We celebrated New Year 2009 by getting Elder Hubbard on the airplane for Cote d’Ivoire and then going home and going to bed early. We may have been the only ones in Cotonou on that schedule. There were fire crackers going off all night that kept me awake but Soeur Black reported a good night’s rest. Getting Elder Hubbard on the airplane was another airport experience. The plane was scheduled to leave at 3:30 so we arrived about 1:30 as required for an international flight only to find out that the flight was projected for about 7:00. Returning at 5:00 for the delayed flight only taught us that perhaps the check-in would begin at 7:00 and that the flight might leave about 9:00. The third time was the charm and I guess Elder Hubbard did finally get away about 9:30. He is going to work in the office as assistant to President Ayekoue. His companion will be Elder Missingbeto, who is a missionary from Cotonou, so we should have some good communication with Abidjan now which has previously been somewhat lacking. He is still wearing the straw hat we bought for him about 6 months ago before he went to Togo. It is a little beat-up, and Elder Black told him that he should auction it off before he goes home. (Red heads do get to wear a hat even if it does look like Sheep Herder Sam’s!)
The Gillis’ from Lome (Togo) are also being transferred to be an office couple in the mission office. Their replacements are scheduled to arrive the end of February. Until then, President Ayekoue has asked that we go back and forth and try to keep up with both countries. I am not quite sure how we are going to do that when we have not been able to keep up with one but we will have to try. Sunday was the time to go to Togo and get a crash course on things there and then bring the Gillis back to Cotonou for another airport experience. Hopefully it will be better than last week’s, but we have learned not to be too optimistic. We will talk about what we learned here in next week’s blog.
Harmatan has finally arrived but not with same intensity as we were led to believe. Harmatan is a very dry season when dust off the Sahara Desert swirls our way and there is a lot of dust in the air and absolutely no rainfall. On the plus side of this, it is a little cooler. We were told that you couldn’t even see to the end of the block but so far it has only been a little hazy. Maybe it is just getting a slow start this year. Anything that is a little cooler is very welcomed. The natives say that this is in fact the season but that it is just not as intense this year.
We have been on the great building search for new chapels for the branches. We were driving by a building under construction with a for rent sign on it. This lead us to a demarcher (real estate agent) who began by showing us a very large building which was under construction. It had two large rooms but nothing adequate for class rooms. Then the Lokkossou family in the Menontin branch found an extra luxurious mansion, but it was way too nice and way too expensive. We don’t think the primary children would need a whirlpool tub in the bathroom of the primary room, although they might like it. This was followed by an even more luxurious mansion, which was even more expensive. I did not know that such homes even existed in Cotonou. When we get back from Togo, the search will resume.
About one week before Christmas we noticed that there were chicken coops being set up by the streets all over Cotonou. We soon discovered that it is tradition to have a chicken dinner on Christmas and also on New Year’s. On one pen there was a sign that the chickens were being sold for 2500 cfa’s, about $5.00. I just bought some real nice frozen grillers at the marcher for 2300 cfa’s which were cleaned and ready to be cooked. Needless to say, there were no fresh chickens being served at the Black household this holiday season. (Some of the elders did say that they would like to learn how to kill, pluck, and clean a chicken, but neither Elder Black nor I volunteered to teach them!)
We have mentioned before that we helped Soeur Estelle when she was sick, and on New Year’s day she brought us a complete Beninese dinner. Our New Year’s dinner invitation to Calavie fell through, so it was very welcomed and very delicious. It consisted of pate rouge, a mixture of corn flour, tomato paste and piment, potatoes with thin slices of meat, a meat dish of chicken and ham plus piment and sparkling grape juice. Estelle is an excellent cook, and we thoroughly enjoyed every bite. President Lokossou and his wife Lucy had also invited us over for New Years but we had to turn them down on account of the invitation that fell through. They rescheduled us for Saturday night so we went over to their home and had another delicious African dinner of vegetables, pate, chicken and pineapple. We didn’t start eating until about 8:00 and finished about 10:00. What a way to start a fast day.