Yes, I did get the little package from Elder Allred. The camera works fine and I've already started to take pictures again. Thanks. I also enjoyed seeing Jacob's MTC photos, that was a nice surprise.
I actually helped Elder Semken write that email, I was the one that was actually at customs trying to deal with the problem. Flat rate envelopes are not treated the same as boxes. Flat rate envelopes, padded envelopes (which sometimes can be very big), and small boxes (smaller than a shoe-box, maybe a little larger than a quad) all go straight through the normal post office. In the 8 months that I have been here, none of those have ever been opened, although one or two were a little ripped. One of our Elders receives a bag like that at least every other week. I think that we will be able to resolve the problem with customs in the next few weeks, but we will see what happens. I am positive that we will be able to get them to back off on taxing candy. I have not yet actually received the package you sent me a while back.
I'm still in the office for at least two weeks. This week we are welcoming 20 new missionaries, and the next week President will be in Ghana for a mission president seminar. After that, who knows. Elder Mary is still having problems getting his residence card, if he doesn't have it in a month he will have to go to Togo. I'm not sure what that would mean for me. I do still think that I will open up that new apartment/group, which would be a lot of fun. A lot of work too. I did find out that for a while President was planning on sending me back to Togo to train. But then he decided to keep me here a little longer. I'm glad that I didn't know that until after the fact. You do know that you've been in the office for a long time when missionaries that you welcomed in the office their first day are now senior companions.
I didn't get to see any of conference yet, but I have been able to read several of the talks on lds.org. From what I have read, it seems to have been a stellar conference. An interesting trend I've noticed is that conference is getting more about missionary work. I still remember that the first conference of my mission, for every single talk I saw I wrote "about family, read again after mission."
Woah, what? Davis cup is this week? That's crazy. It can't already be that time of the year.
This last week we got to go with the Gbedjromede zone out to Ganvié. If you remember I went there when I was about 3 months in Africa, it's the city on the lake. It's known as the "Venice of Africa." This time it wasn't nearly as fun though. No clouds made it hot, we spent a lot more time in the water traveling because we changed our launch point, and we didn't have a tour guide explaining everything to us on the way. I did manage to get really nicely sun-burned though, which helped me get back some of the tan that I've lost since being in the office. I still enjoyed the experience, but not all of the missionaries were so excited about it.
This week I got to add "car dealer" to my list of experiences. We are in the process of selling one of the mission cars, and people have been coming in all week to look at it. Of course, the awkward part is that the car doesn't actually work (the alternator died), and area offices told us to sell it 'as is'. The mission really has been a crash course in life.
The investigator we have been working the most with is Habiba. She's from Cote d'Ivoire and has had a lot of troubles in her life. She's been to church twice now and likes it. The thing that slows down our lessons more than anyone else is that she doesn't know how to read. She is trying to learn but it's slow. The Book of Mormon is hard for people that don't know how to read. In French there is a lot of grammar that is only used in formal writing, it's never used when speaking. But she wants to learn more and she is progressing.
Sorry for getting a little frustrated last week. I did say that I would already have an answer by this time. At least I'm in the thick of things, just imagine that you are Elder Shearer's mom, he has no idea what's going on with travel (of my wave, he is the only one in Togo right now. In fact, he has never served in Benin. He spent his entire mission in Togo). Here's what is happening on that level. Flight plans have been requested, they have not yet been received. The day President told me to request is December ___. Your email address was sent in as well, you will receive the flight plans the same time we do (I actually thought we would have received them by now, it was supposed to be a nice surprise for you).I think one or two of the other missionaries are aware of the date, but you should let them tell their mothers. President is not sure if they will let us fly on that day or not, it may be a few days later. We will find out soon.