Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Week 78 - Translating, Temple, and Thanks (May 15, 2017)


Holà Mes Amigos,

Haven't used that greeting before! If you didn't tell your mom you
love do that before you read anymore. Seriously. That's not at all a
joke. I'm happy to be able to write and have thumbs (take that most
animals!) that let me type out little messages to you on beautiful
days like this! I hope everyone had a great week!

Translating live is an interesting thing! This is actually the third
city where I've done that. I feel like things have vastly improved in
that department since little baby Elder Hacker started translating
things a year and a half ago. At first it's quite the exercise because
it's basically like running two languages at the same time. There is a
strange sensation where you find that magical translating flow and you
synch up with what the person is saying and you're no longer playing
catch up. And the only the thing that distracts you is pride telling
you how cool you are for translating like that after which the whole
thing falls apart again. I think the strangest though coolest thing
has been live translating very sincere and often emotionally charged
statements: when someone bears testimony about something they love,
when someone recounts an emotionally painful experience, when someone
starts tearing up, when someone starts speaking with a sudden boldness
and confidence. It feels weird because here I am stealing what they
are saying into my voice... and the emotion and all the memory and
intimacy behind what they are saying only kinda of translates. It's
like hearing the best song in the world and wanting so dearly to share
it with others but being limited by your voice. I really do enjoy this!

Of all the unrealistic business ideas I've had over the course of my
life I think the best one I've had came this week while waiting for a
bus. Ready for this? Personalized Muppets. You send in a photo, pay
some probably exorbitant fee, and then you get a full sized muppet
that looks like yourself. That's the whole idea.

This Friday played out on the streets of Melun. We took a train down
in the morning! There is always a grand sense of adventure exploring a
new city and wandering new streets. My internal sense of geography has
gotten so much more refined. A year ago it took me weeks if not more
time to learn even part a city but now it comes so much quicker. I
didn't realize that was a learnable skill. There are many skills I've
learned that I didn't realize were things people could learn such as:
eating really fast, finding public toilets, eating tomatoes, walking a
lot, asking people for directions, smiling at strangers, etc... From
11 to about 5 we went all over the town speaking to whoever would
listen. And the sky smiled down from above. Though 6 o'clock rolls
about and the heavens start crying. Explosively. I heard more thunder
during the next two hours than the rest of my time here in France.
Hail and everything. And we all find ourselves cowering under a medium
pine tree. We are hungry. We also need to catch a train in about an
hour. In what will infamously rest in my memory we sprinted through
heavy curtains of rain to the nearest kebab shop. I don't think I've
ever been so soaked in my life. After 6 seconds clothing was as
saturated as possible and everything after was a carefree and
exhilarating dash. The Melun rain sprint ended with us finding the
most lost New Yorker possible: Eduardo. He was just bumming around
this pretty empty kebab stand. He was pretty cool!

I was able to Skype my family this Sunday! The next time I hear their
actual voices will be in person in 6 months when I go home. I'd pick a
bone with that little word 'home' though. While the empty streets of
Wyoming and it's sometimes azure heavens that crash into the horizon
will always hold a special place in my heart (ironic given I did and
still do poke fun at my silly state), and my family is voluntarily
locked for the rest of my life and we plan on hitting each other up
even after, my understanding of 'home' has changed a lot! I think part
of it was when strangers happily let me into their homes! I popped in
and spent Christmas with people I'd know for a week... and they gave
me fancy boxes of chocolate; some asylum-seeking refugees spent their
meager government wages on a traditional Sudanese meal without
breaking a sweat; etc... and on the other hand I've seen the less
hospitable side of humanity in the many people who have blatantly
ignored me as I've tried to talk to them; those who have taught me
French swears saying some kinda rude things; those who don't like me
for whatever reason without knowing me... and through all of that the
common factor that makes me feel at home is feeling loved, and feeling
love. I'm on a train as I write and I feel at home. The life of a
proselytizing nomad somehow feels comfortable and normal and it is
entirely something that exceeds, if not skips entirely, the brain.
Mine at the very least. I don't miss home when I fell like I am
already there :)

On Saturday we spent the whole day as volunteers at the temple. We
stood at the end of the tour in a snazzy little room and answered
questions and gave out pamphlets and magazines. It was incredibly fun
and satisfying; I felt like I was full of sunshine for the whole day.
And I needed that sunshine because it was incredibly exhausting for
even one day and I have no idea how certain missionaries and other
volunteers survived plural weeks of that. I feel like my feet are
still recovering a bit from all the standing. A sampling of
cool/interesting moments from that day:

-I ran into a larger balding fellow who funnily enough barely talked
about the temple visit with me... though he talked about another
pretty special and magical place: Disneyland! This guy jumped on board
way back in the early days of Disney and spoke fondly of the glory
days of working at Disneyland. When they were all dressed up-- suits,
hats, clean hands-- and imagination reigned. It was really an
incredible perspective! Already being a pretty large Disney advocate
myself his poetic waxing really was something to behold.

-I fear being a bit of a broken record but I was blessed enough to see
many acquaintances, friends, teachers, those I taught, missionaries,
members, etc... during those twelve hours on my feet. I was able to
work side by side with some of my favorite people during huge parts of
the day! Imagine the absolute best part of your job concentrated with
all the fluff diluted out-- than throw in your best friends--
effectively family (see above)-- and do that for a whole day. Like I
was back at Spooners chopping fruit with my then dear coworker
Rebecca. It captured that same feeling. I didn't show it outwardly
then nor am I able to express it in words now though it was definitely
one of those life-highlighting and life-shaping moments.

-There was a woman in her 50's who came in and started talking about
her family. It's not doing too well. She talked about parents who
didn't and don't respect and make the effort with their kids. Kids who
take off and break contact. Siblings that don't see each other. And
see clearly wasn't happy nor feel in peace about this. She wanted the
family to work. I was pretty clueless as to what to say as I realized
just how different my understanding and belief about family was and
the extremes to which that belief has changed my family dynamic. We
180'd from a young family looking to find a house and
work and love to an awesome supportive community of people who are
each other's best friends! And that's what's we should definitely all
shoot for! Shouldn't we all have the right to that? I realized, with
the violence of a slap in the face, things would not have turned out
the way they did if I didn't believe in the family and know it could
and would work out. How thankful I am for that!!

I'd finish by expressing gratitude. I've learned that I'm not nearly
good enough at doing that. I read a friends email just a few hours ago
and essentially the only thing included was thanksgiving. The way she
described her week was both humbling and inspiring! Where would I be
if not for you guys? I wouldn't be here, that's for sure. All the few
ounces of goodness and light I've been able to pick up and learn here
and there are linked to all of you and the plethora of ways you
inspire me. My mother gets a huge slice of credit pie but so does
each one of you! Whipped cream as desired. Surcharge for ice cream on
top. And I used to think it wasn't okay to except credit pie from
others but that just leaves a disappointed pie-maker and someone who's
still hungry. So please know of the enormous gratitude and thanks I
have for you! Grateful tears feel different than other types and that
is just a quirky biological reflection of the true depth of emotion
that is actually chillin' inside! I thank you profusely. While
vigorously shaking your hand. Than hugging you. And any other gesture
I could ever offer. I have never felt so carried and supported and
important than when you were there... This isn't very specific but
then again I'm writing to more than a handful of people. Everyone of
you and your dogs have contributed greatly to the Elder Alex Hacker
who is currently writing this ramble-y sermon-y text! So thanks.
That's the best message right now and the only one left to share.
Thanks. And let that thanks be manifest in my actions and behavior
towards you and others and God. Don't forget to eat and share credit
pie with someone this week! Please!

With much feeling,
-Amateur Pie Enthusiast (I was going to put chef but that gives me too
much credit!) Elder Alex Hacker

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