Monday, October 6, 2014

Still Chuggin' Along

October is finally here... I felt like it was just yesterday that I was celebrating Columbus day! 

This week was a pretty normal week (meaning no hospital visits)... we weren't able to teach as many lessons as I would have liked to but we had quite a few ratez-vous and a lot of lessons that were far away. When you don't have bicycles, walking can get pretty tiresome. Add that and the fact that there are no taxis in Cotonou and President Morin is trying to ban taking motos, it can be really tiresome (and makes you feel more guilty for taking said motos). 

BUT, I'm still chuggin' along. Still gettin' work done. Still makin' things happen.

On Saturday, we started to prepare for a missionary activity that we did today. We wanted to do a BBQ so we headed down to Tokpa on Saturday to buy the chicken and other ingredients that would be necessary for our BBQ. So, during our lunch break we went out there and met a few other missionaries to do some quick shopping. Thankfully, it happened to be one of the hottest days that I can recall on my mission. Goodness... I hate shopping at Marches here... they are literally the most terrible thing you could imagine: yovo chants, tiny roads (filled with huge puddles), tons of people, bad fish smells... all in one spot. Apparently, Tokpa is the biggest open air market in West Africa, but I honestly don't have any idea why people go there to shop. 

View of the market found on the internet. 

Why? Probably because all you can find in the marche is tomato paste, rice, casava, pasta, powdered milk, maggi cubes, etc... which you can find in just about every single boutique/local marche in Cotonou. Yes, there are speciality items that you can find in Tokpa, but because it's so big, you have to go on a hunt to find it (and there is no store directory if you can believe it). So why you would go all the way down to Tokpa is beyond me.

But we did go all the way down to Tokpa... mainly because it's a central location and it's easy to get to (all the buses and taxis go there pretty cheaply). Once we got there we went into the belly of the beast and saw just about everything you can imagine buying from the biggest West African open air market: ladies carrying live chickens on their heads (they break their wings, tie their legs, and lay them down flat on a big tray), a wide variety of fish that you would never want to eat, never ending vendors of pima and other leaves made for sauces here... but once we went deep into the market, we finally found this meat lady that Elder Silvas knew. Thankfully, she had raw chicken sitting out so we knew that we were in the right place. For a second I thought she was going to sell us the raw, thawed out chicken but as we were buying in bulk, she took us back to her circa-1960s freezer and sold us 10 chickens for $30. However, these are African chickens which have about half the meat as a regular chicken back home. 

Feeling victorious, we set about through the marche trying to find some rice and plastic plates. We found the rice pretty easily (12 pounds for $6!) but the plastic plates were ridiculous. Since the ladies saw that we were about 6 white guys in a group, they just went nuts on the prices. We probably went through about 3-4 different vendors until we finally were able to buy 50 plates for $5, which is pretty expensive if you ask me. 

The real adventure came when we tried to get out of the market and regroup back at Festival de Charwama.  Elder Silvas' companion, Elder Makondo, took us through a "shortcut" to get out of the market. Turned out to be a 30 minute detour... and we all got absolutely fried because of it. Like I said, it had to be at least 100 degrees outside and there wasn't a cloud in the sky so you can imagine how hot it was. 

But, there were charwamas at the end so victory was ours! 

Then, because of a lack of time, my comp and I had to go straight back into the sector under the scorching hot sun... I was already sun burnt at this point but I still put on sunscreen because it was still hotter than Adele's temper outside. Thankfully, I have my handy-dandy lavender oil which I rubbed on the sunburn to help it go away when I got back to the apartment (which worked well, by the way). 

The next day, I went to Fidjrosse to help Elder Silvas do some preparing. Turns out that I am really horrible at skinning and gutting a chicken, so Elder Silvas took care of that while I cooked rice, peeled carrots and scrambled some eggs. 

At one point, we ran out of room to put all the cooked rice so we took one of our laundry buckets, put garbage bags over it, and then dumped all of the rice in it... it was pretty effective for holding all the rice but not a very good insulator to keep the heat! 

The rice bucket! 

Also, another food to add to the crazy food check list: Chicken necks. Didn't know that it was edible, but apparently it is. Elder Makondo took all the scraps that we had from our chickens and proved to us that they were edible. The neck actually wasn't that bad... a little tough but it tasted like chicken if you can believe it.

Chicken guts!

This morning, the Assistants brought all the food over as well as the grill. It took a while to light the charcoal because it was so windy at the beach but my companion stepped in, channeled is Togolais-ness, and started that fire like a pro.

Just BBQ some chicken.

The activity turned out really well though... everybody had a good time... we didn't end up recovering all the money that we had put into the activity but it's okay. We had a good time, grilled some chicken, played some Africaball (probably my last), and ate some decent food.

The trashy beach we paid 40 cents to get in to.

Cool knit American flag I found at the beach place... why it's there? The place is called Obama beach so it's got this weird American theme to it though there is nothing American about the place. Except the flag. 

The Beach.

Other than that, things are going pretty well. Preaching the gospel is still the same old, same old. I wish I would have more cool stories to teach about that but nothing too out of the ordinary or interesting has happened with our lessons this week (besides the fact that people have been giving us a lot of drinks and food recently... I think that means we're doing a good job). Teaching has been going well though... my companion has learned a lot in the few weeks that we have been together and his teaching has really improved. 

Alright, well I best be going now. Thanks for all the prayers and kind thoughts... 


Elder Hawkins 

Started my last planner this week... as I will have done 18 planners, it worked out perfectly with half innings in a baseball game! So, right before my year mark, I started numbering my planners by baseball innings. I've gotten lots of compliments on it!

These pics are especially for Sur: 

Usually found on the walls of parcels or in this case, stuck in the ground, people will place signs to mark ownership...

... and I happened to find Mr. Gomez's property.

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