Friday, May 5, 2017

Week 76 - Happiness, Conferences, and Increasingly Vague Titles

To all concerned parties with the utmost respect,

You are the best! I'm very pro you guys. Keep doing good things! How did everything go this week?

Today we have on the agenda... children on playgrounds, family members growing up, the complexity of Parisian suburbs, and happiness. Without further ado, I launch into the thick of it:

Elder Currie and I were reminiscing about our assorted playground memories this week! Namely the progressively widening bans on certain playground games. First they took dodge ball. Then they stole tether ball of all things! We lost four square at one point but eventually got it back after several highly contested reforms. Tag was gone during a few years before I switched schools! A game that involved an unfortunate kid navigating multilevel playground equipment with his eyes closed while trying to tag people (In retrospect I see why this one may have been banned...). Etc... but the actual unexpected fruit of the conversation was a really simple memory!!! I'm probably 6. What a good age to be. I'm in a park and I'm running around the playground while my parents do something they falsely think is more fun than playgrounds. Some other child runs up to me and asks a soul-rending question, "Do you want to play tag?" And that's the memory. Though I feel those six simple words carry a beautiful message, "Do you want to play tag?" has been profoundly lost. Adults never ask each other that. I don't ask enough people that. And it's not the literal question I'm thinking about; grown men asking each other to play tag is kinda weird... it's more so the idea of seeing a stranger and the first thing you want to do with them is share fun with them. That other little kid saw another very dashing 6 year old and his only thought was, "he can play with me!" And there is so much innocence and simplicity wrapped up in that statement.

This week was punctuated by really joyous highs and the occasional moments of melancholy. A word more fun when pronounced the same as broccoli. We had our zone conference and I must say it was slightly less enjoyable and noticeably more stressful being the one putting on and animating the conference as opposed to being the happy-go-lucky participant! 

The end of Zone Conference planning with the STL Sisters

We catered for 34 people at Zone Conference though! It involved chopping many vegetables. It was originally supposed to be 30 but we actually had the special visitation of 4 additional sister missionaries. 3 of whom are very dear friends. We also had 3 "dying testimonies" (appropriately dramatic speeches for those about to go home) of the sisters who left the MTC at the same time as me. Voilà, an example of one of the joyous highs wrapped in a tortilla of sadness: 18 months ago, 10 strangers sat down in a random classroom-esque setting square in the middle of Provo, Utah. I'm almost as invested in all of these people as my actual family members. I don't think there has ever been a group of people that I have rooted for more. They have all taught me so much and really inspired me to change and be better. I spent three holidays and 7 weeks with these people. The typical family Thanksgiving feast was replaced with all of us gathered around a bunch of desks pushed together with little sack lunches and cute pre-proportioned tubes of peanut butter and jelly we had to spread ourselves on bread; we all went in a circle saying something we are grateful for. And it was wonderful! And it was like I was with a very different family comprised of mostly strangers! And even during those seven weeks, from my horribly subjective point of view, I saw people grow up. Listening to the dying testimonies of those three Sœur missionnaires was like reuniting with childhood friends after a long time and seeing how much they grew up. It was beautiful to hear their experiences and what they learned. It was funny to see what was the same and what was totally different. A marvelous heartbreak! And I think it might be a bit like what parents feel when they watch kids graduate, or what a dad feels like sending his kid off to college, or what The Dad felt sending his kids off to the college... pride, joy, happiness twinged somewhere with the sadness of watching someone leave. Another strange element is that basically none of those people-- maybe one or two somewhere-- I'm talking about will get to read this; Does pride and appreciation still make a sound if no one is around to hear it fall? What a wonderful experience overall though! I'm so grateful I was able to have that sort of reunion and memory.

My "dying" MTC sisters who were at Zone Conference

Unrelated news: Asking people where they live in Paris is a disaster. There are like 8,000 smaller sub-cities in Paris and I know a whopping 6 of them. Sometime people respond simply by giving a number denoting either which part of the heart of Paris they are from or which one of the surrounding departments they live in. I have taken to asking people to write their address down of late because I don't recognize much of what they are saying. A weird side effect of big cities!
A cool tiny tree house on a big tree that I saw just two hours ago.

An exciting jazz concert at a mall attached to a Metro station.  

One of the things we talked about during our zone conference presentation was happiness. I felt like there were a number of missionaries, myself included to an extent, here in the south of Paris who weren't proud of what they are doing and who they are and there seemed to be a number of superficial smiles... which really weighed on my soul because these people are so fantastic and so great and not one of them realizes how cool I think they are and how cool they are in the general cosmic significance sense of things! If only they could all feel like their favorite superhero, or book character, or scriptural personage, or actor, etc... as cheesy as it sounds that was actually one of the questions that really helped me figure out how to reshape and redirection my life: "If I were to read a book describing my life, how big a fan of my character would I be? And what do I need to change to become my would-be favorite character?" I think my greatest wish would be that all of you be your own favorite character; That all of you are truly proud of yourselves and the things you do...independent of the results or the apparent indifference of the universe or the great patience required; that you are happy. I unfortunately don't think I can say that has always been my greatest wish though now if most definitely is. So be happy this week please.

And thus ends the various ramblings of Elder Hacker for the week. It really was a nice week and I'm happy!

Have a great week everybody!

-Captain Elder Alex Hacker

On exchanges--authentic Italian pizza made for us by an Italian family.

Elder James and I.  And a Tank.

African chicken and potatoes from a dinner given to us by an Ami today