Sunday, January 10, 2010
We headed this morning over to our Menotin Branch in Cotonou to worship with them. The Menotin Branch building is fairly new, and when leased this Branch was very small. However, the missionaries have more than doubled the attendance in size and, even though we have a three year lease on this building it already cannot hold the amount of people who attend. We changed our seats three times to accommodate members arriving late and, after the sacrament was passed having moved once more to basically the outside of the building, decided to move on to another Branch to finish the day. We are concerned with four new missionaries coming into this area just how this building will cope…nice dilemma though as it is wonderful to see the growth in this area. We headed over to the Gbedjromede building and visited with some of the members there and also the missionaries. Once done, we headed back to our apartment. Normally we treat ourselves to pancakes on Sunday but today Elder Leavitt chose French toast and it was a good choice, quite delicious as the bread we had was just right. Some much needed down time and we ended up the day with the same comment that it had been a very good day indeed.
Monday, January 11, 2010
This will be a challenging week for us. We are embarking on transfers and we will have four missionaries leaving us (unfortunately one already gone as of yesterday, but not a good release), and we will have eight new missionaries coming in, four into Cotonou and four into Lome. We needed to make sure that we were up to speed with the bank and post office and that towards the end of the day we picked up the passports for Elders Jerman and Teti from the Cote d’Ivorie Consulate. We had received a phone call yesterday afternoon from DHL to inform us that we had a document in their office and when could they deliver it today (that is a first). Anxious of have the DHL problems solved and hopeful that perhaps this “document” brought some kind of resolve, we informed them we would pick the document up ourselves. So after the post office and bank the first priority was a visit to DHL. When we went in (Elder Leavitt accompanied me this time) we were greeted by an agent we did not know who produced the “document” which unfortunately had nothing to do with our issue. Sister Leavitt then asked if Natasha was in the office, she was, and was called downstairs. We asked her if our account was still cancelled and she informed us both that it was. She then said that they had received a great deal of emails from DHL Global and other DHL entities within the U.S. regarding the problem. Sister Leavitt then proceeded to inform her that this was just the beginning, the cancellation of the account was not known to the Church, the Church was a large customer of DHL and it was a very serious matter. She then said, well the account is not actually cancelled it is just not available for use (frozen in other words). Sister Leavitt said that she needed to obtain information on how, who and when this action took place. She said it stemmed from two shipments brought into the office by us in December that, when delivered, were not signed for by the recipient which resulted in DHL being liable for the payment (this was all new information). Then, she basically spilled the beans and said that their Financial Officer upstairs in the Cotonou Office had taken the action to freeze the account. Elder Leavitt then asked how much money was owed; she said they could not tell as the waybills were not available. Well the explanations kept getting more and more bizarre by the minute. Then the final irony. Natasha asked if I had any shipments for today. Of course we did we still have the shipments from last week they refused to accept. She said why didn’t she accept them with the billing number and then we would see who on the other end was refusing to sign! We were dumbstruck but hey, if they will take them…we gave them. We both left the office shaking our heads but at least with our mail on its way. When we arrived at the apartment Sister Leavitt immediately sent off emails to all involved documenting this strange incident. It was not long before emails starting coming back from the Church Offices in Accra sent to everyone demanding to know who was refusing to sign for received mail from the Leavitt’s in Benin resulting in this mess. Finally the phone rang….it was Natasha from DHL….”Sister Leavitt” she said, I have reported to our Financial Officer the seriousness of the freezing of your account and the problems it has caused…he has looked into the matter and we find that it is….an INTERNAL ERROR. All has been restored your account is good and you can now start bringing back to us your mail”. Marv just stood and laughed and laughed what a bunch of baloney. We finished up our day with a stop at the grocery store and a visit to the Consulate, but we were only able to receive Elder Jerman’s passport as Elder Teti has to pick his up in person tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Today we left for Togo to pick up the three missionaries transferring back here. We left again in the dark with an early start. We enjoy actually being on the road at this time as it enables us to exit Benin without being caught in the horrendous traffic. The drive over was smooth sailing and we documented some of our sights enroute for our weekly observations detailed at the end of our journal. Arrived in Lome around 10am and caught up with Blaise. We unloaded our stuff and met with Blaise to go over things that needed to be addressed. We then headed for the bank as Elder Leavitt needs to obtain some cash to pay soutien this coming week in Togo and reimburse Blaise and President Dieudonne for work done on the old Be Apartment. On the way in my husband asked me to call the missionaries in the new Be Apartment to see how they were enjoying their environment. Elder Cruz had only one comment to make, “its too hot”. When I reported this to Marv he said…something is going on and I think it has to do with the missionaries in the Hedzranowae Apartment. Now they are the ONLY missionaries in the entire mission with an apartment that has air conditioning but which, are not allowed to use it as it is way too costly and, for the most part because apartments here do not normally have air conditioning. They have complained and been told by President “no”, you have fans and you do not need the air conditioning and nobody else has it. When we got to our apartment and Blaise presented Marv with the electricity bills he had paid this week the Hedzranowae apartment electricity was through the roof and way over the mission budget. BINGO, they are using the air and bragging about it, and Blaise confirmed it. My husband was not a happy camper. We then headed to the bank and Marv verified that deposits had been made and cashed a check. He was then approached by a bank employee and asked to please go upstairs as there was a serious problem with the account. He met with an account manager who was very rude and demanded why Elder Leavitt never answered his phone as they had tried to contact him numerous times. He asked which phone number, and they verified that they had been calling the house phone in Lome. He explained we had been in Cotonou all week and just arrived and nobody is in the house when we are gone. He then got a tongue lashing about not providing pertinent information to the bank. The account manager told my husband that we were seriously overdrawn. He said that was impossible he had just verified the account balance and cashed a substantial check. The account manager demanded the return the money…my husband demanded the account manager produce a statement of deposits/withdrawals on the account, which he did. As the account manager sat clutching and reading it, my husband asked for his own copy and, after going over it pointed out a serious error on the part of the bank. The manager then quickly got on the phone, and after a series of “oui, oui, oui’s”, hung up and told my husband he was free to go and could keep the money it had been an “INTERNAL ERROR”. All this time (about 45 minutes) Sister Leavitt had been sitting outside in the truck waiting and wondering what was going on. Back to the house and President Deiudonne came over and met with Marv. We then took some down time to relax as the day was catching up with us and we hit the road again early tomorrow. We had dinner later that evening at our Pizza place..just salads as it was way too hot to eat. Then back to the apartment and Brother Gastion came and fixed our computer so we can use our Skype. We were able to Skype our daughter Julie which was nice and then Marv got caught up with his Brother and others while I packed up for tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Our plan was to pick up Elders Starita, Bertoch and Geisler and be on the road back to Benin by 8am Lome time (9am Cotonou time) and we made it. We so enjoyed our day with these three good missionaries who are transferring to Cotonou. It was a treat to have three American missionaries and we could all communicate in English. They loved the ride over, took loads of pictures as we drove through the villages and over the lakes and through the countryside…so much more to see than the big city of Lome they are so used to. We arrived in good time and decided we had better buy them some lunch before depositing them into their new apartments. As we headed for the restaurant the road we needed seemed to be blocked off except for one lane. Elder Leavitt decided that maybe there had been an accident so he slowed down and followed the traffic in front. Up ahead we could see maybe 2-300 yellow vested moto drivers lined on each side of the road and a large truck pulled over, we thought maybe a demonstration of some kind but it was not to be. When we threaded our way through we passed a dead body of a young girl who must have been hit and killed by the truck…this scene is becoming all too common lately we are afraid. All three will get new companions arriving on Friday from Cote d’Ivorie. Marv has worked long and hard with Pierre in Cotonou readying the apartments for the new arrivals. Two apartments will go from two missionaries to four namely Akpakpa and Gbedjromede making our full compliment in Cotonou now 12 missionaries instead of 8. We had a lovely lunch with them and then took them to their new homes. They are excited for the change and anxious to get started. Back to our apartment and unload. Precious had been the day before and the apartment was nice and fresh and clean. It had been a long day and we were so ready for some down time and bed.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Today we need to step it up a notch and finish readying the apartments for the arrivals tomorrow and the new missionaries and, the departures of those going out. With Pierre in tow we made the rounds buying fans, pillows, eating utensils etc. We also needed to get to the bank and post office as we will not have time tomorrow. Then we made the rounds delivering all that we had bought and checking that the new beds were in place along with bedding and mosquito nets. Had lunch and a quick stop at Eravan for supplies. Then back to the apartment unload. For the remainder of the day, some down time and bed. As a side note, Elder Teti finally got his passport and entry visa today…hooray!
Friday, January 15, 2010
Today we deposit Elders Jerman, Teti and Kpangi at the airport. Elder Teti and Kpangi have finished their missions (2 years) and have been exemplary missionaries. Elder Jerman will finish out his mission in Cote d’Ivorie having served in both Togo and Benin and is an outstanding missionary. We got them to the airport in good time and sent them in to check in. Elder Leavitt asked that I go in with them to make sure they got through the security check point with no incidents. It was not quite open but they were some of the first in line. As I stood with them telling them goodbye I could feel eyes on me. I looked around and saw three Catholic nuns sitting off to the side, one white and two West African. The white nun smiled and nodded so I went over to greet her. “Bonjour” I said and she greeted me back, I detected an English accent and told her I was British, from Manchester, so was she. She introduced me to her two novices. I told them this was my second mission to West Africa having served in Nigeria. The one novice broke into a huge smile claiming she was Nigerian. I hugged her and said I had served in Enugu…she was from Enugu. What a sight we were all hugging and laughing having so much in common. Sister Angela serves with the Sister of the Poor just outside of Calavi (where the orphanage is we are working with) and they run an old people’s home…we made a date to go out and see her, Marv and I. Marv said “oh no, here we go again…Sue has found yet another cause to get us involved with” and…YES WE HAVE. Confident our missionaries were on their way we left with a promise to check back later. We then decided to see if we could find a hospital Marv had heard about and ironically a restaurant that had been recommended to us. We finally did, then we headed to the post office for one more check and then back to the airport to see our three missionaries disappear through the security into the gate area. Now back to the apartment with a couple of stops. The rest of the day (until our new missionaries arrive), is ours to do with whatever we want. Heavenly Father blessed us with a lovely rain shower and, as I happily went outside on our balcony to witness the lovely cool rain I was rewarded with a sight from the compound across the street of two men hacking the heck out of a dead goat…NICE! We made some real headway with paperwork etc and it was good. Then it was time to head for the airport to pick up our four new missionaries….Elders N’Dri, Andon, Tshibaru and Yapo…all West African. The plane landed on time and we got them loaded and deposited into their new apartments with their new companions. Back home, and time for dinner and an early night for tomorrow we hit the road to Togo to meet our new missionaries there.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Normally this would be a “P” day for us but it never seems to materialize. We left Cotonou around 7:30am and headed back towards Lome. One stop at the Menotin apartment to deposit some mail and supplies brought in from the Mission Office by the new missionaries. Our arrival in Lome was greeted by a phone call from Elder Fontaine (French) who said he needed to be taken to the hospital as he was ill. Not being able to understand just what was wrong I had one of our American missionaries call him to get the full story. It was reported back that he had a headache and diarrhea. Elder Leavitt said we don’t need to take him to the hospital for that lets just stop at the pharmacy and get some medication. NOW PICTURE THIS. Here am I in the Pharmacy trying to convey to the pharmacist that I have a missionary with diarrhea. She is so not understanding me. I gesture lower extremities and discomfort…she gestures back a vomiting motion. No, I say and make a low flushing motion with my arms. Oh, she said and crouches down and makes a loud exploding noise with my mouth. “Oui” I say…that’s it. She produces some medication which thankfully has English directions which I can read. We take all to Elder Fontaine with directions for use and say we will check on him later. Then we go back to the apartment and have a nice light lunch of cheese, avocado, tomato, and cucumbers with a lovely whole wheat bread. The next item on our agenda….NAP.
Marv’s Weekly Observations:
- It never ceases to amaze me as we go down the street to see a human being acting as a mule. These men are pulling a four wheel trailer loaded with everything from lumber to petrol and they pull them hour after hour to deliver their goods. This, on highways in the midst of the horrendous traffic.
- In my life I have been exposed to driving almost everything imaginable from a two wheel scooter to an eighteen wheeler to a D-9 Cat, and I thought I had seen it all and experienced driving at its worst.
- But I have to say the only thing that I fear could cause me to leave this mission early would be to have a nervous breakdown while trying to traverse these highways with the tens of thousands of motorcycles and cars and not one intelligent driver amongst them. There are NO RULES, THERE ARE NO COURTESIES and if you do not start moving the minute everyone else deems that it is time to move…brace yourself for the blasting of the horns.
Sue’s Weekly Observations:
- As we travel early in the mornings to Togo and pass through the little villages, one of my most favorite sights is seeing the children marching to school in their brown uniforms all carrying a African broom, which consists of dried grass bundled together at one end. They then enter their school yard and immediately place one hand behind their back and stoop over and commence to sweep frantically until the dirt is smooth and litter free.
- On one trip over to Lome Marv took a different way into the city which took us behind the Port area where many, many trucks gather waiting for the containers to be off-loaded from the ships. Along this road are many, many stalls providing cooked food for the truck drivers. I saw 6 women gathered around a large hollowed out wooden container that stands about 2-1/2 feet high. With large wooden mallets with long handles raised high above their heads they commenced to pound the yam within the container to bring it to the consistency of cream of wheat (pounded yam or foo-foo). The rhythm they had was almost like a choreographed ballet as they swung in unison and sang…it was AMAZING!
Til next week….Elder & Sister Leavitt