Dear Daddy, Mama, and all the homefolks,
As you know, our work here remains very similar from day to day. Our stories may change . . . Eden smiled today. . . We did crafts with the younger children. . . We did crafts with the older children. . . but our basic day does not. We stayed busy and were having a wonderful time. However, we were all excited about the weekend. Because of everything here, there is a large wall around the compound. This means that it is safe for us and even the children to be outside after dark. However, because of how busy we have been, and rules about people being outside alone, we have not left the compound.
So. . . our weekend started off by sleeping in, followed by our first walk outside of the compound. We went to the bakery to buy bread. It tastes just like Olive Garden’s bread, but it’s quite a bit bigger, and must be flamed (toasted slightly over the open flame) before it is safe to eat. We stepped out of the compound onto a gravel road. The road was dirt when we arrived. They are in the process of refinishing it. There were little children staring at us, and dogs wandering all over the place. The adults acted as though if we ignored them, they would ignore us. It was about a fifteen minute walk to the bakery. We walked over dirt roads most of the way.
N’Djamena is sometimes referred to as a “large village”, rather than a “city”, and that is the way it felt. In this capital city, we were walking down the middle of the road, beside an open sewage system. There were bricks being made of dirt and probably manure sitting beside the road. There is litter everywhere, but unlike most countries, it is half buried by the dirt. In the dry season, winds blow the sand down from the Sahara and everything is covered with the dust. We are told that when the winds come, it is so thick that the sun looks like the moon. The people live in compounds with one opening onto the street, but when you looked past the threshold, you could see that there is a large open space with many families living inside. There were donkeys and goats and even a few guinea fowl that seemed to be taking their morning stroll without anyone bothering to accompany them.
A policeman stopped us, which is usually a scary occasion, but he only wanted to practice his English, and when we told him where we were going, he told us that we couldn’t miss it, and left. (And since none of us had our papers with us, that was a major God-thing.
We came home, safe and sound, to find Ampila, our “house help”, – the center asked her to make us lunch since we still don’t have the hang of shopping for our groceries – telling us that we were out of gas. We went to Thomas and Anita’s and let them know, and a very nice national came and put in the new tank.
We were outside on the porch so we would be out of Ampila’s way while she finished cooking when we heard a very loud noise. Our stove had kaboomed, and there were flames coming from the back of the stove. Our house help was singed, but okay. Each house is supposed to have a bucket of sand to put out a gas fire, but ours does –did –not. I was scared that the cupboards would catch on fire, so I dumped some water on it. I know, it wasn’t what you are supposed to do, but things were hectic, and oh, well. . . I turned off the electricity and the gas, and had yelled to the rest of the team to get help and they came running with the sand from next door. We threw the sand behind the stove, and the fire stopped. Another team member had run for the doctor, and she was there by the time the fire was out. She sprayed stuff in Ampila’s eyes, and I gave here my small bottle of aloevera gel, since she got what appeared to be first degree burns on her face. Her eyelashes were singed –but not all the way off –and the lace on her dress was melted. The doctor thinks that she will be fine.
So our weekend started off with a bang. Literally. After lunch, which was good even if the rice was a little hard, we had siesta and then Anita took us to market. Market is similar wherever you go –loud, smelly, and generally overwhelming. We each were able to get a Chadian outfit, but when I tried my loose “home” dress, I realized that the tag read “Made in Indonesia”.
The meat market was filled with flies. All the meat, including some with the hide still attached, lay in the sun, uncovered, surrounded by flies. I’m not sure I feel safe eating meat here anymore. Then again, it’s cooked. . . And the peanut butter! They grind up the peanuts and the flies buzz around there, too. The dark peanut butter that looks “American” is roasted. Unroasted peanuts make a whiter peanut butter.
Anita asked if we were done, and we decided that even though there were other things we wanted, we were done. There is only a certain amount of time that I can stand going to market with five other people, only one of whom can speak the language. I think this must be nearly universal, because we women started to tire at the same time.
Home safely, we went to dinner with the family downstairs (Eden and Jason’s family, the Avilez’). The story of our fire is now a joke. (“We’re telling everyone that they need to have you over to keep you from cooking.”) Supper was yummy, and we stayed until bedtime, playing with the children, and talking to the parents.
Sunday was again off the base. We met at 07:15 to head for the beach. . . The beach is the sand that is left behind by the river during dry season. It was cold this morning, nice for Delaware at this time of year, but very cold for Chad! We went out of the city, past tents of nomads, finally saw a camel, and eventually ended up at the beach. We spread our mats under three trees, some of us in the sun and others in the shade, and walked down to the river. We could not have asked for a nicer day –warm sun, cool breeze, and not a cloud in the sky.
After the walk, we ate breakfast. Thomas and Anita invited us to join them. We had brought bananas, tomatoes, cheese, cucumbers, hardboiled eggs, and the bread from yesterday. Anita had coffee, tea, cereal, and banana cake! We were happy to share.
Next came Church. The “Big Boss” (Director of SIL International) spoke. We had Bible reading in English and French, and singing in English and French. We also had a small audience watching us. Maybe they got something out of it, but I doubt it, because I think they spoke Arabic.
After church, a nomad came by with his camel, and offered rides. He wanted too much money for the ride, but the two women who work with the nomads bargained him down to a fairer price, and all of us but Jennifer got to ride the camel. It really wasn’t that great, since he didn’t let us ride for long, and the camel wasn’t happy. He complained each time the man made him kneel down to let anyone get off or on him. He also kept a full mouth of green spit which seemed ready to go if anyone got to close. We made sure that we weren’t anywhere near his head while he was complaining. After almost everyone had gotten a ride, two more nomads (looking like you would expect nomads to look) came up, and offered their camels for rides. We could have ridden for even cheaper. *Sigh*
Just as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed a caravan of camels getting ready to cross. As we watched, more and more camels started to cross the river, usually in groups of 50-60. There were white camels, and brown camels, loaded camels and empty camels, big camels and baby camels, close to 200 all together! We took pictures as they came, but left before they got too close.
On the way back, as we crossed a bridge over the river, we even got to see nine hippos in a group, sunning themselves. At first we thought that there were rocks with a hippo or two beside them. Then we got closer and realized that the rocks themselves were hippos. . .and then we remembered that there are no rocks in the river here. We’re not the sharpest crayons in the box. J
Just over the river, we came to a police checkpoint. One guard made eye-contact with our driver, and waved him through. The guard on the other side didn’t see him, and he waved his gun at us as we went by. Thomas and Anita were in front of us, and they were stopped, but they said it wasn’t very bad. We pulled over to wait for them. It didn’t take more than two or three minutes until we were back on the road.
As we merged into traffic, we were almost immediately stopped by a very bad accident that had just happened. Michaela (the doctor) and I got out of our car and went over to see if we could help. There was one lady lying by the road with women screaming and crying over her. She was not moving, and at first I thought she might be dead. However, she started to mumble, so she might have just been knocked out. She had a good pulse –which showed a good heart rate and an adequate blood pressure –and her respirations were good, too. I thought that she might have been just walking beside the road, since the women around her were grieving so loudly. Another woman was walking around, wailing, holding a little baby-toddler. The baby seemed to be fine, but the woman had a minor head wound. There was some blood on the baby, but that seemed to be more from the woman. The baby wasn’t crying. The car was mangled; the windshield shattered. There was a man still inside, trapped under the wheel. Three to five men took hold of the side of the car (The door was gone already.) and pulled and pulled. They were able to bend the metal far enough that others were able to remove the man from the car. Hopefully, his neck and back were okay, because they tugged him out by his boots. One of other vehicles from the center transported the man, the bloody woman, and the baby to the hospital. They seemed to be a family unit. Michaela went with them.
We found out later that afternoon that they had to go to three hospitals before they found one that would take the man. He was wearing a military uniform, and the first hospital said they must take him to the military hospital, but the military hospital said he needed to go to another hospital because of his injuries. We may never know what happened. The people here told us that this may be a good thing. Here, if you try to help someone and they die, you can be sued. Please pray for everyone involved.
As I thought about this series of events, I realized that the police checkpoint may have saved our lives. If we had not stopped those two minutes, we would have very likely been on that stretch of road when the accident happened.
We are back on our side of the wall, and the day is almost over. I think all of us agree that if we have nothing more exciting happen, we would be okay with that.
And now it’s time to head off for dinner.
Love you all,