Sunday, August 3, 2014

Last Week in the Bureau

My favorite person in the office! This is Precious! She's nigerian but she's lived a good part of her life in Benin so she knows French and English really well! She's so awesome... always super happy and very easy to make life... I am going to miss her dearly! 

Wow... what a crazy week! My very last week at the Bureau! It's just been so crazy this week because we have been going to soooooo many hospitals! Everywhere! In trying to give back to the community, we have been visiting tons of hospitals and singing christmas carols to them (even though it's August). They seem to really like it! It's pretty crazy to see how many sick people there are here, not sure what is going on in Africa... coughing, throwing up, groaning, oozing blood, just looking sick in general! The crazy thing is that in Benin, it's custom to always offer whatever water you have to a guest, so every time we go and visit people in the hospital, we always have to drink out of their water or else it's very rude. But people here don't look too sick... they all seem to have symptoms of the flu. I think I saw a few dead people, but I can't confirm that... even our amis have all been looking sick... one of them threw up on Elder Oliverson and he was pretty mad about it because it ruined his favorite shirt and tie, but he's gotten over it. 

Okay, okay...before the Fro has a heart attack, that was all a joke! Ebola is NOT a problem in Benin so don't worry about us. Yes Fro sent me hand sanitizer that smells like candles meaning I use it all the time because it smells so good... so you don't have to worry about me. And nobody threw up on Elder Oliverson. (Note from the Fro: that was just mean...yes I almost had a heart attack! Drinking the water? Ugh.)

Today was a pretty crazy day because we had to move everybody around for transfers... which means driving to the Togo border (Sur, I'm not sure if they pay rent or not). It was even more fun because they have destroyed most of the paved road going out to Togo, which makes driving there even slower... and plus, we had to drive the bus! Wooohooo! No low suspension and almost no shocks! 

The dumbest part about the whole thing was when we had to merge into a single lane to pass onto the other side of the road. In doing so, I hit a guy's side view mirror and broke the mirror part (the housing was fine aside from some paint scratching off). The guy got out and made a HUGE deal about how I hit his stupid side view mirror. Like 5-6 pedestrians came over and made a little group (thankfully Izekor was there to help negotiate my way out of going to the police station with him). What really astonished me the most was that I was acting really calm and just telling him I was sorry and I didn't see how close he was to me because I'm high up in the van and he was on the passenger side. You would think that I had scratched his Mercedes or Rolls Royce... but no... he was freaking out about his Ford Focus. A Ford Focus. We gave him $20 (which was too much but he wanted $30) and it took him a while to calm down but he saw we weren't budging and I think he realized he was acting like a complete clown, so he just stopped arguing, took the money, and got in his car. 

Just kinda makes me shake my head and I say to myself "Ohhhh Afri-ka!"

I'm glad that I will probably not have to deal with any of those situations any longer though! Even today, while we were driving around, people kept reminding us that they needed their propane tank refilled, or that they needed extra money because their ATM card didn't work, or that we need to give a present for this person because she's going home... there are just so many little things that an Office Elder has to do which makes the job quite annoying sometimes.

One of the problems with being an Office Elder was that just about everyone asks you to do just one little favor for them... just one! Except that when everybody asks for that one favor... well, that's a lot of favors! And there's not often a whole lot of thanks in the work that we do so that gets really tiring, really quick.

But to be quite honest, even with the problems there were, I loved being in the Office. I feel like I was able to do a lot of things in the Office that I would have never have been able to do in the field. 

Throughout my mission, I've always felt like I was never really the person made for straight up missionary work... I struggle with a lot of aspects in missionary work like talking to strangers, taking care of amis at Church, teaching in lessons, finding creative ways to find people. In the first part of my mission, I thought I would get really good at those things... though I'm sure I am better than I was before at all of them now... I just never really felt like I was ever doing enough or doing what I was doing well enough. 

And then... President Weed called me to the Office. And for once, I actually felt like I was fitting in somewhere in this mission. For example, driving people over to the Togo border, or running errands around Cotonou... that's something I can do! I mean heck, if I can drive from DC to Philadelphia from 12-3 AM without dying or drive my uncle's Infinity to Manhattan without putting a scratch on it, I think I can handle the craziness of Cotonou and Benin!

Of course, it was pretty easy for me to put back on the "Tech Guy" hat in the bureau! From photoshopping passport photos, to redesigning the journal, to fixing tech problems, to helping the Morins learn how to use their iPhones... I just felt like I was in the right place. Everything felt really normal to me and I never felt out of place at the bureau.

And it never hurts to throw in a little A/C, too! 

The other thing that I loved about being here was that every week was always different... there really wasn't anything routine about the Bureau... always a new problem to solve, always a new place to go, always a new person to see! At the end of the day, I just had tons of fun doing what I was doing here.

Of course, that's not to say that I wasn't a missionary! I still had people to teach, people to find to teach, people to take care of at Church, and duties to do at Church, but I felt like there was always a blend and it fit me quite well. I think it was exactly what I needed too. The experiences that I had at the Bureau have been priceless... I don't think I will ever trade it for anything. Nine months is a long time, don't get me wrong, but I honestly feel like I'm ready and that I did what I needed to do.

And now, I start a new chapter of my mission, and most likely the final chapter of my mission. I'm scared though! It's been nine months since I've worked a normal missionary schedule! And to make matters more difficult, I'm training a brand new missionary... his first twelve weeks are my last twelve weeks. I have a feeling that these next twelve weeks are going to be hard, but I have a feeling that they will be the twelve weeks that I will need. I have a feeling that this last sector will be the ultimate test of where I am as a missionary... almost like a final exam that the Lord will be giving me to show me how much I have grown as a missionary and how I am not that same kid I was when I first stepped foot in the MTC. 

I can't wait for this next chapter of my mission... it's scary to think how close home is, but it's even more scary that everything I've come to love here will be getting farther and farther away. 

Thanks to everybody for the kind love and support... especially the prayers! Keep praying that I will be in good health to return home... I'll be needing it the most during these last couple of months! 


Elder Hawkins

Whoops... accidentally took tons of photos this week... 

Enyam pile night!!! For family home evening this past week, we went over to our favorite family's house and made some Enyam pile... aka African mashed potatoes! It's nothing like mashed potatoes but that's the best way to describe it. 

Oliverson and I prepping the sauce (meaning pulling the stems of the leaves)... what a tedious process. 

Worse part? Izekor messed up the sauce so we didn't even end up eating it!!!! But it's okay, Mama Rebecca whipped up this amazing spicy peanut sauce so all was well in the end.

BOOM! BOOMBA NIGHT (we had a traditional Africa night with the family... they all thought it was hilarious to see us in Boombas because they only see us in missionary attire).
Us all taking shots at the Enyam piling... it's pretty hard and you get tired really quickly. 

Actually rather dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. 

Elder Izekor is an enyam piler master by the way... Enyam piling is in his DNA! 

Final product! 

The meal with the peanut sauce... eaten with hands, of course.

Random pictures:

Flooded streets. nbd.

August 1st was Independence Day in Benin. It got pretty crazy here and they shut down the major road in Cotonou for most of the week so traffic was a nightmare... but Cotonou looked nice when it had flags everywhere... I thought this was the best looking one. 

Well, it just wouldn't be a good week if I didn't include a picture of Ceilia, would it? I actually just got off the phone with her mom and told us it was going to be hard for them to get to Church because the State now requires all moto drivers to wear helmets! We told them that we would help get them to Church, but it was funny because Rebecca handed Ceilia the phone and she started saying "Haw-KINS! Haw-KINS! (something in Mina)." When I asked her mom what she said, she said that Ceilia asked me if I had a helmet because I really need one! Haha it made me crack up! The thing that surprises me the most about her is that she actually always remembers my name whenever I visit her! Most Beninois cannot remember my name to save their lives, but I think she remembers my name better than my companions' names because it's only two syllables. 

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