anecdotes are just as important as mine! Tell me of your loves and weeks and lives! Remember to floss, though don't make your gums bleed.

With love as deep and red as those bleeding gums just mentioned,

Elder Alex Hacker.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Week 47 - Assembling furniture (badly) and reflecting on life

Hello world!

I hope everyone has stayed fresh this week.

It is a bit of a chilly morning of here in Dunkerque. The sky is playing solar peek-a-boo and there are such colors that dance upon the waters of the port. Sunrises and sunsets were already pretty cool but that watery reflection just adds more to marvel at. Today myself and my intrepid companion (I like to think of us as the amalgam of 1) Batman and Robin, 2) Shawn and Gus, and 3) Indy and Short-Round) plan on getting some groceries! Then we will eat some of said groceries. Then we will go play sports and look around some forts with the Elders from Calais.  They are exchanging up here in Dunkirk and will be sticking around until 6:00 tomorrow evening.

Poor jellyfish stuck on the beach

I'm almost 21 now! Or at least I'll be 21 in 14 days or so. That sort of gets me thinking and reflecting upon what these 21 years of living has consisted of. If I live to be 84 I'm already 25 percent finished! And what a wild and fun 25 percent it has been. From a crying flailing lump of meat, to a larger lump of meat who cries less and hardly ever flails. That transformation is absurd! How do parents handle it? How do those feelings of love and parenthood cope with such rapid, uncontrolled, and agency-driven change? I imagine it is pretty weird and sometimes beautiful. Parents would be proud! I think the notion of being proud is nifty. Not the type with high horses but the satisfaction and peace kind. They are actually different words in French. The bad kind of pride- "orgueil" and the thing we feel for loved ones-"fier". Am I proud of what I've done with these 21 years given me? Do I assume responsibility for what I did during that time? And more importantly, am I proud of who I am now? Of what I'm currently doing?... there are others who I want to be proud of me too. My parents. My sisters! And my little brother. My friend Rebecca off finishing college. Mark who is off on his mission in Canada. That Sam Shumway dude. Jasmine, another dear friend of mine back in Wyoming. All kinds of other names that won't mean anything to most of you but mean things to me. I think it is really important to be proud of one another and to tell each other how proud you are. We are all swimming through an equally big pond and it is much easier swimming in schools! I really am proud of each and every person who reads this. Firstly because you read it-- mad props! And secondly because of all the things you do! Of all your dreams and hopes and good desires. As I tried to look back over 21 years to find my achievements, the things that kept came up were all the achievements, the influences, and the awesome things you guys did! Guys! Too cool!

A package from home arrived with some Birthday presents.  Now I just have to wait unto the 24th to open it

It was a pretty nice week. The weather has cooled down. Some of the people did the same. Oldsters tend to get knee pain and whatnot. We had an awesome experience with our buddy Khalif. He called us up Thursday evening asking if we could help him assemble some furniture. He had purchased a stand for his television. So we head over there and within 20 minutes we have managed to horribly ruin the assembly... after running to our house and hitting up that of his neighbor we come back with the two pliers we have to resolve the disaster. Then we assemble everything backwards. Then we start again. During this whole mess he is telling us his story and how he ended up here in France. Turns out his father was a successful businessman in Africa-- the honest kind, and someone thought he was too successful so they had him assassinated. And we talked about how 8 year-old Khalif felt growing up knowing the assassins of his father. And how he carried hard and bitter feelings for the longest time. He told us how he had changed though. How the cold and hateful man he was had given place to a warm and loving fellow who invited two strange Americans to build furniture and eat pizza. We finished our conversation over warm ginger drinks. We will see him later tonight actually!
The old district (prior to these last changes) in a classic pyramid formation

One thing being here in France has taught me is to not be passive in your human relations. You can be passive with your lawn and let the green stuff grow a bunch. You can be passive with your dishes. You can be passive with some things. Please! Please please please do not be passive with the people who surround you— whether you picked them to surround you or not. They are much too important! You have memories to make with them! Advice to give! Friendships to form! Grudges to get over! Phone calls to make!

I hope that everyone has a good week! If you want to make it better, I challenge you to give more compliments this week. 10 or plus. Really make a conscious effort to compliment your friends, family, and strangers. I think you will see a difference at the end of the week. Let a little more love in your life.

See you next week friends!

Elder Alex Hacker