Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9, 2012

Hi Everyone,
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

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
Elder Ethan Christensen

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