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

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