Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pets, Proposals, and Proselyting

Hey everyone,
     This week really went by quickly.  Time flies by when you have a lot of work to do.  At the moment I am compressing pictures into one file, so hopefully they will be sent right after this e-mail is written.  No guarantees though, as there are so many pictures.  As of now, most of them are from the MTC and I haven't been able to take too many pictures of the local area so far, but it shouldn't be like that for much longer.  The people have to be familiar with me before I can take pictures and not look like a tourist.  As for the people in Ghana, they LOVE pictures.  If they see you with a camera, they'll say "Take a snip!" and then they'll pose until you "take the snip."  They expect you to print them out as soon as possible, and then they make sure to put the prints on their walls or in a case.  I haven't had to print any out yet, but I'm sure that that will change soon.
  For the most part, we teach people on the steps outside of their house because they all only have one tiny room that they sleep in.  However, we taught a young man on Friday and he had quite the setup for living around here.  He had a nice sound system, actual couches, and a table that he put all of his electronics on.  That was the first couch that I have sat on since I left the mission home.  They aren't very common around here.  I'll be able to live in any condition by the time I come back to America.
     About the Visas, there is nothing to worry about.  The head of local immigration in M--- stopped beside us in his car while we were walking by, and he asked us what we were doing about our visas.  We explained that everything has been sent out from Accra and that everything takes time, and he said "Okay, I just want to know what your immigration status is."  We won't be arrested or anything and it isn't a big problem, and the papers are already sent so all we have to do is wait.  Don't worry about calling the mission home or anything like that; we can handle everything on this side of the world.
     As for shrimp, I miss the taste and crave it every time we have fish with our meals.  Elder A--- uses sardines in every meal that we eat (we eat as a group in the apartment), so I'm always thinking of shrimp.  We have a local restaurant in the area called Annex where we are allowed to eat at, but the food is pretty expensive for us Elders.  It is about $5 a plate, which includes a pile of rice, a sauce called Chito, and 2 chicken pieces (either breast or wing).  We would eat there every day if we could, but cooking at home isn't too bad.  However, if the power goes out and you have a lot of dishes to clean, it's hard because we only have a limited amount of reserve water that we set aside for instances where the power is out.  Last week we were out for two days in a row, so we have to ration everything out.  Usually, the power will be off and on throughout the day, but this time it was completely gone.  While we (Elder A--- and I) were walking to appointments, we noticed that there were workers who set up ladders next to the trees overhanging the power lines and were whacking all of the limbs off with machetes.  Since then, we've had a pretty steady power flow, so life is running a little more smoothly.  If you have any recipes for making tortillas, that would be a treat to us here.  We have street vendors that sell deep fried dough balls, but other than that we just buy regular loaves of bread.  It's really cheap here, and it almost tastes homemade so it's always a treat.
     Speaking of the MTC, I forgot to talk about the day when we spent our activity time playing soccer in the rain.  We got super muddy, but everyone had a lot of fun.  If you kicked the ball, it would stop after it traveled a few inches because there were puddles everywhere and the rain weighed it down.  There was a photographer for the church at the MTC during that time and he was taking pictures every second or so.  We talked to him afterwards, and he said that the pictures might show up in the October or November edition of the New Era in a section called "Missionary Life" or something similar.  Not positive about the name of the section, but be sure to look out for it!
     We have a pet in our home.  Not a real pet, but it's a frequenter of our trash can.  We call them cockroaches.  The first time I lifted the trash can, I jumped ten feet into the air because it scuttled out from under the can and went between my feet, bee-lining for the space underneath our kitchen sink.  Ever since then, I know to prepare myself for a scare because it happens each time.  We don't know what to name him, and we haven't killed him yet.  Any suggestions?  Speaking of pets, there is also a massive spider that haunts the shower.  Sometimes, you can see it hanging down from the ceiling trying to span its way down onto your head, but if you try to shoo it away, it just rappels back up to the ceiling.  It is way too fast to catch, so we don't worry about it.  A side note about the shower: there are no water heaters, so you have to brave it and shower in cold water.  Usually it's a pretty welcome feel because of all of the sweat that accumulates during the day, but I wouldn't like it if I was back in America.  I can't complain while I'm here though, because it is all a part of the experience.
     Have I told you all about Ju-ju yet? It's the local magic practices that they have around Ghana (and apparently all of North Africa as far as I can tell).  If someone gets mad at another person, they will yell "Curse you!" in the most literal sense, and then the other person is cursed.  I saw it firsthand two days ago when a man threatened a woman, telling her that he would use a voodoo doll and wither her hand.  The woman was pleading with him for a good 5 minutes before he let up.  Yesterday, we gave a blessing to a girl who was cursed with engorgement, but all I could think of in my head was "Engorgio! Engorgio!" (Harry Potter reference)  Apparently, a fellow classmate cursed her by saying that she would swell up, and then it started to happen.  I don't know what to think about it all, but if any of it is true, then I am staying away from it as much as possible.  You don't want to mess with bad spirits.
     On an opposite note, I was able to confirm C--- as a member of the church yesterday.  The whole air was charged with the power of the Spirit, and it was a witness to me that I am doing the right thing.  It was also a witness to C---, and I know that she could feel that she had made an important step in her life.  Baptism is an essential step towards Eternal Life, and I know that she will receive many blessings for the choice she has made.
     We taught The Plan of Salvation to an investigator (Ch---) yesterday, and it looked like he wanted to jump up and down in excitement.  He couldn't contain himself and was saying "Yes! Yes yes yes!" to everything we told him.  When we came to the reason why we were sent to earth, he exclaimed "The Word of God is sweet! It is sweet!"  We told him that what we were teaching him only existed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and all he did was smile and nod.  At the end of the lesson, he asked us when he could see us next and that he wanted to hear more of "God's word."  He is definitely excited to listen to us again, and he has been translating everything for his family so we hope to see more baptisms this month.  A--- (the first golden investigator) hasn't been to church yet, but his sons have been coming to every meeting so we hope to extend baptismal dates to them as well.  I can't wait to see what this next month has in store for us.
     That reminds me, I've already been out on my mission for a whole month!  Like I said before, time passes by so quickly here.  Last week, we taught a total of 24 lessons, and we hope to have even more this week.  Since it gets dark by 7:00 here (every day), we have to be in our apartments by 7:30 or so unless we are in a lesson.  We cannot contact new people when it is dark outside though.  This gives us time to cook, plan out the next day, and have some personal study before retiring at 10:30.  My companion always wakes up at 5 or 5:30, but that's too crazy for me.  Like I said in my last e-mail, I get up at 6:30, on the dot.
     People really blast their music here.  There is basically no silent place throughout the whole town unless you walk into its outskirts.  All of the speakers are blown out so the music sounds really tinny, but you get used to it after a while.  They say that you listen to the same music that you hear during your mission, so I guess I'll be listening to a lot of African Rap when I get back.  I haven't heard anything else besides gospel music here, but that is a lot less common.
     On Saturday (the second day the power was out) we had eight lessons planned for the day, and five of them fell through.  I was fasting by then because I wanted to make good use out of the fact that we didn't have any way to eat, and then we went out to find people to teach.  We were able to teach eight lessons that day to people who had all come back from vacation, and I know that it only happened because I was fasting.  The town is pretty empty during Saturdays due to a tradition called "Burial."  It's a tradition that the Ashanti have here, where the people of the Ashanti tribe all gather in one place in town and basically dance and sing for most of the day.  It's to celebrate people who have died in Ghana, and it takes place every single Saturday.  The only people that you find around the houses are children, so everything has a creepy feel about it.  All I can think of is Lord of the Flies.  The absence of adults makes it terrible for contacting, but if you search hard enough, the Lord will help you.
     A girl asked me to marry her last week, and she wouldn't take no for an answer.  Elder A--- and I kept on explaining to her why it could never happen, and finally I had an idea.  I had keys in my pocket which were all on a keychain (the loop), so I stuck my ring finger through the loop and hid the keys in my palm.  I said "Look, I'm already married!" and she believed me until she heard the keys jingle-jangle.  It was worth a try.  Now she doesn't like to talk to me, so it's easy to teach her husband because she isn't flirting anymore.  That's right, she has a husband. The culture is different here. 
     Another girl asked me out to a party as well, and I declined (of course).  She said "Fine, I'll just fly back with you when you leave for California."  I guess that I will be dealing with this for the rest of my mission.
     You know, I am enjoying everything here.  In the beginning I was thinking about home a lot, but now I just dream about it.  If I can live in Africa during the day and live in America during the night, then that makes it a pretty even balance.  I'm already pretty tan now, so by the end I'll be a totally different person.  Like I said, I'll be taking more pictures, so you should be seeing more of me as time goes on. 
     About the baptismal font: it is green (not too bad, but green enough) because it rains almost every day and the font is located outside.  They would have to import water in each time they drain it, so the water is pretty much the same week by week.  Thankfully, the font is only 45 minutes away, so it isn't too bad of a drive.
Much love,
Elder Twede 
(--- denotes edited names, ... denotes edited personal information)

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