Sunday, February 2, 2014

Inside The Mind From an American in Cotonou

Watch beeps. Presses all 3 buttons before finally hitting the snooze button. 

Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? It's still night time?!? I think it's illegal to wake up before sunrise in Benin... yeah, that's a law I'm sure. If it's legal to dump trash on the side of the road, it's definitely illegal to wake up before sunrise.

Power cuts.

Gosh dangit! Okay, either that was a sign from God telling me to get out of bed and go work out, or it's just another power cut from the good folks at La Societ√© Beninoise d'Energie Electrique cutting out the power because Nigeria refuses to fuel Benin any power. Probably the latter. 

Keeps trying to find energy to get out of bed. Fails. Alarm clock goes off. Snooze. Alarm clock. Snooze. Alarm clock. Snooze.

Okay, I should really get up now. But uuhhhh... I didn't get any sleep last night after sleeping on the table... gaahlasdflh;asdfhasl;dhaf

Yeah, there has been so many power outages in the past week (and they are always at night for at least 6 hours). My bed gets pretty hot without a fan (who woulda thunk!?!?) so, well next best bet is getting a little carpet and laying it on the table in the living room because it gets the best breeze!

Stumbles to the shower. Finds flip flops. Showers. Brushes teeth. Flosses. Throws floss out the window as there is no trash can. Shaves. Gets dressed. 

Don't feel too hungry, so I guess I'll skip breakfast again. Oh what I would do for a nice cold bowl of cereal, with real milk. Well, I'll just have to wait for the beginning of the month so I can actually buy some cereal! 

Sits at study desk made out of backup water jugs, waste bins, and an old ironing board. Studies. Wonders when the power will come back on. Finishes studying. Gets shoes on. Prays with companions. Heads out. 

Ah... another new day in paradise... 


Haha... that's a good joke. At least I've still got my sense of humor!

Talks with Elder Lala. Debates on how BMWs are better than Mercedes-Benz. Makes fun of Elder Lala for being French. However, both realize that as they were busy debating they finally got to the "Stench of Death" section of their daily way to the Bureau. 

Oh gosh, why does it have to smell so bad!?!?! A mix of so many awful smells combined into one horrendous smell?!? What is going on? Why is my nose going through this. 

Passes through.

Oh goodness, finally. 

Gets to the end of the street to a busy main road. Sees pedestrian bridge 50 meters away. Crosses street anyway. Gets to median. Crosses street again, almost clips a moto. Makes it to the end.

Oh if only Fa-ro knew!

Makes it to the Bureau. 

Ah. AIR CONDITIONING! That's probably the best part about the bureau... air conditioning. Plus, with the generator we always have AC! What a miraculous blessing, to be able to work in the Bureau! 

Says hi to Sister Semken as usual. Puts bag next to desk, but just before sitting down, Elder Semken comes down and asks for help with translating for one of the missionary apartment's landlords. 

Oh great, here we go again. Having somebody who barely speaks French translate somebody who barely speaks French too. This can only go so well!

Hears the landlord say he has to support his 60 kids.

WHOA. HOLD ON. Did that guy really just say he has 60 kids?!?!?! Oh right... this guy has multiple wives, forgot about that! Still 60 kids is pretty ridiculous! I can see why he needs the missionary's rent! Too bad he's not a good landlord. 

Landlord storms off. Sees Elder Lala with a big grin on his face and tells me that he told me this would happen. Then tells me that Elder Ouonnebo got in a car accident and knocked a moto driver off his moto. 

Mass chaos erupts in office as it goes into operation over drive crises mode. Sirens come out of the walls indicating crisis mode red alert. Pulls out rifle from desk and puts on grenade belt. Goes to the mission safe, blows it open, and takes out all the cash like a mad man. Kicks down doors for no reason. Rips off white shirt in hulk-like fashion, yelling war cries at the same time. The apocalypse has commenced. 

Okay, I made that last part up.

Calls member from Gbegamey branch who happens to be the retired Police Chief of Cotonou. Goes with Elder Semken to pick him up and go to the police station. Then goes to the hospital to check on the accident victim. He's fine. Goes back to the office to pick up Elder Ouonnebo and other witnesses. Goes back to police station. Then goes to African Assurance, the mission car insurance company. Then goes back to police station, who refuses to give back our vehicle papers even though the assistants need them in order to drive the car over to Togo the next day. Former police chief pulls some strings and we get the papers (of course, with a little bribe to sweeten the deal). And just like that, it's 7 PM.

Oh my goodness, I am so tired. Who would have thought that driving around Cotonou solving a little car crash would be so complicated and time consuming. People always ask me if the Bureau is easy because it's not the regular grind of the mission and I would have to say yes and no, but no because I always feel like I have to be ready for whatever happens. 

Gets back to the bureau. Feels absolutely tired, drained. Just wants to go back to the apartment and sleep. Has no idea what to cook for dinner but is starving nevertheless. Then is reminded that we have one last 7 o'clock appointment with a Nigerian investigator. 

All I want to do is sleep! Okay, I'll call him and find out if he's actually coming.

Calls and finds out he is actually coming.

Ughhhhhh... I know I'm an awful missionary for not wanting to teach another lesson today but feel so worn out after all the running around. Garralkjl;asjelkadfjl;asdkldfkldfa.

Slaps a smile on. Ami gets here. Welcomes him. Starts lesson with a prayer. The lesson plan was to talk about the law of tithing, but the ami had other plans. As it happens, he has been weighed down by his new job, which limits him from coming to Church on Sundays as he has to work. He knows he needs to go to Church, but at the same time, he needs the money and has been looking for work for months. All of a sudden, the little "Elder Hawkins" problems seem so small by comparison to the needs of the ami. 

Heavenly Father, please, help me! What do I say! Please, please, please!

Continues to listen to his amis problems and even starts feeling the stress of his problems. All of a sudden, the words "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart..." comes to mind. Of course, it's Fro's favorite scripture: Proverbs 3:5-7. "...lean not unto thine own understanding, in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths." Then testifies of the power of faith and tells him to trust in the Lord and not himself, for the Lord would guide him better than he could guide himself. The ami, silent but focused on what was said. Companions testify powerfully in the English that they know, which is just enough. Ends lesson with the ami saying the prayer. Sets another appointment. Says goodbye. Locks up the bureau. Walks on the way home. 

Those lessons always get to me... sometimes my problems seem absolutely ridiculous compared to these people, who are literally fighting for their well being. I complain about not being able to find cheep cheese, whereas these people don't even have the means to buy water. I complain about the electricity cutting out every night whereas these people can't even pay their monthly electricity bills. I complain about being in Benin/Togo for two years whereas these people know no other way of life. 

Looks up at the stars and realizes that home is still a long ways away. 

Yet at the same time, I know there's a higher purpose, a higher reason as to being in the "armpit of Africa." It might not be to clean up all the streets. It might not be to fix all of the corruption problems. It might not even be to feed the millions going without food in this country. At the end of the day, it's not about feeding millions fish for a day... but about teaching that one man to fish, that one man to believe that he has a higher purpose, that one man to believe that God has a plan for him. 

Gets home. Heats up charwama that was bought three days ago. Writes in journal. Wonders what the next day will hold. Knows that there will be more problems to deal with, more souls to comfort, and more stress to relieve. It all seems a little overwhelming, but then again...

Is it ever not worth it?


Love you all!

Elder Hawkins 

Pics from the roof

The dinosaurs in the distance....or cranes.  Whatever.

The one with the two cranes is where the new American Embassy is going up!

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