I am not a Chadian Woman

I am not a Chadian Woman

*written 31.OCT.2013

I have been thrilled that many of you are enjoying my blogs at zgately.com and via email. Some of you have asked what I have been doing more specifically, what difference am I making in the lives of the people here, and how you can help out in anyway. I know many of you have been sending up prayers (even the small quick ones do wonders!) because it has now been 2 weeks since my last sickness! I’m still not gaining weight like I want to but after the daily banana shakes for the next few weeks, I’m sure I’ll look a bit healthier.

Like I said in my other post, it has been hard on all of us newbies these past 7 weeks (yes, I can’t believe it either!) as we have had to adjust to a different way of life than we were previously use to in the US of A. Today we were reminiscing that we would be crashing some sort of Halloween Party, following tomorrow with complaints of how product based Christmas has become but secretly excited that it is nearing that time of year! We have all began to love our families here and keep learning language, culture, and practical ways of living from them on a daily basis. Things have become a bit routine but we still continue to live and dwell among our new community.

For the past three weeks we have been trying to coordinate with our translator, Naomi, to join her for a Chadian meal. She was planning on teaching us how to cook and eat like a local but every week someone was sick and we couldn’t learn from her! Even so, Tammy wasn’t able to join us due to some recent issues with the school (check out her blog at parkers4bere.com) but we made sure to bring enough of it back with us for her to enjoy!

Our menu consisted of three things: boulle, l’oze sauce, and budu sauce. First, Charis and Shannice began cleaning the rice. The went over it thoroughly to pick out any unhusked kernels, rocks, bugs, or anything else that didn’t belong. Josh and I stemmed the l’oze leaves and cut them. Daniel and I also pounded the dried melon seeds into a type of flour, sifted, then added egg, salt, and garlic to make a dough. We started to make the budu sauce by adding oil to a pot on a charcoal fire, throwing in garlic, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and salt. Once that had simmered for a while, Charis and Shannice took the dough Daniel and I prepared and threw it in piece by piece, resembling boiled dumplings. Once cooked through, we added the budu leaves, cooked it down, and took it off the fire.

The rice was finished and we washed it in water, letting it sit in the sun to let it get soft. We started the l’oze sauce the same way as the budu but without peppers. Once the rice was soft, we pounded the rice into rice flour just like the melon seeds. We used a giant mortar and pestle but our weak Nasara bodies couldn’t keep up with Naomi and her sons. She has four of her five sons living with her at home while one is in Nigeria, attending high school. She is a single mother and also took in her sister’s daughter. Naomi and her middle son felt sorry for us and just continued pounding while we were getting tired just looking at them. Half way through pounding and sifting the rice, we began to add the l’oze leaves to the pot of garlic, tomatoes, onions, and oil to cook them down with some minerals to take the sourness out of the leaves. The sauces were basically done, with only the boulle to be finished. We pounded 2/3 rds of the rice into flour, leaving a third of the rice partially broken down. We had to stoke the fire to get a huge 15-20 liter pot of water to boil, then we added the partially broken down rice to the water. 10-13 minutes later, we added the rice flour to thicken it. Naomi was the only one who could brave the smoke from the fire to keep stirring the rice mixture so the boulle wouldn’t clump. Once cooked, she used nice gourd bowls to shape the boulle into pizza dough like balls.

Now we were done! We washed our hands, called the five of us, Naomi, and her five children over to have grace. We dug into our hard work without reserve! To eat, you must take a piece of the boulle (thick rice mixture) and dip it into the sauce. We all burned our finger tips as we rushed in without waiting for the boulle to cool. We were all smiling and laughing. It was 4:15 pm. We started cooking at 12:15 pm. How did it take so long to make one meal? It didn’t matter that there were 11 of us as each step would have taken just as much time to complete, regardless of the amount.

We talked about it on the way home how we are not Chadian women. They must work so hard to prepare such a simple meal. We had fun doing it but looking at how much we did vs. how much Naomi did, we were pretty close to useless. Naomi continued to unintentionally make us realize how lucky we were to be born in a country with Campels, Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, and Betty Crocker. She told us how she makes this meal 3-4 times a week. It helps put her kids into a food coma so they go to sleep early. Once they are taken care of, she gets out her head lamp to make mud bricks to build her new, two room hut since her current two single room huts have unfixable fissures down the walls. If she is too tired from working during the day, she’ll wake up at 4 am to make bricks. She also maintains a field of edible flora for those who cannot feed themselves.

She, like us, was once a Nasara. She was born and raised in Nigeria by her Nigerian mother and Chadian father. She was use to a normal teenage life, excelling at school and sneaking out to Michael Jackson concerts. When she became of marriable age, her father wanted to be sure she was paired with a proper Chadian husband. He arranged it all and shipped her here to Béré, where he was originally from. Being the man of the house, her husband expected her to cook boulle, clean, do laundry, earn money, and produce sons, all while he worked on and off, drank, and beat her. Four boys and one on the way later, she was a single mother, climbing mango trees and boiling water just to feel something warm down her throat. She had her last son at the L’Hopital Adventiste de Béré and someone realized that she speaks English quite well. She was offered a job as a translator and has been working with the hospital and its affiliates ever since.

You may think this sounds outrageous! Where are the social workers, the attorneys, or the police? How could her family allow this? Didn’t her neighbors see something to report it? But here in Chad, this is the norm. Naomi said she cried for weeks after arriving here. She cried from the smoke in her eyes from cooking boulle, she cried for her native Nigeria, she cried for her abusive husband. But she had to keep going. She had to feed her kids. She had to make money some how and finally knowing 9+ languages has paid off. Tammy offers her an umbrella or even a ride when she is headed home in the rain. Naomi just scoffs, saying, “Why? I am not salt! I will not melt away in the road. It is just water!”

This attitude of survival, determination, and reality is one many women here have embraced but many other have not. They allow their situation to role over them like their abusive husbands. We all should embrace this phrase as we go about our day. You can only wallow so much before you must stand up tall and realize you are not salt.

Today, one of my friend’s nephew’s past away. He was less than a year old, the product of a shot gun wedding, leaving a young mother and father devastated. Yet, this is also not unusual. Many families do not name their children until they reach two years of age because the death of a child is so common. What can you do and what can you say in this situation? How can you make a difference when see people in these situations? Is health education going to make a difference if all they what is the demonstration food? How do you change a mindset? How do you show them that they are not salt?

I am not a Chadian woman. I cannot work 4 hard hours to prepare a simple meal. I cannot be treated lower than a husband’s whores or his liquor bottle. I cannot deal with having 5 children under the age of 4 years old, nor having 10+ births with only 4 living children. I see the struggle and it is more real than the chair I am sitting in. This week has been an eye opening experience. Emotionally, mentally, and physically draining, but rewarding nonetheless. Naomi is one of our closest friends. She opened her home, we beatboxed with her kids, and we shared a meal (preparation and all) together like family.

I am left this week with a deeper understanding of the lives we are trying to help. I was not born here, therefore, I will be a Nasara for many months to come, leaving me out of the loop linguistically, culturally, and every little nuance that makes life all the more interesting. Slowly, like a child, I am learning. Little by little, I grow and can connect with my new community on a deeper level. Keep us all in your thoughts and prayers as we are budding Chadians. It has been awesome thus far and I cannot wait to learn all the ways that I am not salt.

Zachary Gately
zchgtly
+235-9112-2492
zgately.com

L’Hopital Adventiste de Béré
ATTN: Zachary Gately
52 Boite Postal
Kelo, Tchad
AFRICA

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The Little Things

The Little Things

*written on 21.OCT.2013

Entering week six is forcing myself to come to terms with my new life. It’s not much different than than any life you live. I work too much, sleep too little, talk to my loved ones less than I should, and do not exercise enough. I may not have running water like you do and you probably don’t eat lunch under a mango tree on the regular. Regardless, life goes on and so does the daily grind.

I cannot tell a lie, it’s no cake walk here. I witness problems, illnesses, and heart break that may seem unfathomable in the 21st century or with a loving God in control of it all. Death is common in this country with the lowest life expectancy at birth in the world (CIA Factbook 2012) as is sever malnutrition, malaria, spousal abuse, and so much more.

Every Friday my view changes, though. I have the pleasure of working with a group of people who are dedicated to changing their health status and that of their community as well. This group, our Community Health Workers and Traditional Birth Attendants, come poised with questions, answers, enthusiasm, and an open mind. Some have not ventured far from their homes in Béré and many cannot fathom their lives without childhood deaths, ruptured uteruses, and malaria. Regardless, they persistently show up every Friday at 3 pm (many on Tchadian time, of course) to learn something new to share with their neighborhood.

Yesterday was a tiring day. Or maybe I was just tired. I haven’t been the healthiest since coming here (strep throat, malaria, and giardia) and these last two weeks or so I have been sleeping earlier and earlier to give my body an optimal amount of recovery time (though it doesn’t seem to be helping as much as it should). Thankfully, Tammy asked if she could have the student missionaries for the day to clean and decorate the classrooms at the school, allowing some much needed catch up time in research, planning, and dreaming. I sat in my Eno hammock (product placement, yes, but if you don’t have one, stop reading this as go to REI.com) reading journal articles, malaria books, and USAID articles. Thoughts came and went, as did the breeze as I pushed higher and higher for what I want to accomplish in my time here. It was nearly overwhelming as I was coming to terms with the fact that this is my community now. I live here, I eat here, I shop here, and I work here.

Even so, not having a local Target, ACE, or In-n-Out can get frustrating at times. Tammy and Jamie had to run over to the next city over, Lye, and offered me a ride. I jumped in the car so fast as this 30 minute ride would be the farthest I had gone from the hospital since arriving (and it offered free AC!). Once there, we were able to buy things like extension cords, paper clips, and even a stapler! Other stores included a “hardware” store, a massive market with many venders, and other things that we did not expect to see this far from a major city. After Jamie had gotten all he needed from the “hardware” store, Tammy began perusing for grocery items that are hard to come by in Béré. We stopped here and there until we found a well stocked store with products that even surprised Jamie and Tammy. There were cornflakes, margarine, canned tuna, and even the Nutella like spread that smothers your problems away! I went a little crazy at first but scaled it down to the necessities: Vaseline lotion for men, olive oil, and Ovaltine. Even though I now smell like I’m from the 1940’s (watch out ladies with daddy issues), I was so grateful for the moisturizing healing after living in Sub-Saharan Africa for over a month. I can also pretend that I am in Italy rather than only using peanut oil and I will get my essential nutrients via the choclaty goodness of childhood Ovaltine.

It is these little things that brighten my day. The opportunity to enjoy the little things from home while dancing with our host family’s pouty 2.5 year old princess (the terrible two’s is a world wide problem that has to be fixed. Maybe WHO will put it in the next Millennium Development Goals!). Sitting here writing this, it still baffles me that I live here. If nothing else, I have grown to simply appreciate relationships while living here in “Le Quarter de Béré-Post.” I appreciate my relationship with my family so much more. I am grateful for the encouragement from my friends. I enjoy my 90 second conversation with the compound guards every day, and above all, I see the need for a relationship with God.

This place is often labeled as a hard place to live, on physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, and gastrointestinal levels. It’s also been called a place that people love beyond all measure. Miracles happen in a way that is uncanny and nothing else can explain the happenings. I can only thank you for your continued support and prayers. The little things make all difference.

“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Galatians 5:9, NIV.

Zachary Gately
zchgtly
+235-9112-2492
zgately.com

L’Hopital Adventiste de Béré
ATTN: Zachary Gately
52 Boite Postal
Kelo, Tchad
AFRICA

The Nasara Gets Malaria

The Nasara Gets Malaria

*written Sunday, 13.Oct.2013.

Sweat was pouring off of me as we met last Sunday to discus our plan for the afternoon. A power struggle was going on for the fan. Shannice was cold and covered in hives where as I looked like a new water feature in the SM Hut. Everyone else was comfortable, looking on wondering which one of us was sick. Shannice had both Daniel and Josh betting that she would be the first to contract Malaria, which meant she would have to buy them each a meal in Paris on their flight home. She recently deduced that she was allergic to the Malerone she was taking as prophylaxis, therefore leaving her body ready to host. I, on the other hand, had not been taking any medication as prophylaxis. I had slept poorly and had a slight headache, both of which were not unusual for me here in Chad.

As the day progressed, I took it easy and Shannice was checked out for everything. Her host dad is head of the lab at the hospital and began to mildly freak out when he saw her there. Results showed nothing out of the ordinary other than maybe a slight infection for which she was already being treated. We both felt healthy enough to play volleyball with the rest of the compound and proceeded to lose our first game. We continued playing, won some, lost some more, but over all, we were all just having a good time!

Quite suddenly, things around me started to take a greenish-white hue and the amount of sweat cascading off was more than just from volleyball. I took that as a hint from my body and stepped off the court to have a seat. After my vision cleared mostly, I went back to my room, laid on the floor with my mini fan, and repeated (half out loud), “Don’t be a hero. Don’t be a hero.” Once the sweating ceased and my wave of green had passed, I worked up the courage to ask Tammy what I should do. She went on about how the first 6 months here, she felt physically crummy and that sometimes that’s just how the day (or week) goes when in Chad. Smiling, she glances down, expecting a normal temperature just like the previous two people. In shock, she goes from chuckling small talk to full fledged concerned mother! It’s 100.9F. She can’t believe it so we try the other ear and get 100.6F. With a normal body temperature of 96.2-97.5F, she said its safe to assume that I have Malaria. As Tammy continues with her concerned lecture, she is adamant that I should try Malerone because it is easiest on the body and the fastest working. Like I said earlier, Shannice is now allergic so she has 8 months worth of Malerone for sale! Cha-Ching! I bought by three days worth from her and started instantly.

Now I wish I could tell you that from that point I felt better. I wish I could tell you that it went away faster than it came. That is not the case. At all. Tammy said that I should start to feel better by the next morning. Regardless, the doctor said I should get tested. After no sleep from 2:31 am, I made my way to the SM Hut for water, I ran into Charis who offered to find the doctor to write the order for the test. She brought it back, wished me luck and I headed to the cashier to pay. You have to pay for everything here before you get it: labs, meds, surgeries, and consults. I stood up to pay but the funny green and white vision came over me so I sat back down. The head of the Public Health Department saw me and pushed my lab to the front so I could shakily pay. The guy didn’t give me correct change but I was in no mood to yell at him in broken French. At that point I could hardly hear let alone see so I tried to sit back down to wait it out. Some other guy with enough English skills to saw “come with me” foiled that plan as he lead me to the lab to have my finger pricked. I focused so hard, making every step deliberately and solidly, and every breath in and out as to not vomit on the front steps of the administration building.

The stumbling nasara saw the bed at the lab and I fell into, instantly propping my feet up to get my Malaria infected blood back up to my head. I ignore the other patients stares over the next two hours as I lay sprawled over this mattressless bed awaiting my results.

0.25%.

That is after a dose of Malerone. That is high. Not life threatening high at this point but there is no way my body could heal itself without meds. Tammy can’t believe it and just keeps repeating it as I struggle to stay standing. Naomi, our translator, says “Welcome to Chad” as she goes back to the pharmacy to get me another med that basically explodes Malaria cells.

Over the next two days, I alternate from laying on the floor to stay cool or in my bed with my beaning and Ethiopian Air eye mask. My eyes hurt from not sleeping at night. My body aches all over. Niquil and Z-quil leave my nights restless, too. My body longs for sustenance but my stomach refuses as it feels there is a fist just below my diaphragm. I can’t watch anything that is too funny or too serious. I strongly tear up in every Disney movie I watch. I’d wake up from a nap feeling a little better only to realize I slept for all of 17 minutes. I just feel like I was hit by a MAC truck and hope that it would reverse to finish the job.

Wednesday, I finally feel a little better but still have a massive headache and still have .05% so I do one more day of Malerone and one more day on my floor. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday have proven even better but I’m still sweating like none other. I’m told its a side effect of the Malerone so I’m not complaining.

I now have been initiated to Chad and have a passion for eradicating this terrible disease. Haha! I can laugh now because I ruined the bet. Maybe it’s karma because I said I wanted to see how Malaria happened on some one else so I would know what to expect! I have had an up close and personal experience and cannot wait until the day of its doom!

Other than that, the news here would be that I have joint ownership of a three-legged cat, I learned how to ride a motorcycle (Sons of Béré MC?), have been experiencing one of the hottest Octobers, and really could go for an ice cream cone!

Take care and love to all!

Zachary Gately
zchgtly
+235-9112-2492
zgately.com

L’Hopital Adventiste de Béré
ATTN: Zachary Gately
52 Boite Postal
Kelo, Tchad
AFRICA

A Regular Week in the Life of a (recent) Public Health Graduate

A Regular Week in the Life of a (recent) Public Health Graduate

Written on 30.SEPT.2013

Many of you have just recently joined me on this adventure but some have been with me from the conception of zgately.com, of the journey into the field of public health, and a couple of you from the conception of me (literal laughing out loud here)! It’s been a wild ride and I never would have expected it to end up exactly like this. I knew I couldn’t stay in one place, let alone one country. So then of course, I choose one of the most confusing countries to work in: Chad.

Chad is a predominately Muslim country in Africa. It looks like its in Central Africa but depending on who you are talking to, it could be East, Central, West, or North Africa. It is number one for worst communication infrastructure and number two for most corrupt. Cholera and malnutrition victims sit right next to diabetic and heart attack patients. The double health burden is real here.

But it’s not all odd. Every day I see children playing on the playground and mothers singing to their babies. Little girls still have attitude princess problems and little boys still like to play with cars and bikes. There is family structure and there are regular routines.

My routine is still getting set but I’ll give you a proposed run down of what happens (or at least what is planned) on a weekly basis:

  • Sundays start off slow. This is my time to really catch up on what needs to be done. In the afternoon, we prep for the week followed by a vigorous game of volley ball.
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings are prep, planning, researching, dreaming for that week and the future.
  • Wednesdays are dental days. We do oral health education as well as learn how to pull teeth.
  • Monday afternoons are general health education at the hospital grounds for patients’ families.
  • Tuesday afternoons are nutrition classes with a food demonstration for the hospital’s patients’ families.
  • Thursday afternoons are spent in the quarters of Béré, meeting with Community Health Workers and Traditional Birth Attendants. These two groups of people were trained by Béré Adventist Hospital about a year and a half ago. We hope to work more with them over these next few months.
  • On Friday afternoons, the CHW and TBA come to the hospital for additional trainings.
  • Friday nights, we have vespers, often in the new pavilion on the compound.
  • Sabbath school and church are just about the same as back home which of course is followed by potluck. We usually have themes for each potluck to keep it mixed up! We’ve had Italian (I made a tomato & cucumber salad), Mexican (salsa), and this week is breakfast (I’m torn between potato hash or pancakes).

So that’s my week! I hope now to inform you all of the day to day happenings that really touch me in a special way. I want you to see the unusual that makes me excited to get out of bed every day as well as the usual that makes me realize we are all one people, regardless of our social, cultural, and religious background.

I wish that I had the time to write a detailed account of what happens on a daily basis but I, sure that many of you would roll your eyes every time you opened your inbox if that were the case. I’d love to hear your questions and comments and words of encouragement! Though Internet is tricky, I can get to my email at least 2-4 times a week. As you noticed at the top, the majority of this was written earlier this week.

Love to all from this random corner of the world!

Zachary Gately
zgately.com
zgately
+235-9112-2492

L’Hopital Adventiste de Béré
ATTN: Zachary Gately
52 Boîte Postal
Kelo, Tchad
AFRICA