As we drove around Accra, it became apparent that a lot of building had gone on during our 2 year absence. The main drag between the Temple and the airport and mall (about 5 miles long) sports new office buildings, a new mall, new hotels. Even the opposite direction towards the area of town where there is a National Arts Theater and conference centers, there are two new hotels. Because buildings are generally built on a cash basis, there are also a lot of partially finished buildings, just waiting for more money to complete them. A few in particular look just like they did in 2009 when we arrived. Those of you that are in construction might cringe if you were able to see what we do in light of materials and workmanship. Somehow, the buildings end up looking pretty good, but generally they are not to the standard we expect. There are some big companies from other countries who do a pretty good job. An Italian company just completed the new three story Area Presidency condo unit next to the Temple grounds. Of course, with the Church doing the inspecting, it is very nice - only took a year longer than expected to complete. Here are a few pictures of buildings - perhaps they are not what you'd expect to see in a third world country
The workmanship leaves something to be desired!
The Church owns a very small percentage of the unit buildings here. Most of them are rented facilities and often surrounded by businesses, sometimes other churches which blast their loud worship music for blocks. Below is a picture outside the La Ward building. It is a taxi hub. The two story church has no AC (normal) but does have fans - working or not- . Electricity is iffy a lot of times no matter where you attend. Therefore, without much in the way of ventilation, and in 95 degree heat an 95% humidity, it can be a very sticky situation. Thank goodness the ward we attend, Christiansborg has AC units - and thank goodness for the days that we have electricity. (And thank goodness I found a hawker on the street from whom I bought a hand fan!)
I must say that sitting in class in some buildings, there is so much noise from outside (and adjacent classrooms) that it becomes difficult to hear the lesson. And, if there is no power, thus no microphones in the chapel, it is very difficult to hear the speaker even in a small room. For some reason, they do NOT understand using their "Theater Voice" in this situation. Sometimes you will hear someone tell a speaker to "enlarge their voice". Rarely does that happen though.
We were happy on the 25th of March to be able to move back into the same apartment we lived in two years ago here at the ancillary building on the temple grounds. It saves us from the often frustrating crazy traffic going to and from the office each day. Most days it took 15-20 minutes to go the two miles to the office. However the move was not without its challenges. We got everything moved over as far as personal items and the few household accessories. But, moving in, the drapes in the LR and bedroom were not up yet. The long cord that had been sitting on the desk had mysteriously disappeared from Friday to Monday, and in the process of moving our bed away from the wall to plug in a short cord so that I could do my hair, the bed collapsed in the middle. Well, three men came up, moved off the mattress and bedding and began to work on it. Couldn't get the middle supporting board to reach from headboard to footboard and STAY, so they took the side boards off and switched them, and put it all back together. I wish I had fimed it. Like watching Larry, Curly and Moe. Unfortunately, the next day, when the man came to install the rods and drapes, he had to move the bed again ---collapse! After getting drapes up, taking the bed apart AGAIN, Arlon noticed a screw was missing from one of the metal connecting pieces for the support board. They got a replacement screw and managed to get it back together before bedtime. So far, so good. I could go on, but will spare you.
Two things about living in the temple patron housing 4 story building:
One) because of visiting temple patrons who often arrive by bus to stay a week from out of the country, the hallways are noisy all hours. Africans tend to arise early 4a.m. to 5 a.m. - even the children. And they stay up late - and some talk loudly (either that or the halls have the same acoustic quality of the Tabernacle?)
Two) We have the awesome privilege of meeting saints from all over. The past three weeks we've had members from the Ivory Coast. They are wonderful temple attenders and make such a sacrifice to be here. Yesterday as Arlon and I walked into the foyer on ground floor, I was mobbed and hugged by about ten or so young boys and girls and using the little English they know, it was "Good afternoon, how are you?" Arlon took a picture (next blog) They are so darling. This morning on my usual 6 a.m. walk, a daddy out walking his 3 month old baby girl stopped to show her off to me. What a doll!
We are SO BLESSED!
Eating - well often we're asked what we get to eat here. Pretty normal except beef which is not very good. Boxed or powdered milk, iffy lettuce and not many good fresh vegetables. They do have zuchinni, cabbage, potatoes, cucumbers, onions, and lots of fruits. But, things like brocolli and cauliflower are VERY expensive.....like $20 for a big stalk of brocolli or a head of cauliflower. The carrots are woody unless we hit it just right at ShopRite and find some from South Africa. We do mostly frozen vegetables. Restaurant eating is also unique. They have their first KFC here and it's decent - went once so far. We tried a Mexican restaurant with the other missionary couples (one had tried it and thought it was pretty good) Well - my "chicken quesedilla" was just shredded chicken in some kind of pseudo mexican sauce and put into a flour tortilla. The refried beans were not as good as the canned ones we can get here. The spanish rice was the most decent tasting thing on the plate. Don't think we'll go back there. We had tried another restaurant where we thought the hamburger MIGHT be decent - paid and extra $1.50 for extra cheese. The beef was well done and I couldn't detect any cheese at all. Won't order that again. There is never any hurry to serve so meals are quite leisurely. We drove up 3 hrs away this past Monday (an after Easter national holiday) with several couples and ate at the Volta Hotel restaurant. We took bets on how long it would take to get our orders. I WAY underestimated when I guessed 32 minutes. It was almost an hour. Oh, well, the companionship and conversation were fun. We've yet to hit a couple of our favorites - Italian and Chinese which we know to be good eatin'.
We have a young sister in our ward, Mable Odoi who last Saturday married brother Samuel Amoah (in our Bishopric).
She is a real sweet woman and we've become friends. Their wedding was a church wedding, recognized by the government. You have to do that first here before going to the Temple. The wedding was held in the chapel.
The program which began 45 minutes after the officially anounced time, began with the bridal processional up the aisle, then the couple sat in the chairs facing the pulpit. Choir prelude prior to that. Opening song and prayer. Then two speakers. I was honored to be asked to speak, giving words of advice and counsel to the couple. After the actual ceremony, a special number sung whilst (their word here) the couple and their sets of parents went to the front to sign the registry book. Then words from the Stk. President before closing and exit processional into the cultural hall for the reception.
As is normal here, it took about an hour for everyone to be seated for the catered dinner. There was a head table as you can see. Everything was very lovely and very similar in tradition to America....first dance, toast, cutting of the cake, throwing of the bouquet. It lasted about 3 more hours.
They had a band, Emcees and lots of young deacons/teachers delivering soft drinks to the tables, etc. I took some pictures of some of the women in their wonderful African dresses and head wraps and hats
Of course, we have had a great time working on our YSA projects, doing trainings in Stake YSA Committee meetings and preparing for our Multi-Stake Summit training/planning meeting coming up this Saturday, April 6th. The Greater Accra area has 7000 YSAs in its 6 stakes and 4 districts. We are planning on the event happening at the University of Ghana in July. Then, we'll branch out to the Ivory coast (going there in May for training/planning) and to the western part of Ghana - Cape Coast very soon. These Summits will be annual events. It will take us months to get to every area in the 7 countries to train and plan. Most of them won't hold summits until the summer of 2014 - it takes a lot of time to implement and train. We want them to be successful and learn how to carry on their own. The Area Presidency is anxious to have more couples called here to assist us - hopefully a couple in each country who will be able to keep a close tab on how things are going and assist in keeping the program running yearly.
YOU'LL ENJOY THIS ONE:
A notice of a ward function - tacked to the bulletin board at the front of our church building.
In case it is too small to read.... It is a kitchen carnival on Good Monday. Cow, goat, rabbit, fish, pig, cat, tillapia, etc. are on the menu.
We did NOT attend....went up to the Volta instead.
We love you all and appreciate your support and interest in our mission