Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wild Pineapple Bushes, Colorful Cocoa Trees and the American Flag

Cool sunset photo from our sector.

The bright sun was directly above me. Beating down on my slightly shaven head, the beads of sweat rolled down my head like a Jimmy Rollins walk-off double... quick and like bullets. It was hot, needless to say, but I had a mission to accomplish. As I walked through the tall grass and overgrown bushes, my breath became heavier and heavier while fighting the tough African terrain. Even with the wild pineapple bushes and colorful cocoa trees on my side, I still had to go onward. The trail was tough with the constant ups and downs, the sharp rocks and the weaving streams. Fighting through the jungles of Africa, I knew that my mission was finally complete as I heard the rushing water... or maybe it just my sweat getting worse... but no! Lo and behold, the waterfalls were there! The jungles of the dark continent had finally given me my reward! Victory was mine, at last!

And there you have it, my first real adventure in Togo! Today we went to some waterfalls in Palimé. The mission paid for a coach bus for all the missionaries out here in Togo to go. The falls weren't that amazing in terms of being big or anything but they were pretty cool. We hiked a good mile or two to get to them and it was a bit dangerous but it was cool. President Weed, Sister Weed, and the Semkins (the couple who works at the Office in Benin) all made it so it wasn't that hard I suppose! I think Sister Weed sprained her finger or something though. 

But it was really nice to just get away from Lome for once. It was really nice to see how green Togo actually is once you drive up north... and we actually saw some mountains too! We saw some cool mountain villages and we all kept joking around that we should ask President if we could open up a sector there haha. We had about a two hour drive and it was pretty cool... especially because it was a legit air conditioned bus from China. Except the blow horn on it belonged to a freaking cruise ship... my goodness that thing was so loud and being in Togo, our bus driver used it nonstop... we had a lot of close calls also since our bus driver passed every single car/moto he came up to... I'm pretty sure 
he scared Sister Weed half to death because our driver was weaving that coach bus pretty good and it felt like a roller coaster at times. Still awesome though.

But... the only bad thing about the trip was that I FORGOT MY CAMERA!! Of all the times to forget... stupid me. I'm having Elder Shearer forward some of his photos for me though.

Also, another cool thing to add to my Adventures in Food book... cocoa beans! Man, those things are good! There was a guy at the waterfalls selling them so Elder Kunz and I decided to buy one. In order to eat them, you break it in half by hitting it super hard on your knee. Then you just take some of the gooey seeds and suck on them! It's actually very sweet and tasty! You just can't chew on the seeds because it's pretty bitter and not all that appetizing. Kinda weird to think that that's where they get the cocoa to make chocolate! Kinda feel bad for wasting all that potential chocolate since I would just spit the seeds on the ground. Oh well though! We also bought some passion fruit but I have yet to try that... I'll probably get to try some when I get back to the apartment. 

Also on the drive up to the waterfalls, right before we exited Lome, we saw this really big, nice building. I asked Elder Kunz (since he had the window seat) if he could tell what the building was because to me, it looked like a hospital. Then everyone was like no, wait... that's the AMERICAN EMBASSY!!!!!!!! All the Americans just got so happy. It reminded me of when I saw those American soldiers at San Marcos Pizza too. I just felt so happy and content to see something American... and of course, then we all saw that beautiful, large American flag hanging gracefully on its flagpoll. Oh... it was such a beautiful sight. To see a flagpoll with the Stars and Stripes on it was really an amazing sight. It is funny how things like that make an American happy in Togo. It's also funny how that one moment might have been more awesome than the actual trip to the waterfalls! I won't lie, I may or may not have saluted the flag on our way back to Lome... good times, good times.

Other than that, things have pretty much been same old, same old. It's been raining a lot, as expected. On Thursday, it was raining all morning but it finally stopped once we were supposed to go out. We were hesitant to go out because it was still cloudy, but we did anyway because we knew we were supposed to! Of course, we don't even get down our street and the rain just starts pouring... and I mean pouring. A river eventually formed accross the street we had to cross so there was no way we could get to our sector unless we had a boat. We tried to wait it out but it wasn't going away anytime soon so we went back to the apartment to wait it out. 

This is the river that formed blocking us from our sector. It had a really strong current if you can believe it! There were some crazy motos trying to drive through it too that were barely making it without stalling. Crazy motos!

Awesome rainbow!! The rain was teasing us on and off all day and we got rewarded by a nice, beautiful rainbow in our sector! Nice things like that just can't help but make you happy!

So yeah... that's about as exciting as my life gets during the week. Navigating the rivers is always super fun. On Wednesday, I partied up my 6th months on the mission with the Neguessan family. Had some delicious couscous like stuff with some pima, tomatoes, onions, and fish. And to top it off, Seour Neguessan made me some bouabob (spelling is probably completely off) but I think I've described it before (it's this drink/dessert with some tangarine juice, powdered milk, and other stuff). It's AWESOME and she made me a whole liter and a half of it so I'm stocked in terms of that. We had a pretty fun time hanging out with them, even though it was kinda a joke since I'm still just a youngin' at 6 months on the mission and my comp has 8 weeks left on his mission! Ohhhh well... ça va aller! 

I didn't burn a tie because they're all pretty awesome, but my plan is to just burn a full missionary outfit once I get to the end of my mission since I'll be DONE with those finally! Maybe I'll burn a shirt at the year mark since I have backup shirts.

This is my amazing plate of spaghetti and marinara sauce I made using ALL African ingredients. I was SO proud of myself for my amazing creation. It actually tastes like something I WANTED to eat and I made it myself!!!!!! Of course, I tried making it a few days later and it sucked big time....but! One victory at a time, right??

The cockroaches have been coming like crazy recently. I just swept up 3 of them that were in and around the kitchen the other day. I have no idea why they have been appearing all of a sudden (maybe the rain? No clue). Thankfully they're usually dead by the time I find them but I still don't like sweeping them out of the kitchen and stuff... they're so dang gross. If you really want, I can take some pictures! 

Anyway, things are going good however. I've been really enjoying the work this week and I've been feeling pretty good too. Thanks again to everybody for all the support and prayers because they do really help out. This week, we really need to be busy so if you could pray that we'll have people to meet and teach, that would be really helpful. We didn't have too many lessons last week which is a bummber because we have been working pretty hard, but sometimes that happens. But seriously, thanks again for all the prayers, love and support. I feel like I say that to everyone I write an email too, but it's true! I really am grateful for the backing I get from all of you guys. Some days can be really tough out here, whether it be from the heat, from the homesickness, or just the stress of the work, it's really humbling to know that so many people are cheering me on back home. 

Thanks to you all! 

With love,

Elder Hawkins

Elder Owusu and I had to get the classic missionary photo together. Made a mistake in not bringing my raincoat, but at least I had my umbrella!

Obviously Elder Mukenga and Elder Shearer had the same idea in returning to the apartment to take cover from the rain!

Note from the Fro:
Not so easy to juggle transatlantic traveling while trying to connect with your Elder at the same time! In between driving to the airport, returning a rental car, getting thru security, hoofing it to my gate, and settling on my short flight from Portland to Seattle, my phone was in constant refresh mode. I used every last second before those doors closed to "chat" with my boy. I cherish Monday's so much and that little tiny connection! Dear friends, please remind me NOT to book flights on Mondays for the next 18 months. (Ha! I accidentally typed Momdays, I think that's rather appropriate!) And ok, yes I like saying 18 months instead of 2 years. 18 months!!!  I told him how I actually met a Togolais this week! My brother John started speaking French with one of the kitchen workers at our Marriott hotel in Portland, then asked where he was from.  He replied, West Africa! I asked where in West Africa and his answer? TOGO! He was probably shocked that I knew of his country. So cool! Elder H is in good spirits as usual. Loved sitting on the bus with Elder Kunz while traveling to and from the falls. Almost as much as he loved the AC on that bus! He's asked that we send him his baseball mitt and baseballs, he misses playing catch with his brother.  He said he'll try to send pics of the waterfalls next week. And like he said, a few times even, he's very, very grateful for the thoughts, prayers and letters of all his friends and family back home. Thanks for supporting our boy! Sorry if this posts with a strange font, can't control much from my iPad. However, I can say that this is the first time I've posted a blog from the air! 

P.S. Let me know if you'd like him to send those pics of the cockroaches, I'll relay the message. Eeww!

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