Expect the Unexpected

This phrase would easily sum up life here in Chad, and probably in a lot of other countries too.  I think I’ve become so used to expecting the unexpected now that it doesn’t really faze me.  It’s now my norm.  I’m much less bothered by lack of regularity and order since living here.  As such, trying to think up examples to tell you is proving difficult, as they’re all just normal, everyday occurrences now!

In no particular order, here are some recent examples of me needing to expect the unexpected:

One

I recently went on a two week holiday to Kenya, which was much needed and which I enjoyed immensely – mainly because we were by the sea.  I got to the airport a good two hours before the flight was due to leave, only to be told check-in was already closed.  Knowing that if I didn’t get the plane I’d have to wait probably another couple of days for the next flights, I was slightly panicked.  But nowhere near as much as I would’ve been five years ago.  Turns out that the flight had been brought forward by an hour but I wasn’t aware (turns out an email had been sent, 30 minutes before the revised check-in closure time……).  I wasn’t the only one who’d not ‘received the memo’ and they kindly opened check in again and checked us in.  It was still an hour before the plane was due to leave at its earlier departure slot.  I had my quickest ever passage through N’Djamena airport and got the plane.  I was very happy.  Though not so pleased to learn that the reason for the earlier departure was that we were off to Kaduna (Nigeria) first, before Addis Ababa (Ethiopia, where I was transiting before heading to Kenya).  Those who know their African geography will know why I wasn’t amused at this fact – yep, we were going 1.5 hours in the wrong direction, to then head back again across Chad and over to Ethiopia!  The journey from N’Djamena to Addis Ababa usually takes around 4 hours but it took us 7 hours with this little extra bit tagged onto the journey.  Fortunately I was staying overnight in Ethiopia so the delay didn’t affect my ongoing travel plans.

Two

Just before I left for my holiday, I was sitting on my front veranda reading, when I saw something moving outside out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up to see two ducks (and upon further looking in the grass – yes grass, rainy season – about five ducklings) just ambling along.  Where the heck did *they* come from?!  We live in a gated compound, it’s not freely open.  Who knows? C’est le Tchad (It’s Chad.  An explanation we use here for when there’s no explanation).
Ducks just wandering around

Three

A week before I left for holiday, I was visiting a friend in N’Djamena.  A journey I’ve done many times before, I know her house and the surrounding area well.  After parking up outside I got out and was locking the car door.  A man approached me.  Nothing usual there, people often come up to greet and/or try and sell something.  Then a handgun appeared.  Wasn’t expecting that.  Well, I kinda was actually, as there have been many muggings mainly on white women here in N’Djamena recently.  See this blog postfrom my friend who describes her attack a month ago.  I can remember thinking ‘it’s happening, it’s happening’ as the gun pointed at me and I stumbled backwards into the mud (still rainy season).  The guy wanted my bag, which was slung across my body in the way we’re all told to do so people can’t snatch it off your shoulder.  A couple of yanks on the strap later (whilst I was screaming at the top of my voice, thinking someone would come and see as it was only midday) and it was broken.  Off he went on the back of a waiting motorbike.  Off I went shaking violently into my friend’s house.  I’m pleased to say I’ve no major negative after effects from the attack although I am a bit jumpy at times. 

Four

I got back from holiday just under a week ago.  In the two weeks I was away the rains have really stopped and the ground has dried up considerably.  I went behind my house to check my garden, realising that I was going to have to start watering it again now for the next seven months until it rains again.  Two of my plants we missing!  Yep, just like that, two have disappeared.  Who knows where they’ve gone?
Where did the plant go?

Five

Yesterday we were clearing out one of the storage containers to make some space.  I’d enlisted the help of two Chadian colleagues to help me and to take the rubbish generated to the burn pit at the far side of the hospital compound.  Due to the nature of what we were throwing away, I said ‘make sure it’s well burned’.  A while later one of them proudly reports that he’s set light to it and it’s burning well.  Great, another task completed.  I was just off to check on the second guy who was helping me out when I looked in the distance and saw billowing smoke.  Normal to see that above the burn pit.  Not however for about 50 metres *outside* of the burn pit, complete with flames licking around the now dried-out grass that had grown during rainy season.  Cue frantic searching for people to put it out.  Frantic on my part.  Not on the part of the Chadians!  They have an uncanny way of remaining calm in almost all circumstances.  Not a lot fazes them.  I was shouting ‘rapidement! rapidement!’ (‘quickly! quickly!).  One of them kind-of broke into a slow jog.  Twenty minutes, many buckets of water and some tree-branch-thrashing later, it was out.  Phew.  I was grateful for the fact that the wind was in the direction it was, as even though the fire was a fair way from any buildings, if the wind had changed direction it probably wouldn’t have taken long to spread towards the hospital.  First to have been torched would’ve been our new surgery centre building that I mentioned in a previous blog.  

Surgery centre coming along nicely

Life is never dull here, that’s for sure.

My next blog will be question and answer blog, as I’ve not done one of those for a year.  Write any questions you have for me about my life and work here in Chad in the comments box on the blog, or send to me via email and I’ll do my best to answer them (no promises though!).