Thursday, October 19, 2017

Week 100 - Picture this

No email this week, but here are some pictures to make up for it.



Thanks to new mission rules allowing missionaries to visit certain tourist sites, I managed to get a selfie with Mona Lisa herself

A family I knew from Caen (my first city) that I was able to catch up with

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Week 99 - Changes are happening

Hello all,

So we had a rule change and now we can visit a select list of cultural sites in Paris, ainsi donc, I'll be exploring the Louvre this afternoon! How cool is that?? Mona Lisa Selfie as well as all the actually cool things to look at the Louvre.

The zone conference was actually a triple Zone Conference including the three zones from the Paris region. So half the mission or so. It was centered around an online proselyting training that we presented. There is a good amount of hype around the whole thing! It's probably no big suprise that a team of 18-20 year olds that compose the Lord's missionary force (who have previously spent a cumulative untold hours on Facebook posting unimportant things)  would be excited about the chance to use Facebook in the mission field.  We don't have too, too many investigators who are actually connected with Facebook so the utility of this is a little down right now.

Other news from this end? Zone Conference was really cool. Giving my farewell testimony was a harsh taste of reality mixed with a wonderful blessing to be able to testify. I was pleased to see the other missionaries from my MTC group (the Elders at least) who all happened to be there at the conference.

So, I've got a lot going on here and I'm honestly not very excited to come home yet. I've got about 3 weeks including 8 exchanges of normal missionary efforts left. We have a baptism this Saturday-- super exciting, right? We've consistently had 4-5 investigators at church for the last few weeks, all of whom progress, which is fantastic news. I'm excited for all that though at the same time I'm reasonably sad because I can see the end coming.  But I temper that with hope and optimism for the next leg of life.

Until next time,

Having dinner with Brother and Sister Barnes (mission office couple) and other missionaries

Reunited with the other two elders from my MTC group.  We're all that's left here (since the sisters are already home)

Week 98 - Things are going quickly (from October 2, 2017)

I can't believe things have gone so quickly! Tomorrow I'll be presenting at a triple Zone Conference and giving my departing testimony. Which makes it all feel a little more real.

Online Proselyting is officially a thing. That's actually what the training I'm giving tomorrow will be on! Despite all the warnings of a loving father I finally have a Facebook. And I didn't even really want one. I show up as "Alex Hacke" though... Facebook accused me of making up my last name. C'est la vie eh? :) My first Facebook friend was and will always be Soeur Barnes. The other friends are just random French members and returned missionaries. I was astounded after just making my profile and inserting no information, Facebook was suggesting people I knew both from the University of Wyoming and people I've met here in France. I thought I had a small digital footprint. Crazy.

We will be in a trio for the last week of my mission most likely. Currently it's just me and Elder Silva carrying the weight of the world. And even then it's Jesus carrying most of it.

We've been super busy and we're about to move appartements! That's also pretty exciting! We just set a baptismal date with a French chap who will be baptized in two weeks. The rest of our investigators include a middle-aged single mother from the West Indies, a Japanese grandmother straight out of Japan, a family from the Ivory Coast, and a few others splashed here and there. Things are really going quite well! I love each one of those people like my family, and I know them better than my own niece and nephew. I'm excited to get to know those little tykes.


Missionaries at the Mission Leadership Meeting
Missionaries formerly from the Vannes zone jump for joy

With my former companion, Elder Cheshire

Week 97 - A little taste of Paris driving - (from September 25, 2017)

Here is a video Alex sent of a car with missionaries trying to navigate a big roundabout in Paris

My companion is Elder Silva (black tie, standing on my right)

I got a spiffy new French suit!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Week 96 - The Pseudo-Monthly Update (From September 18, 2017)


Stardate 45630-44
Time: 17.23..00

...I'm quickly realizing that my wide but relatively shallow pop culture pool doesn't allow me to effectively make this sort of an allusion. I don't know how to write Stardates! At least pops will get that one.

That's it. The long awaited email is actually just a poorly conceived and incorrectly executed Star Trek reference (Which I've only seen when our afore mentioned Pops tried living vicariously through his kids and had us watch a few of the movies). Weeks of silence come to a close with less updates than usual and even more bad humour than usual. I do expect to write a little more this time, though I don't imagine there would be more than a few more emails written during the 8 week period to come. This email is also the frankenstine stitching together of partial baby emails strewn about the digital landscape of like a month. Though do let me genuinely apologize for not sharing anything for so long and for the lack of sharing I will be doing. I love writing to you all. Like a ton. It's an awesome outlet and I have such a fun time telling stories and connecting dots and telling you how much I like writing you all. So, in summary: It's not you, it's me.

Alas, news!!
The same wonder, mystery, and frustration Harry describes the moving staircases from the first few books and movies would describe certain aspects of my life nowadays. We spend a lot of time working with new people. Sometimes they were what we expected, and even the people we expected to be spending time with, and sometimes some other staircase shifts into place right before planting the foot. It's exciting and fun and brings a constant unpredictability, though it's probably as annoying as being late for Potions was for our young wizard. These moving staircases of life lead to much more discovery than a singular flight or an elevator might.

There is a special homie named Brian Jacques who wrote a special series of imaginative books called Redwall... that later inspired an aspiration-driven PBS cartoon!... and this book might help describe some of my feelings towards my mission. Redwall is the titular name of a fictional abbey around which most of the action turns. That sounds like a boring piece of historical fiction!... and it might be... if it weren't for the charming part: the size of the problems/social conflicts/emotions/wars presented by the books were all affronted by small woodland animals. Instead of boring clerical stewards, anthropomorphized field mice took care of the abby. A diverse cast of woodland creatures assumed varying roles and personalities. There was the flippant hare who was big into running. There was the huge badger with the deep voice who was headstrong and stubborn. A crafty, wizened vole. A plucky, courageous mouse taking on the world. Those books hold a special place in my heart. A nightly image: Picture young Elder Hacker battling sleep clinging to a British man's recording of these books playing on an old CD player. And after months of really spending a great deal of time in the inner workings of an organized mission such as this, with missionaries coming and going, after making 8 billion phone calls to all sorts of random people scattered over France, I feel ready to compare the two! That was the point of the long ramble paragraph! You also have the flippant dude who's super into running. The huge badger full of boldness and self-confidence, sometimes too much. The young but fearless fella fighting all the problems of the world. And it's those characters that transform a logistical machine with leadership checks at various levels into the most creative and unique organization/culture I've ever known: a mission such as this. Small but varied woodland critters, or in our case, vaguely mature children, taking on the world and all it's problems. With a message that professes to be the answer to those very same problems. We've got the legendary.....
Elder Phair a Californien moved into the appartement bringing with him a goofy vocabulary that I didn't realize people really used. I've learned new uses for many classic words. Ex: "Pirate 101 is way more lit than Wizard 101 man." And that summarizes a chunk of one of my new roommates personalities. He is "hecka stupid" cool. I ran that one by him first to make sure it was grammatically correct. I've also been blessed with the company of an Elder Ethan Silva. A taller chap from who is technically Irish by birth but basically from Utah. He weaves a harmless passive agression with radical statements and a cool cucumber exterior to make his sense of humour. The number of once-strangers I've lived with continues to grow. Elder Abramson, who is the living incarnation of Dad-jokes also makes up part of the lovable cast.

"Hope is not dead." That's another thing Elder Phair said. In referring to a fellow missionary who was struggling. And that really got me thumbing through my thoughts. I'm worried and sad there is a general lack of hope nowadays. What percentage of the time am I genuinely hopeful for something? I don't think but a handful of people would auto-describe themselves as hopeful. At least for me, hope was far too often something I used to combat a hard time or struggle through something... as opposed to an attitude that defines and shapes my daily actions. It was more of an entity I looked for when I felt like I needed it instead of an internal reflex pushing me to push myself and push others. Hope is what bridges a high love to a high level of expectations. I think hope can be manifest in even the smallest of things. Imagine a day where you would be actively hoping for things at all moments of the day. Hope blossoms into confidence, trust, love, and all other manner of flowery adjectives. I'd be totally down to say hope should be a fondation of society, government, and basically all human relationships.... though it's just not mentioned enough. :(

Hope is really cool. And I'll explain why using a long backstory from my childhood! This time we turn to a television show that landscaped and designed a huge portion of my early development: Avatar the Last Airbender. Those with small smiles to wide grins on their faces understand. At maybe the midpoint in this animated series, the joyous and robust monk that protagonists his way through the show finds himself quite down. Disappointed by those around him, the loss of his best friend, probably himself, the difficulty and challenge of the next leg of the journey, and a slew of other things we've all tasted once or twice, he runs across a sign-- graffiti really-- at the mouth of a dangerous path scrawled, "Abandon Hope". And he decides maybe they should do that. Maybe they should stop looking ahead, and stop dreaming, and just place one foot in front of the other. Hoping became the much harder and more painful thing to do. After much danger, romantic subplot, the comedic relief character doing his thing, the group makes it out. Only to have a member of the group enter into labor and struggle through childbirth in the wilderness. In the pivotal and touching scene, Aang, the now calloused, hopeless, step-taking shell gets to hold the baby. And he cries. And the mother names the little baby Hope. This whole email has been referring to hope as some abstract entity that will help us all out, and here's where it becomes concrete. In my younger years, I did know how to hope; albeit I would have loved to. Though I didn't realize I needed to love my little niece and believe in her success to hope. I didn't realize I needed disinterested, unfeigned dreams in order to hope. I didn't realize I needed to have  specific names in mind to hope for things. I had to hold a little baby, or a career ambition, or a belief in God, or whatever else in my arms and cry to hope. That's why I was so bad at hoping. And hopping.

Speaking of other things of Asiatic origins!!! I have a fantastic new friend named Mieko!  I wish I could show you a picture. Mieko is a Japanese grandmother who has 4 kids. We asked her once what her husband does and she told us, "he just plays golf." And he's not a professional golfer either. Mieko is an ex-tea ceremony coach/instructor (literally that scene from Mulan with the grumpapotamus making sure people pour tea right-- though she's far less grumpy) turned professional artist studying at the school of fine arts here in Paris. She doesn't speak English at all, though she does speak a little French. We didn't really understand her well when she told us about her art the first time, so we thought she was just a nice old lady who'd taken up fruit-bowl-painting in her spare time. Once we got our Japanese translator involved (a friendly Stanford graduate named Zack Rodgers) we found out she's been featured and galleries and all kinds of stuff. So needless to say she's one of the coolest and most culturally intriguing people I've ever met. With our combined trilingualism we've been doing some translations as service and so that we might teach her. You can't imagine the affinity I have for my new Japanese grandmother!

The Versailles palace is off in the distance behind us

Blame it on television but I think there's a tendency to make episodes of things. It's that pesky desire to make things ordered and understood and clear rearing its head again. And I'm not too sure if I like that. It creates a lot more ends, starts, separations than we need? Maybe we need episodes and compartmentalism. That to say that I'm really sad and nigh hurt and the impending end of my mission. At least once a week my heart is broken by some reminder. Not to say there isn't a ton of hope and enthusiasm surrounding the other exciting adventures that await. It's more like I'd prefer the bandaid to get ripped of. Except it's more like an arm getting pulled off instead of a bandaid. Maybe two arms. An arm and a leg? That's the expression!

I love you my friends. I will see many of you frighteningly soon! Have a more hopeful week than the last week!

Look at this baby wrangling a sea serpent

This one has angel babies riding swans with bows

Versailles gardens are very large!

Week 95 - Yes, Still Alive (from September 11, 2017)


I am still alive and well. 


Here is a picture of me with a few missionaries that I love and cherish! Reunions! Don't be fooled by the fellow on the left; he has eyes normally. 

So in other news I've been quite busy. The pace and speed is primarily a good thing but man is it exhausting at times. I understand why this assistant to the president gig is only meant to last for a limited number of months. I must have spent more hours of the phone with assorted missionaries, French people, Président Sorensen, etc... than I have over the rest of my cumulative years! The lack of Elder Hacker communication is due to that. We've only recently worked out a way to preserve and have our P-Day again. So now I can write a few thoughts, feelings, and updates. 

If the imminent end to my mission seems real to you I don't think I could describe the contrast between moments of lucid, sharp, and very tangible reality melded with a those of dreamy illusion of perpetuation. I'm not too big a fan of most of those feelings. Above all I'm just excited and blessed to have anytime left at all. I understand that there are other missions I've got to do elsewhere. 

Overall things are going really well! As a district we had 12 investigators at church this Sunday. We have a number of really really cool people who progress very seriously. In terms of missionary work things are swimming. In terms of missionaries-- we are nearing the crazy part of this transfer. Adventure awaits!


I ran into the Vandivers hours before their plane. I may have accidentally offered them a stay at our house if they road trip through Wyoming ever. Whoops :) 

Tell everybody I said hello back there!


PS. Barge coming through. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Week 91 - Amazing Guest Apearance from Elder Richards (from August 14, 2017)

[Alex didn't get the chance to send a regular email this week, so I'm taking the liberty of borrowing a story told by his companion, Elder Richards, which was posted online on Facebook because it is a really neat story.  So all of what follows below is Elder Richards' words--thanks to him for sharing this!!]

We had an awesome miracle right at the beginning of the week. We went to that family's, the Kokesha family, home and taught a lesson about prayer. We invited the middle child, about 8 years old, to say the prayer at the end. We asked him to pray so that we would be able to find an investigator we had found about six weeks ago. We hadn't been able to contact her since, but we had a good feeling about this evening. The young boy prayed, maybe not fully understanding the situation, but prayer with faith and when we went to find Clothilde, she was there and so happy to see us.

We also had the last exchange of my mission which was slightly crazy. It was really good though. It took place over two days, which is unusual, but was interesting. The first day, one of the elders who I was with who speaks Spanish made the goal to find a Spanish speaker. He did not tell us, however, that he was carrying a Book of Mormon in Spanish that he planned to give away. We were getting near the end of
the day and were actually carrying suitcases for another elder to our apartment (sorry you have to follow this weird story). My companion, Elder Hacker, who is sick and was even more sick on that day, but none the less diligent, stopped a man. When he explained after why he had stopped him, he said that it was because he just envisioned him walking towards us in white. This man was Catalan and did not speak very much French. Elder Dorado was able to speak with him and give him the Book of Mormon. I got to testify using my very limited Spanish. It was a really cool experience that showed me that God really does make miracles happen thanks to little efforts made by many.

Week 90 - Short Important Update (from August 7, 2017)


I don't have much to tell you guys. However, I've learned two words
this week that I wanted to share.

La Narine=Nostril

I learned this word because I was sick and we went over to visit the
sweetest African lady who made us spicy food. Spicy food made my nose
all sniffly. Sniffling inspired this angel of a woman to go search
some mysterious cream that she really insisted I put in my nose. So
out of politeness I obliged. Voilà. La Narine=Nostril.


It was a trick. I haven't been able to find the word. I did find my
first French tumbleweed however. See picture:

Paris Zone conference.  I'm in the back, to the left of the archway

[Bonus from an email to Alex's parents]

Life is going well! Sometimes fast and sometimes slower! Overall I'm really happy and excited and adjusted to things!... time for more adjustment though. This week we're helping with work on transfers and the whole thing is really complicated. We've got an eighth of the mission going home and a smaller number of people coming in... which means closing down companionships :(

View from our car while driving through the rolling French hills

On another exchange

A man I taught while I was in Vannes was baptized :)
Another man I taught in Vannes was baptized :)

Week 89 - Elder Hacker's Quest for Happiness (from August 1, 2017)

So this email won't have any continuity or explanation or flow. Well chalk that up to the pace, confusion, and business of these last few weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if this is what Elder Hacker communication looks like until I'm actually speaking to you in person. Gone, or at very least much less frequent, are the days of long weekly emails that I loved writing and hope were sometimes loved in return.

Best quote these last 3 weeks that isn't spiritually themed: "I showed him how to cut and paste and now he thinks he's the king of Excel." -Sœur Barnes speaking about her husband who I'd describe as a charming ray of sunshine incarnate in the body of a soft, older man. 

This last Tuesday we had a little missionary pep rally where we spoke about loving others. I only just realized that the idea of having meetings/workshops centered on things like 'loving others' might not make sense or sound appealing. Like the kinda of thing Ghandi would be into. Though what surely doesn't translate on paper is actually super cool. So we were all asked to give a definition of the word "charity", which got me thinking. I think a really good way to describe the opposite of "love" and "charity" is with the word "apathy." Love is one of those motor forces that pushes you to do things-- the love of Lucky Charms pushes kids down the stairs and to the table everyday, the love of shoes pushes hands into the bottoms of purses and wallets, the love of mothers pushes the afore mentioned kids to the public schools that they probably complain about. Whereas apathy... that's just about the absence of any driving force. That's the absence of love. "Apathetic Love". My mind and heart is just frustrated seeing those two words together because they shouldn't be all buddy buddy like that. At a given moment I think I thought apathy and neutrality were the same thing. That tolerance and apathy were somehow related? Though now I think the world already has enough apathetic things (Among others see rocks, sticks, the little brown lumps that happen when lawns get aerated, oil barons, time, and old lazy cats). Don't aspire after any of those things! With great respect for those of you who are or were 'pet rock' owners: Those are all really lame roll models! Apathy is the most unique and fashioned skill of inanimate objects. Love and charity aren't love and charity if it's not shared. When emotion doesn't evoke action, it's a desire to love but not really getting there. Be it an emotional distance, or a dishonesty, or a lack of caring or any other ugly cousin of apathy they just don't have much of place :) Voilà. A few ramblings about charity. 

Elder Hacker's Quest for Happiness as realized through other people:
In a roundabout way this might actually describe a little bit of what my mission has actually looked like: 
So I actually went to preschool twice. Not so much a story of incompetence but because by mother was a preschool teacher. The first time I spent a lot of time doing normal preschool things: like eating snacks, being vaguely egotistical, running around. That was the dream! I learned a few colors probably at least ten numbers that may have been in order, and other things. However the second time around ended up being a lot more educational in certain ways. I didn't stay as long, though on several occasions I went back much older to help my mother and to be more of a teacher/child-wrangler. (The same thing at that age.) And that's were some important seeds took root. I saw how happy my mother was talking care of those children and watching them take waddling steps towards the rest of their lives. I felt a personal joy as I watched those chicken nuggets play in the same tub of dinosaurs I played with 15-20 years ago! And for one of the first times I really found joy and satisfaction through others. 

And that's where some credits start to play. There are just some people who've helped me so much and so radically changed who I want to be that I feel like I was supposed to meet them. There's no other way to word that. And if it's a divine providence keeping an eye on his homies or the sweetest coincidences ever I'm terribly on board either way! Seriously though, I've been on the most golden and most impressive streak of my life of meeting, befriending, and being influenced by the coolest people. Coincidentally that really started once I started looking to find people to influence me and just in general, turning outwards. 

What helped me find meaning and resolve adolescent funk (adolescent funk could be a sweet punk band name though here I'm referring to the last 8 years or so of my life. Things were going swell up until that point.) was looking and turning outwards? Not so much what but who. And each specific who that's listed brought so much to the table. Take all the passion that birdwatchers have for birds, or avid stamp collectors have for temps, and transfer that over into an appreciation for others. At the start it was accidental. That's really what worked. That's what made me happy. It was the only thing that worked:

It started with the unrealistic loud crunch of corn nuts (I've always wondered how one makes corn nuts or where there come from) coming from the mouth of a stranger sitting next to me in junior year French class. In a moment of unadulterated pride let it be known I hopefully learned how to speak French better than the rest of them!! A sheepish glance and an instant of laughter and an Ali Hunter Wadas cemented her place as one of the people that would teach me the value of people. You're also missing Mark Kim who was there since about as long as I can remember. A trio, ironic given that I find myself in a trio of friends again today, was born. Fast friendship brought us nearly every day to Ali's house. Her stepdad spent an hour once teaching us record programs on the new television he bought; None of us really liked television though. Ali and I had violently different ways of looking at things. Like on paper we shouldn't have ever been friends. Our friend groups had no overlap. I hadn't ever thought to read a Nicholas Sparks book. Mark was the Korean mediator between two conflicting opposites that loved each others company. I remember sometimes being frustrated with how differently Ali and even Mark saw things... though I also couldn't not realize how much fun I was having with these people. And it wasn't just fun, but a hope and a warmth and a light and a desire to do good filled, such that I hadn't known in a number of years-- so they'd be proud and just because I wanted to be better because of their own radiant goodness. And our differences suddenly changed from 'ways they didn't understand me' and on some worse and more egotistical level, 'reasons I'm right about x thing'-- you can imagine that isn't an attitude that generates a lasting happiness. Those things gave place to a feeling of wonder and fascination. 'Why don't I think like that?', 'Why am I so wrong about that thing?', and the question that was even better: 'How can I help these people?' In a more important way than I had known this friendship was as much about helping and loving as it was about hanging out at someone's house. That silly group of teenage dreamers was an emotional rebirth.

So then... I guess I really had another lesson to learn. I was much happier. Though I was never sure what parts of life were making me happy. I wasn't autonomous I guess one could say. So then God did me a huge favor and suckered a librarian from North Carolina into moving to Wyoming, bringing with him his daughter the Rebbeca Elise Goodson that we should all know and love. It so happened I was working at Spooners Frozen Yoghurt when freshly-moved Rebecca decided to apply for a job at the very same aforementioned youoghourt *British spelling* store. And thus started a most marvelous mutual friendship. This time was even more different. I had never before felt so challenged by the existence and goodness of another being to not be mediocre but to really do my best. That's just a side effect of goodness I think; It's a constant invitation to the conscious of others to rise above selfish tendencies. As I discovered how smart, engaging, and hilarious Rebecca (maybe an easy way to illustrate that would be her inhuman talent for making supernal quality puns) was I noticed that other people, as in literally everyone else around me, didn't become more flat and black and white in comparison, but that my depth-perception of everyone who had ever been around me, especially my family, was widely enlarged. It was like seeing new colors that I'd never known before. As if a fog lifted and suddenly a new sharpness, color, and brilliance surrounded my little sister who I used to ignore more than I probably should have. I suddenly wanted to actually befriend my parents-- and go beyond just having kinda matching genetics (fingers crossed I didn't get my Father's hair)! With Rebecca, driving around at absurd hours of the night/morning after an evening shift, slicing two infinities worth of strawberries, talking about childhood books that had shaped us, thousand other things that will never make sense to anyone but the two of us constitute not only some of the most cherished memories I think I could make but a permanent and lasting change of character. I learned that for me, happiness wasn't going to be found within myself. This person who didn't mean to do these things intentionally served to teach "...that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."

I hope even up to present reading what literally just turned into some kind of an essay-- instinct preparing me to start studies again?.. Hey? Hasn't made you think all that much about any of these names I've listed. Of course a little! Rebecca, Mark, and Ali deserve more cosmic street cred than they've ever gotten or will get and I'm happy to serve as a minor publicist. My real hope is that you thought about other people. Names that mean nothing to me but lots to you. I hope that active love/charity I mentioned way back at the beginning stirred somewhere inside. I hope you call one of them! I hope you do something you wouldn't have normally done. I hope and would like to believe with all my heart that these lessons aren't unique to me either but are things everybody can learn-- or should learn because they sure make things better! (The teenage dreaming never really fully died inside-- did it?) 

Then I went to college. For largely the same reason a child might like a frozen pole during recess: enough people told me it was a cool, profitable, and important thing to do. I had about as much vision about what I wanted to do as the kid from A Christmas Story :) Though I went and there I had a more dynamic friend mush that's important but a little weirder to describe and doesn't fit here. And then... I left the country. And I actually had reasons for doing that. I went off to France! And that's where things got even cooler. That's where I really learned to and to be happy and to care about others. 

What happened next was the greatest miracle this side of the Mighty Ducks. God and 9 other people made some really great choices: Kelli Mattson, Ashtin Markowski, Elizabeth Anne Huston, Katelynn Maxine Marshall, Margaret Lea George, Brook Andrew, Daniel Mario Iacopucci, Zachary Stewart Taylor, Braedon Jason Dunoskovic, and Sarah Nadine Simpson  all showed up at the missionary training center a faithful November morn. Picture 9 of the good members of the Justice League with one of the Power Puff Girls thrown in there. 9 lifesavers of different flavors with a wad of pocket lint. Seriously 9 of the coolest people from whom flowed countless lessons. Suddenly the picture I'd been trying to color with maybe 5 or so crayons got 10 new marvelous colors with their own talents and weaknesses and stories. And it really was surprising to see how wide my smile was in all the photos I took with that group. I couldn't understand really. Had everyone else always been that special and unique? This time I really made an active effort. I decided from day one that I would care more about those people than I did about myself. I decided I wanted to be the shirt people put on the ground to avoid puddles. And I did just that. And my goodness was I happy. Those friendships were different for me... they were entirely founded upon things that were important; we would still talk about the weather but it was the last thing we would talk about. There was an immediate sincerity with them. I was so positively influenced by these people. I'm sad I can't make the transition from general to specific right now given time constraints but these people are just too cool. Like multiple 😎😎😎😎 emojis cool. So cool. 

Though I kind of forgot all that once actually getting to France. Like a rolly-polly (sp?! The bug that curls up into a ball) well... I curled up into a ball. And I stayed somewhat in ball form for much too long. In Dunkerque (Not officially sponsoring but go see the movie and you'll get to see where I lived for 6 months) It finally took Jean-Paul Albert Fahy, who in my eyes is up there with French legends like Victor Hugo and Charles de Gaulle, to squish the rolly-polly of pride. Now, unlike the other people I've mentioned so far, Jean-Paul isn't filled with a sparkling liquid intelligence. Jean-Paul's sense of humour is incredibly simple and he couldn't understand any of the puns I tried to share with him. Jean-Paul and I have like a 90 year age gap between us. However, he loves missionaries an absurd amount. I felt like his grandson. I saw him every day. He called us most mornings at 7h00 or so. I must have prank called the goofball 15 times during our 6 months together. He has dentures and likes to make silly faces with them removed. The greatest cackle I've ever heard. He speaks the worst and most unintelligible French of any French person I've met. So how did he squish the rolly-polly? How did he help me find a more solid happiness despite more stressful and difficult conditions than I had before in the first city where I lived in France? We didn't talk about anything important like I did with others because he's not really in a mental state to talk about much that's important. One of the only things important to him was me at the time. And that is a really important and touching thing. To be important to someone else. And he was in return super important to me. It wasn't even about what we said or did together this time... it was basically the fact that he exists. And that should be enough, shouldn't it? 

Another huge story arc in the Elder Hacker saga would be centered around the, Rennes Sœurs Power Trio. One part Courtney Damae Neistadt, one part Alexis Dianne Romney, one part Flora Hélène Henriette Piazza formed probably the coolest and most complimentary group of people I've ever seen. And my happiness was complete as I was able to see, and help from a reasonable distance these three people. I basically saw these these people twice a week. Once in person as I directed a little meeting and the other time when I called them all at the end of the week. I saw the most incredible evolution in these three missionaries. I prayed for them every night and then stood up and did everything I could for them during the day. Taking care of them and a handful of other missionaries was literally what I was jobbed with doing. Oh how we laughed and sometimes got almost emotional together. Oh what dumb pictures we took together. What absurd phone calls. The reason these three stand out-- I've interacted with relatively lots of other missionaries in my short lifespan-- is that I saw the very same process I'm currently describing playing out. I saw people finding happiness in the challenges and differences they presented one another. In turning outward and towards others in altruism service Las Vegas, Boston, and Lyon collided in the funniest way-- probably a little bit of what you imagine that look like. I'd compare the feeling... I imagine it's the same feeling of seeing one's own children really succeed. I felt like these three dear friends climbed Mount Everest. Every day. And seeing people you love climb Mount Everest every day gets yours pretty excited and pumped. That's pretty darn inspiring. 

No one better have the time to this week to read this :) you need to find better things to do with your time. And I guess that's the story of how I quested my way into the greatest source of happiness imaginable. I asked a struggling friend the other day, "do you want people to be inspired or do you want to inspire others?" And that's a diddly darn thing I've learned! There's only one I in happiness and it's better if that I is someone else saying I. 

A quote that I find used to find terrifically cheesy-- and I'm profoundly sad I was ever someone who would find this type of quote cheesy-- that was cited by members of my family and is tucked away, inscribed in a paving stone with a small crack in right hand corner in the botanic gardens of Cheyenne: "To love another person is to see the face of God." In a year plus's time if there is any message that has sunk into my soul it just might be that one there. I don't think there's a mortal high that feels so good, proper, and clean. 

And that's about all she wrote for another mystery number of weeks! 

I do love you though.

Same with you parents.

And you grandparents. 

And God too. 

-Elder Alex Hacker

My best friend in Dunkerque

Week 88 - I am alive and I went to Costco (from July 24, 2017)

I'm sorry I haven't been able to write very much lately. I still love you guys and I'm still alive. We have been really busy with multiple exchanges every week, a training given to young missionaries, working with president Sorensen and trying to get the missionary work up to speed here in our own area. I don't know if things ever actually will calm down.  We've had exchanges in the last couple of weeks, including with the Elders of Bruxelles and the Elders of Nancy.  We also  did a lot of service, including moving and stacking wood.   I went to Costco this week though! 

Week 86 - Avoidably Okay Week (Week I'm Actually Not Sure If I Want to Count Anymore (from July 10, 2017)

Howdy y'all!

Feeding stereotypes! There were no other options left I swear!
Introductions are getting hard.

The word for 'cymbal noise' that everyone has heard and kind of knows
is 'rimshot'. Thanks to a certain Gregory Hacker (35 [approximately])
for sending in his response! Other received answers include 'crash'
and 'tsphhhh'.

So no 1st person in the email. This was an okay week here in France.
How was your week though?? What did you actually get up to? What was
the highlight of the week? How many dates/business trips/chess matches
did you go to? For one of you all three of those might have been the
same outing! Go ahead and tell each other about all those things. It
has been the author's experience (and that's not cheating for anyone
who's raising their hands to object) that this week involved too much
1st person and that's largely the reason it might not have been the
best of weeks. Words were often heard but maybe listened to a little
less. Problems piled up but other people's piles were just as high if
not higher. You probably lived some really fun experience this week.
You might have had a pretty high pile of things to take care of too!

Unselfish service is without a doubt the greatest bringer of happiness
around. The greatest distraction from things that aren't going well.
The greatest uniter of families and feuding factions (from silly high
school couples to rival feudal villages. Egocentricity only works for
babies. And even then it's not the cutest gimmick babies have.
Chubbiness and a failure to pronounce words are much more endearing.
What does unselfish service like?... Hmm... Waiting for the 'thank
you' to come after but not feeling disappointed when it doesn't?
That's not the worst definition. Scraping off the ice of your
neighbors car? Giving your mom more hugs? Saying I'm sorry more?
Talking to people that matter about things that matter even though it
might not be the most fun subject? Who's to say.?

The email summarizes itself in a few succinct lines:
1) If you want to be happy, it's as simple enough to care about the
happiness of others!
2) If you want to be happier, think a little less about yourself and a
little more about others!
3) Don't be lame!

Have a great week everyone!

Get a long little doggies! (Guessing that means bye)

-Elder Alex Hacker
Brighten your day.

The Triumverate on exchanges with another companionship

Week 85 - Life Hacks (from July 4, 2017)

From July 4, 2017

Speed writing double-length-episode time! I will definitely not use
Then and Than correctly!

So here I am in Versailles! Forgot Antony and all the names attached
to that place. Not that I told you anything about what actually
happened while I was there but... Versailles is probably one of the
only French locations I've mentioned in 80~ weeks that is
recognizable. I am now in the mission office a lot of the time. They
switched my responsibilities up again. It's funny how I'm still
effectively asked to be the same person and do many many of the same
things despite a dramatic change in location, companions, and scope. I
get to work and interface with even more missionaries than before. And
I've there is anyone and love and value and owe so so much to, it's

I'm in a triumvirate right now. Dibs on Octavius! So Elder Currie and
his laid back New England-ness is swapped with an Elder Richards and
an Elder Lamothe. Which adds a wee dash of Virginia, sometimes
serious, marine biologist, would-be-mountain-man if it weren't for all
the logistical problems that poses as well as hefty doses of forward,
French, sassy, logician who speaks his mind to the very wildly colored
canvas I've become as this misadventure rolls onward. My definition of
insane driving has been radically changed after having a Frenchman
behind the wheel. We are definitely an interesting pair+extra though
we make it work. I look up to both of them very much.

These two weeks probably included more time behind a computer than the
rest of my mission combined. I must have spent around 5,000 euros
within a few hours ordering train tickets for everybody; the least
palpable and fun way to spend 5000 euros but kinda fun nonetheless!

Who noticed that subject line? Hey?? Life Hacks. Get it? In an
alternative life that would have been the name of my blog/etsy store
(depending on how cool I would be in this alternative life)!
Unfortunately I can't take credit for the name; Utmost respect and
genius to Sarah for the shameless theft of her joke.

I was able to spend a lot of time with the newly arrived
missionaries-- as in I picked them up from the airport and spent the
good part of that evening with them and the following morning. I'd
liken the experience to 10 year olds playing soccer: half the kids are
super excited to be there, half the kids are kinda confused with their
hands in their pockets just kinda walking around, maybe one or two of
the kids aren't sure if they actually like playing soccer anymore or
if they are just there because their parents encourage them to be play
sports, some kids are super full of energy and wayyyy faster and more
skilled than others, some kick each other's shins. So take this team
of 19 excited kids who didn't get much sleep and ship them off on a 9
hour plane ride to a foreign country. Voilà! I spent two days with
that! To them everything was so French and magic. The small European
cars and cobblestones were so much more to them then they are to so
many people.

Then I spent some time with the missionaries going home. Quite the
contrast to see. Funnily enough those who had just gotten here in
France were trying a lot harder to speak French than those who had
just finished two years here. I had a lot of role models, examples,
and friends among them and it was weird to see them go. Wednesday
evening we took them all to a Chinese buffet. That was a blast. It
felt like hanging out with friends! Super casual and fun. Come
Thursday morning we took this group of legends-- Egbert, Walton,
Wheeler, Pande, and Romney amongst those names I may have mentioned
someplace or another-- to the airport. I'm not sure why, and maybe it
was a subconscious self defense mechanism, but I thought it would be
fun!... Nasal congestion, dirty socks, and DMV lines are all things I
now consider much more fun than taking people who aren't sure how they
feel about leaving to an airport. Sending the dying missionaries home
was really sad.

On Friday we went and picked up the new mission president! And his
family. I'm working a lot with him a lot and that seems to be going in
a pretty up-ish direction. We have yet to put balloons on any houses
though. *cymbal noise* (I know there's a word for 'cymbal noise' but I
can't remember it for the life of me.)


In spending time with so many different people this week I was really
struck by how different everybody is. Alexis (Almost has a super cool
first name) Romney is not at all the same person as Dimitri Wheeler or
Emilie Esmieu. People, like fireworks, come in every shape, color, and
sound. Katy Perry be proud of that analogy. And I think back on the
wise words of the gentlest man named Bruce I've ever known who once
said something like, "part of the purpose of this life is to learn to
share yourself with others." Just about the greatest disservice to the
world and yourself is to not be yourself. I'm more and more convinced
of that as time goes on. I have never once been disappointed by
someone being themselves. By them being who they are. Sometimes I'm a
little frustrated because they aren't the same as me or they aren't
who I expected them to be, but whenever the natural beauty of humanity
is shown, whenever the innate goodness buried under social norms or
fear or whatever is visible, I'm nothing but excited and bettered and
enchanted. There's a lot of talk about a search for identity that goes
on during adolescence-- both the health and the psychology classes
I've taken touched on that, though I've been figuring out that that
search for identity only stops when you decide you've finished
searching. Plenty of people don't have much, or have a really lame,
identity who are in their 30's, 40's, 50's. Age has very little to do
with it I think. You become more and more refined as time goes on.
That's why some old people are cooler than others. Personality gets
refined over the years and the good becomes sharper and the bad
becomes fuzzier. That's the ideal I think. It's never too late to have
an identity crisis :) I don't actually mean a crisis but it's never
too late to keep finding and doing things you love. To rest on that
precipice of adventure and epiphany. Adventure and epiphany look a lot
different and generally make less exciting Hollywood movies as one
ages but that's okay. And safer.

I guess it made me think about my identity. I'm not sure how I'd
respond if a stranger, for example wearing a white shirt and tie,
stopped me on the street and asked me about my identity. I wouldn't
have to wait long before my mind would stretch to the table of of a
Chinese buffet pushed off to the side of a small French town. The
table seats about 20+ and stretches across a wing of the restaurant.
I've only been there three times. Once when I first got to France, and
twice this week. That long table with little cute, little dipping
bowls for potstickers and egg rolls is the equivalent of the Valhalla
mess hall for me!!! That's where Norse deity goes to hang out in the
next life. Its where legends go to die. It's a rectangular version of
King Arthur's whole shebang!! Its where new adventures and alliances
are forged. It's the table where Thomas Jefferson(s) drafted the
constitution(s)! Where so many great ideas were jotted down. It's the
family dinner table around which we so often played board games! The
table where friends become family for an evening, or two evenings if
you're playing a slow game of monopoly. After which the friendship
erodes because monopoly just causes domestic tension. I'd think about
all my friends. I would think, when asked who I am, about everyone
else who has contributed to who I am. I couldn't not do that. All the
good and bad impressions people have had on me are just so fundamental
to current product. I guess that means I'm supposed to thank you. I do
owe a big debt of gratitude to you. For all the good and bad
experiences we've been through together. Thank you so so much!
Gratitude slap! Know how much of Elder Hacker you make.

...This somehow turned into directionless, rambling gratitude!!.. I
think more things are supposed to finish by gratitude than we think.

As the title implies, this has to include some sort of tip! Life-Hack:
Let yourself be changed and influenced and refined by other people
around you. You learn so much, you make so many friends, you smile
more. Have an externally driven identity crisis! You don't have to be
social, or extroverted, or anything. That's has nothing to do with it.
I guess just try thinking about those that made you who you are-- your
perspective will change and I'd bank on the whole exercise somehow
turning into rambling gratitude. It should at least. :)

Thanks for everything guys. Have a great week! Thanks to anyone who
still reads these. Especially given that the week counter is getting
frighteningly high.

With a gentle handshake,

Elder Alex Hacker