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!

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