Monday, June 17, 2013

Ocean Breezes and a Marching Band?

Here's a picture of the Togo missionaries for you. I'm in the back right side on the aisle. And you know how you said the zones in Philly are huge? The picture of all the Togo missionaries? That's all 3 zones in Togo! About 50 missionaries in all!

Yo, yo, yo greetings from Kod-jo!

Well, I finally moved myself down to the beach! Figured I could use a nice little vacation haha... although it's not really a vacation because of the sector but I'll talk about that later.

Me and my dear washing machine... parting, one last goodbye. You were a great little water spinner... she was faithful and a great friend. She will be greatly missed. But don't worry! I pay someone 1000 francs (errr... 2 dollars) every week to wash all my clothes, so it's actually a pretty sweet deal and is way better than that washing machine! Yay helpful African women!

Things are going good, as always. I feel like I write the same things in every letter... maybe I should start copy and pasting to see if anybody really is paying attention! Haha!

Kodjoviakope is one nice apartment. It's pretty new with really nice sea breezes that keep the apartment nice and cool. However, the place was an absolute MESS when I got there... before I even unpacked my bags I cleaned up the whole bathroom that was covered in black dust and grime, wiped off the inch of dust from my desk, and then swept and mopped our room. People who know me well know that I'm not the cleanest, most organized person in the world so you can tell that this means business! The next morning I cleaned the gross kitchen too (still not done with that either). My goal is to win the cleaning check coming up this week... which I've never done before but Elder Haggard is on my side so watch out Elder and Sister Leavitt, we're gonna win our $10 this month! (it's really sad that $10 is enough to push one to win a cleaning check... but hey, that's a whole Calzone we're talking here!)

The north end of my sector is a really dirty lake... looks really nice but apparently it's infested with crocodiles? Some member told me that but I'm not really sure that's true.

The view of the beach from my apartment! (okay, the zoom feature might have cheated a little bit because it's actually a lot farther away)

The sector is pretty rough though. The people in this area have been in a group (too small to be a branch) for years now and things don't look like they're getting better anytime soon. We have some really great strong members who have great testimonies, but a lot of them have flaked out due to the leadership here in our group. It's going to take a lot of fasting and prayer to get this sector up to shape but I'm not scared to take on the challenge. We did a little bit of OVB (knocking on doors) and found a guy who could really progress, but you can never be sure with a cold contact like that (ie somebody who's not a contact from the member of the church). 

The sector is much different from my old sector too (not only in terms of the people and branch!) It's much flatter than my old sector (that's not saying much though since my old sector was pretty flat) and there are a lot more paved streets. We have some members who live on the Togo/Ghana border too so I've officially seen Ghana up close. The fence that seperates the countries is... well... not quite like the USA/Mexican border. You can easily get into the country if you wanted too... there are tons of gaps in the fence where people just walk freely in and out of the country. We actually do have some amis who live in Ghana and every so often they'll come across the border and take lessons from the missionaries over here. It's against mission rules to go into Ghana, so we can't go over there and teach... but if I paid the right people... it would be pretty easy! Fro, you know I'm JKin'. 

So I guess this is how they deter people from the Ghanian border? By putting a huge mound of trash by the border?! Well, it works because nobody was even close to it when I took my picture! Maybe the US should do that with the Mexican border?! My Tucson cousins should write their congressmen or something!

So last Friday, I was sitting in my room reading when all of a sudden I hear this marching band coming down the street. I'm thinking... what the?!? Why in the world would there be a marching band coming down the street here... in TOGO?! I run outside and go on the roof... and it was actually a funeral procession! Pretty crazy right! There was just this crowd of people with a car in the middle... but in the front of everyting was first, a guy carrying a big picture of the lady who died, then these people waving what handkerchiefs around and dancing, and then a cool New Orleans style brass band playing all sorts of cool music. Speaking of New Orleans, it really reminded me of a New Orleans funeral procession. I even remarked to Elder Ngandu it's cool to see how a tradition that started all the way back here in Africa still holds with the people in New Orleans (who, of course, have ancestors that come from this part of West Africa). The music wasn't as Jazzy as it is in NO, but it was still fun to watch them. They even played God Be With You 'till We Meet Again! 

Start of the funeral procession. Note HUGE swarm of people. Judging by the way people were dressed (suits and nice dresses), the fact that the woman who died was being burried in a tomb, and by the fact they had a freaking band playing for them... this was a very, very expensive funeral! Even by American standards I would say. Just goes to show that there is money out here but the disparity between the rich and the poor is great and very, very far apart.

 The band! I really got to missing my drumline days hearing that basser going by... played some pretty good music though and apparently this happens every once in a while so I'll get to see it again hopefully.

The band in their cool suits and cool African hand made undercoat things (I really have no idea what the thing under the suit coat is called but they're hand made and VERY expensive). 

The procession totally caught me off gaurd though. I had no idea there was actually a cemetery right across the street from us... stupidly enough, I thought it was some kind of Tomb store because it's just this big plot of land filled with tombs... people not being too rich over here, I really didn't connect the fact that they were actually all filled with dead people! Hmmmm. 

Alright, well got to get going now. Sorry for the shortish email this week but I'm gonna try to send some good pictures for all of you too! Pray for me, my comp, and my new sector this week because we will surely need help from all you guys. Thanks for all the love and support!

All the best and much love,

Elder Hawkins

Tokoin apartment (Elder Shearer, Mukenga, Owusu, and me). Gonna miss all those guys, cuz we had some good memories over there. I even gave Elder Owusu my Flyers beanie because he needed some way to remember his Freakin' Philadelphian! He was pretty sad to see me go and I was pretty bummed too. We spent 4 months together which is a really long time! Love that guy like a brother... I really do. 

Note from the Fro: He seemed to be in good spirits this week despite the hard work he has ahead of him in his new sector.  His new companion finishes his mission on July 12, so they won't be together long.  But he does want to finish with a bang, so hopefully he'll be motivated to work!  He said he got to meet Elder Jenkins for a bit when they dropped off Elder Haggard.  And of Elder Haggard, he says this: I also got a new American elder in my apartment (Elder Haggard). It's really made me put my whole mission in retrospect because it feels like forever ago that I started my mission out here in Togo... now I'm showing him the ropes! Crazy to think that was me only 5 months ago. It's funny though because the things I've become so habituated with are things he asks me questions about (like where to buy stuff, how to spend money, how to manage time and manage your perspective here on the mission). I will say that it's helped me realize how far my French has come... I can understand people here almost perfectly now (well, not perfectly but it's much easier) and I'm having many more opportunities to speak now that I'm with a French speaking comp (though his French is... well... interesting.) However, before I get all confident, God gave me a reality check today when I got to talking with some French elders... still have a tough time understanding the French but ca va aller! One step at a time, right?!

Yes. Ca va aller!  Ca va aller!

I told him to GET TO WORK!  I know he will. :)

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