Monday, February 25, 2013

It's that time of the Week!

Elder Owusu, Fifi, her brother (named Herve), and me... looking super Yovo-y in my all white attire! At least that's what Fifi called me haha.

Helllooo Everybody,

Well... another crazy week here in Togo! Nothing much happened this week... but I did have my first baptism! Her name is Fifi... she's a college student down in Congo but is with her family up here for a little bit. Her brother is a member already, but she loved to make things tough for us. Always asking funny questions... she's just really funny. She's the one who calls us her children (even though she is only a few months older than Elder Owusu!). Unfortunatly, she's going home in a few days to go back to school for two years so I won't be able to see her again for a while. I'll miss her a whole lot though... she's a lot of fun to just chat with and what not. I'm going to try to get her email address before she leaves. For a while, we were having lessons with her everyday, and one day we just came by and talked with her about random stuff. That's what really made us good friends with her... and I think just being there for her showed us that we cared about her a lot. Although... Elder Owusu kind of doesn't like her very much anymore because at Church yesterday, she deleted ALL of his pictures on his camera because she didn't know what she was doing (since his camera is in English). He was pretty depressed the whole rest of the day. We're going to try to give it to a member and see if he can recover it for him. 

So yeah... finally got a baptism under my belt! The baptism itself went fine and was really nice because the whole zone only had 3 people being baptized so it made for a very peaceful and spiritual service. It was really nice and an experience I will never forget. 

Other than that, things have been good. As always, French has been coming along well, albeit slow! I did have my first English hiccup though! We were talking about mosquitos one night (me and the other missionaries in my appt)... and I completely forgot that mosquitos "bite" you. In French, the verb is "piquer" and I could only remember the French way to say it. I was like, "Yeah, the mosquitos 'pique' you so much here." Then I paused for a moment and was like, wait HOLD ON! That is not English!! Took me about 10-15 seconds to remember that mosquitos bite you, not "pique" you! Forgetting English is a good sign, I think! 

Hmmmm... what else to talk about... oh yeah... cut my hair for the first time today... errrrrr... yeah. What. A. Mess. Took me forever just because my shaver kept dying on me (so I had to let it charge a little bit and then use it until it died again after a few seconds). My hair doesn't look terrible but I'm not exactly sure it looks good either. I'm not done with it either because it ended up taking me so long that we had to leave and go to the Cyber to write letters home. And I have a ton of hair on my back right now, even though I took a shower before I came here... sweat, itchey hair, irritated skin... wow, what a wonderful combination! (that was sarcasm!) 

So this week Elder Gunderson moved into our appartment to replace Elder Kabango. Elder Imoukuede and I kinda rejoiced a little bit because he kinda made us eat together with everyone (we would all put in money together and then take turns making food). Neither of us had the guts to tell him that we were tired of eating food we didn't like (as him and Elder Kiputa would make Congelese pate all the time with the same freaking tomato paste sauce all the time). And then we would have that same tomato sauce with rice and noodles. So, needless to say, I never really looked forward to lunch and dinner while Elder Kabango was here. One thing Elder Gunderson has been trying to teach me here is that you don't have to be depressed because of the food here. You can eat well on your own if you know where to look! So, at the end of this month, once we're finished with all of our food that we bought together, I think I'm going to start actually making good food. No more gross fish heads, chicken bones, or pate all the time! But no need to fear, I will have plenty of time to eat weird food... Elder Gunderson showed me the monkey he ate in Benin, so I'm sure I'll have the chance to eat bizzare foods still.

Today, Elder Gunderson actually took me to a place called Citimart. There I was able to buy REAL A&W rootbeer, Dr. Pepper, TEXAS PETE'S HOT SAUCE (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and a few other things too. The hot sauce though was a splurge on my part... it cost over 2200 francs which is really expensive on a missionary budget. But, it will be put to good use if I have to eat more dull missionary made food. Who knows... maybe with that, Pate would actually taste good! Haha... who am I kidding... that's impossible. I don't think Pate could ever taste good.

The only problem I've been having is my money this month. I wasn't able to get it out of the ATM because it ate it all (basically, it says I withdrew it but I never got any money). Long story short, I'm short 13,000 francs this month. Rather than make a big deal about it, I'm just trying to survive for two more days (we can withdraw the last day of every month)... so I've been having to use some personal funds but that's not too big of a deal when you're using it to buy TEXAS PETE'S HOT SAUCE! 

Let's see... I also left my sunglasses in a taxi because they fell out of my bag... so mad about that. Walking back to the appt around noon really, really sucks. I think I might have to buy a cheap pair but I won't be able to see. That's why I need my contacts!!! Ugh... it's pretty bad during the day... and I also noticed the weird tan line on my face, caused by my glasses... hence another reason I need my contacts haha.

People here seem to be thinking I'm losing weight here too... I don't really think that's the case though! I feel the same as ever, so I'm not sure what people are talking about here. I think it's because I got new pants that don't make me look as big. Through one of Elder Owusu's old converts, we were able to get two really nice pairs of pants for 2500 francs (or about 5 dollars). One of them had a hole in the crotch, so I took that (as well as my baptisimal pants to get hemmed and my old pair of pants that ripped) and got those all taken care of. In total, I only spent 800 francs (or a little more than a dollar) to get all the stitch work done. And they did a really great job with it too! 

This week I'm going to try to take some pictures of my sector so people can have an idea of what I see every day. It will be hard though, as you're not supposed to take pictures while going out because people will think your a tourist and might try to rob you or something. I'll see what I can do though. 

Feel bad that I don't have any cool stories to share with anyone! No real cool adventures this week... but with time I'm sure they will come. I've kinda just felt like my mission so far has just been a bunch of cool little experiences here and there... which is fine for me, but I feel like people expect me to fight Rhinos out here or have to ride an elephant to my sector everyday! I can say that I'm quite thankful that my life is not like that out here though!

I have this weird feeling like the week to come is going to be a really good week... not sure why, but who knows! Guess we'll have to wait 'till next week to find out. 

Well... hope things are going well back home. Can't believe it's almost already March! I'm a bit scared though... as apparently, the rainy season starts this month and I've only heard bad things about that. I hope my umbrella will last through it all! 

I keep feeling like there's something I'm forgetting to talk about, but I can't just put my finger on it yet... I'll probably remember it as soon as I walk out of here! 

Miss everyone a ton and hope to hear from everybody soon! 

With love,

Elder Hawkins

Fifi and her bro. He's actually been a member for like 3 years or something, so he was really helpful to have with us at our lessons with Fifi.

Random picture that Elder Owusu took of me waiting to get changed... I think I got more wet in the changing room than the actual baptism. No breeze or ventilation of any sorts makes a really tiny changing room SUPER HOT! Needless to say... the sweat was pretty gross. 

Me and my spiffy new hair cut (the bad angle on my hair, done slightly on purpose but also because I didn't want to take a thousands pictures just to try and get a good picture of my hair)

Note from the Fro: Didn't have the heart to tell him I couldn't tell the difference between his haircut and the wall behind him.  Oh well! But YAY!  A baptism!  That sounds like a TOTALLY exciting week to me!  And his pants fixed, woohooooo!  Meant to ask him what exactly "Pate" is.  Because in French if you spell that word like "pâtes" it would just mean pasta.  However, if you spell it like pâté, well that's entirely different!  That would be a mixture of ground meat and fat mixed into a spreadable-type paste.  I'm kind of thinking that's what he's referring to, since it doesn't sound like he likes it much!  Even with hot sauce.  And trust me, he thinks hot sauce makes EVERYTHING better!  SO glad he has Elder G to teach him how to eat in Africa!!!  (monkey tasting aside....)

Tidbits to from a letter to Sur:  I really like what you said about trying things that might not necessarily result in success, but trying is what counts. That's what I've been learning about French. It's really all about just speaking it without fear, or as you have mentioned before, pretending/acting that you're already French. I've realized that the only way I'm going to speak this language fluently is just pushing the fear away and just doing it. For example, when Elder Owusu first came here, I had to use the phone to call all our amis and what not, since I actually knew them. Since then, I'm still the one who is always holding the phone and, on occasion, answering and making calls. It takes a lot of courage because I still don't feel like a comfortable French speaker, but on almost all occasions, I usually come away with knowing what people say over the phone. 

I've even been trying to apply this same principle to my lessons. I'm not sure where I picked this up, but I read somewhere (probably in Preach my Gospel) about how you shouldn't worry how to say things during lessons. You should try to focus on concentrating on what is being said and not on how you're going to respond. I've found that you really need to have faith on the Lord... when you know what to say (but maybe not in French) you just gotta try your best and just say it! 

Cool story actually... we've been teaching this older woman named Mama Yvonne (anyone who looks like they could be a mom... we just call them all Mama). We had this super long lesson with her our first lesson (she was asking a lot of questions). At the end of the lesson, she asked about why we don't believe in people having evil spirits (like an anti-Holy Ghost type thing). My comp was about to respond, but I felt like I had the perfect explaination. I explained to her that it's a lot like night and day. The only difference between the two is the Sun... night is only a lack of sun, not an anti-Sun. So, I explained that in a similar way, people become like that when they lack the gospel in their life... in doing so, there is no good light, but there is ample oppertunity for the temptations of the devil to creep in and ruin things. So, I was pretty proud of myself for explaining that (with relative ease actually). I asked my comp what he thought about the explanation (after the lesson), to which he responded that I gave a perfect example. 

So, it's little things like that that increase my faith little by little. I feel like my French is getting more and more comfortable, but I just need to keep fine tuning it. I haven't had much time to work in my French workbook this week, but I've turned all my personal study into French (rather than studying things in English) after a suggestion from Elder Owusu. It's going good so far and I get mostly everything that it talks about, but I just need to master it, you know? Still trying to get comfortable with it... I really want to be able to comprehend the media that I hear in the Taxis... so that way I can watch French stuff when I get home! It will come... but I just gotta have patience I suppose.

Tidbits from email conversations

Fro: You didn't have to shave your head like Elder Kunz did you?

Elder H: No I'm not bald! I think I don't look half bad... it's short but not super short like most other people here. I haven't gotten the chance to see Elder Kunz, but I have been hearing about him through Elder Gunderson, who yes, now lives in my apt! I really wish I could see Elder Kunz sometime but I'm not sure when! I can't call him right now because our credit is super low on the phone (we get recharged on the first of the month). Hopefully one of us gets transfered into the same zone sometime soon...

And guess what? I didn't get the package yet!!!! UGH! I need to call the couple there and ask them to make sure the APs bring it with them this week with the new missionaries coming in. Maybe you should email them too!? It is there right?

Fro: Sis Semken told me she was sending it with the transfers. I'll email her again! 
That's very frustrating. What have you been eating this week? Need a pic of your awesome haircut!

Elder H: Errrrr... right... maybe I can get a pic but it's kinda awkward to do that in the Cyber! 

I've just been eating what the other's have been making... aka awful, cheap African food (pate, spaghetti/noodles with the SAME sauce every single time)... I think we're going to start eventually making our own food (because the missionaries from Africa, I hate to say it, really don't know how to cook good American food). So, hopefully I can make it by... when I get my money out this week, I'm going to try and see what I can do that's not too expensive. I'm gonna get Elder G and Elder Owusu to help me out a bit.

Fro: I will send you some simple recipes next week, just tell me some of the available ingredients!  What else is going on ?

Elder H: That would be awesome!  Nothing much really. Just writing up the letter right now. My big surpirse this week will be that I had my first baptism!

Fro: AWESOME!!! Can't wait to hear! That's so cool. :)

Elder H: Yeah really! Long time coming... it was good though. Hopefully I'll be able to upload a few good pics from it too.

Fro: Do we get more adventures-in-eating this week?!

Elder H: No, not this week.. Yeah we went to Akif's today and it was soooo good! I hope we can keep going there... problem is that it's a bit expensive going out there all the time... but Elder Gundersen is helping me find other good ways to eat well.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Not sure how big this letter will get to be due to lack of time!

Hipster pic for Sienna

Hey everybody! 

Hope all is well back in the states... no matter how cold it is (or hot, for those reading in AZ!)

This week was a good week and a quick one at that! Finally hit the one month mark so I'm really happy about that. I feel like as I get more and more time under my belt, things will really start to pick up timewise... well, that's what I'm hoping for at least! We shall see.

So... my African Adventures in Food have continued this week. First, this week... I ate what was probably the saltiest fish known to man... at moments, I really thought I was eating pure salt water when I ate this fish... not sure what it was called, but, needless to say it was gross. Secondly... I ate a fish head this week! When dinner came around, Elder Kabango brought out all the plates of food and I noticed that mine had a fish head on it... usually, when that happens, I'm like... errrr... noooo thanks and I switch with someone. But... all the other plates had fish heads too! I should have seen it coming when the day before everyone had a fish tail but I wasn't that smart. It was actually not that bad... had to eat around the fried in eyes and the mouth though... that was gross. Elder Imoukuede ate the bones for me though (eyes and all) as I just couldn't do that. But no fear! 

(sorry, I couldn't resist!!!)

That leads me to the third and final African Adventures in Food, which is when I finally ate my first full chicken bone today. Here, people eat everything including the bone. I haven't been able to do it up to this point, but one day during lunch, I decided that I should try it... the worst part about it was... it actually wasn't that bad. Not sure if I will do it again, but it wasn't as awful as you would imagine. Rather edible, actually. I feel like I bonded with Pixie a little bit, too.

Not much other news... but P-Day was exciting! We went to the Grand-Marche today... wow... that was an experience. It's basically just downtown roads with tons and tons of vendors on it. There's really nothing like it I can compare it to in the states. It's not like one big place like I imagined it to be... it's really just streets that have been taken over by thousands of street vendors. And of course, being white, EVERYONE wants MY attention. Everybody kept coming up to me and showing me what they were selling. I just keep shaking my hand and saying "non, merci". So annoying! In the 2ish hours we spent there, I only saw three other white people so you can imagine all the other stares I got... I stick out like a sore thumb... I'm pretty sure the only thing people see when they see me is money... everyone just assumes that I'm loaded and ready to spend on anything. Really, really annoying. Still, had a fun time at the marche! Bought a pair of dress pants for 1500 francs ($3) and they fit quite well (I'm wearing them now in case you were wondering!). 

Then, later today, we also went to Champion which is a Super Marche here... basically, a huge French grocery store. They had everything... Nutella, a butchery, cheese, frozen pizzas... everything! It would be really easy to shop there if it was closer and if I actually lived on a real budget, not a missionary budget. It was funny because I saw toooons of white French people today! Complete opposite of what the Grand Marche was.

Sorry everybody! I ran out of time today so I won't be able to type anything else right now. Hopefully next week I can send more stuff, but we didn't have too much time today especially since I had to reply to a bunch of emails today.

Hope everyone is doing well back home!


Elder Hawkins

The song the little kids sing to the Americans. So cute!

P.S. Weird question, but could you send that weird peg game from Cracker Barrell to me? One of the guys in my apt asked me for some since they're only made in America. He'll pay me back but he wants to have it!

Note from the Fro: He ran out of time as he had lots of emails to respond to, which is nice, THANK YOU all who wrote to him!  So here are some tidbits I gleaned from letters he wrote to his Dad and siblings.  Also, a few things I chatted with him about.  He's doing really well, in good spirits and sounds like he's got his groove.  Hooray!  Also, scroll down for pics!

Fro: Did you get your package?

Elder HNot yet... but they are doing exchanges on Thursday when they will be bringing a new missionary to replace Elder Kabango (got transferred to Benin) so I'm sure I'll get it by then... I'm excited though... because I'm ALL out of my American goodness! Fa-rooo! Not good!

Fro: So is there really a lot of sand blowing in the air?

Elder H:  Yeah... not sure how you heard about that but recently, it's been super windy in the afternoons and night... it always gets windy at those times (makes it really nice when you have to walk so much) but the sand has been bad lately. Like we were having a lesson the other day and our Investigator (in French, they're called "amis de l'eglise which I think is better, so I might just start saying ami... I'm sure you already knew about they're name in French though!). But anyway, the wind kept blowing sand up into his face which made it really hard for him to read everything we gave him... so yeah, wind has been crazy. Oh, and ask Elder Hanna about the package he took with him. And tell him he needs to email me!

Fro: Have you eaten at Akif's yet?

Elder HYeah... funny story about that. We had it when I first got here... didin't think it was that great, though I did think it was pretty good.  Then, last Tuesday came around and we had Zone Conference with the mission prez. For lunch, they got us all hamburgers and chuwamas (arab burrito basically)... same thing I ate when I first got to Togo. It was GLORIOUS!!! It was soooooooo amazing... even though it was the same exact food I ate when I first got to Togo... it was soooo much better after eating what I had to eat everyday... now every day... I have the craving to go there but it's just too far away from our sector to get out there so... yeah... sadness :(

FroLol!  It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it???  Well you better work hard to win the clean apartment award so you get taken out for a good meal! I'll keep my fingers crossed that you win one of these days!

Elder HYeah... me and Elder Imoukuede and I really want to win it... but it's almost impossible. Elder Kunz thinks his apartment is bad? Ours is worse! Our apartment was the very, very first apartment the Church ever bought for missionaries since they opened up Togo. So it is suuuuper old and realllllly junky... the newer apartments always win the best apartment... hopefully we can win it this next month with a little elbow grease but it will be hard. I'll let you know how it goes. But trust me... with the food we eat everyday... I REALLY want to win!!!!

Fro: You can do it!  Just get yourself a plan and say I know I can! (family joke)

FroOne of the moms posted a video of meat being sold off the street in Benin. Had a whole cow they were butchering right there in the street. Gross! Pretty much burned into my memory now. :/

Elder HYeah... they butcher things right on the street... extremely unsanitary!!!!!!! But that's how we have to buy our meat! I'm kinda afraid I'm going to get worms or something.  Anyway, I gotta go, we have an appointment!  Tell everyone I'm sorry for the short letter but hopefully the pictures can make up for that (each picture is worth 1000 words right?!) 

Anyway, love you! Hope you have a good week! Thanks for all the love, support, and prayers!
The victim. 

The Executioner. (aka Elder Hanna!) 


Us all enjoying our last meal with Elder Hanna... aka the bunny meal

Me and Elder Imoukuede at a Zone Conference

 Just me turning into an African (notice what my ring has done!)
(Fro: I'd say he has a ways to go still! LOL!)

That's our RS Pres's dog! Her name is Hola because the RS Pres' husband works in Guinea, where they speak Spanish (therefore, he knows spanish) I didn't find out that he spoke Spanish until yesterday, so I always though it was really bizzare that their dog was named Hola! Like... huh... that's random! She's so scared of the missionaries though, so we don't get to ever pet her or anything :(

Elder Ranto, Elder Kabango, President Weed, and Elder Imoukuede

Me with a recent convert... a couple that Elder Kabango and Elder Imoukuede taught together. They're really nice and I think they will be awesome in the Church together... they have a cute kid too.

This was last night at a mangez-vous with our Branch President and his family... it wasn't Pate! Hooray! That's my whole apartment right there... it's funny, because here, I've found it very weird how when people feed the missionaries, they rarely eat with you... in fact they never do! So, it's kinda awkward when you're just eating there with your comp while the person who fed you is doing other stuff or watching you eat... yup... kinda weird. 

Tidbits from letters to the family:

To Sur (aka Dad):
Anyway, things have been going good here though. I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of things here more and more. The bad days will come, sure, but I'm getting much better at handling them I feel. The French is coming... slowly but surely... I feel like my comprehension has improved a lot, I now it's just finding the right words to say after they're done speaking. My companion has been giving me the reigns latlely, so it really is trial by fire right now! It's going good though... I always have my comp as my backup plan in case they don't get everything I say... sometimes, the accent can be really hard for them, so he's always good to have by my side. Hope you have a good time celebrating those two great presidents! I miss American history a lot! I haven't learned much African history (just because it's not a huge topic of conversation, but hopefully as I progress with my French I can learn more about the country). It really is amazing to see how inspired those individuals were... how so many things could have gone wrong but they added up perfectly... Washington could have done so many things that would have changed the course of American history forever. Being in a country like this, and hearing about the countries where all my roommates are from (Nigeria, Congo, and Ghana)... makes you really apprecaite America... I tell you what... people really want to go to America too! They love Americans (I think it's iffy with the French sometimes!) but everyone here wants to go to America some day... even all the missionaries. It's hard not to brag about the US sometimes, but I do! I feel like more Americans need to live in another country for a long period of time... it would make the USA a much better place just because people will realize how amazing our country is! Anyway... got to get going now. Hope your trip to Asia goes well! Let me know how China is... funny thing is, all those motos you see over there are the same ones I see over here I bet! They import all these junky Chinese motorbikes here because they're cheap... they're awful! I always see them breaking down and the stall right in the middle of the street when they stop at a stop light. 

Thanks for the letters again! 

So, you asked what I have to do differently here in Africa... how about EVERYTHING!!! Cold showers every morning, fake milk (you mix powder and syrup together with water), sweating constantly... man everything I do is different. It's fun though... I'm really starting to get used to things here now and starting to adjust. I have to take two showers every day here now because I sweat so much, and the one at night is sooooo nice with the refreshing cold water. Other things I have to do differently... I have to put mosquito spray on every night... so I feel like I'm camping every night lol. Yeah... Africa is definitely a differently place from America. Also... there's no such things as a grocery store here... you have to buy everything in open markets and on the street because the super markets they do have here are expensive... so, a lot of times I'll see people just chopping up raw meat right in front of me on the road... I'm surprised I haven't died yet with the food I have to eat! I haven't really met anybody who has inspired me lately. But I'm going to look for that this week! Ask me the same question next week and I'm sure the Lord will show me somebody this week if I pray to have someone inspire me! I'll let you know how it goes! Anyway, thank you for the email. I always appreciate it! Stay strong and keep reading your scriptures! I'm proud of the example you set forth for your friends... so cool!

Talk to you soon!

To Deet! (aka Keegan):
Oh baseball... I knew it was starting soon because I always remember that pitchers and catchers report around Feb. 15! So, when that day came, I was like... aghhh! Baseball is almost starting!!! Speaking of which, right before I got here, I we were at a mangez-vous and there was a girl wearing a Nationals cap... the whole time I was just thinking... get that dumb hat off your head! Haha... I see tons of random baseball caps here... including a Phillies cap and a BYU cap! I need to mention those in my letter today. Hopefully the football coach doesn't get you too crazy... I still say stick with baseball, but if you like football, you can still do both. I like the WR idea... but yeah, trust me you would not want to be playing baseball out here. In the afternoons, it actually gets super windy which feels really nice for me, but would be awful for a baseball player!  Glad to see that you made it through the Gosepls! I really, really need to read them all the way through because we quote so much scripture from the New Testament during classes. I'm telling you, look for scriptures that talk about Christ setting up the organization of the Church... those will come in really handy if you decide to go on a mission! Here, it's all about convincing people of the authority of our Church, which means comparing it to the Church that Christ established on the Earth when he was alive... because everyone here has already been baptized, whenever we invite them to be baptized, they're like, yeah I was already baptized... so yeah... Acts is a good place to look at for the organization of the Church. Also, Acts gets cool when you start to see the conversion of Saul!  Well, glad things are going good. Got to get going now, but just know things are going good out here in Togo. Glad to see you like the letters! And don't go crashing the car like I did lol... I remember my first time driving... it was weird at first, but you start to get the hang of it... you know, you could just come out here to Togo where you don't even need a license to drive the motos here... it's so crazy... which is why it's against mission rules to use Moto taxis! But yeah, my advice for the learner's permit test is to use the manual that PA provides online... they have practice questions with answers... and they happen to be the same exact questions that they use on the exams! So just familiarize yourself with that. 

Good luck in school. Hope to hear from you soon!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Time is either flying or going by really slow... can't tell which!

Bonjour tous le monde!

Wow… what a crazy week it has been. So Fro has been telling me about how everyone wants to hear about “le lapin”… oh boy.

So, in celebrating Elder Hanna’s departure, we bought a bunny from Elome. Oh my goodness… poor thing. We had to walk all the way home with it in the bag… and it was squished between two giant coconuts! We finally got home and waited for Elder Hanna to get home and do the honors. I didn’t want to watch it, but Elder Hanna needed me to be his photographer so lo and behold, I had to go down to our driveway (I guess you could call it) and watch the grossness.

Elder Hanna killed it pretty cleanly… thankfully it didn’t whine at all so it wasn’t too gut wrenching. But then the things Elder Kiputa had to do to it to eat it. Grooossse. Had to burn off all the fur (wow did it look gross after that) and then he washed it in the sink. I later asked him if he threw away the sponge he used to clean it and he said no, it was actually the one right next to me (I was washing dishes at the time). I was like SERIOUSLY!?! That’s gross… that should not still be here. .. so I threw it away… let’s just say… Africans are just a tiny bit different than Americans sometimes (okay, super different!)

So on to the dinner… it was a grand feast! We made French fries and had a special blue lemonade called “Blue Lady”… weird name, but quite delicious and tasty. As were the French fries. The rabbit? Wow… that was awful. I thought I was chewing gum most of the time, but then I would remember it was actually supposed to be meat, which would make me gag a little. And… I’m almost certain I ate the butt… alllllllmoooosssst certain. I can’t tell you how I know that, but just trust me… there’s a lot of evidence to support that statement.

I will say I do miss actually knowing what part of the animal I eat… here whether cooked by a member or one of the Elders in my apartment, I rarely know what part of the chicken (or whatever else) I’m eating. Kinda just have to close my eyes and eat around the bone (unlike all my other roommates here in Tokoin, who are all Africa, and thus eat the bone too… one day I’ll do it but right now, I’m just easing into things).

Things have been going good other than that though! Elder Owusu-Fenyi is so funny and crazy. He’s always like, “man someone is tired/hungry/hot” in his cool Ghanan accent. He only has about 5-6 months left, so he’s worn out, but I make him work! I’ve really had to step up my game and set appointments myself, which means using our cell phone to call our investigators to make appointments. Sooooo hard especially since it’s not crystal clear… but before every call I pray, pray, and pray some more that I can understand these awesome people and they can understand me. Usually it works, but sometimes Elder Owusu just takes the phone and saves me!
So yeah, he’s really fun to talk to. We get along really good.  And while I don’t understand everything he says, it’s nice having a comp who can speak English (don’t worry, we speak a lot of French together too!). He wears an awesome hat too! I’ll have to get a picture with him next week though!

Shifting gears now (haha that’s for my old Sunday School class in Doylestown!), I’ll talk a little bit about my daily schedule. We wake up at 6 AM and we have until 7:30 to get showered, dressed, and ready. Then we have personal study from 7:30 to 8:30 which I usually do outside since there’s a nice breeze and I like to play my music out there to not disturb anybody. From 8:30 to 10:30, we do companion study, which is where we talk about what we learned during personal study, talk about our lessons with investigators, etc. It’s 2 hours because for the first 12 weeks, my comp has to train me… that usually involves watching episodes of “the District” (training videos that I’ve seen over 1.9 billion times) and reading from Preach My Gospel.  Then we go out and usually just have one appointment from 10:30 to 12:30 since it takes a half hour just to get to our sector. From 12:30 to 2:30, we have lunch and language study (most of the other missionaries just sleep though! The reason our lang study is in the middle of the day and not in the morning like most other missions is because it’s just sooooooooooo hot during that time of day and the Togolese just sleep during that time of day anyway). Then from 2:30 to 8:00 we have appointments all day (hopefully!). It actually goes by pretty quick when you have appointments and people to teach. Then from 8-10 we have dinner and prep time… which is usually just talk to the other missionaries in the apartment.  I try to write in my journal as often as I can though.
So yeah, that’s my life! Kinda routine now, but it doesn’t feel mundane (hopefully that never comes!). But I don’t think Africa could ever get mundane… Elder Owusu was telling me about how I really don’t live on another continent… Africa is its own planet! Oh how true it is. Crazy place this is indeed (if Sister Pond is reading this, tell her not to worry! Brandon will be awesome!). But I’m starting to love this little country in the “armpit of Africa” (that’s what we called it in the MTC). Are there things I dislike about it? Sure… it’s not the good ol’ USA! But Togo has its… uhhh… charm! Mostly it’s just the people though… they're so cool! Different from what I’m used to, but really cool, sincere people.  Sure you meet some crazy people… like a crazy old man who came up to me while we were teaching someone on a bench outside their house. I smelt something awful which is when I looked up and saw him. I said “Bon soir” to him, then he looked at me, puzzled and perplexed, and then left grunting and mumbling. My comp, the guy we were teaching, and I just all looked at each other and laughed. I think the crazy guy was confused by my whiteness.

Anyway, cool little experience. Elder Imoukuede was having a super tough day the other day. At the end of Friday or something, he was just not talking at all. It was his turn to make dinner and he refused to do so. He was just in a really bad mood.  After dinner, I knew I had to talk to him. I asked him what was going on. He’s been having a tough time with the language (he got here a month before me) and he gets really frustrated. To make things worse, his comp doesn’t really encourage him a whole lot and gets frustrated with his lack of French.  So, Elder Imoukuede just started unloading on me and we talked for over an hour and a half. He started off by saying he was regretting coming on a mission because he just can’t speak the language… it’s tough for English speaking Africans because they go to the Ghana MTC for three weeks with NO language training at all. So, he did most of the talking, telling me about home, about the stories he wants to write (he’s a bit of a writer!), and all of his other frustrations.  At the end, he told me about how much he loves Newton’s law… the one where for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. He said he likes it because that applies to life too… with all his struggles he knew he was going to get out of it in a good way. I related it to Christ and his Atonement actually… about how he suffered the most agonizing pain, most dreadful sorrow, and the most disturbing sins of all of mankind… descending the world’s transgressions… then dying a sinner’s death on the cross.
Yet… there is always the “equal and opposite reaction.”
Now, Christ sits on the right hand of God, as a glorious, resurrected being. The “King of Kings”, the “Lord of Lords”, the “Prince of Peace”… for all the pains he went through in Gethsemane, Christ is now perfected and exalted.

What a blessing that is, to know that no matter how hard life gets, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Things get tough, they always do… that’s how we learn and grow. I’ve been learning that a lot on my mission, so I was really glad I got to testify of that to a man who I’ve really come to admire in Elder Imoukuede.
Well, it’s getting late. Hope everyone is doing well. As always, I miss everyone a lot and think of you guys often. I have really gained a powerful testimony of prayers while being out here so thank you all for your awesome prayers… they really do reach me here in Togo and help me through the day.
Thanks for your prayers and letters!
Que Dieu te benisse!
Elder Hawkins

P.S.  Btw… where are Meany-butt and Egghead’s letters!?! Lame!!

Note from the Fro: Ahhh, the bunny.  Poor bugs.  I was eating lunch at the time I read that and nearly choked on my sandwich I was laughing so hard!  Oh it makes me happy to see my boy growing, learning, and experiencing some pretty unique things.  Guess I better crack the whip on Keegan and Adele so they don't forget to write to him!  He really looks forward to hearing from everyone, so if you get a chance this week, please do take the time to send him a note.  

I got a few extra details out of him while he was writing his letters. He talked about his new comp a bit more:

Elder H:  But Elder Owusu-Fenyi is my new comp and he's pretty cool albeit a bit crazy! haha... in a good way though.

Fro: Crazy how? Funny crazy? And how's the French?

Elder H: He's just always cracking jokes about how he's old and worn out... that I need to pick up the slack lol. He's always talking about how much he loved Togo when he was first here and he really wanted to come back here, except he didn't want to come to Tokoin because it's the oldest Apartment in the mission and our sector is huge! One night there was a plane that flew over the apartment at like 4-5 in the morning then the mosque started up and he was just agonizing in bed like oh my gooooossshhh I hate tokoin! I was just laughing in my bed because I keep joking around about how awesome all the noise is here. Apparently he's a lite sleeper too so it's hard for him to fall back asleep when that happens. I've gotten used to it, so it's no big deal any more.

The French is good. Recently I have realized that I just need to do my best to focus and listen to as much as I can. I know I won't be able to understand it all, but I can't just zone out all the time and expect to learn the language! So, I've been trying my best to focus and really understand all the French that I hear. One of the APs told me when I first got here that one of the best things to do is to not get caught up on a word you don't know and miss the rest of the coversation. I thought that was pretty good advice so I'm trying to take it to heart. I know I just gotta keep working hard and the Lord will take care of the rest.

Fro: Have you seen any of the other American Elders?  Do you guys all get together on pday or are you all too spread out?

Elder H: P-days here are kinda lame haha. All we do is clean and go to the Cyber. President wants us to start doing more social activities so hopefully that actually happens! I catch up with a lot of the other American elders at Baptisms (our branch building is the only one with a baptismal font in the area) and once we've met to play some b-ball. We all just kinda do our own thing. I need to catch up with Elder Kunz soon though. I'm gonna try to get his cell number and visit him sometime. How's the weather in New Hope?

Fro: It's foggy right now and the snow is melting.  But just this morning it was freezing rain.

Elder H: Gotta say I miss New Hope a lot. In the next package you send I would't mind having more pictures of the town and the river. The other day, the Music Man came on my iPod (as I have MoTab singing it) and it reminded me of Dad and Adele in the play! Boy, it made me long for the summer days in New Hope. I realized that I have lived there for 3 summers, more than any other season, so it really does have a lot of awesome happy memories for me. So, yeah, some pictures would be awesome! Especially a view of the river from our house too!  Oh and the pictures would be better laminated I think. Things tends to curl here because of the humidity and heat.  

Fro: Laminated pictures of New Hope.  Got it....when it's actually nice out, I'll go out picture taking! Can you believe Keegan turns 16 next week?

Elder H: Can't believe that! I was thinking about that the other day... how he would be driving! Remind Elder Hanna's mom to have Elder Hanna give Keeg's gift to Sienna! He's going to really like it I think... totally Africa ;)

Fro: Will do.  I have NO idea what to get that boy.

Elder H: Fa-ro! You always get some good stuff. Get him a hoagie or something. He's just an egg after all.

Okay g2g Love you!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Greetings, from Beautiful Wuiti, Tokoin, Lome, Togo, West Africa!

Haha, that's about as specific as you can get with where my sector is at right now!

Thanks to everyone with the prayers and blessings this week! I've definitely felt them and I feel like this week went much better than last week. Times are still hard and the mission isn't easy, but I feel much more confident and better than last week. 

Things have been pretty calm here so far. However, with Elder Hanna going home in a few days, things are getting shaken up in the mission... this month, we have about 10 elders leaving so it's going to be pretty crazy. Apparently, there will be a lot of changes the next few months (till March) and then it will get quiet again because after Elder Hanna came out on the mission, they didn't send anyone out here for about 8 months... so there will be nobody to send him soon. 

So with all those changes, I'm getting a new companion on Wednesday! They usually don't switch trainers this quickly but my new comp (Elder Owusu) will train me still. He's from Ghana, so he speaks English, but he's been out for over a year so he speaks French too. But I'll let you know how we're doing. He's coming over from Benin on Wednesday (exchanging Elder Hanna for him!). 

So, I had my first fast and testimony meeting yesterday... what an awesome experience that was. There's maybe only 50 members but we went over on our time! The are many, many problems with the Church here in Togo, but for the members that have stayed strong and have truly converted to the Gospel, they are so awesome! They gave some great testimonies that just made the spirit really strong in the meeting yesterday. I really wanted to bear my testimony yesterday but everyone just kept getting up before me... I will not let that happen again! But yeah... it's cool to see some of the strong members here in Africa.

So... things have been pretty quite since last night! The CAN (Cup d'Afrique des Nations... or something like that... basically the world cup of Africa) was on last night as Togo was in the quarter finals... it was the first time in CAN history they finally made it past the group play. When they did, this city was SO LOUD! Fireworks going off everywhere... I'm pretty sure they're the ones who caused the power outage that night (because it did go out like 5 minutes after they won). But yeah... it was so, so, so noisy and exciting! Vuvuzelas, horns, anything that could make a loud noise was going on. You would have thought they won the entire thing or something! 

But then... last night they lost... and it was DEAD QUIET around the whole city! They lost to Burkino Faso too btw... just so Sur knows... But yeah... the city was the quietest I had ever heard the city... it was quite lovely actually. Very peaceful night. But yeah... it does stink that Togo lost because that's my country right now! (Apparently Benin has the worst soccer team known to man so it's all about Togo!). 

I've been buying tons of fruit since I got here though... I buy tons of oranges here because they're so good (and they're also green... so maybe that has something to do with it!) Here though... they eat their oranges differently. They cut the tops off and then they just suck the oranges dry... it actually works really effectively and is how I eat them now too! I can now testify that there are some things that Africans now how to do better than Americans haha.

Hmmmmm... what else to say... not much going on with our investigators or anything though. We did get an investigator to come to church who we've been teaching since I got here... his name is Elome and he's a great guy. He's only about 20 or 22 years old but very interested about religion... actually, you'd be surprised at the amount of both guys and girls we talk to in that age group. They're all different of course, but they're all very interested about religion and always have great questions to ask us.

But Elome is cool... he lives in the part of our sector that's actually not that far so I don't ever mind going to go see him! But... his family also raises rabbits... for people to... eat. Gross!!! We're buying one tomorrow to celebrate Elder Hanna's last meal here... he's going to kill it himself. I really don't know how I'm going to fare in this as I have never seen a live, cute, cuddly animal get slaughtered in front of my eyes. My goodness, just typing that makes me cringe and cry a little inside. So... yeah... I'll let you know how good bugs bunny tastes in my next letter! (oh gosh, I'm scared to eat this thing).

Things are going good though... it's been nice and cool in the mornings so I've been appreciating that. And, for the past week and half we haven't had any water pressure but it was just fixed on Saturday so it's been nice not to have drip showers every morning and also not have to wait 20 minutes for my water bottle to fill up in the sink! It's amazing how the Lord makes you appreciate the little things... and the little things go a LONG way here in Africa... as now I have gained a new appreciation for water pressure. Oh the random things I have learned in only being here 3 weeks.

The French has been going well too. I mean, ca va aller I guess (kinda just means like ah, it goes okay). People say it here all the time! But yeah... I've been getting more confident with my French so I'm trying my best to speak more when we meet people... but it takes a lot of focus to follow conversations here. Even Fast and Testimony meeting yesterday was really, really hard. It takes a lot out of you. But... I just gotta keep chugging along.

Oh one last thing I wanna say before I go... I see so many random shirts here! I've seen a red sox shirt, a guy with a BYU hat (what the heck!?!), and... this one is for Sean... a Ron Paul shirt! So many random shirts! I've even seen a guy wearing one of those Salty Dog Cafe shirts that I remember a lot of kids at school were wearing. I remember my first day, with Elder Kunz and Elder Seidl, we saw a guy with a vintage Pokemon shirt from the 90s. Elder Kunz wanted to buy it off him right then and there! I'm going to start writing down all the funny clothes I see here.

Anyway, hope that all things are going well back home. Hope everyone is healthy and having a good winter so far... I hear it's cold right now! I wish I could give you some of my heat in Togo... but lo and behold, the sweltering heat must stay with me.

Well... I love everyone! Hope to hear from people next week.


Elder "Yovo" "Awwk-ins" Hawkins

P.S. That's how people say, or try to say, Hawkins here.

From the Fro: Oh my goodness, this kid CRACKS ME UP!  Was chuckling over the rabbit.  LOL!  Hey, at least he knows exactly what kind of meat he's eating. The t-shirts also cracked me up.  So glad he's doing better.  I did get to email "chat" with him a bit (ok, it was 35 emails back and forth according to my inbox!). But he lost internet connection a few times, which was frustrating.  I'm actually surprised he was able to type out as much as he did for us all this week since I know he was also emailing Sienna, his Dad and our friend Jack, all while "chatting" with me at the same time.  He certainly IS a fast typer!  Here's some of our chat exchange:

Fro: Hey there!  How ya doing???

Elder H: Doing okay... Just reading through the long fro email right now!

FroHaha!  Well geez, I have to fit a whole WEEK into one email!  Craziness. Plus I had to give you some super bowl details....

Elder H: Yoooo!!! Yeah just read about it! Can't believe the Ravens have only been around for like 13 years and have won two super bowls. Eagles have been around since the Super Bowl was created in the 60s and have only even ever BEEN to the super bowl twice!

Fro: I KNOW!!  Ok, I didn't know your little trivia, which I missed during the game.  Plus, we had a lot of leftover wings...what is up with THAT? Guess Keeg will be eating them all week.  Anyway, The Baltimore Koncurat's were pretty darn excited.  Seth almost had a heart attack apparently he was getting so into it!

Elder H: Sorry... I lost my internet connection for 20 minutes or so. It's back now, so all is well. That's never happened before but Elder Hanna was telling me it can be sort of hit or miss sometimes. Hopefully it doesn't happen again.  And the French is getting better day by day. I've been trying to read the Book of Mormon front to back in French outloud to my self. I think it works and I'm going to try to start working in my French workbook from the MTC. A lot of missionaries talk about how that book taught them their French so I'm going to give it a try.

Fro: So other questions from my long email.  Do you have the repellant you took to the mtc? Are you still getting bit like crazy?

Elder H: So Internet went out again!

Okay, so the skin mosquito repellant, I've been using over the past couple of days. I wasn't using it at first because it's 100 percent DEET and it stings like crazy!!!! But Elder Hanna gave me 3 bottles of OFF repellent so I should be good now. So the mosquitos haven't been as bad as before, but one problem I've been having right now is that I've gotten heat rash on the inside of my elbows. I've been using arm and hammer powder and my anti-bacterial cream and it's slowly been going away but the heat rash didn't appear until I started using the bug spray again. So I've been cautious in how I use it.

And yeah, send everything to the mission home. I honestly don't even know what my address is here. We don't even use addresses here... people just know where people live based on descriptions. Only the big main roads have names that people know! Because people should technically know the names, but they don't of course... it's going to be really hard to try and tell my new companion where everybody lives! He's going to be relying on me for people's whereabouts, so I'll let you know how that goes. 

Glad to hear the bag is finally done! Thank goodness!! Looks really cool. Can't wait to get it! Anything else going on at home?

Fro: You mean that I forgot to write in my LOOONG letter?  Well.... I FINALLY cleaned up your room.  Yes, it took me all this time.  Silly, huh?  And it was still kinda hard, seeing your ipad next to your pillow just where you left it.  I know, Fa-ro.  And I loved all your Phillies t-shirts rolled perfectly in their own little drawer!  So funny.  I instagramed that, just so ya know.  ;)  Also, Adele went skiing for the first time on Sat, those she's quite sore from it still!  Oh, and Keegan got accepted into the National Honors Society! The noggin.

Elder HWow! That's hard to get into! Tell him congrats from me!

Fro: So things are better this week?

Elder H: Yeah. I've been thinking a lot over the past week about what it says in my blessing about being one who is positive and able to help those who are discouraged. And I was thinking, you know what, how is someone who is discouraged supposed to help someone who is also discouraged. I know the Lord has blessed me with a Fro who taught me well on how to pick people up when they are down... it's your example I think about when I think of helping others whose arms hang down... I've definitely been trying to smile more often when I pass people by on the streets. Thinking about how blessed I am to be on this Earth. 

Fro: (Awwww! *sniff* wiping a tear or two) That's awesome.  And you're right, someone who is discouraged cannot help another person in the same boat.  I'm glad my endless optimism was a good lesson...who wants to be sad their whole life after all?  I prefer the bright side for sure.  "There is no try, only DO!" Haha, gotta love Yoda.

Elder H: So I still need to write to a letter to everyone, might be kinda short! Hopefully the internet keeps staying up here! It's nice though... the cafe is in this huge Catholic compound thingy... they use it for parties and what not. It's really nice... I'm surprised the internet even goes out with the niceness of the buildings here. It's like a little world here... a bit like a resort almost.

FroOh wow, I didn't know that kind of thing existed there!  I forgot to ask if you can buy milk and stuff there.  Wondering what kind of simple recipes I can send you? Is there such thing as cheese?  Hard to think of French speakers without cheese! 

Elder H: Yeah... cheese doesn't exist here... not sure what I'm going to do about that.

As for the milk, you're right... it's all non-refridgerated (as are the eggs... what the heck?!? How do they do that?!) but it's rather expensive... so sweet and condensed milk it is! It's not bad, but I looked at what it's made out of and it's like 50 percent sugar!!! Gotta be careful how much I use of that.

And I have no idea where to buy butter... I did find a place that sells ground beef so hopefully I can start making stuff with that. The bread here too is also really good and cheap, so I've been making a TON of PB&J sandwiches... you should have sent some more PB too! I'm like half way done it (sort of because some of the other elders have been using it... manners in Africa are definitely much different than back home). 

But yeah the Fruit is great! I'll try to mention more of it in the letter I'm writing. I know where to buy powdered milk here but it's kinda gross. I'll let you know how it goes with that... I'm sure I can buy a lot of stuff I'm asking for back here, but you just gotta know where to find it and I just don't know right now :( Hopefully, with time, I'll start to know get the hang of things and know where to go.

Fro: Welllllll....powdered milk is pretty gross here too!  That's why I say add a bit of the sweetened condensed to it.  And yes, you will get used to things and figure out what everything is as time goes on. You'll learn!  Was just thinking that next week marks a MONTH in Togo.  Wow!  I'm sure it doesn't feel like it, but time will fly.

Elder H: Yeah time does fly and I feel like the days fly but the weeks don't! But yeah... crazy to think that next week will be my month mark. I still feel like I just got here!

Fro: How often do they deliver packages from the Mission home to Togo?

Elder H: it might take a week or two to get to me once it reaches the mission home. It just depends on if the mission pres or the assistants have to come out to Togo or not. Problem is, I don't think they'll be doing so the next few weeks but we'll see. Got to go now... Thanks for talking and know that I love you lots. Thanks for all your awesome prayers because I can feel them here!

Fro: I'm glad you can feel the prayers, we'll keep sending them.  Have a GREAT 4th week.  BE STEADFAST! (from D&C 31:9 that I quoted to him this week.  Awesome scripture!)
Love you too!!!  
TI&B (to infinity & beyond...I always sign his letters that way)