Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Week 62 - Peasantry, Oyster-y, and Bureaucracy (from January 23)

Howdy, (Please read the following in a Wyoming drawl. If a Wyoming drawl a thing?)

I'm sososososo sorry to have been dead for three weeks! That's a bit longer than three days. I hope that this email finds everyone in good health, with resolutions intact, in gyms filled with people, with children back at school, in peace. Mostly that last one. I don't really jphave much justification so I will distract by launching into assorted anecdotes. Autobots, roll out.

I briefly talked to a real peasant today earlier this week! He lived at the foot of a castle and was out in his field assembling a fence of sorts with sticks. He had three goats and some chickens and a nice looking dog. He had a wee little thatched cottage with smoke puffing out. Apart from the prototypical European hygiene and modern clothing he was a straight peasant!

There are lots of little dispersed villages over here in the North East of France. They are speckled a little bit all over the place lost among the pretty wild landscape. The little ones are all quite old and filled with old people; those that exceeded the size threshold needed to draw attention during the wars tend to be much less old though still rife with the elderly. This region of France is by far the most roundabout-y place I've ever been. They are absolutely everywhere! I think there are about 15 actual street lights in the city and everything else is made up of roundabouts. There exists also an inordinate number of speed bumps. Many of which seem to be in the middle of nowhere. I have adjusted to being in a car again. It was surprisingly weird to ride in cars frequently and/or for extended periods. It sort of made me realize just much I relied and used a car back in Wyoming.

So I've already talked about Raclette before. It's a type of cheese you melt and pour on potatoes with meat sometimes. The only Raclette I had eaten until this week involved little mini pans that you cooked cheese in around a heating element. Thought apparently this is the real way to do it. You place a half a wheel of cheese in a clamp and bring it up to the glowing red element. It turns into a bubbling cheese cauldron up there. Then you flip the platform off to the side and in inclines then you scrape the liquid cheese off in a quick motion into the potatoes below.

😎 Cool 😎

Last Monday we went oyster hunting! Hunting makes it sound more heroic than it really was. A lovely couple drove us out to a rocky beach during low tide and we spent the afternoon scrapping them off of rocks. The wife spent her time collecting small black snails to eat. There are many types of small black snails that look nearly identical, she explained, but only one type was edible. She had filled about half a milk carton with the little guys by the time we had filled three buckets with fat oysters. 30 oysters later we realized we were a little tired of eating oysters and spent the rest of the week trying to give the extras away.

A sizable chunk of this week was spent in meetings. There was a big meeting in Paris on Friday and a smaller meeting in Rennes on Saturday. No one wants to hear the clerical details and the policies and the boring stuff like that. I'm sure some of that will slip out in future emails (If I write them on time that is 😏) What a lovely experience it was though! I was able to see one of my old companions: Elder Siedow! What a peach he is! Many other missionaries with whom I've really bonded were there. Elder Pande. Elder Currie. Elder Schulthess. Elder Lamothe. Elder Wheeler. Everyone of the district leaders I've ever had were actually present! I think it was especially special to see Elder Wheeler again. Someone who really cared for me at the very start of it all. It all felt weirdly circular. Such a beautiful circle though! Here I am doing the same thing, though surely not as well nor with as much style, as Elder Wheeler did for me when I was there. It was little small gestures here and there that really shifted huge sections of my mission and to an extent my life. Big dramatic events, moments of conversion, changes of opinions, tragedies, etc... life doesn't have to hinge around these things I don't think. Our lives aren't a series of huge formative points with thin meaningless strings connecting them. Defining what we are and what we believe and what we've done by huge points ignores all the beautiful and just as important little thinks linking those together. Measuring and defining ourselves like that is just as silly and inane as trying to measure a kids intelligence on a scale of 1-36 (Stupid ACT!). You don't need to have lived anything amazing, to have surmounted any absurd obstacles, to have done anything extreme to be just as good as telling stories. To be just as happy. To be just as important a person. Effective a missionary. Awesome a parent. Etc... The world's obsession with measuring  and slapping numbers on things sometimes causes harm and feelings of inadequacy. Might we never forget the memories and people behind the numbers. I think this switch to a leadership role and suddenly being the person who is collecting these numbers, and more importantly and interestingly seeing how people feel and react to the numbers they submit sort of prompted that reflection.
At the Mission Council at the start of the year

The Saint Omer District Reunion (except Elder Carson-- he's in America)

Former Caen area missionaries

MTC missionary group reunion of sorts

Things have been busier here in Vannes (That's a good thing!) alas I've been less prone to writing you all. My love for you hasn't changed! Just the frequency with which I express it! I hope everyone has a great week! Until we meet again!

-Elder Alex Hacker

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