Thursday, April 27, 2017

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

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