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)


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