Monday, November 4, 2013

November is Upon Us!

What a crazy week it has been! From finding soft serve to Jour "Tous Saint"... it was a rather exciting week.
First of all, yes, I did find soft serve here in Africa at a restaurant called Kostas in Doumassessee. We do our monthly zone meetings every last Tuesday of the month, so this past week we had our meeting and then a bunch of us went to Kostas and bought some ice cream and burgers (okay, well the 3 Americans and the 1 French missionaries of our zone did!). Ah, it was so crazy to see a soft serve machine out here... though, I must say that it wasn't really soft serve because it became rock solid in the cup they gave me... but coming out of the machine, it definitely did look like it! Even though it was good, you can't beat Dilly's.
Halloween really wasn't as exciting as it would have been back home unfortunately .. during my English class, I did explain the holiday to them and they all got the gist of it. I did buy candy just in case there would have been some trick-or-treaters coming by... of course there weren't so I shared it with everyone in the apartment. Though, coming home that evening, I did lock my comp outside the apartment and made him knock on the door and say trick or treat. He was super confused at first as to why I locked him out of the apartment, but we all had a good laugh about it and he also got candy so he was happy! 

The next day, we had the real Halloween come in the form of "Tous Saint", or more commonly known as "Day of the Dead" back home. I was surprised that they actually celebrate it here because I thought that was only a Mexican thing, but nope! They even give all the kids a day off for it. Probably out of all the missionaries though, I probably got the coolest experiences from Tous Saint day because we're right across the street from a cemetery! People started crowding the cemetery early in the day... around 7-8 in the morning and by 10 it got pretty crowded. To me, it seemed a bit like a community service project because all they were doing was sweeping up the cemetery and cleaning the graves.
So, that was cool and all but, of course I had to go out and actually do missionary work. In the morning we didn't go out because of weekly planning but in the afternoon we headed out as usual. After heading out the door, it seemed like a nice day, but then the sky just got DARK. As we were crossing over into our sector, the wind kicked up and we could barely see... and then... I felt the rain drops. My comp and I just started BOOKING it to the nearest members house, hoping that we would be able to dodge the rain. Well, half way to the members house, BOOM, RELENTLESS RAIN. Oh my goodness I don't think I have ever seen more rain in my life! We probably walked another 5 mintues in what can be described as a waterfall of rain. By the time we got to our member's house, her and her family just laughed at us because they felt so bad for us! There was not one part of us that wasn't wet! 

Moi et Elder Legbanon DRENCHED after the storm! Still happy campers as you can see! 

After waiting out the storm, we had to walk the 1/2 hour back home to get changed. So, once we get back home I realize that I have no pants to wear out because I washed ALL my dress pants earlier that morning... so, I was like, great now what do I wear out... well, I don't think a missionary has ever looked more ridiculous but all I had to wear were my Levis. Yup, my classic American blue jeans. I looked pretty ridiculous, but since all I had for the rest of the night was my english class, I wasn't too worried about it. All the members complimented me on it haha. 

  Hipsta missionary.

But, anyway, after the English class we came back home and the cemetery had hundreds of candles lit throughout the place. It was actually a rather pretty site. Earlier that night, hundreds of people were coming up to the cemetery for the little ceremony the Catholic church holds. I wasn't able to see it because of English class, but everyone was really nicely dressed and it seemed almost like a church service. 

Cemetery at night with the bougies.

The next day, the Group finally through it's first real activity since I have been here. Attendance was really good considering I only found out about the activity 2 days before it happened, but it was really nice! A few of the members gave some talks about the Church, but the highlight of the activity was when the members did this funny sketch about the Church coming to a Togolais Village. It was funny as they all got dressed up... even one member went all out in his village attire as he was portraying a village chief! 

 Picture of the sketch the members did. Note King in the center! 
And of course, in classic mormon tradition, there were refreshments as always. And, because our Chef de Groupe is awesome, the missionaries got doubles! Score!

Mormon activity refreshments, AFRICA STYLE... nothing quite like funeral potatoes, but delicious nonetheless. Surprisingly, the sandwich tasted like a meatball sub, even though there was no marinara sauce or meatballs in it. Yeah... I think there might be something wrong with my tastebuds. The yellow stuff is just water mixed with powdered juice mix... nothing too special.

The next day, we finally were able to watch General Conference as well. It was really tough for me to pay attention through the 4 hours we watched however... it was better than when I watched it the first time 6 months ago, but the amount of concentration it takes for me to understand what they're saying is a lot! However, oddly enough (or maybe not) my highest point of understanding came at the last talk we listened to (meaning, the last talk of four hours worth of conference!) was President Monson's talk, which was pretty much exactly what I needed to here.

You see, despite this week being exciting, in terms of missionary work, it was dismal. During conference, I tallied up the weekly numbers and they were really bad in terms of lessons taught. The problem has been, though we have been talking to a lot of people, actually getting lessons with them has been very hard. And then, with the ones we do meet with, it's hard to get a follow-up lesson as well. That's to say... ratez-vous, ratez-vous, ratez-vous. And then, it's been hard for us to get lessons with people that we've been teaching for a while now.
I can't really tell you anything specific as to what President Monson said that touched me, but what really helped me was the I understood what he was saying and the warm feeling in my heart was undeniable. It was a really comforting experience for me though... and of course, you can't beat MoTab singing an extremely powerful rendition of "We Thank The Oh God for the Prophet." I'm not exactly sure how things are going to get better, but I'm comforted by the fact that the Lord knows that I'm here! All the way out in an unknown and seemingly forgotten place like Togo.
I don't really know where I'm going with this, but all I have to say is that I'm thankful to be here, even though it's tough. And, if there's one thing I've learned on my mission, the Lord always seems to send little reminders to me that he remembers me! That he has not forsaken me and that he still watches over me. It's not always when I expect it, but it always seems to come when I need it...
Best be going now. Thanks for the prayers, emails, love, and support you all send my way! Except the heat... I'm not sure why you all are sending me heat and then you all complain to me about it being cold back home. As if it wasn't hot already, it's now only getting hotter!
Alright, love you all! Take it easy!
Elder Hawkins

Cool after-the-storm picture I took when we got back to the apartment. I always love the clouds after storms out here. There was also lightening that would pop up every once in a while, but I couldn't get pictures of it!

Note from the Fro: Sorry if this post comes thru a bit funky. Posting with spotty wifi from Mexico. Today MY wifi was more spotty than his! Go figure. 

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