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.
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.
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 colorful....next time we post. We are amateurs in a hurry.)