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!

Saturday, 15 October 2016


A typical Chadian mini bus
You are sat in a rickety mini bus squashed between a lady wearing a laffay with a big bag of leaves and a boy dressed in a school uniform. Peering out of the window, you realise that you have just passed the petrol station which marks where you have to get off to go to your friend’s house. You say "stop" but nothing happens, the lady next to you realises that you want to get off so she says “estop” and the young man by the door taps the roof. The bus comes to a halt and you get out squeezing past all your fellow passengers and give the man 100 francs thinking next time, I will remember to say “estop”!

In the past few weeks, as I have moved into my new flat, I have had to learn how to use Chadian public transport. A swiss missionary helpfully explained to me the a few of the main routes of the mini buses (and the fixed prices) and I have been taking mini buses, learning along the way that if you want to be understood then you have to say “estop” as that is how Chadians pronounce it! So far it has been going well and I am slowly getting used to catching buses and taxis though it is nice once in a while when I get a ride in Annie or  Mum and Dad’s air conditioned cars! I have seen quite a bit of them as I have been finishing my medical school applications. This Thursday I took part in a “rally” which was organised for all the French speaking short termers. 
We were put into 3 groups of 3 and given a list of things to do around town like buy something you don’t know and ask how to cook it, greet 15 people in Chadian arabic, buy 500 francs worth of “mandawa” which we discovered was a special type of peanuts after a long walk to a different market following a boy selling bags! All these activities were designed to help us get to know N’djamena and to force us to use public transport. We ended up taking 4 buses and 2 taxis and only got lost at the very end before arriving back at our start point an hour late! It was good fun and certainly has made me more confident, I’ll never be lost in that part of town again!
Selling bags, cards and soaps at the international service at SIL
I have been in my new flat for two weeks now. It’s very nice to be right next to the centre so that I can check on things and open it up if anyone needs anything! It also means I’m always already at our meeting point, in the past two weeks we have been to two mission conferences to sell soaps, cards and bags. All the ladies have been working hard to make enough bags as they are selling very quickly! I have started sewing one but my job at the moment is ironing the straps which suits me just fine as I have always liked ironing. I think will have heat proof fingers by the end of the year as the waxy material gets very hot! I also have to cut a lot of material with Annie to make sure there are enough bags ready to be made. In the past week with have made a test batch of scented candles which we hope to sell around Christmas time! I’m really enjoying getting to know the women as we work together.
Things have been going well in my new flat. It is just the right size and very conveniently 5 minutes’ walk away from one of the city’s biggest markets! I went there today with Ophelie my flat mate and Estelle and Lucile our neighbours to buy a mat so that we can receive visitors outside (where it is much cooler) in a shady area as well as round platter for serving drinks! So far we have been out to visit a few girls who live across the street and they have also come to see us. It’s nice to have neighbours who speak French and not only Arabic like in Guinebor, it means we can play games with them so we have been teaching them how to play dobble!
My everyday French has been coming on very rapidly as I have to speak it at home with Ophelie. She is here for a year to work with street children and Estelle and Lucile are here to teach French at an evangelical school not far from where we are living.
Ophelie in our front room
They arrived in Chad from France on the same night as Ophelie and I moved house so we have been busy introducing them to life in Chad.  It is very nice to have unpacked all my things (after 3 months of living out of suitcases!) and to have a more normal and predictable life style. We have been experimenting with cooking, using sweet potatoes, Chadian chili peppers and okra! Just this last week a lady from the centre has started coming to help us at the house; hopefully she’ll be able to give us some lessons in Chadian cooking.

In our first week we went to eglise 12, an evangelical church which is right next to our house. About 1000 people worship there every Sunday so we felt a bit isolated and lost in the crowd (even though I’m sure everyone noticed our presence). Last week we went to a smaller church which is a bit farther away. It has a congregation of about 300 on a Sunday morning and everyone was very friendly and welcoming. We are going again tomorrow and Lucile and I are going to ask about joining the choir! I already feel like I have learnt a lot more about Chad just by living independently for a few weeks but I am hoping to be able to get involved in the church and make more Chadian friends.