Monday, February 13, 2017

Week 65 - Poetry, Listening, and Sudanese Food

Hello my good friends!
How have all of your weeks been?

It's noticeable,
This week I write in Haikus.

We taught lots this week:
Victor, Renaud, Sonya too..

Saturday we found:
New people to exchange with.

I spent lots of time
Looking for five syllables

And then I realized it wasn't really worth the time and didn't communicate all that much information... despite making feel surprisingly poetic and artsy!

I'm sure the intro saying hello and asking you how the week went gets old pretty quickly! And while the text is robotic and doesn't vary much from week to week, the emotions behind it are most definitely real. I really wish I could just small talk and ask about all of the little details of your life. Why? Because you are somebody pretty cool 😎 All of you.

Our English friend update: the attic now has three walls fewer. We spent an hour or two removing those. The driveway that was once muddy, overgrown tarmac is now 80% free. A French plumber that stopped by was able to communicate thanks to our on the spot translations! He tried to give us an absurd price thinking we wouldn't understand what he was saying though. Which wasn't so cool. So a different plumber that spoke English showed up and gave us a better price.

We spent a lot of time this week in Rennes. All of Tuesday was spent there and then most of the Wednesday following. It is a pretty cool city. I've become quite fond of metros recently.

Missionaries in the Rennes district/zone

 Our Amis are doing quite well actually! We have found a fair number. They are all at very diverse points in their progression, though we have a few that are consistent about coming to church when they can.

M. and his friend who's name starts with an A invited us over for a surprise lunch the other day. They don't actually have any money so the gesture was doubly touching. They had prepared a traditional Sudanese meal. We had some sort of tortilla bread things, and then a dish with a lentil/meat/spiciness/love/onion concoction, not too far from a curry. And they showed us how to eat by pinching off a bit bread and using it like a cloth to soak up the sauce. You eat raw tomatoes and peppers on the side too. Sudan!

I didn't really have any strong feelings on the subject in the past way but lately I've had the feeling that listening is a very underrated and lost art. I remember one time before my mission being brutally shocked when a dear friend of mine who had been slowly moving away told me once that she felt I wasn't really listening to her-- despite the fact I was hearing every word that came out of her mouth and then responding with my own words. And a lot of my own words for the record. Initial shock turned into a general state of confusion. It's much later now and it's a lesson I'm still learning, I have figured out that listening has very little to do with little waves of varying air pressure that ears register as sound, but everything to do with trying to figure out what people mean. Listening isn't about what people say, it's about the things that they aren't able to say. And I don't mean to say there are secret complex emotions behind everything people say, that would make me Freud or an disillusioned English teacher: sometimes "I'm feeling blue" is as simple as it appears. Though when I stop someone on the street and tell them "I have something to share with you that I love", and they seem to hear, "join my church"... or inversely when I'm telling someone about how "believing in God can be motivating", when they are thinking and concerned about their family and how they will feed them which leads them to say "I'm busy"... I don't think anyone is really listening to anyone. Two bad listeners there. Being from a country that battled so hard to have this right to free speech, it doesn't really help if no one knows how to listen to each other. Listening is the active effort to seek to understand others! Not something you can do accidentally. Way back when I had the craziest goofball of an English teacher: Mr. Fields. The roundness of his face was matched by that of his belly and a hearty chortle. He once said, amongst many other quotable things, "speak with the intention of being heard" which is something I've appreciated as time has gone on. I'd add the own counsel of a 21 year old who doesn't know much, "listen with the intention of hearing."

Next week we have a big meeting and interviews with the mission president! So there should be plenty of things to talk about then :)

Make this week better than the last one if you can! If you listen to people better I will give you each 5 dollars the next time we see each other.

Eiffel Tower,

Elder Alex Hacker

This is an old picture of our District from the last change period a few weeks ago

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