|I finally received all my letters from the Doylestown primary! Thank you all so much! They were super awesome and I appreciate the great drawings! (the candy too!)|
Christmas in Africa: Check.
Well, I'm thankful that that will be my last Christmas in Africa, though I am also a little bit sad because I don't think I will ever get to have another one like it.
Christmas here was just a little different out here. As I said in my last post, there were no decorations nor a beautiful big tree sitting in our living room. Probably why Santa didn't leave us any gifts this year under our non-existent tree... either that or the fact that we don't have a chimney... to be honest, not sure who would have a chimney in this area. Now that raises a big question in my head: how does Santa get into people's houses here? Nobody has a chimney, usually they all have bars on their windows... the curiosity in me says I should spend next year's Christmas in Africa to find out, but the sensibility, reasoning, and intellect in me says that will never happen.
|Okay, I'll give our neighbors across the street credit... they did a pretty good job at decorating, albeit they only did it like 5 days before Christmas!|
Anyway, because of Santa's lack of access into our apartment, I did not wake up to find any gifts! Possibly because I opened my Christmas package from home two weeks ago. Hmmm, even though Fro told me not to. But, I did want to make Christmas a little bit special for my companion so I gave him a pack of Smarties (French Smarties, not the sugared chalk Smarties of America) and a piece of pigne (like a yard of the local fabric stuff here). He wasn't expecting that at all, so he was SUPER happy to have been given a gift for Christmas and thanked me like 1000x times for the gift when he got it!
|Street side Christmas trees for sale... just like home?|
|Attack of the STREET VENDORS who only sell things of no value!|
And even though I had already opened up my Christmas package about two weeks ago, I did leave one last thing to open: my family! Yup, that's right, the Hawkins crew came to visit me in flat butcher paper form. I took tons of pictures with them and even my comp got a kick out of them. All the quotes and things all the family wrote on them were classic too! I really did love that and it made my morning for sure!
|When did I become the shortest? Fro is taller than me? Hahahaha!|
|Just me and my sibs, hangin' in Africa on Christmas, mmm-hmmmm!|
Afterwards, I let the family rest a little bit from their jet lag and I headed over to the bureau to our office meeting. Then, we went to brunch... AT AN AMERICAN'S HOME.
Background: Wes is a member of our Branch in Gbegamey, probably the only American I have ever seen attend a branch here who wasn't a missionary. He works for the US Embassy and has been here for a little over two years (he says that he stays for 3 and he's next stop will be Mexico!). He's basically been all over the world: he's a return missionary from South Korea, he's been to Egypt, all over Europe, South America, etc. And now he lives in Benin!
So, last Sunday, he invited all of the missionaries of the branch to come and have brunch at his place. Arriving there, I entered into a little slice of America. We had to take of our shoes and I think it was because he knew we would want to feel his amazing carpet with our feet. It has been over a freaking YEAR since I have walked on real carpet and rubbed my feet in it... oh my gosh it was so joyous and one of the best gifts ever! Also, sat on real furniture which was just as glorious.
|Christmas chez Wes (notice the carpet!)|
Then, we ate brunch that he and his girlfriend (who is visiting from London) made for us: potatoes, quiche, scrambled eggs, real thick ham, and, best of all, TOAST. It has been almost a YEAR since I've even seen TOAST! I put REAL BUTTER on it (with fake syrup, but I'll let that slide. I have real syrup back at the apartment). It was magical (though not magically delicious as there were no Lucky Charms offered). And then we got to drink APPLE JUICE AND ORANGE JUICE, which I have not tasted in OVER A YEAR. Again, it was magical.
|Christmas chez Wes....toast, orange juice, apple juice, OH MY!|
Afterwards, Wes played cards with all of the French speakers (since he speaks French) and then all the Americans kinda just talked with his girlfriend because she doesn't speak French and because she was really funny and nice. Overall, we probably spent way too much time there but it was well worth it and it was a nice little escape for me!
After dropping off the missionaries, we went back to the office so that Elder O could call his family and so that I could skype mine. I'm sure the Fro will tell you all how great it was to Skype, but it was fun and a definite morale booster that every missionary needs (which is why I think they let us do it!). It was also really fun to see Grandpa, Grandma, Emily, and John as well! Didn't expect that! Wish I could have eaten the raclette that you guys all eventually ate as well, but I guess you can't win 'em all. (but hey, I got to rub my feet in carpet. Carpet!)
Then, I got to say goodbye to all the missionaries going back home, all of whom I will dearly miss! I don't know if I really like that aspect of the mission! Saying goodbye to so many friends that I've made on the mission... that's been really tough!
|President Weed playing some guitar and singing at the missionary party... a President with many talents!|
And there you have it... my first and last Christmas in Benin, West Africa. I'm pretty sure everything that I did was not really at all African, but that's okay in my books. I get enough of that during the week anyway! I think that was just a little gift the Lord was able to give me on Christmas: my mini-American christmas.
Enjoying some alloco (fried banana plantains) at Sister Ola's house, who is probably the greatest member in our sector (technically doesn't live in our sector but works in it and still comes to Church out here too).
Now, as Christmas has gone by, I am looking ahead to 2014... which has been a year I've been waiting for ever since November 2012. It's a little bit scary to be honest... to think that my mission is starting to actually come just a tad bit closer to nearing the end. As I look ahead to the new year, I don't really know if I have any New Year's resolutions to make... I think that's something that I will probably have to work on in the next couple of days... think of a New Year resolution!
As I look back at 2013, my blackout year, I can for sure say that it has been a wild ride and a missionary for the entire year! I feel like every email I ramble on and on about all the things I learn from everything that's happened so far on the mission, but it's all true! I am for sure not the same person I was at this time last year. I don't think I could have ever imagined the person I am right now over a year ago, so I'm not going to try and do that for next year either! Though, I can imagine that in 2014 I will be very happy drinking lots of hot Solebury Farms Apple Cider, catching up on Phillies/Eagles/Sixers/Flyers highlights from 2012-2014, and, of course, teasing Adele. That much I will guess!
Here's to a New Year, full of new challenges and problems... but also full of new good memories and experiences. It will be a great one! Let's MAKE it a great one!
Note from the Fro: It was SOOOOO great to see that face on Christmas day! Best Christmas present ever! Here's just a little of my favorite footage. (Side note: He's singing in his goofy voice, which is why you'll hear me laughing in the background, haha!)