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

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Back to the start

Hi everyone,

It seems like a long time since I last wrote a blog, lots of things have happened! I have finished school and got the results I need to apply for medical school and Ruth has just finished her first year of studying Theology at Exeter University. I have decided to spend a gap year volunteering with BMS World Mission back in Chad. I'm going to be working with the ACACIA project which was set up by TEAM  and Mission Africa to help Vulnerable Women in N'djamena. For more information about these missions please click on the links.
A Chadian market scene painted by Ruth
N'djamena, close to where I'll be living
The project helps women who are trapped in prostitution or domestic violence and who may be suffering from HIV/AIDS, by offering them counselling, a chance to learn new skills and also a purpose through Christ. After 6 years of reaching out to women in the community, a centre has been opened where 2 missionaries run rehabilitation courses with a bible based syllabus and teach women how to make soaps, cards and jewellery. I'm going to be helping at the centre and will probably spend most of my time with children either out in the communities or playing with the children of the women who are on the course. I may also be translating course documents from English into French so I can put my hard earned French skills to use!

I feel that after living in Chad for 6 years I still don't know much about Chadian culture as I have spent most of my time at a French High School. So I'm really excited to be able to go back and find out what it's like to really live in Chad on my own and outside the hospital context. I'm going to be living in the middle of N'djamena, the capital, which will be quite different from Guinebor (where I have been living for the past 6 years with my parents) which is on the outskirts of the city. I'm going to share a flat with another short term missionary. I'm hoping to get more involved in Chadian life mostly by joining a Chadian church and maybe joining a choir!

I will be updating my blog so you can see how I get on throughout my gap year!