Friday, 31 January 2014

28 JANUARY 2014

This week has been pretty eventful. We attended a baptism Tuesday (the 21st) of an older man (around 58) who is so excited to be a member. We met him our 2nd day here on the street and he told us he was "mostly" a member. He is very intelligent and personable, and anxious to learn. When he was confirmed and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday, he was in tears. He is such a good man.

Our mission president, Pres. Shulz, asked us to go to Axim (pronounced Aux-eem) to look at a building that could possibly be used as a chapel. We experienced road construction most of the 2 hour drive, complete with car-eating pot holes and ruts and all the other things associated with third world road building. Of course, some of the roads are like this even when they're not under construction. It was a long, bumpy ride. We looked at the site, taking measurements and pictures and turned around and drove home (after spending just a little time with the missionaries). We returned in time to eat dinner and make a report.

                      Elder & Sister Schiffman's newly remodeled home, complete with a dog!

On Thursday, the 23rd we rode with Elder & Sister Ivie to a city called Praso (pronounced Prah-zoh) on a pretty nice road - by Ghanaian standards. It was about 3 hours away. Because of road conditions, distances are measured here in hours, not miles. We cleaned, repaired and stocked this home for Elder Richard and Sister Marilyn Schiffman, the new senior missionaries called to serve there. And they are from Hooper! Their home is just around the corner from us. People in the area office are wondering why they are being invaded by people who celebrate the tomato. I guess it's because we are adventurous and like camping. We spent two days there with, and then in the evening went to the mission home to welcome the new couple and have dinner.

(from left), Elder & Sister Crittenden (office couple), Elder & Sister Ivie, a couple of goof-balls,
                                   Elder & Sister Schiffman and President Shulz

We took a picture of the crows that hang out around our apartment in huge numbers. We live on the third (top) floor of our building and this shot is from our kitchen window. The birds are about 25 feet straight across from us. They were hiding, but when we started moving around, they came out to see what was going on. Also, we counted over 30 hawks and kites (the birds, not the paper ones on a string) from the kitchen window. When you see the sunrise picture below, you will know that this window is where it's happening. We live on a hillside overlooking a large area with a valley below. We've seen so many varieties of birds. This morning we spotted one that was red on the top of it's wings and body. Lots of cool stuff.

The Elders just across the court- yard told us about a woman who sells fruits and vegetables not far from our home. We visited her "store" and found a well stocked produce department. People here love to have their picture taken, so we got this shot of her in her mini-market. Her fruit and veggies are the freshest we've found. She calls us "mommy" and "daddy" because we're "old". The average life span here is 57 years.....not very long by U.S. standards, so we have lived beyond expectations.

                                              Seywah, our local "Fruit & Veggie" Lady

We put all of the goodies we bought on the counter in our home and took the picture below. It cost 18 Ghana cedi's (about 9 dollars US). Everything is extremely fresh and in season. We purchased 1 pineapple, a bunch of bananas, 1 mango (the biggest, juiciest and best flavor we've ever seen), 2 cukes, a huge bunch of green onions, 4 apples, 3 large carrots, a head of cabbage, 2 tomatoes,  4 tangerines, 1 green pepper and a bunch of green leaf lettuce. We soak all our produce in chlorox water to kill the order of the mission and in an attempt to live long and prosper.

The 1st week we went to church, Sister J. was in Relief Society where the only language spoken was Fanti. She gathered that the R.S. pres. was announcing who was to give the lesson and the next thing she that she understood was "Loretta". As she was frantically wondering what in the world she would teach, this beautiful young sister got up and gave a beautiful English! So here is a picture of the "Loretta's".

This glorious early morning picture of the ocean was taken, as previously mentioned , from our kitchen window and provides some pretty spectacular "eye candy". We stated in our earlier blog that the winds from the Sahara Desert create a lot of continuous dust floating in the air. Sometimes that can make for some very interesting photos. We'll see how things change during the rainy season. coming up. 

We've decided to end with some random pictures. Hope you enjoy our blog.

Elder & Sister Julander

Sister J. by a really huge, cool tree of undetermined species.

Takoradi Stake Center with equally cool, unknown trees in front.

Our apartment is above, with the little windowed room sticking out to the left. We have the entire top floor, with room for visitors! (hint, hint)                                                                                 

This is a trotro - cheap transportation that will take you where you need to go. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


And finally figured out how to blog.

After an 18 hour layover at JFK we set out for Ghana. 10 hours later we arrived, at 2:30 AM! Bless the missionaries that picked us up at that hour. We are adjusting to life here pretty well. Both Sister J and I were certified by our maintenance expert as "Ghana drivers", meaning we can drive like the rest of the crazy drivers here. There are few rules, and it's kind of like bumper cars at Lagoon, only you don't try to hit anyone. We are driving a 4WD Nissan truck, and we need it just to get up the "road" to our apartment, as well as the other missionary apartments in this part of the mission.

This pic doesn't look nearly as pitted and rough as it really is. If we don't use 4WD, we spin our tires. The cabs only go down, after going around the long, long way.

The missionaries here are really great. They are very strong, good Elders and Sisters. I am amazed because when I was in NZ a gazillion years ago, about half of the missionaries were pretty useless. When Pres. & Sis. Schulz first came, they had a lot of problems with obedience, and so they concentrated on that. The theme of the mission is "Forever Strong" (and yes, they watch the video occasionally) and the missionaries really do well living the rules and have been blessed because of it. West Africa has more convert baptisms per missionary than anywhere else in the world right now.

These are the Zone Leaders who live downstairs - Elders Hinze from Utah & Ouma (it's fun to say) from Uganda. There are 4 in the apartment, and they get special treatment when we go somewhere they are going - they get to ride in an air conditioned truck. Otherwise they walk or take a tro-tro. This is a van that makes rounds much like a bus, but is cheaper. Many of them are beat to death, and smoke like chimneys, and are stuffed with people, and loaded to the top and beyond. I saw one with stuff stacked on top nearly as tall as the height of the van. Crazy.

We have 10 Sister missionaries in the Takoradi area. They are from all over Africa, and are very effective. Because they are accustomed to living in Africa, so they don't whine about the conditions. We really enjoy being with these great people. We take care of any problems with the apartments - broken fans, stoves, water filters, etc. - things that are really essential here. We don't have to repair them, just make sure we get replacements for them when they break. Elder J. will do minor repairs, but we have all kinds of resources here to assist.

One other thing we're doing is visiting the Branches and assisting with Priesthood training. We went to the Sekondi (pronounced "sec-un-dee") Ward our first Sunday, and found really great members and leaders. The Takoradi Stake is very strong and has a lot of members. And it's growing! They will split the stake soon, so there will be two here. The branches are another matter. We went to the Daboase (I don't know how to phonetically spell this one) Branch Sunday, and it was pretty pitiful. It has been a branch for many years, and just hasn't grown. The other 4 branches we serve are a little stronger. They all have at least two Elders, and often 4. Someday it will be a district.

The country side here is amazing. This, we are told, is the dry season. We can tell because we had to have a truck come and fill up our water tank. In the wet season the water flows in from the city water supply. The entire country is GREEN with the exception of the roads and sidewalks & trails where people walk a lot. Everywhere else there is grass, palm trees, banana trees, other various large trees, shrubs and plants that are all GREEN.

Here is Sister J. among the shrubs at the back of a chapel. You will notice that these are some of the plants that grow in pots in the U.S. only much larger.

Now, the following pic was taken out the window of the moving truck. I haven't had time to take any really good pics yet. Too much going on and too much to do. This is a plantation of young rubber trees. There is a rubber manufacturing plant in the area, and the trees produce for about 50 years, so each year they take out the 50 year olds and plant the new.
Notice that everything is GREEN! Also notice the haze. This is dust from the Sahara. The yearly winds are blowing up there, and we have red dust all over the house. It's very fine, so we mop & clean, and it returns immediately.
We've seen some cool birds since we've been here. Cattle egret's are abundant, and hang out with the roaming herds of Brahma bulls. I keep wondering where the cows are.
There are dozens of hawks and vultures and kites. The kites are the most fun to watch fly. We counted over 30 of them from our kitchen window the other day. Toucan's are around but we have yet to see one. I've seen other cool birds, but don't have any idea what they are. The one bird most abundant by our apartment is the crow. These crows are black and have a white collar, so I call them ministerial crows. They are just as obnoxious as our totally black crows at home. Maybe even more so. And much more bold than magpies. I haven't got a good picture yet - again, no time.

We had to add this picture for Justin. These are the only reptiles we've seen, so far....other than a tiny house gecko. The Elders saw a large monitor, but it was spotted by a local,
dispatched, and eaten on the spot.

Speaking of eating, there are some wonderful foods here. The pineapples are better than any we've ever tasted, including Hawaii.  They are much smaller and cost about $.50 each. The mangoes are huge and the best ever. We've had some good bananas, but they're not quite in season yet. We've tried to find avocados, but it's a little early for them. The bread is good, but Sister J. doesn't eat it.  We've found some "American" food - like Doritos made in Saudi Arabia. We can find many things, but are still hunting for coconut oil, and cacao powder, and think we are close. Ghana exports cacao by the ton, but try to find it in the store...
We haven't tried the dried fish, the deep fried fish, or any other fish yet, but the missionaries say they taste good, especially the heads. And fufu, the favorite of the elders, has not been served to us yet. So we have many adventures in eating to look forward to.

We have not had time to miss you yet. We've only been in the country 2 weeks, but feel very well adjusted to the food, the crazy driving, the humidity, some of the heat, and the people. This is an English speaking mission, but we've heard more African dialects spoken in Church than English so far. It's difficult to keep awake in Priesthood or Relief Society when it's hot and late, and you can't understand a word that's spoken. We are getting used to how they pronounce their English, so we are beginning to understand them better. We don't say "excuse me, could you repeat that" nearly as much as when we first came.

It is now almost bedtime, so we will post this (hopefully) and turn in. May God bless you all.
Elder & Sister J.
(We will attempt to make it "cuter" and more time we post. We are amateurs in a hurry.)