Well, the honeymoon season is over, now it's really time to get to work. So I've started getting conflicted reports about who I can and can't email. Apparently that is a little ambiguous right now. I asked President Weed about it in my letter to him, and hopefully I should know soon. To those friends who did email me this week, thank you so much. Please understand that I haven't written back yet because I literally need every blessing I can get, and I know the best way to get blessings is to follow the commandments and mission rules. So I'm playing it safe right now until I know for sure.
My health this week has been a little bit of a downer, my body is still adjusting to Africa I guess.
The last few days I learned the importance of hydration. Like if you can see dried sweat on your arms, that means you aren't sweating any more. Also, your salt levels are really low now. These things added to some sleep issues and nutrition got me a little sick this weekend. Apparently when you get a cold here, it means you actually have a fever. That broke this morning, and I feel great now. Also, during that sickness I had no desire to eat food, so I'm probably down a little weight right now. Not too much though, I'm still at a very healthy level. I've heard stories of missionaries losing anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds here (but the 100 pound loss was a missionary who came here at 300 pounds).
As far as food goes, this is what I've been eating. Breakfast is essentially something like oatmeal with some powdered milk on it (speaking of breakfast, how does one make pancakes from scratch? That sounds really good right now). Lunch is either pasta or rice, with tomato/onion sauce and either chicken, fish, or hotdog for meat. Dinner is usually rice, pasta, or foufou, with the same sauce and meat. So I'm getting a little bit of protein, but not a whole lot. I've found tuna fish at the local supermarket (which is smaller than a regular market somehow, and also named Africagel/711). So I'm going to buy some bread and get that into my system too. And try and eat more fruits. As of yet, I haven't had a mangez-vous yet (dinner appointment), so I haven't had a whole lot of exposure to what the regular fare is here. I was at an appointment where I saw a woman be stung by a scorpian, stab it, and throw it in the soup she was making. That was interesting.
Teaching here is going well now. We have some investigators now, and we've been working a fair bit with some inactive members too, which has been really insightful. I believe tomorrow we're meeting with Ibrahim, who has a really cool story. He works in the airport, and when the group of missionaries before me came here, he approached the mission president and asked what was going on. About four weeks later, he's baptized. Oh, and he's from Nigeria, so he speaks English. So I'm teaching that lesson, it's going to be interesting without a doubt. I'm kind of glad for that opportunity, because I really haven't been able to participate in the other lessons as much as I would like. Between not understanding, not having great speaking skills, and not knowing the scriptures as well as I apparently could, It's really easy to just sit there and not say anything. Unfortunately, those are the moments when I get the most distracted by home, so I'm trying really hard to think of things I could say. I won't lie, it is difficult. But It will all turn out alright.
Funny story, we were teaching a lesson to an inactive member, when I heard a soundspeaker system start up. I wasn't sure what was going on, until I started hearing something I'm probably more familiar with than any other missionary from America. The Islamic call to prayer. They were literally holding a prayer service right outside the house complex. It was really interesting to have that contrast of religions going on. Even more so because there's a synagogue about two blocks away. That's Africa for you. Other than that I haven't had a lot of interactions with Muslims, other than walk past them in the street. We got turned away once with a "no thanks, We follow Islam" response. I've also been in a lesson with a polygamist already, apparently that's a little bit more prevalent here than I had thought. I guess we'll see.
Easter was a pretty boring day. The only thing special about it was that us missionaries got up and sang "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" for a special musical number. Other than that, it was a regular Sunday as far as I could tell. I guess we'll see what Christmas is like. Apparently we're starting a branch choir, we had the first rehearsal
Saturday night. Or maybe that rehearsal was going to be for the musical number, I don't really know. I kind of just roll with things at the moment. Regardless, on Saturday I had the opportunity to play the piano. It was really satisfying to have something that I could contribute. Also, just to play the piano, that really can calm me down.
Today we had lunch with Elder and Sister Southam, one of the couples here in the mission. Pulled pork sandwiches, and ice cream and brownies for dessert. Yum!
Yesterday I was talking to one of the members in the ward who understands a little English, talking about what I had done before the mission, what dad does, and stuff like that. It was really an interesting experience. He had no concept of how common chapels are in Utah. Or the concept of commuting. I wonder how much culture shock must go the other way, for those African Elders who end up in the US. Also, it really is touching to me to see how the members reach out to me. A lot of them know that the only way I'm going to be able to speak French is if I actually speak it, so they make sure to include me in conversations and ask me questions. I've heard older missionaries say that they don't like the members here, but I don't understand it. Personally, I love the members here, even if I don't actually know more than 4 names.
I still haven't gotten a haircut yet, I have the longest hair probably of any missionary, and longer hair than half the country (including lots of the women). I've adjusted pretty well, the biggest issue is when the gel breaks down, the part gets a little funny looking. Also, it's gotten sunburned, oops. The kids here love my hair though, most of them have never seen anything like it. Or my watch. Or my skin. Sometimes I feel a little bit like a celebrity. Also, I've been called Chinese about five or six times. Which has been interesting. For some reason, apparently when I'm talking to Fong speakers, I should introduce myself as Elder Hansen. I guess that is just easier for them, but I don't really know enough about Fong to say for sure. Also, the Elders from the Congo have seen more American TV than I have. Apparently I look a little bit like the main character from Kyle XY and a lot like Clark Kent on Smallville. I'm assuming that's just because of my hair, but they've taken to calling me Superman at least once a day. It just makes me laugh.
Overall, things have gotten a little bit more difficult here. But no one said a mission was going to be easy. I worry that there's a shoe yet to drop and everything is going to get that much harder again. That'll probably be when I'm no longer training or something. Over all though, I'm still happy. I realize that probably some of this letter sounds like complaining, but I don't really think it is. I just want to talk about what's happening and give context. The work here is amazing. The gospel is still true, and life here isn't all that bad. Also, we tracked down an old investigator and committed her to baptism, so the work is progressing even in spite of my poor French!
Haha, one last funny story. So when I was dehydrated my zone leader made me take this sugar/salt water mixture. It tasted awful, so I pulled out those little flavor pouches you sent me with Mom. I don't know if you looked at them all that closely, but it turns out caffeine is a listed ingredient. I figured it was worth it to get down that mixture. I felt a lot better afterwards, but between the sugar, caffeine, and some stomach pain, it took me two hours to go to sleep. I haven't decided if I'm going to use the rest or not. I'm assuming it's not really that much caffeine, but there is a principle involved. We'll see. Love, Elder Ethan Christensen