...It has already been 6 months since the time that I left home, which means that I am 1/4 of the way through my mission. Look at how fast time goes by. I have served with two companions, and now I am serving with my third (who just finished his training). So many things have happened in just a short amount of time, and I can tell that my personality is slowly changing (as well as my speech.. that's just what happens). Did you know that even though this mission is an "English speaking mission," the people here in Ghana Kumasi don't want to speak it, even if they know it well? There are plenty of people who we come across who understand English perfectly and can speak it well, but they choose to speak in Twi instead. This is a problem throughout the whole mission, and the missionaries suffer because of it. Thankfully, I was able to learn a moderate amount of Twi in Mampong (where the problem is REALLY prevalent) and I am doing well in breaking down my English into forms that they can understand. For example, if you say "How has your day been?" they will just look at you blankly. If you change it and say "How has been your day?" they will answer you without hesitation. It is really screwing with my grammar, but it is the only way to communicate with the people. Language really is a barrier here, but we just do our best with what we have.
By the way, I received my package on Friday, which was also the day that I had to visit the hospital, or "FirstCare." My experience there was an interesting one, and I have a feeling that everything I go through here will just be another story to tell to my kids. On Thursday, I sent the pictures of my eye to Sister Holmes and I received a call Friday morning telling me to contact the AP's so that they could take me straight to FirstCare. I called the AP's, and then my companion and I drove in a trotro to D... where they picked us up in their van. (they are the only missionaries with a car in Kumasi). When we arrived at the hospital, I went up to the desk and gave them the information they needed (which they keep in many folders of paper, not computers) and then I sat down for 2 hours waiting for a doctor to actually show up (there wasn't even a line of people waiting, the doctor just wasn't there). When she arrived, I went into her office and she gave me a diagnosis of herpes at first. I couldn't believe it, so I told her that I was allergic to spider bites and she said it must be a hyper-allergic reaction. She told me what drugs to take and directed me to the chemist who gave me the drugs and told me to go to another doctor who would give me an injection. As you know, I hate needles so I wasn't enthusiastic about getting an injection, especially if it's in a different country other than my own. When I went to the doctor, I found him flirting with one of the nurses, and he didn't even stop when I gave him the try of needles and drugs that had been prepared by the chemist. He told me to take a seat, and then he got out a plastic tube and told me to hold out my right arm. He told me to clench my hand into a fist, and then he tied the tube around my wrist so that the blood veins would pop up. He then gave the girl the needle, and instructed her on how to do the injection. The first time she put the needle in, she didn't even put it in the right direction. She had to take it out and re-position the needle, and she failed the second time. She tried again for a third time, and then when she tried to give me the injection, the skin just started to swell up because the fluid wasn't going into my bloodstream. The male doctor decided to take it from her at that point, and he took out the needle and went to my left hand instead. Thankfully, he only had to take two tries with my left hand before he put the needle in correctly, and the medication went through me with no problem. I really can't stand needles, and this experience didn't help me at all.
As you said, the area that I am in is bigger than M..., and it is a part of Kumasi. Instead of 4 or 2 elders in the apartment, there are 6 missionaries total. That means that the supplies in the package you sent were a little short, but I just gave the presents secretly to the first elders who arrived at the apartment on Friday night. Thank you for everything that was included in the package; we have really been enjoying everything and we will soon be decorating for Christmas. Anyways, this area is far bigger than M..., and I am not sure if I like it better or if I like M... more. You see, the weather is a lot hotter here, and there is never any wind that comes through. As for people to teach, there are many people that we can contact and teach lessons to, but the hard part is finding people who are seriously interested or people who will progress. Elder Adams and I were able to teach 20 lessons in 3 days (since Friday was taken up by my trip to the hospital), but I still miss the people who I was teaching in M.... Even though they speak more English here and there are more lessons to teach, it doesn't feel the same as where I just came from. I know that it will just take a little time for me to adjust, so in the meantime, I am doing my best to enjoy the area.
There are a couple families here who I contacted with Elder A-- on Saturday, and they both fed us to large meals of fufuo and banku, after which we couldn't eat anything else because our stomachs were so full. They are both wonderful families (with many children in each), so I hope that they will also progress in the gospel. There might be 1 baptism this week and another next week, so we will see what happens as we meet with the potential members and see if they feel prepared and ready for baptism.
I am now serving in a ward, which feels very different from the branch I just came from. I don't have the responsibility of teaching the investigator's class (gospel principles) anymore, I don't have to worry about giving a talk in church, and all of the ward activities are handled by the members. It gives me the time to focus more on the people we teach and the families within the ward, and I am grateful for the change of pace in the work. I know that every area I go to will be different from the last, so I just have to learn how to enjoy the new places that I am set in. As an afterthought, there was a lady in church who heard me singing and told the choir director that I could help him with the ward choir because "[I have] a wonderful voice." I don't think that there will ever be a time when my talent is not being used. I wish I could put the sheet music that you sent into good use, but we don't have a keyboard in the apartment anymore and they already have someone who plays the keyboard well in the ward. I will see what I can do about it though.
As usual, this is the part where I answer your questions. Here we go:
1) As stated in the above text, there are six elders in the apartment (six total in the area)
2) Basically, we have every single faith known to man here in Ghana. If I was to give one religion that I see everywhere here though, it would have to be MOGPA (Moments of Glory Prayer Army). It is a religion that was formed here in Ghana, so of course it is the most popular among the people. They preach that there is no power in the priesthood, which makes our work as missionaries even more difficult. We have even had a few people tell us that they won't go to any church unless they see miracles happen, like they see in MOGPA meetings. It is a little frustrating at times, but we do our best to explain what we know to be true. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said, we give them the correct principles and then they are left to govern themselves.
3) As for holidays, I haven't noticed too many at all. The only thing that comes close to holidays are the funerals that are held every single day. The funerals here are like parties, where every member of the extended family comes and gathers to remember the recently deceased. Sometimes, there are more than 300 people present (all extended family) and there can be more than 10 funerals going on in one day. They blast music as loud as they can, and they just dance and talk about the times they spent with the person who died. This lasts for more than 4 hours, so the city is never quiet.
By the way, I am slowly becoming a good cook, and I am learning more recipes every day. I have made crepes already, and now I am going to try to make a pan-baked pizza. Wish me luck.
As always, I send my love to you all and hope that you have a good week. It looks like you are all having fun. Matthew, stop growing! You're almost as tall as dad! Adalie, keep doing your best in school. This is the time to get everything ready for college/university. I love everyone of you.