Saturday, 15 October 2016

Estop!


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. 
Mandawa
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.

Monday, 26 September 2016

C'est maintenant?


This is how Odette, our old house help used to greet me when I came in from school. Is it now? Are you back? Yes, I am, I have been back in Chad for almost a week now. 

Mum and Dad's house on the TEAM compound for the next few months
I have been living on the TEAM compound in the middle of town with my parents. Next week I hope to move into my new flat! I’ll be meeting with my flat mate, Ophelie this afternoon to discuss moving in furniture and cases. So far things have been going well. I have spent two afternoons at the centre making soaps and also cloth bags which is the latest idea. The centre has moved since I was last there, it is now in the same building as my flat! It has got two rooms, one which is used as a storage space and office and the other where we all sit on a mat to make things. At the moment, three other missionaries are working there, Anne, Annie and Christina. Naomi who set up the centre will be coming back at the end of November. The centre is only open for two afternoons a week so that the 5 women who have done the rehabilitation course so far can come and chat and make things. When Naomi comes we hope to do a second course with different women. I feel quite at home being back in Chad and have been wondering what I would think of the past week if I had never been here before. What would I find different?
  • Food
A typical 'yellow' Chadian fruit bowl
I’ve been enjoying eating guavas and proper African bananas! The fruit in Chad is very seasonal so I’m glad I haven’t missed the guava season. The other rainy season food is corn which you can buy charcoal grilled off the side of the road. It tends to be quite hard and burnt but it tastes amazing! I’ve also been enjoying the French bread, as in all ex French colonies you can find French baguettes on every street corner. It is one of my favourite things about the Chadian diet.
  • Heat!
It is really hot and humid at the moment as we are coming to the end of the rainy season. It has rained once and I guess I would find that strange too, in Chad we don’t just get rain we get big thunder storms with lightning, violent winds and thunder. A few weeks ago I was in Didcot when there was a big storm last night and a lot of flooding. I woke up in the night and felt quite at home with the sound of the storm raging outside!
  • Traffic
I think if I’d never been in N’djamena before I would be shocked by some of the crazy driving! Cars and motor bikes just seem to come from all directions. At the moment I’m lucky to be able to go round with Mum and Dad in their car but soon I’ll be on my own and will have to master the Chadian taxi and bus system. One of missionaries is going to teach all the short termers how it works next Saturday by giving us a list of places to go by bus!
  •  Clothes
Our basket of headscarves
I suppose if I hadn’t been here before I wouldn’t be used to wearing ankle length skirts, flip-flops and headscarves! It seems normal to me and I am enjoying wearing my Chadian clothes all the time as when I went to school, I wore western style clothes.
  • Language
Language is the one of the hardest things to master when you arrive to a new place. Most people here in the capital speak at least a little French and if not they speak Chadian Arabic. The French of course is fine and I can understand most Arabic if it is spoken clearly enough. However at the centre the women speak French but also other languages from the south of the country of which I don’t understand anything!
  • Night-time
I think I notice this most when I go back to England in the summers and we have really long evenings. In Chad the sun sets between half 5 and 6 o’clock, there is no significant change throughout the year. This means its dark really early which is fine when you have electricity as we do in town but it can be confusing at first as it makes it seem later than it really is.
  • Showers
A lot of houses in Chad don’t have running water and even less have hot water! The shower in our house gives us water straight from the pipes so the temperature depends on the weather. When it is hot and you want to cool down the water is warm and when you want to warm up (in February) it is freezing! At the moment it’s not too much of a problem as in this season the problem is the humidity rather than the heat so the shower isn’t too warm.
  • Market
Material that we're using to make the cloth bags
On Thursday I went to a market just five minutes away from my new flat with Annie and two women from the centre to buy material for making bags and oil for the soap. It was fun but quite tiring as it was very busy and full of people selling a huge variety of things. I guess if I’d never been here before I would have found it quite overwhelming but I think I also would have been surprised by the amount of cloth and things available!

I hope this gives you some insight into my first week back in Chad! Before leaving I managed to reach my target of £2,500, selling all my jigsaw pieces. Thank you all for your support and prayers.

My complete jigsaw puzzle