Monday, 6 March 2017

2 coach trips, 44 train tickets and 4 flights

Hi, I’m sorry for not writing for a while it’s been a busy few months. I had a great Christmas ( it seems a very long time ago now) in N’djamena celebrating with my church, choir and flat mates.

Boxing day dinner with friends
Over new year one of my flat mates brother’s came to visit and we all went to Am Timan to see my parents. We also got to go to Zakouma, Chad’s amazing safari park which is right next to Am Timan. It was brilliant, we got to see giraffes, lots of different deer, lions rather too close up, marabou storks, pelicans, the interesting secretary bird...


It was also a fun experience travelling as we took a Chadian coach. It was very nicely decorated on the inside with blue and white curtains on the way there and on the way back red, blue and yellow curtains to go with the Chadian flag. On board entertainment was a lot of Arab music videos and some Chadian films which were quite interesting though hard to follow as they were mostly in Arabic!

On the bus- curtains in the background
When we got back to N’djamena I just had 3 weeks left at the centre before I had to come back to the UK to do my medical school interviews. As you would expect the time flew by as I had to do some preparation, getting up to date on medical news and I wanted to finish going over the translation of the Acacia project’s course. It had been translated from English to French but Naomi asked me to take a look and try and make the French more natural. I managed to get through all 21 lessons which are now ready for the new course.  Whilst I was gone Naomi, Anne and Annie have been trying to find the right women to join Acacia and take part in the new course. They started this Thursday and I will be joining them tomorrow!

I was in the UK for about 6 weeks which is where the first two flights and the train tickets come in (unfortunately there are no trains in Chad). I had to do quite a bit of travelling as I had interviews at King’s College London, Liverpool and Bristol and also visited Edinburgh ( I have applied there but they don’t do interviews for medical school). On the whole I think they went well, it’s hard to tell but hopefully I will hear back from them soon.
So I travelled back to N’djamena on Friday, it was a 7 hour flight to Ethiopia then a further 3 hours to Chad. I’m glad to be back and happy that now my interviews are over I can really concentrate on work with Acacia.
So what will I be doing now that I’m back in Chad?
Hilton soap drying
Well I’m going to be helping as much as I can with the new course which is three mornings a week from 8 till 2.  Naomi has suggested that I may be able to help with telling Bible Stories. Also as Naomi and Anne will be busy preparing the teaching I will probably have more to do with Annie running the more practical side of the centre making soaps, cards and bags. The centre has been very busy recently as we have just got a contract with the Hilton hotel in N’djamena. They want to use our soaps in the hotel and would like us to make 2000 a month! We have got some special smaller moulds and more of their chosen essential oil- lemongrass and when I left we had made our first 3 batches. It’s hard work making sure they all look perfect and trying to get the soap into as many moulds as possible before it gets too thick- I’m sure they have worked out some new techniques while I’ve been gone. I’m also bringing back more lemongrass oil- it’s taking up 9 kilos of my luggage allowance. It’s a brilliant opportunity for the centre as it will mean the women have a regular income and publicity, we are very excited.
Our special Hilton moulds

Just before leaving for the UK I also got to visit some women in the community with Naomi and I spend some time playing with their children. Now that I have been introduced to them I will be able to go and play quite often.
I will also be back to choir practice and helping with the street children project.
I’m also going continue running a children’s club at an orphanage with a missionary friend and one of my French neighbours. We have been doing it for a couple of months and just before I left we worked on making it more structured, it’s good to be back so I can take part in all that we planned. Our theme for the month was you are precious.

Abeche is close to the border with Sudan
Finally in a few weeks’ time I will be flying again, but this time in Chad. There is going to be a course on psychiatry in Abeche a city on the other side of Chad. I am very interested in psychiatry especially in developing countries. A missionary doctor working in Abeche has invited 2 American psychiatrists who are living in Cameroon to come to Chad to do a two week course. She has kindly allowed me to take part and I will also be doing some translation work. It’s a shame it’s so soon after I come back but is an amazing opportunity for me to gain experience.
So I’m back in Chad, it’s nice to feel warm though today at 41 degrees it did feel like a bit too much! It’s really good to be back with my friends at the centre, at the choir and at home.
Camel riding with my neighbours Lucile and Estelle, my flat mate Ophelie
And Lucile's brother!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Un, deux, trois et sing..

Singing in a language you don’t understand is interesting. A few weeks ago the Sunday evening prayer group which I have joined with my neighbours decided to organise a trip to a centre for street children. It has been set up by a Chadian pastor, Moise who decided to start accepting boys who had nowhere to go into his home, his project has since grown and he now has a centre which he runs with the help of this wife. There are about 15 ex-street children who now live there full time. Our prayer group hired one of the mini buses I wrote about in my last blog and we all went to the centre to spend the day there. We prayed, sang, did a Bible Study, played party games and then shared a meal prepared by some of the women in our prayer group. It was a very inspiring experience as at the end of the day a number of people shared their testimonies and told us how God had changed their lives. 

The river on the way to the centre
When we arrived Pastor Moise and the boys sang a song to welcome us which continued into a time of praise. Most street children speak Chadian Arabic and I was enjoying singing worship songs in Arabic which isn’t spoken in most churches here. So when people started singing cukran abina Isa, I understood straight away and was able to join in, the song then changed to Oyo Jesu Christ. One of the women at the centre has been teaching me a bit of Gumbaye the main language spoken down south, so I was pleased when I realised I could understand this as well and was able to join in after the first chorus. Then the leader sang tankyu fada jesus and I thought oh no my language ability has reached its limit, they are singing in a language I don’t understand. Then suddenly after they’d sung it through a few times I realised that they were singing Thankyou Father Jesus in English and I hadn’t recognised it! It was very funny to have recognised Arabic and Gumbaye which I can hardly speak faster than English. Sometimes it’s even more interesting to sing in a language which you do understand!
La chorale Bouclier de la foi or The Shield of Faith Choir
Our choir in our lovely uniform
This last month I have been singing in lots of different languages as I have joined the choir at our church with one of my French neighbours and one of the ladies from the centre. Lucile and I have been having fun singing words in Nadjire the mother tongue of most people at our church which has sounds we have never pronounced before. Thankfully the vast majority of the songs are in French which means we can sing more easily and concentrate on copying everyone else’s dance moves! We have also been singing in English which is thankfully more comprehensible than at the centre. One of our choir directors is especially keen and always leads the choir saying Un deux trois et sing!

The Arabic lesson I taught last week,
the key word was fire- naar
I have also been practicing my Arabic lately I have started taking part in one of the activities with street children which my flat mate Ophelie is involved in. It’s a project set up by Swiss missionaries they have “activities” in churches in different areas of the city for children who are living on the streets. I’m helping with the alphabetisation activity on Wednesday mornings. We have about 25-30 children every week. We give them water then one of the volunteers tells a bible story which is translated into Arabic. They then have a short lesson teaching them how to read and write in Chadian Arabic using roman script. It’s not very complicated; the project is using some books created by another missionary society. The boys are learning letters and simple words, the aim is to stimulate them and if the enjoy it and want to learn more then the missionaries try to help them either to go back to their families, to a centre like the one we visited or to a foster family so that they can have a more stable life style and go to school. At the end of the activity they are given tickets made by the project which can buy them a meal from a lady who sells food by the side of the road.
"The birth of Jesus" - The picture books we use with to tell Bible Stories
The missionaries running the project have decided that I speak enough Arabic to teach the children to read and write at the activities. I was a bit worried at first but it’s actually not too complicated, I only really need to know how to say “what is this?” or “Who wants to read” and then read all the words on the blackboard so that the children repeat after me. I taught for the first time a week ago and it went well, the children are really enthusiastic and all of them want to answer the questions! Last week I also told the Bible story; it was be about Zachariah and Elizabeth as we are starting the Christmas story leading up to Jesus’ birth. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to help the street children and also improve my Arabic!