If you haven’t been fruit shopping at Tokpa market in Africa with Soeur Nadia then you haven’t really lived. On Wednesday, with President and Sister Ayekoue coming, a zone conference here on Thursday and another in Togo on Friday, Soeur Black finally agreed to get some help and we prevailed upon Nadia to come and be a domestic for a few days. Not only is Nadia a good worker, she is also a good shopper and a good cook. She should be on a mission but does not read French so she doesn’t feel qualified to go. Soeur Black put her in charge of fixing an African Dinner for the Ayekoue’s when they arrived on Wednesday with Soeur Black as chief assistant and then for Thursday’s zone dinner the roles were reversed. Needing fruit for both days, we took a trip down to Tokpa. What we always consider “dirt cheap” and just pay is never good enough for Nadia. All negotiations are in Fon, and we are invited to keep quiet until they are finished. The parties rarely look at each other during the negotiations but look away down the street as if there is no interest whatsoever on either part. After a little of this, she loads up 40 oranges into a sack and tells Soeur Black to give the lady 1,000 cfa ($2). Further along we load 30 nice pineapple and are instructed to give the lady 1,500 cfa ($3). On that one Soeur Black’s conscience got the best of her and so she gave the lady an extra 500 cfa. Mangoes are still a little expensive at $.60 each (bargained down from $.80) etc. It is quite a fun experience, and the stacks of tropical fruit are just incredible. My job is to help carry everything we buy along the way, but if it gets really heavy then Nadia carries it on her head. We keep trying to make enough fruit salad that the elders can eat all they want, but we haven’t yet succeeded. When it was time to make the salad we cut up the pineapple, mangoes and papaya then squeezed all 40 oranges into juice. The juice was then poured over the fruit and mixed with grenadine syrup. It was very good and, yes, this time we about a quart left over so I assume the elders got all they wanted. We made enough in Cotonou for Lome also. At the border a custom guard wanted to know what was in the bucket and when Elder Black told him fruit salad for today’s dinner, I thought it may be confiscated but he just smiled and said, “Bonne appetite.” Nadia also helped Sister Ayekoue with little Happy which was a big relief.
The potatoes did not fare as well as the fruit salad. Soeur Black baked about 16 lbs of potatoes then fried them with some bacon and ham to get a close as we could to Dutch oven potatoes. We reasoned that since we were having rice also that should be enough for Benin and Togo. By the time dinner was finished in Benin they were all gone, so we had to start over with another 15 lbs for Lome.
Zone conference in Togo went real well considering that when we arrived there from Cotonou, all of the elders were already there so we put them to work real fast and we had the dinner on the table within 45 minutes. Of course, the chicken and potatoes and salad were brought already prepared from Cotonou. Elder Black and the missionaries cleaned up afterwards, which was a great help, and the Zone conference actually started a few minutes early with everyone having eaten and the dishes done.
Zone conferences are a time for instruction and spiritual guidance from the mission president. It is definitely a time for recharging and helps us keep on track as missionaries. The elders are all assigned to prepare a talk on a certain subject and then President Ayekoue randomly chooses two for presentation. This time the talk was supposed to be prepared on the remarks on “hope” given by President Uchtdorf in the last October general conference. If you have not read the talk, you need to do so. If you don’t have the November Ensign, it is on the Internet at www.ldschurch.org, then go to gospel library and magazines. You will have to look in the past issues of the Ensign, November, 2008 under the title of “The Infinite Power of Hope.” It emphasizes that “Hope in God, His goodness, and His power refreshes us with courage during difficult challenges.” Ever since President Uchtdorf and his wife came to Blanding and spoke to the institute there, he has been one of my favorite general authorities. That was before he was even made an apostle.
Beyond that, we took a few pictures in Lome and will include one or two. Cotonou was a different story. When we were in Lome last time, we seem to have lost our camera. We knew we had it with us wh