Another thing that is hard for me to get used to is the lack of toilets, or maybe the excess of one big toilet that is the world. Everyone pees everywhere. I am not sure you want to know this but it is true, man, woman and child all just use the bathroom in the middle of the road, or the side of the road, or off a bridge, or on a wall, or in a corner, or in a puddle, everywhere. It is so weird and it's not at all hidden just there in your face and on your shoes, it's just great, it just makes me glad for the toilet I have at my apartment. The showers are always cold but I drip sweat every other waking moment. There are no adresses, everyone is selling something, the roads have no laws and driving is a contact sport and you need to be agressive or you don't go anywhere. People sleep anywhere and anytime: in a pile of sand, on the road, curled up on the seat of a moto and even on the floor covered in flies. When ever I see a kid I always just extend my hand and they all do something different it's really fun. Some will shake it, some will grab my finger and start pulling me around, some will smile and stare at it, some will give it a hi-five and the occasional one will cry. The responses are so different I always extend a hand. Oh by the way, Beniois don't smile for pictures I don't know why it is just a thing. A picture is like always a serious thing for them. After I sent that photo of me and brother Hy___ and he looks not excited to be baptized I want you to know that is the only time I have not seen a smile on that guys face. We even woke him up from sleeping one time on accident and he had still a huge grin, but for the photos even the happiest turn stone faced. I don't know why. And that's just the beginning of what this place has to offer, I just can't think of anything else right now. However I would like to talk about my dad. Elder Mukendi is just the best! He is a little tired he is in the home stretch of his mission but he is working way harder than lots of other missionaries who are older. But there are just some things about him that are just too funny. He always, always opens books upside down the first time he opens them, and I mean every time. I have begun to just watch in amazement how he always does it. It is like some kind of curse he has it is so funny, hymn book, bible, preach my gosple, day, night, during lessons he always opens it upside down. It is so funny then he always changes it he doesn't seemed fazed by it. I asked him about it once and he just kinda laughed it off and pointed out how I always look in the wrong suitcase first when I am trying to find something in one of my 2 suit cases. Which is true, maybe every one here has a curse when opening something, that's Benin for you. Also something Elder Mukendi does that is just the funniest thing ever is his guitar. He owns this guitar it is red with flowers I think, I'm not sure, but he has no idea how to play it at all, not a clue and it is old it only has 2 strings. But he will pick it up and pretend to play it all the time he will carry it around the apartment plucking one string and singing and dancing in all sorts of different languages. It just crakes me up how he brought a massive guitar with two strings on his mission and pretends to play it often, so funny. One other thing Mukendi does is walks like he is one person, even though I'm always with him. I know that sounds weird but he tells me to walk right next to him but he walks like no one needs to walk beside him so he will zig zag and I will be on one side of him and he will take a corner super sharp and cut me off and I will try to squeeze in next to him on the road and he will not move over to the other side but move closer towards me. It must be so funny to see me trying to stand side by side but constantly getting cut off and having to take crazy alternate routes to try to keep up. I don't know if you got the image or not but it is just little things like that that give the vibe of this place.
The church is funny here too. It is so young here not many people know how everything works in the church only about 10% of the ward is endowed and probably only 35% active, don't quote me on that though. However there are just some really funny things that go down because the bishop tries super hard to make the ward exacly like the ones in the US and asks me after the meeting how they were and if they matched up okay. One very Benin thing is the way they sing hymns, no one knows how to play the piano so it stays in some class room unused. To sing a hymn someone who knows the song we are going to sing stands up and sings the first line how they think it is supposed to be sung, then everyone joins in and boy do they sing slow, very loud and with spirit but so slow. I think because no one really knows the tune they all just try to be followers and it is just a loud chorus of slow moving songs that are often un recognizable to how it is supposed to be sung, and I just love it. The bishop has an a goal to help those with the preisthood use it and He__ Hy___, my first baptism needed to be ordination to the aronic preisthood so they let this really funny old member do the ordination prayer, yet he didnt know how or the name of brother Hy___ so he had to give the prayer like 9 times before he finally got both the name and prayer right. I don't know how he could continue to mess up that name so much evey time he would just say some random name that would pop in to his head that wasnt even close like "Soeur Samuel". I was so close to losing it, it was so funny. That doesn't even come close to probably the craziest and funniest thing I have seen here. This past Sunday was the first ever Stake conference in Benin in the new Stake Center which just had an open house Friday. It was nuts, there were so many people at the building I mean ever member in the entire country was supposed to be there. Anyway because I was a missionary I was put in a small room with a tv to watch but the sound was so quiet and everyone was talking so loud I couldn't hear anything. Not like I would have been able to understand if I could hear. Anyway, it is pretty normal for mamas to breastfeed in public, or at any time really. I have been in many a lesson where a kid needs to be fed and they just feed them, no little american blankets or anything to cover it. But to them it's so normal so I just don't look. At stake conference a woman gets up to give the opening prayer and the kid she is holding is making a fuss and so just in front of everyone she just lifts up her shirt and starts breastfeeding in the middle of her prayer and over the pulpit, it just is the cherry on top that explains this place so well. On another note, I am the new mama of the Menonten district. It was Elder Olela but now its me. I have done all the dishes since I have arrived. At first I did it because I didn't cook and I felt bad doing nothing so I did them to show them I want to be helpful but now I think they have gotten used to it. Now I do it for service and to keep the apartment clean because it is nasty, so if I can do anything to clean, I do it. I organized the very clutterd cabinet with all the brochures and books of mormon. In district meeting they called me as the new mama of the apartment because I help cook evey meal and do the dishes, it's a good calling to have. So I am a yovo, I know this yovo is my life but along with being a yovo, I am a yovo from the United States and for some reason just because I am from the United States everyone thinks that I can get people to the U.S. So after I introduce myself to people and say where I am from, many times they ask me to either take them with me or ask if they can take my place. I don't know what that means but I guess some people think that every for every american in Benin there should be a Beninois in America and I have gotten "you should marry my daugter and take her with you". Elder Warr gets that request much more. Every time they say that I just say I don't understand french, for now that's easiest even though I am understanding much, much better. I will use that card for as long as I can.
I want to tell you about what missionary work is like here, because it is cool and weird. Everyone will talk to you. No one "doesn't have time to talk" Benin and Togo are in a religous awakening right now, it is just like New York in Joseph Smiths time, so many churches, so many new ideas. Everyone is finding a chruch and talking about church, it is cool. All the time people will call us over while were walking and say, "I want to hear the word of God". It is super cool that is an almost daily experience. In lessons we find many people who are super engaged Elder Mukendi uses the bible for his teachigs a lot and everyone here believes in the bible so when he teaches with the bible the truth people get really happy and all the time write down the scriptures we use to study them later and be able to tell their friends. Also we get lots of people who invite themselves to church, which is super cool, however most of them never come. It is cool when they ask where and when is your church and do you have any other religous classes, no one is ever like oh 3 hours for church that is too much. However Beninois are liars somtimes they will have a appointment with us at a spot on the side of the road somewhere or at the church and we called and they said they would be there so we arrive and they are not there. So we call and they say "wait I am coming" after 30mins we call again they say "I am just about to leave stay there" after 45mins we say okay were leaving and they say "oh yeah I was too busy today". That has happend to me 4 times already, 2 times with the same guy, but Mukendi says thats just normal. People don't like to say no here, while in America thats all anyone does. I have had some cool experiences teaching; there was one where we were teaching this new investigator Mama Wi____ (it showes a lot of respect to call people mama or papa if they are parents) about the plan of salvation and used the bible to show there was life before this. I bore my testimony about that principle and she says "wow that's so beautiful" and she then bore her testimony that she knew it was true too right on the spot, it was so cool she was so captivated by the message. We also found a family of 11; parents and 9 kids 7 girls and 2 boys and boy are they ready for the gosple we just talked to the mama on the street one day because we had been teaching just one of the daugters and told her about the open house on Friday for the new stake center, not thinking much of it doubting anything would happen but she came and she loved it. The members here had a great orginization going and then she was so ready, the next time we came she listened and took notes and then called in 3 of her daughters and one son and told them to listen to the word of god and take notes. The family is so nice and they all speak to each other in french when we are around no fon. They are facinated about how we leave are homes for 2 years and they talk to us like real people it is so nice, I am excited to continue teaching them.
Now I have talked about a lot of stuff. Sorry if it is too much, but I hope it makes up for weeks I can't write a lot. There are a lot of hard times here and it is not easy for me I can't understand a lot of things or speak very well, my companion is tired a lot and I miss home at times but I keep busy by cleaning dishes and washing clothes by hand, it is kind of therapeutic in a way. Thank you for your continued support and prayers.
The old church
Balcony of a newer church in Fidjrosse, Cotonou, Benin
By a discus statue
My bed - mosquito net required!
Me being the mama and doing the dishes