Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Best and the Worst

One year ago, if you asked me, "In one year, what do you think you're LEAST favorite thing will be on your mission?" I probably would have said something like, "oh the time is going by too quickly" or "well, the food is kinda lame." 

While both of those things are true... I can promise you that I would have never said "driving school." Yet, lo and behold, this is my least favorite thing on the mission so far. 

*(Note: if you're more interested in what I like MOST on my mission and not interested in tales from the African equivalent of the DMV...then skip down past all the pictures!)

The funny thing is that I'm not even going through driving school! I give that honor to Elder Lala. However, it's still my least favorite because it's soooooooooo boring. And not only that, but this is the SECOND TIME I have had to go through driving school with a companion, because Elder Ouonnebo took lessons when I first got here (though, since Elder Lala already drove a bit back home, I don't feel like my life is in as much danger compared to when Ouonnebo would drive). Anyway, for the first two weeks, he has to do driving one day and then code review the next day and so on and so forth. And since I'm his companion, guess what I get to do?  Ride along.

Glimpse of the rolling heat trap

Let me tell you what: '90 Toyota Corolla Hatchback with no working air conditioning, windows that only crack open a half inch in the back, and you know, being in West African 2 PM heat kinda stinks when you're only going 10 MPH THE WHOLE TIME. Add that to the fact that Africans usually don't wear a whole lot of deodorant (okay, none), never mind anti-perspirant... and it's a fine and dandy time as you can imagine! If you had told me my mission would have been like this before I left, I would have signed up earlier! (*sarcasm*)

So that's what the driving day is like. Then the code days are even more boring because we have to sit in a (again) non-airconditioned room, in West African afternoon heat, for a half hour. The seats they have for us to wait around in aren't very comfortable either... I've tried studying my Book of Mormon and the Bible while I wait but I honestly get a little distracted when one of the driving school instructors has a two year old baby who cries all the time. As you can imagine, it was always Elder Lala begging me to go to driving school every afternoon because I wanted nothing to do with it! (Though I don't blame him because a Driver's License chez lui can cost upwards of 1200 euros whereas here we're paying $150 or something like that).

Anyway, this past week we've been doing early morning driving courses (they do this little course that's similar to what the actual driving test really is). That gave me time to actually read my scriptures because I could actually stay in the car and read comfortably. Plus, I could listen to my music too (thanks MoTab, BYU Men's Chorus, and... Solas!). So that wasn't too bad.

Now, honestly, the real reason I dislike driving school is because of the test. Why? BECAUSE IT'S ACROSS TOWN AT 7 AM. WHAT THE HECK. WHO INVENTED THAT?! But yeah, we had to wake up at 5 AM this morning (Benin is surprisingly quiet at 5 AM... rather peaceful actually) so we could get to the office by 6 AM then drive over across town to pick up Precious (she works for the mission and happens to be doing her driving school with Elder Lala so we picked her up near the place since she didn't know where it was) at 6:30 AM... all of that to finally be that by 7 AM

Elder Lala and I super happy to go to the driving test center at 5am
It was so dark outside at 5 in the morning that I might as well just sent a picture of a black rectangle.
Proof that it was early
Still excited though!

And then, the way they do it is absolutely ridiculous. Just so you know, about 1000 people show up to this thing. Then, they pile everybody up on the side of the building and call everybody who's going to take the test ONE-BY-ONE. Are you kidding me? With Elder Ouonnebo, we waited all the way until 10 AM until he was called and didn't leave until 12:30ish. Goodness that was awful. Thankfully, they called Elder Lala very early this time (only waited about an hour) so we didn't have to wait as long. 

Where they actually take the exam and pile people in.

Where people have to wait for their name to be called (about half of the people had been called by this point).

Now, my favorite part is the actual test that these people have to take. They set up this big projector screen and then like 250 people take it at once... here are my favorite questions (all multiple choice, too):

1. What are the colors of a stop light? (a. red, yellow, green b. yellow, red, green c. green, yellow, red). Pretty confusing stuff.
2. If there is a working stop light and a policeman directing traffic, what do you do? (a. just follow the light b. turn around and go back c. follow the officer and the light d. just follow the officer) 
3. What do you do at a stop sign? (a. Go through b. Slow down and let the other cars pass through c. Come to complete stop and let the other vehicles pass before proceeding). 

Now, not only are the questions super easy, but even if you don't get them right, our Auto-School dude has "inside connections" which basically means that we paid a higher price so that way they would be guaranteed to pass. That's basically how all the missionaries get their licenses here (and it's pretty scary to see some of the missionaries that get licensed here I gotta say). Even when Precious was signing up for the auto-ecole, she was worried she wouldn't pass the test because she's an anglophone (from Nigeria) so it's a little hard for her to understand all the road jargon they use in French. M. Okey (the dude) reassured her that as long as she knew how to write her name and the name of her auto-ecole, she would pass. Gotta love West Africa! 

On Wednesday, Elder Lala will be passing the driving part of the exam which is also a joke (the rule is that as long as you don't stall the car when you first start, you pass). That shouldn't take as long, but still, it's annoying because we have to show up at 7 AM. Again. kladlkdafjkldfjklasdfjkl;sdfjkl;sdfajklsdfal;hsdfadjsjkasdadbj (sorry I was just banging my head into my keyboard).

So anyway, yeah, that's one of the things I dislike most about my mission right now. BUT, let's turn things over and talk a little bit about the things I like MOST about my mission right now: reading the Book of Mormon.

A while ago, I picked up a brand new copy of the Book of Mormon and decided that I should really read it front to back in French. To that point, I had studied out of it but I had never read it front to back. So, feeling that I was at a point in my mission where I was rather apt enough to read through the Livre de Mormon without the need of the Book of Mormon or a dictionary, I have given it a whirl. And wow! It really is true when people say that the book changes every time you read it. I don't know why that is, but it is really true. And awesome.

And to be honest, it's still remarkable that I can even read it in French with very little difficulty at all. In fact, I almost have less trouble reading in French than I do in English because the French one seems clearer to me sometimes than the English one does! 

Anyway, I wanted to share with you one verse that I really enjoyed while I was reading this past week. It comes from Jacob 5:75... as some of you might now, this is at the very end of the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees... for those of you who don't know it, it's kind of a complicated section to read (though it is really good) but the gist of it is that it talks a lot about missionary work at the end. Here's the verse: 

And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard.

Now, the reason why I love this verse is because the Lord makes a promise based on some conditions: keeping the commandments and laboring diligently. However, I find the last phrase rather interesting because the promise says that we shall have joy "with (him)." I thought that was so cool... one of the greatest joys I have had in my life has been being here on my mission, slowly but surely inviting people to Christ... and I cannot even describe to you the joy that I feel while doing that. In fact, I kind of feel like Enos when he says, "I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it (preaching the gospel) above that of the world." (Enos 1:26). However, I think it's even more cool that the Lord will have that very same joy with me, too! It makes this work even all the more worth it that I can do work that will make my Father in Heaven as happy as I am, if not happier. 

And that's an amazing blessing of being able to serve a mission. Honestly, two years is a pretty small amount of time in the grand scheme of things, so doing this act of service for the Lord is probably the least I can do to show my appreciation for all the blessings I have received: a great family, a great childhood, great friends, great life experiences, just to name a few. 

Honestly, it's the least I could do and I'm more than happy to be doing it. And I thank everyone who has supported me in doing it too! But, lo and behold, I must be going now! 

Have a great week and Love you all,

Elder Hawkins


  1. Haha I had to deal with that driving school when I was in the mission office. I'm glad that Elder Hawkins thought to take some pictures. Elder Owusu, one of the Assistants who was from Ghana, never studied for this part. He was told that if he got at least 2/20, things could be worked out. The worst part of the whole experience, though, is once the Elder actually gets his license. I imagine it's comparable to having your teenager child get his license, and he wants to drive the company car. Good luck!

    1. Ethan,
      Glad you could relive a small part of the joys of the office here, haha! And yes, he's not looking forward to the "teen" driver. :) He had to deal with that already with Elder Ouonnebo, who got into a car accident shortly before he got transferred. Oooh the fun!