Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Une semaine à Moursal (continued)

Baking cakes with ladies in the second group on one of our days off

On Thursday mornings we are at the centre with the second group again.
We finish at about midday and I have lunch with Ophelie before resting for a while or visiting friends in the neighbourhood.
At 3.30 Lucile and I walk to church again for choir practice. Sometimes we walk with Joy one of the ladies from the first group at the centre who has joined the choir with us. On Thursdays our practice lasts two hours and we learn and practice new songs for Sunday.


On Fridays we are at the centre with the second group again. We tell a Bible story, have a tea break and then have a lesson like on Tuesday.
Afterwards I have lunch with my neighbours, Ophelie and Elizabeth again (she works at my neighbours’ house on Fridays.)

The TEAM compound
In the afternoon I get the bus to a roundabout near Naomi and Annie’s house and they pick me up on the way to our weekly prayer meeting at the TEAM compound. At the start of the year I used to take the bus all the way there but there isn’t a direct route so you have to go to the central market and wait there for a bus to fill up before it takes you to the other side of town. I have waited between 5 and 40 minutes and there is no way to know how full the bus will be when you get there. Even on a good day the journey from my house to TEAM takes about an hour so I am very happy to be able to get a lift and take a more direct route! At the TEAM compound all the TEAM missionaries currently in town meet and we all share about our past week and pray for each other. It’s good to meet different people and spend time sharing and speaking in
English! By the time we finish it is dark (in Chad sunset time varies between half 5 and half 6, it's always very strange when we go back to England in the summer!) and so I get a lift home.


At one of ladies' houses
On Saturday mornings I get to sleep a bit longer! Since I have got back from Abeché I have been visiting the ladies from the first group at the centre on Saturday mornings as Naomi has less time to spend with them. So far it has been really good, we spend time chatting and getting to know each other. At one ladies house we made pancakes together, at another we looked at photos from her past, at another’s I spent a long time playing with her lovely children. They all (apart from Elizabeth) live quite close to my house.

At about lunch time I head home and have a short break or go to market to do some shopping! At 3:30 I walk to choir practice with Lucile. On Saturdays we have our longest practice which lasts 3 hours (or more…). We go over the songs for Sunday and practice them with the musicians (the church has a keyboard, a couple of electric guitars, a bass and a drum kit) and microphones. We also work out the dance moves for each song. About half way through we have a short meditation on a bible passage and at the end we all pray for each other. I have really enjoyed this part of choir. By the time we finish it is too dark for Lucile and I to walk home by ourselves. At the start of the year we used to taxi but now we walk with friends who live in the same direction. We can never quite predict who is going to turn up at choir as people don’t always come very regularly but it is good to be able to walk home with different people and get to know them.


On Sunday mornings Lucile and I have to be at church for 7:30 to sing in the choir. It used to be 8 but because of the heat they have made the time earlier. We put on our special blue and pink robes on top of our skirts and tops made from Chadian material and sing as people slowly arrive. 

Our choir
Being late for church isn’t really a problem (unless you’re in the choir) and people slowly turn up for about an hour after the service starts. We sing the “praise” (joyful songs) we practiced on Saturday then when enough people have arrived there is a special time for “worship” (slower songs) with a time for open prayer. After that the secretary gives the announcements, reminding us every Sunday when each different group in the church meets and where. He also welcomes new members and visitors. After that there is the reading and the sermon which can last anything between 20 and 40 minutes. Once a month when there is a second shorter service for communion the service is translated into Nanjere (they normally have a service after the early French one) which obviously doubles the length of the sermon. After the sermon we have the offering, the choir sings as row by row everybody walks or dances up to the front to give their offering. 
When we have the “twinned” service in two languages there is a second choir. Often during the offering is very lively and people come up to the front to dance a traditional shoulder shaking dance! Then the secretary comes back to remind us any details that we may have forgotten and we receive the final blessing. The choir sings as everyone files out and then we all stand around and chat outside.
People dancing during the offering
Every other Sunday I then go on to SIL where there is an International service in English organised by missionaries. I go to help Annie sell our Acacia project soaps, cards and bags after the service. Walking home I have to remember to lather on the sun cream as it is about midday. I have lunch with my neighbours and then have the afternoon to rest and/or visit friends in the neighbourhood and from choir. Although at the moment my Sunday afternoons are being increasingly taken up by good bye parties as different missionaries are leaving Chad. Our time here is coming to an end very quickly.

Good bye party at the pool with other short termers
Every night Ophelie and I close up the house, I go up to the balcony upstairs, put up my mosquito net over my camp bed and fall asleep (if there is enough wind) to the sound of dogs barking and the local bars. Most of the time I am so tired I don’t even notice the noise. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Une semaine à Moursal

Your alarm goes off at 6:20 and you think already? It’s only just got cool enough to sleep. But after a few minutes you’re up, take down your mosquito net, walk down the stairs and unlock your front door. The week has started.
The terrace where I sleep with Ophelie, it's much cooler outside though quite noisy sometimes!

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about what I do during a week. It ended up being very long so I have split it into three parts; here is the first part of “a week in Moursal” (the area of town where I live).

The balls and lessons
My week starts at 8 o’clock when I go out to play with children in the neighbourhood.  These are children of the vulnerable women who we are trying to reach who haven’t taken part in the program. The children go to school every other day and otherwise they just play by themselves. They are always very excited when I come (shouting Naomi, I hope that in a few weeks it will be Rebecca!).  They love playing duck duck goose, singing He’s got the whole world in his hands and are very keen to teach me Head Shoulders Knees and Toes in Gumbaye, the most common language in the South of Chad. A new favourite which I have just taught them is the Hokey Kokey; they never know when to stop going ooohhhhh!

I play just outside of the house of Lisa*, one of the ladies who is in the new group at the Acacia centre. She is very lively and plays with us she often has more energy than the children! After we have played for about an hour, Lisa and I walk to my house and I have a lesson with Lisa. I have just started teaching her how to read and write. She speaks French well and knows the alphabet as well as a few simple sounds. I’m doing my best to help her be able to read. It’s not easy but she is very willing to learn.
After that I sometimes go on to visit Lisa and Sarah*, the two ladies in the new program but if not I head home to rest and read a bit! 

Around 11 O’clock Elizabeth* one of the ladies from the first group at the centre comes to sweep and get rid of all the dust that accumulates in one week.  We quite often chat for a bit first and drink cold water together. It takes her about an hour to come from her house, walking and then taking public transport which in the 40 degree heat is tiring in itself! Elizabeth has been working in our two flats for the past few months, she comes three days a week to clean and cook. As at the beginning of the year I was at home most mornings so we have become good friends.

Then at about 12.30 Ophelie, my house mate comes in from her morning activities with street children and we have lunch which could be fried sweet potatoes bought from the lady across the street or a sandwich with French bread.

I spend the afternoon at the centre with the first group, getting in at about 6.

Beignets, mmm....

The next day I am up at 6:20 again! We have breakfast- obligatory coffee and French bread with peanut butter and laughing cow cheese- a great combination or marmite. Sometimes we have beignets which are kind of like unsweet small doughnuts which we buy from a lady across the street.

All morning we are at the centre with the second group.
Once we have finished (how long we go on for changes every day), I go home and have lunch with my neighbours, Ophelie and Elizabeth. Elizabeth cleans our flat on Tuesdays and then cooks Chadian food, boule (a paste a bit like playdough made with rice/ maize flour and water) or rice and sauce for us. My favourite sauce is peanut butter sauce with beef. We eat sat on a mat outside as it is supposedly cooler.
Eating boule and sauce with Elizabeth, my flatmates and one of my flat mate's brothers

At 2:30 every two weeks, Laure (a Belgian missionary who works with street children) comes by and picks Lucile (one of my French neighbours) and me up to go to an orphanage where we organise a club for about 10 3-5 year olds. The orphanage is quite small and was set up by a Chadian Christian who basically started welcoming orphans and abandoned children. The children (like all children) need love and often the youngest ones don’t get much input. We tell them a bible story, do an activity and sing songs with them. For the past few months we have been talking about how we are all precious in God’s eyes based on Isaiah 49:15-16 : 
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands
It's good fun and it will be hard to leave these children.
Playing a game at the orphanage
On Tuesdays when we don’t go to the orphanage, Lucile and I are trying to visit different friends from our choir.

At 4:30 we take a bus either from home or the orphanage to our church for choir practice. On Tuesdays we only have one hour during which we are meant to practice songs for the album which we are preparing. Most of the songs are in Nanjere (the language of the church) which is proving interesting especially for Lucile who has been asked to sing a solo!
We walk home after choir as it is still light and get in at about half 6.


On Wednesday’s I get up at 6:20 and actually leave the house with Ophelie to go to work! I help out with the street children project on Wednesday mornings. We take a taxi to a church in a different area of town. We start by chatting and saying hello to all the children waiting outside. Then we pray together as a team before starting the activity. We have a team of 9 including missionaries and short termers working with the project as well as Chadian volunteers. We welcome about 30 children and give them water.

An activity
We each take it in turns to tell the bible stories (using the same books as the centre) in French translated into Arabic and then we have a short lesson. We are teaching them to read and write in Arabic but using roman script. After the lesson they have a small page of exercises to complete before they wash their hands and get tickets which they can exchange for a meal with a lady who has a road side restaurant. It is often fun with the children and a good opportunity to improve my Arabic but it is also quite sad as they lead very difficult and dangerous lives in the streets and are addicted to drugs, glue and alcohol.

After the activity Ophelie and I take the bus home. At 11 I have another lesson with Lisa then a lesson with Sarah who I am also helping to read and write. And I just about have enough to time to have lunch before I have to be at the centre again with the second group. We finish at about 6.

Once home I have time to rest. Ophelie and I cook tea, sometimes chat to our neighbours about the day and spend the evening either resting or preparing things for the rest of the week which I’ll tell you about in my next blog!

*Names have been changed to protect identity.