Thursday, June 13, 2013

Life in Agona-Nkwanta

The MTC was kind of long. Not that I wasn’t learning, I just really wanted to be out in the field. My companion there was Elder Chimechefucam, a good guy from Nigeria. Nigeria is a rough place and the Nigerians in the MTC still behaved as they would in Nigeria, Survival. They would save food and assert dominance and just do silly basabasa things sometimes. There were two other Americans, Elder Judy and Moffit. They were nice to have around. But I still just really wanted to get out of there.

On May 29, 2013, I got on trotro (a 15 seater bus like vehicle that fits about 30 people or more…almost) and headed out to the Cape Coast Mission Home. Ghana is not that large a country and distances between things aren’t actually that big, but cars hear only go their top speed of 50-60 kph. I am not too sure but it is only about 35-40 mph so everywhere takes a looong time to get anywhere.

My biggest prayer coming out was having a trainer who would get me off to a good start. And I got Elder Harris, about 6’6’, started the mission 16 months ago weighing 270 lbs and now weighing 180 lbs. Lineman to basketball player in a little more than a year. I have already lost 10 kg whatever that is in lbs. Elder Harris is on a strict “Eat lots of food so you don’t die” diet so I am doing all right. His name is Jeff Harris from Nephi, Utah. If you want to look him up on Facebook to see before and after. He is a great guy. He loves fufu, cooking and wouldn’t you know it… Superman. He is a BIG Superman fan. On the mission he is eve called superman because he works hard and wears a superman shirt to activities. You probably got my picture of us wearing them. People thought it was super (pun) funny that I loved Superman as well. I was even called Superman once already. Cool I’ll take it.

So I am in the Takoradi Zone, West Tanokrom District and Agona-Nkwanta Area. Agona-Nkwanta is a small little town west of Cape Coast about 40 minutes north of the Coast. Every one here just calls it Agona but on a map it is Agona Nkwanta because there are multiple Agona’s in Ghana. It is a very third world town. They haven’t seen many white skinned people before. There is not running water, so no bathrooms. Boys and girls just pee in the gutter. There are about 3 foot gutters along the road, no sidewalks. And they are flowing with Black Death. Everything smells terrible, but I am slowly getting used to it. There are 2 main roads with a roundabout in the middle of town. It is the center of town where you can’t get anywhere without going thorough it unless we take the back road shortcuts which means random mess of houses and shops with no apparent organization. I decided that we should call them by Quadrants. Quadrent 1 is mostly the market and some houses. The market is open small everyday, but gets massive on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On those days “I had to go to market” is a legitimate excuse to miss a lesson because it is the only day they can buy essential things, like soap, big jugs of water and food in mass. During the week, you can buy small basically everything and anything that you never wanted. They find the weirdest stuff to sell.

Along the roads are also shops, basically everyone in the town sells from a tiny shop, usually made from storage containers or out of ghetto shacks. Most of them all sell the same junky snacks. There is not a set price for most things but there’s definitely an “Obruni Price” which is basically “Let’s see how much money we can rip out of these rich white Americans” price. Where as we are white we are not rich and my comp has been in Agona long enough to know the true prices of things. We do a lot of bartering if you don’t know them or get dashed (given something for free) if we do know them. There are a few members with shops and whenever they see us they send their naked children to us with free stuff. Most of the time it is water sachets, which are plastic pouches of pure water for 10 Peswes.

The money here is an interesting story. It is in transition from “old” currency to “new” currency. So little green colored orange (irony) is either 1 Cedi or 1000 Cedis. At first I was like woah! Expensive apple (orange?)! But they are equal. The government changed their decimal places and printed new money. Cedis now are what are used. They come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50. I was exaggerating about the orange, they are only 20 peswes or their version of cents. One Cedi is worth 50 cents so everything is dirt cheap here. Most things on the street cost less than 2 Cedi so a little money goes along way. I just wish we came here with Pounds! In the “Big City” on the map, which is Takoradi, you can buy anything for cheap. My companion bought $200 headphoes for 60 Cedi or 20 dollars. He made sure the ones he bought were valid but you can buy any name brand stuff here. . . kind of. Ghananians like stickers.

We have a bunch of investigators who are awesome people. We just baptized Valentine on Saturday. I got to do it, which was pretty cool. The service was at Takoradi Stake Center about an hour, 1.50 Cedi by trotro. When we got there the water was straight yellow. We are baptizing Grace on Tuesday and hopefully 3 or 4 more by the end of the month. I’ll let you know. We are teaching a lot of people. Members are so excited for us to be fulltime in their town. Elder Harris and I are the first companion to be in Agona full time meaning we live here. My first few days were moving in and getting ready to work out here. So it was a weird few days. We moved from Takoradi, were (my first first day) the key snapped in the lock and we had to wait outside for 3 hours with some bread and good conversation. 

I am lucky. Elder Harris can cook and is teaching me how. We are baking a cake for Grace and her baptism on Tuesday. A cake . . . on a stove?? Just plain Ghana magic. We have been given food a little bit but we usually cook or eat out. A giant bowl of fufu is only 2 cedi so it works well in a budget. It is actually way good. I haven’t had  much weird meat yet. But, dog, cat and snake are on the menu of the future. Chickens, goats, cows and dogs just roam free and go where they please. Which could mean the road in front of a car. Then it just becomes first come and first serve. 

It is the rainy season and it is the worst rain there has ever been. It rains pretty much every day and its hard. We were caught in a giant storm in Takoradi, for a meeting, on the way home there was about 2 feet of water which covered the road . . . and the black death gutters . . . we were crossing a street and toppled in. That was just gross. And saying gross is a big deal because I have gotten use to most gross things. Sorry it is so small. If you add another page it doubles the price. I love you guys. I hope this gets to you. I am doing well. And there is a great work happening. I love you and yabishya bo!

PS. I love the work here. It is making my testimony so strong. I am doing things and I know that I couldn’t be doing them without the Lord’s help. Like giving marriage advice. How do I know! I have never been married! But we are helping a lot with the knowledge we have and following the spirit. I know I am making a difference in these people’s lives as well as my own. When I was in the MTC I was discouraged by the diligence of the rest of the Elders and I felt like I was above them not in a pride way, but in a knowledge and love for the gospel and in obedience kind of way. My prayer was to have a humbling experience and boy did I. I taught a bunch of lessons with the missionaries at home so I felt super ready in the MTC. Basically, everything I learned in the MTC hasn’t helped me. America teaching is worlds different than Ghana small town teaching. Got here and I know nothing -- we teach one principle at a time and give them homework assignments to see if they are serious. I know that I am sent here for a purpose and I am being so blessed. I love this mission and the gospel and I know it is true.

1 comment:

  1. This was so great to read. I've experienced a lot of things, but never a third world village. Those gutters -- Yikes. When you come back, you will have to show us all how to make stove-top cake! I had to think about your "felt like I was above them, but not in a pride way, but in a love of the gospel etc. way" comment, and I think I can relate to that. For me, personally, I'm still not sure if it is pride when I feel this way. Somebody I was discouraged with and thought was a less-than-diligent partner in a calling I once had, later got what some might think of as a fairly high administrative calling, while I got a new calling that some might think of as less significant, though I gained a testimony that Heavenly Father wanted me there to serve the needs of a very few in a way I was uniquely positioned to serve them. I saw this person --the one I was discouraged with when we were partners -- smile when I was called, and it was not a nice smile. It was a "How do you like me NOW?" smile. I could feel some resentment creeping up, and had to say a quick prayer to Heavenly Father to help me focus on what was important. Through several such prayers, I received a testimony of my calling. But, the lesson I learned was to not write anything off as absolutely not or absolutely yes being pride. It could go either way at any moment.

    You are a great example. Keep it up. I looke forward to every installment!