The First Few Days in Béré

The days are flying by and it is all I can do to keep track of what day it is. We left off at the end of Tuesday night after that harrowing ride down from N’Djamena and getting settled in. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of learning the project, the language(s), the culture, where to do laundry, how to buy essentials, etc., etc. I cannot believe all that has happened so please stay with me as I try to recount how it has happened so far.

Wednesday started with and early alarm clock to be ready for breakfast by 7 am. Tammy said she would take us over to our host family that would be feeding us and introduce us. Charis and waited but didn’t see her so we wandered over to her house and found out she probably has typhoid. Sickness is very real here, even if you have been here over 4 years like the Parkers. Allah, the son of a hospital worker and our neighbor, walked us over to do the introductions. By that time it is almost 9 am so the sun is fiercely high in the sky. We are ushered to sit under the sprawling mango tree to keep us cool as we have our first go at local food. Breakfast consists of tea and gatos. Gatos are not cats (Spanish) but are more like breadier donut holes. The compound that we are eating at is split between two brothers: Duliga and Kebdiga. Their wives cook us the food and depending on the meal, it could be in one compound or the other (they are connected). Duliga is the vice principal of the SDA school here and Kebdiga is a nurse at the hospital. Duliga is also studying in Cameroon but works every couple of years to keep up with the cost of education (PREACH!) and that they cannot take out loans. He has two daughters, Raïsa (5) and Dianna (3) who we attempt to practice our limited French with while we eat. Raïsa already speaks French, Nansurai (the local language, spelled wrong I’m sure), Arabic, and her mother’s language. Dianna speaks Nansurai and dances around a lot.

The food has a rice base as their stable carbohydrate. There are usually different sauces that go on top. The most common is red sauce, which is potato, pepper, onion, garlic, other spices, and peanut oil. Everything is cooked in peanut oil! Another common sauce is l’ozae, which is made from a local green. For breakfast we usually have bouille (sounds like bwhee), which is a rice porridge. The tea is extremely sweet! Between the tea and eating limes like oranges, many of the local people have very poor oral health.

After breakfast, we headed back over to the designated student missionary (SM) hut, where we have access to a flush toilet, a shower, as well as a kitchenette, for worship with the SMs. We got the day started right and then set off to our tasks of getting our living situations set up and learn more about the project. The main project that we are working on is called Project 21. It is an all-inclusive health lecture and practice series that trains Community Health Works (CHW) and Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) to help their quarter as some what like a really good mom. They would be the ones to refer to the clinic or if it is more serious of a situation, then to the hospital. Béré has an ambulance now so, if needed, they can get to the hospital very quickly. The 21 part comes from there being 21 quarters in the Béré district. We will be focusing on these and hopefully within the next few months.

That took up most of the morning. Following lunch, we, Charis, Marci, and I, went out to all the quarters to speak with the delegates or head of each quarter to invite them to a meeting on Friday to update them on what we would be teaching their CHW and TBA. This was our first motorcycle experience here and it was great! Later this week we’ll be learning how to ride to increase our independence.

It was quite invigorating to meet with the delegates at their homes as well as see the community we will be working in. I can only hope (thanks Allison!) that our work will go smoothly and well. You all will have a role in that as you keep us in your prayers!

Wednesday night, we had nice debrief to better understand everyone’s roles at Béré. Tammy made sugar cookies (a treat!) and we ice cubes in our drinks (I really don’t know which was better). In another blog I will recap with all the abbreviations, names, and other pieces of information to help you better understand day-to-day life here.

The following day started out very similar with breakfast at our host family’s house, followed by a morning of learning, meeting, and understanding more about the projects and culture. In the afternoon, we went followed up with getting any more necessary items from the market and went more in depth into about what we want to accomplish over the next three months.

Friday was the big day for our meeting with all the delegates from the 21 quarters of Béré. In the morning we had to go register with the MCD. He is the one in charge of all health related personnel in the surrounding region. We had to take copies of our diplomas (thanks Mom for scanning it) that did not arrive until after we left for Chad. After a lot of talk and making sure that we were not trying to be medical doctors or anything else clinical, we headed back to prepare for the meeting. Tea and gatos had to be brought over to the pavilion (check out what the hospital compound is like on google earth) as well as a basin for washing hands. Even after a huge down pour that kept Charis and me in the hut of our host family, all the delegates came to hear what we had planned for their quarters. God really blessed us for how well the meeting turned out. As you can see, He has kept us in business so far: passing police checkpoints, travel safety, broken down bus, unity, and so much more! Since being here, I have been reading the devotional Jesus Calling. My grandmother made sure I had a copy and it has been a huge blessing to my daily routine.

Friday night ended with a simple vespers service where we gathered and sang songs, ate popcorn and recounted our blessings throughout the week. Tammy and Jamie keep giving and giving of their hospitality, I don’t see how I’ll ever be able to repay them (especially without an oven of my own!)!

So much more has happened from Saturday until now (Wednesday morning). I’ll keep you posted!

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N’Djamena to Béré.

Well, well, well. It has now been 8 days since landing in Chad and so many things have happened! Last I wrote was just an update to let you all know that I made it safely to N’Djamena and since then, it has been go-go-go. We were able to relax a bit in the capitol on both Saturday and Sunday after arriving. We visited the market and drove down by the center square as well as saw the largest mosque in N’Djamena. Sunday night, the other student missionaries arrived. They were lucky and had the Air France route through Paris, which is a much shorter series of flights. All three, Daniel, Josh, and Shannice, are pre-med students, ready to take on the world!

Monday morning was planned to be a jam packed busy morning. We need to get up at 4 am to drop off our bags with the Parkers since they were leaving early. Then we would need to be ready to go by 7:30 am to go to the police station to get registered, we had to get our money changed, and then arrive at the bus station as soon as we could to catch a semi-early bus to Kelo, then on to Béré. 7:30 came and went and our taxi man wasn’t showing up and was not answering his phone. 8:30 came and went so Marci, the previous public health project coordinator who came with us to get us settled in, decided we could walk there, as we needed to hurry. As we were walking out, he showed up, all smiles and apologies. We got what we needed done but by that time it was close to 11 am, leaving us no choice but to stay the night in N’Djamena. Remember, we had none of our suitcases, only small bags with what we slept in and what we needed for the day. We spent the afternoon napping and practicing our French (highly entertaining when everybody had different backgrounds for languages studied). Even after several naps, when 8 pm hit, we were all went to bed. We had to get up and be out the door by 5:30 am to catch the first bus to Kelo in order to make it before dark. Rumors were flying of the need to travel by motorcycle inside of a dugout canoe and that would not be fun at night, especially through hippo-infested waters.

We arrived at the downtown bus station and were the first people on the bus. We picked our seats and waited for the driver. Vendors passed the windows selling everything from French dictionaries to ladies underwear to fresh baguettes. I am now beginning to understand African time. The bus inched out through the crowds at 7:21 am and we were on our way. After breezing through the N’Djamena suburbs and several passport checks, our bus coasted to a stop in the middle of Chadian farm country. Thirty minutes, one dagger pulled from a sleeve, a flaming battery, and six wide-eyed Nasara later, we were back on the road with our fingers crossed. It is here that I learned that Chadians are the fastest people to break something but they can keep broken things jimmy rigged the longest.

Our midpoint/lunch stop/gas fill up stretched out much longer than anticipated, guaranteeing our needs to stop for Muslim prayer at one and three o’clock. After an hour and a half, our driver returned with a new battery. Though we were thoroughly tired of waiting around the bus, we were happy that we would now make it to Kelo before dusk. Not too long after lunch, thunderheads rolled over us causing us non-Muslims to stick to a more rigid prayer schedule.

Arriving in Kelo, we were told we could not continue via bus on to l’hospitale and therefore would have to find another mode of transportation. Though exciting, motorcycle was not extremely enticing. An older lady on our bus told us not to worry, a truck was continuing on with us to Béré. I know she was trying to be comforting but she only brought on anxiety as I wondered how a 30 passenger bus was to fit into/onto a Toyota truck! Lo and behold we fit with 22 of us on the outside and 8 on the inside. Daniel and I ended up on top of the roof with our feet dangling by the driver’s and backseat passenger’s head. The same lady who let us know how to get on the bus was told repeatedly to put her feet like I had them but instead, she yelled back that she would surely fall in since there wasn’t much to hold onto where she would be sitting. After pulling out on to the road and forging our first major puddle, she defiantly told everyone around her how if she had listened to them, she would have ended up in that puddle.

It was great to take the truck. Though when we first got on the truck, the hood was up and it had no steering wheel, it made it as soon as dusk finished without hippo bites. It goes to show that Chadian really do keep things working. Tammy came and picked us up in her AC equipped truck, which also meant we had a hot meal waiting for us at the hospital. We were quickly filled with happiness as we ate our fill of spaghetti, garlic bread and green beans.

Up to this point, Charis (the other public health professional working at the hospital) and I had had little explanation of our housing arraignments. Student missionaries and other short-term (less than 9 months) volunteers typically stay in the village with a family in a hut made from clay bricks. We had heard great stories and terrible stories but we both were thoroughly prepared for the worst. After supping to our fill, we grab our bags and hit the road for our new accommodations. Charis and I find out we are living in a duplex on the backside of the compound. It is one of the new buildings put in by Maranatha earlier this spring with special ventilation to control for heat! Eventually, we will have our own showers and toilets on each side and will no longer have to walk across the compound to do both (well, I can cheat a bit…).

Now comes the fun part. Though these events are getting farther and farther behind, I need to get to bed. I’ll update the workings of Béré, my host family, and how work has gone so far in a day or two! Thanks for reading!

Zachary Gately
zgately.com
zgately@gmail.com

Let the Count Down End!

Over the last few days I have made very strong attempts at posting a blog: the big “10 days left” or maybe “only a week left.” Alas, no count down happened except in my head (and of course the living room as I spread out all my belongs and made the best use of the 100 lbs that I was allotted). Try to recount all the things I needed to get done before day zero was adding a ball of stress the size of a golf ball under my left scapula so I decide to push this off until my bags were checked and I was waiting at Reno International Airport, the first of the four five airports I’ll be gracing over the next 42 hours. Thankfully, the US Postal Service has those flat-rate boxes that can (if the postal gods are feeling favorable) be shipped with the rest of my food that I had to leave behind (hint hint for anyone who feels generous!!)

Packing and struggling aside, I’m full of wonder as I prepare for this adventure. I have grown weary of explaining where Chad is located, what public health does in said location, and how I came upon such an odd opportunity. I’m sure they think I am crazy but oh well. I now just say I am starting a job at a hospital on Monday.

Over the last month, I have had to buckle down and make sure things are taken care of! Calling my banks and giving my clothes away! I tried to clean my room but (sorry Mom and Kara) my family will have to take care of that. I visited friends and families. I watched as two good friends became united by that holy matrimonial ceremony that I have no desire of partaking in for several, LONG years. I ate at my favorite restaurants and indulged in my favorite family recipes. I also stopped exercise to fatten up for the circumstances ahead (just in case as I may sweat it all out in the 112 F degree weather).

All these things have helped me realize what point of life I am in currently. I have my friends and family as well as an education. I need experience (and money to pay for that education) to help move up to the next step so, I ask, why not Chad? I’d rather have a horrible time, dragging myself back to the USA with only pennies in my pocket and a full blown case of malaria than have that feeling of regret. I can’t wait to see what this community has to offer and what I can learn from them. Being able to use my skills and expertise in a full time capacity is a dream come true.

All this to say, I am excited to start on this adventure! Feel free to email me at zgately@gmail.com if you have any questions, would like to know more, or even to send words of encouragement! Thank you in advance for your thoughts, prayers, emails, letters, and of course the occasional kindle book!

Love to all,

Zach