Thursday, April 27, 2017

Week 75 - Reunions, Meetings, and the Temple (from April 24)

Hello there!

What's up with you guys! Thanks again for everything you've done for me. I'm only who I am because of you! Hope you had good weeks.
It says "Glory to you, Alex"

This week was one of the better ones I think I've lived to present! And I'm having a really hard time figuring out what sort of context I need to describe so that it makes sense as to why. So many little elements came together perfectly and I just feel satisfied and happy. Like my soul ordered a 2 for 20 from Chilis. Like a child being called up to write something on the board and he or she gets it right. Like putting on warm socks fresh from a dryer. Take the intersection of those three feelings and that's sort of what I've got going on over right now. So I guess I'll try and  explain why:

1) This whole transition to Paris and to taking care of a larger group of missionaries has been a little stressful in the normal growing-pain way... not an unhealthy amount but uncomfortable. This is the biggest city I will probably ever live in and is more responsibility than any future employer would ever be foolish enough to trust me with. Things just really seemed chaotic and I wasn't too sure what or how I could do in my new position. Paris-wonder was sort of replaced with more of a Paris-shock that didn't seem to be going away. So I was doing well but was clearly and probably visibly perturbed.

2) I could never find the words to explain how big of a fan I am of other missionaries. These guys leave their families and friends for two years for some of the coolest, most pure, and most important altruism I've ever seen. I've seen people that threw away their lives to go, those that paused studies, those that gave up careers, those that left despite having never left their home state before. Missionaries are just such inspiring and impressive examples to me. Someone throws together a band made from mostly 18 year olds and none of us know the music at the start... and now we have to learn the music here in a different language too... and half of us barely like each other and by the end some marvelous, supportive, loving, hilarious, brilliant, talented, forever changed group comes out. It's like School of Rock but swap Jack Black with Jesus Christ and music with service! Sœur-iously (this is a really good pun) I love missionaries so much. Thank you anyone who does and has ever done and who ever will do that.
My 3 generation picture.  My "father" (trainer), me, and my "son" (bleu)

2.5) And there is no group of missionaries who are more beloved and essentially family to me  than those who I met a year and a half ago. Half of us had half convictions of what we were about to do, half of us were scared out of our minds, half of us probably cried for like weeks, and every one of them are brilliant and talented and unique individuals. And some of them are people who I would be devastated if I didn't meet them again. And all but three of them will be going home here in a few weeks. And some of these people have changed my life and influenced me enormously. Some of these people supported and cared about me when I really needed it. Some of these people I saw this last Thursday! These 9 missionaries are some of the closest family I feel that I have and my only regret is that I don't/can't tell them that more often.

3) The most beautiful building I've ever been inside was recently just built in Paris not too far from Versailles. It's a temple. Which serves a similar function to a church but times infinity. That's almost a pun! I think it is a sacred and well kept and beautiful place of peace and quiet. Until it's dedicated anyone can go visit and tour and that was what we were all able to do: Huge missionary reunion as we all went and visited the temple.
Paris South Zone

Zone members, some of MTC group, and other missionaries outside the temple.
 My roomies Elders Daines and Bishop are sitting just to my right.

4) I've been in wayyyyyy tooooooo many meetings lately and I don't ever want to be a business man!

5) Circles are just such satisfying shapes and I feel like everything sort of connected this week. Things just came full circle. I sound like my high school ceramics teacher saying things like that; Shoutout to that relic from the 60's who refused to change! I took 3 classes with her!

And those ideas all add up to make a really great week. Like one of the best weeks of my life. I got to see people I didn't know if I'd ever see again. I saw 3 companions I've served with. I saw one of my favorite people ever and was able to live an incredibly touching and beautiful moment with her sitting outside the temple grounds during a lunch break; I don't know if I've ever cared less about the food I was supposed to be eating. It just felt good. Everything big worked out and came together and any weight I felt on my shoulders seemed to disappear as I walked through this beautiful garden and blessed temple.

Little moments like the few hours I spent in the temple, the hours I spend at church every Sunday, the minutes I spent not eating a sandwich and instead talking to my friend, the 43 minutes we spent talking to Caroline about hard times, the warm smile of an old lady who didn't have to many friends are what I have learned to live for! During these moments I think humanity bares its true colors. The goodness, smiles, and laughter peek through the cracks of some hardened mud-shell this cold and dirty world seems to try so hard to cover us with. There are not better moments that I have ever lived. Winning a sports game, getting a good ACT score, the best thing I've ever eaten, hot tubs, breaking a world record (Note that I haven't done this I'm just assuming-- though there's no doubt in my mind), skydiving, vacations in the Caribbean, Disneyland, fabulous riches!!!, even the emotional rollercoaster when a girl says yes to a painfully nervous young man asking her on a date for the first time... the best things the world has to offer... they have nothing on what these instants of heaven, infinity, love have to offer. I say with honesty I'd give all those things up at once for this week and the little beautiful moments that added up to make it.

I didn't think I'd have that much to say and those last two paragraphs sort of of just fell out into the email! Huh! I leave you until next time friends and family! Keep being yourselves and i think all of you would benefit from some ice-cream this week. You've earned. I really am sure.


Elder Alex Hacker

Week 74 - Paris Dreaming, Easter (from April 17)

Well hello there!

So without further ado...

Before I left for Paris, I did get to say goodbye to friends in Vannes (see pictures).  My new companion is Elder Bryan Currie who I actually knew and met back in Calais! We became good friends back then and that friendship just picked up wonderfully. He has been a Zone Leader for 1 transfer.  We are back to public transportation!   I'm in the Antony district and we have 3 other districts. We have cities like: Alençon, Le Mans, Orléans, Blois, Bourges, Tours, Chartres, Evry, and Melun in our zone, so I'll probably get to see all of those.

A very nice family from South America that we found in Vannes

JL and his family on the Sunday before I left Vannes

A dinner of deconstructed Shepard's Pie

I'm living in a 4-person appartement which is also new.  The other two missionaries are Elder Bishop and Elder Daines. In terms of missionary age it's an exceptionally old appartement. I'm younger in the mission than both of them despite slowly aging and getting up there. The appartement is definitely bigger than what I was used to living in. We live on the ground floor too! And the shower is lovely.   It's a waterfall style with optional handheld.  And the hot water never runs out.  It is a nice blessing.  My new address is: 41 Rue de la Fontaine Grelot, 92340 Bourg-La-Reine

Church here was awesome and the ward felt like 100ish people. I don't know the number but it was awesome! The most ethnically diverse congregation I've ever seen! I translated into English for a family visiting and a few other people. People were super friendly. It's like heaven! The building is located in a suburb called Malakove south of the actual Isle de France. 

So Paris Impressions! Paris is crazy! It's as crazy as everyone thinks it is. It's as pretty as one says it is. It's as busy as one says it is. It's as fast paced as one says it is. It's as dirty as one says it is. The most stressful thing for me: the metro has these little gates where you have to swipe a metro pass and I fear every time that it won't work and I will be trapped there being glared at by disgruntled Parisians behind me. Irrational fear! 

The best thing: the beautiful madness that takes place when so many people are squished together. It leads to weird street performers, weird street art, musicians, ideas being exchanged, 8000 different buses. I'm still absolutely stupefied by the sheer amount of people here! Sometimes it's a bit too much and a little smothering to be honest. The quantity of human resource squished into any given tram or metro just makes me happy! There are just so many dreams, vocations, passions, stories, fears, family situations, smiles, frowns in one metal tube. There are so many stories here. I think about the total number of subway cars that happen to have a live bee in them who makes writing emails peacefully more difficult and wonder why I am in the only one. The entire subway car is nervous and unhappy and we all shift away from the bee whenever he gets near us. With our combined age of like 800 (if everyone in here is 35) years of human wisdom you'd think we would know how to handle the disturbance caused by a single bee.

What missionary work looks like here in Paris and from the minor leadership post I've been conferred is totally different than what I've done in any other cities. It's no longer a question of how to find people to see but more of a how to find time to see the people who do want to see us. On our day off there are tons of missionaries here in the city so that adds a social aspect that was never there before! (On P-Day we played soccer with like 12 other missionaries.)

Alex and his companion and other leaders at the Mission Leadership Council

I also thought that touristic Paris (while pretty useless for missionary work) is exactly what people say it is. It is beautiful and full of street artists and keychain sellers.   (I've now seen 2 mimes. That is a huge percentage increase!)  It is lovingly guarded by the city and is safe and really is mostly what people dream about. In someways it surpasses expectations. I think it is really cool how this mythos surrounding Paris as this glorious city of dreams self fulfills. Paris becomes what people pretend and want it to be. It's like a dream/fantasy being perpetuated by an entire city, population, government, street performers, and even country to an extent. That is the power of dreaming! How cool is that! It's like Don Quixote becoming a knight! It's like Harry Potter actually being a household name. Dreaming is what makes and keeps Paris (the parts people come to see at least) Paris. I think you could just as easily call that commerce which isn't false but I prefer to believe in dreams over the paper people put in wallets. 

It's a curious effect-- feeling alone while in a city of like 12 Billion people. It's feels like being bummed out at a family reunion. And the feeling is exacerbated by the fact there are so many people around. Feeling alone while having 3 other roommates. Feeling alone at college. Feeling alone with your best friend(s). Feeling alone with your family. It doesn't make sense but it happens to all of us. And this week I was feeling a little bit alone. I felt like I lacked the means to express my feelings and wasn't understood, even arguably by myself. And than Easter rolled about. Which is a holiday where I usually become an unofficial Jelly Belly spokesperson but has some deeper Christian roots too. And while they contribute to society a lot from my point of view, Jelly Belly's don't exactly fill that void of loneliness that crops up at one moment or another. And I wouldn't give too much thought to it if these voids only cropped up in the lives a few persons once or twice; if loneliness wasn't devastating and life threatening; if this was a resolvable problem for everyone; if it didn't take so much out of life. 

I remember being at my beloved Grandmothers house once surrounded by loved ones and lovingly prepared chicken noodle soup (Grandma had even made the soup!!!) probably celebrating a birthday as just feeling absolutely nothing. Just feeling empty... And that's where this stream of consciousness blabber takes form. I really believe that Jesus is somebody who knows and understands who I am and who I was that day at Gma's. I really think he is the only person who's able to fill those voids. It was this idea that made me want to believe in Jesus in the first place and then later figure out if it was real or just a really cool and powerful idea. And now, when I feel lonely, like this week, when I feel overwhelmed or inadequate, when I have things I can't say or don't know how to say, I have someone who understands. And I'm not so lonely anymore. That's the most beautiful thing about Easter. That is cooler than jelly beans.

Next week I'm going around to all kinds of other cities so I'll have some cool things to talk about! More thoughts on Paris probably. Who knows?

Have a wonderful week please :)

-Elder Alex Hacker

Friday, April 21, 2017

Week 73 - Triumverate, Baby Birds, and Goodbyes (from April 10)

Hello my brothers and sisters. I hope your week went well!

For those of you were already discontent with the consistency of these emails you best gird up thy loins for disappointment! I'm switching cities and I'm being given a few more responsibilities and things to look after  ---> less time to pour into these heartfelt messages! On the plus side I'm moving to the South of Paris so I'll finally get to explore the big city!  [Alex is going to be a Zone Leader in the Paris South Zone]

District changes (the numbers represent the number of 6 week change periods we've been out for)

Last Monday we drove up to Rennes to became the Rennes Elders Power Trio! One of the missionaries in Rennes, a darling Elder Richards, he leveled up and they took him to Paris to be go be a leader there. He had to leave a week early for extra training so that left his companion alone. Enter the Vannes Elders. So this whole week was spent as a triumvirate zipping back and forth between our two cities. Busy. Busy. Busy.
The Power Trio shopping in Rennes

Oh how that was fun! Seriously one of the most fun and adventure filled weeks of my entire mission. Given that we had 3 missionaries, 1 car, 2 cities (3 if you count Lorient where we spent one of those days), a ton of people to see, 4 arms, 1 week, and 3 matching ties we were inexorably impelled to buy it was nonstop and went by in a blur. I feel like I served with Elder Dame and in Rennes at this point.

Engage list of highlights:

1) We went to JL's again. The house is nearly, nearly livable. It went from absolutely empty with everything needed to be done. It was actually abandoned with rotting wood and no utilities. No there just needs to be a few things added like paint and beds. We also found a nest with three little baby birdlets chillin' in it. Nature :)

2) Ate lots of fun cheeses!

3) This week has included more long drives than probably the rest of my mission combined. I haven't spent this much time in a car in ages! Road trips!! I will truly miss verdant French countrysides winding away into the distance. These dangerously thin roads that are definitely not two lanes and require two cars heading in opposite directions both to have a tire off the road. The forests that looked like gnarled, untamed, spooky, horror-movie woods when I first got here who are currently springing and blossoming and rocking that fairytale vaguely mystic look. It is so very pretty. 

4) I got to go explore another city and see Lorient. Our Friday was spent there looking for people to teach and talk with. I got to see some of everyone's favorite missionaries-- classics like Elder Brown and Elder Marion! The later lived in Greeley Colorado like an hour away from ol' Cheyenne.

5) Matching ties! Photos to come.

6) Paris soon! I'm less keen and confident about the whole responsibility thing but that should all  work out.

I was abruptly forced to say goodbye to Vannes and all the people there I loved. They welcomed me in like family. Saying goodbye to JL was pretty darn hard. Saying goodbye to all the missionaries that I took care of and frequented was an equally violent heart-rip. Angelica (The sweetest Chinese lady I've ever met who is moving back to Shanghai here in a few weeks) taught me the worst proverb I've ever heard, "When you make a new friend, it's just the beginning of a goodbye." I didn't like that much; it just kind of made me sad. Now I've gotten as used to goodbyes as one can ever because I've been changing lives every 6 months or so. I've been able to meet so many wonderful people.

Finding Day in Vannes.  Probably the last one I'll ever be at.

 I think that one of the purposes and greatest satisfaction of this life is to learn to share yourself with others. I knew someone for 7 weeks in a classroom and felt like my outlook on things had been dramatically shifted. I knew a different fellow for a total of 17 minutes and still consider him an important friend. I met three baby birds for 6 seconds this week and my heart was melted. I learned some super important lessons from short lived but bright friendships! So I'd change that proverb a little. "When you make a new friend you and that person get to decide how long and important that friendship will be regardless of whether you still see each other." So much of who I am is who you are and what you taught me. I might never see JL again until we're playing harps on clouds, though he's my friend until the day I stop thinking about him and telling stories about him. I think that's an okay definition of friendship-- someone to whom and about whom you talk about. So in that sense... I didn't say goodbye to any friends this week!

I will tell you about Paris this next week! Woooo! Time to change everything again!

Much love and kisses,

Elder Alex Hacker

Week 72 - Title suffers when there is no time (from April 3)

Found my new favorite idiom this week! 
On n'a pas gardé les cochons ensemble.
Which translates literally to: we haven't guarded/raised pigs together. And it is used as sort of a, "Don't you be getting friendly there; we did not grow up on a farm raising pigs together" thing. It basically means we aren't that good of friends. 

Hello friends and family! (~Kinda the same thing sometimes) I did raise pigs together with some of you. Some of you I've met more recently though. That doesn't have any bearing on how happy I am to be able to write you this email and thank you for all the influence you've had on me. I hope this finds everyone in good health and spirits!

Thank goodness for train rides, they:
1) make me feel like a business man sometimes. I think wearing a suit all the time also contributes.
2) give me time to write this email and organize thoughts. I'm writing a solid chunk of this email on a train heading from Rennes to Paris after having interviews with the mission president. The most hardcore sudoku fan I've ever seen (he is as old as you probably imagine he is) is hard at work to my right. He's been figuring intensely his paper for about 6 minutes without adding a number. Maybe he's praying for inspiration? Though he is seriously so impassioned by sudoku-- he's brought multiple highlighters and special grid paper-- and how beautiful is that? You go old sudoku man! Do the thing you love!  

This week lasted as long as the flavor of a stick of juicy fruit bubblegum. It was full and exciting and quite busy! We had a Zone Conference is Rennes where all the missionaries from the surrounding area met up for conference and meal. On Tuesday we had interviews with the mission president and his wife-- to see how we are doing and ask questions and talk about everything.

This weekend we watched General Conference! Something that might be described as Mormon TED talks on steroids? If that helps anyone grasp the concept. There are 5 two hour sessions that are broadcast over the internet. Personally I think it's a way God talks to and answers the questions of all of us little lost people here on earth but at any rate it's at the very least incredibly inspiring and makes a very uplifting and direction filled weekend. Usually I think God isn't too big a fan of direct messages and burning bushes... that would be too easy and kind of defeat the whole purpose. As I was listening to the French translation of one of the speakers from this conference, he is the only native French speaker as well so it wasn't actually a translation but the only talk from the conference given in French, he told the story of a young man named Alex. That name has always resonated with me for some reason. And at this one point this young man Alex found it hard to go to church. The one I know had a hard time because he wasn't too sure about what he believed, and he didn't exactly feel comfortable there, and waking up early was kind of hard. A number of things made going to church hard. So Alex had a hard time going. And there was a bishop who helped him a lot. And they made him do all kinds of church things: like taking bread and water to old people at the old folks home who forgot him each time, like giving talks in church, like many other things... and than this Alex who had a very hard time going to church and didn't know if that was his thing left on a mission with excitement. In effect this French man that I've met once through worldwide broadcast was describing something that resembled uncannily my own life. I felt like the most special person in the world sitting there knowing that I was receiving an answer, summary, and validation for most of my life up until this point. This wasn't even a subtle message. It was literally my name. It was the biggest reassurance and confidence boast from one of the people who's opinions I value a lot. God. So that's how I was reminded I'm doing the right thing this week. That's how a 2 hour video of old men talking reduced me to nearly sobbing mess. 

In the spirit of the fast approaching Easter holiday I figured I'd write a little about important Easter things. Like candy and chocolate rabbits. Without further ado: Pear Jelly Beans are by far my favorite flavor of jelly beans. I hope it was already clear that I was talking about Jelly Belly brand jelly beans because those are the only jelly beans that exist and any copies are apostate heretics. The singular reason why? That is what my grandpa said his favorite flavor was when I was a kid. And I looked up to my grand-pappy so much that whatever he said his favorite flavor was my favorite flavor too. And since then I haven't ever decided to change favorite flavors and I still love pear jelly beans because they are my grandfather's favorite type. They also sometimes look like they are camouflaged with the little green splotches here and there. That doesn't hurt. This was mostly just an excuse to say I love my Grandpa and you better try your best to love yours too. 

Have a great week everyone! In the immortal words of Tiny Tim from the Muppets Christmas Carol (Maybe the original one too... I wouldn't know that well) "God bless us, everyone."

Elder Alex Hacker

Week 71 Epilogue -- More on Breaking Boards (From March 27)

[Alex told us about the district activity he did with breaking boards in his email this week.  An account of that neat activity was shared by one of the missionaries in attendance, and we thought it was worth posting since it tells us a lot more about the lesson Alex was sharing]

From Elder Richards (who is a zone leader in Rennes and part of Alex's district]

Apart from cleaning and traveling, we had a great meeting in the city that I'm in, Rennes. We met together and discussed faith. We, as a mission, are going to help the congregations we are in attain the goals that they have fixed for themselves this year. To illustrate that faith, a stupendous Elder from Wyoming named Elder Hacker shared a story and an object lesson. He had us break plywood boards by punching them. The missionary holding the boards was the member, repressing them supporting us, holding on to us and our friends. We were the fists, doing everything with all the strength we had to help us accomplish the task of breaking the board.

His story was doing this at a seminary class (a religious class we go to before or during school. It's the reason why some Mormon high schoolers wake up at 5:30am everyday.) and being the last one to go up before the class and break he board. He watched the whole class, including smaller and scrawnier students, all succeed but told himself over and over that he would not be able to. He went up, feeling upset at this unfavorable situation, and gave the board a weak poke with his fist to get it over with and sit down. When he tried to return to his seat, however, his instructor encouraged him to try again. His friends then got behind him and his confidence rose. He tried again and this time did it at 100%. He said this was one of the times in his life where he really feels like he gave something his all. He broke the board and was enormously content. He said this is how faith works very often; we doubt, but if we move forward trusting in our Savior and our God, we are capable of great things that otherwise would be beyond us. I was able to do a little too much when my turn came, and ended up punching through the board and into my companions abdominal region.

Here is a little video Alex sent us of that board breaking activity, entitled "Soeur Flora Piazza smites a board in two during a district meeting"

Week 71 - Breaking Boards, Breaking Arms, and a Dreamworks' Sponsorship (from March 27)

Hats off to you dear friends!

How is everything going? What have the last three weeks been like for all of you? How about that warmer weather? 

For those who remember the exceptional Pinewood Derby career of Elder Hacker, I'm happy to announce that I've been fully and absolutely eclipsed by my younger brother Risto! For those of you that know him be sure to congratulate him on how fast the block of wood he carved rolled down a track! That would mean a lot to him.

I'm sincerely sorry that it has been a while since I last wrote. There were some busy weeks in there as those who make it past paragraph three will see. Thanks anyone who takes time to read! Thanks for the continued support. Thanks fo' being yourself! 

Trivia question! 
Which of the following three things were banned in the Hacker houshould during my youth?
A) meowing
B) talking in third-person
C) crystal light water bottle flavor packets that are any shades of red

It was actually all three! Just like the three weeks of content in this email! Hooray! 

Let it be abundantly clear that I was only responsible for the banning of one of these three things. Gravity is primarily responsible. Followed by the whiteness of our carpet. And lastly me. I was technically at fault for the red Crystal Light stained carpet. I remember not really liking any of these rules at the time. I didn't realize they were actually there for my well being. They protected against things! The carpet was safer. Chelsea and I were able to grow up speaking in 1st person like the rest of the world. The sanity of my parents was shielded against the quantity of cat noises my sister was a fond of making at the time. And people give us all kinds of rules of restrictions nowadays. Hospitals have rules about washing your hands, teachers make up occasionally arbitrary rules for their classroom, God gives people commandments, etc... And in a world where challenging rules is almost romanticized... or at least that's what I picked up from my high school career and college I think we get in the habit of not trusting counsel from other people. I definitely didn't trust my father when he said grumpily, "No more Crystal Light flavor packets." and I didn't trust either when people told me that God said, "Yo don't do drugs or smoke or drink." It depends on the source but people like my Dad, or God, or the FDA (We hope at least) give pretty good advice usually. And we spent a lot of time talking about this idea with people three weeks ago: That there are advice and tips from people all around us, some more trustworthy than others, but rules aren't just designed to stop us from doing things. It's such a simple concept but I really did and sometime do think about it like that. I've seen an enormous difference in my life as I have started listening to the rules and advice from the best sources. As I find and discover people who truly have an interest in my life trusting them and listening to them has become such an incredible blessing. Listen to each others ideas! Listen to any ideas God throws your way! 

Three weeks ago we had a missionary pow-wow  and I directed a little training thing. We punched through boards! I had a whale of a time explaining to the hardware guy that I was looking for wood of low-ish quality that would break easily. By the end I think the guy thought we wanted to punch boards as part of our weekly religious service of some sort; If only church were that intense.

Two weeks ago we met a charming German chap named Oliver! He was strolling around the port and had the widest and most relaxed grin the whole time we were talking to him. He is an exchange student and was awfully confused why there were two Americans wearing suits out here in France. He just had an infectious grin the whole time. We explained what we were doing in France and he was fascinated. He told us he had to go but that he would love to meet up next week and figure out the "meaning of life" with us... that really wasn't at all what we talked about but we told him would be happy to try our best! This first goodbye with Oliver was very different than the second goodbye with Oliver. Oliver told us that he just wanted to be satisfied with his life and that up until now, he hadn't felt it. Despite being happy and dancing through life, he just wasn't quite satisfied. So I told Oliver the things that satisfied me in life. I mentioned the day of my sister's wedding. I mentioned the first time I held my niece in my arms. I mentioned my convictions about why I was here on earth and just how beautiful life could be. I mentioned all this things. And I was able to look Oliver in the eyes and tell him I knew the same satisfaction was available to him too. Oliver thanked us for all the things we had said and for answering his questions... and ran off into the sunset. Which was a bittersweet ending to this short lived but important relationship :)

JL was gone to England for two weeks to pick up his family and he came back with his wife and adorable twin daughters! They are both 6. His daughters that is. I don't know how old his wife if because it's rude to ask gentleladies that type of question. The house is nearly livable! The bathroom has running water! The washing machine and dryer are functional! They found someone to cut their grass: JL doesn't have a cellphone yet so we showed up unannounced last week and ran into a random Frenchman we didn't recognize trying to talk to JL. With our cautious bilingualism we helped the two communicate. This guy was looking for some property where he could park his camper when he wasn't using it and in exchange he would maintenance the property... including lawn mowing. Crazy right? He shows up out of the blue? We show up out of the blue at the right time? JL has an empty sheltered pavilion which could store a caravan? Sometimes things just work out. Thank you Providence :) 
We also ate with the family: a pre-made lasagna out of a tin, all 6 of us, while sharing the 1.5 chairs we have finished and it was a wonderful happy meal.

-Breaking News!-
We spent a number of days this week in Rennes! Monday night we received a phone call telling us one of the missionaries there had fallen out of a window and was in the hospital. So In haste we quickly packed the car and drove the hour and a half (plus parking in a terribly confusing hospital parking full of strange and foreign vocabulary). Minutes of waiting in the urgent care waiting room slowly bleed into an hour or so... punctuated by a small vending machine break and a homeless man who's wandered into the hospital(??) who asks us, our neighbors, and even the nice secretary lady for cigarettes before meandering away... and then we meet up with the companion of our fallen missionary. It turns out our dear friend had broken both of his wrists and would need some screws put in. He was definitely staying the night and multiple days to follow at the hospital. And that's how we ended up spending that same amount of time in Rennes as a triumvirate battling the legendary efficiency of socialized medicine until our bed-ridden friend was appropriately healed. 

The most memorable moment of the whole adventure-- and the whole thing was pretty crazy and memorable-- may have been when our friend was talking on the phone with the mission nurse about the possibility that he may have to go home. We were all gathered in his sterile little room. The phone rings. Since he didn't exactly have functioning arms the phone had to be on speaker phone. This private intimate phone call was now a public affair for the six of us the room there. And being there just didn't feel right. Dialogue ensues. The mission nurse said something along the lines of "You recognize this means you might have to go home?" 

-Dramatic Pause-

Those of you who remember the animated film Spirit, Stallion of the Plains about a horse please raise your hand. Those of contrary opinion by the same sign. Just one year after the smashing hit Shrek the same beloved studio brought life to a much more forgotten movie about a wild horse running around that gets captured by evil cowboys and they try and break it-- in the traditional horse sense and they try to break his his will... his spirit if you will! Johnny Cash's melodic tunes inspire the horse to be unbreakable, to never give up, to always have some last bit of hope and eventually he escapes the cowboys and other events happen that I don't much remember. All this extensive illusion to say it's a movie about spirit. About the drive and will and desires deep inside and how powerful that is. There is also a mildly dope mars rover named Spirit! It's really inner spirit and conviction that fights off evil cowboys, that pushes the boundaries of space in an engineering marvel, that shakingly pushes 'speaker phone' with a cast-bound arm to talk about where you're going.  

-Conclude Soliloquy- 

Laying in his bed I watched this mars rover/animated horse/dear friend nod his head and say roughly "I have though about that and recognize it's a possibility". I don't know if I have ever heard just destitute sadness in a voice before. Here before me was someone who couldn't care less about his arms or physical pain because he was so much focused on the potential dashing of his dreams. All he wanted to do was to be able to stay and keep helping people in the best way he knew how. It was much harder to watch than mean cowboys. It was more frustrating than all the trial and error that went into designing a robot to drive on mars. It was much much sadder because I'm a big fan of this guy. Though. And thankfully there is always a "though": despite the broken voice, shattering dreams, and just how broken my friend seemed, in his moist eyes there really was a flame of determination and spirit. I knew he would cling to any hope or possibility he could get his hands on. This was someone broken physically, probably emotionally, but not at all spiritually! And that was one of the most powerful moments of the week. I learned once more that whatever crippling or overwhelming circumstances surround us, that spirit isn't something that goes away unless you let it. That's how incredibly cool Martian rovers, horses, and mostly humanity is! That's how powerful and exciting and wonderful you are! You've got a little flame inside that is obviously and definitely effected by outside conditions, but will never get snuffed out. What a sweet promise :) So don't you go snuffing anyone's spirits out, be that your own or that of someone else. 

That is way too much text. Something to read when you're on a train or something. For those of you who skipped down here I totally understand!  That's basically 3 weeks of partial emails stitched together! I hope that made sense to someone reading out there? 

I wish you a great week and really do love each of you! 

-with great love and the consistency of my seminary attendance
Elder Alex Hacker