Questions (and answers) of my life, 2017 edition, part one

Thanks to those who sent me questions about life and work here in Chad.  I was sent too many questions to answer in one blog post, so here’s part one.  Part two will follow in a while.  Hope my answers give you a bit more of a flavour and idea of life here 🙂

Can you give us an update on your solar fridge?

Indeed I can!  Wednesday 8th November 2017 was a big day for me here.  I was able to decommission my (semi) trusty gas-powered fridge and plug in an electric fridge!  The gas-powered one worked of a fashion but never got really cold and in hot season, hardly worked at all, meaning that at the time of year when I’m drinking 6-7 litres of water a day, I was having to drink tepid water.  Yuk!  We’ve not got mains electricity here in Guinebor and so, thanks to generous people at my home church, I was able to buy solar panels and associated kit in order to generate electricity via the sun (we’ve an endless supply) to power an electric fridge.  I was literally jumping up and down with excitement when I plugged it in and I am still grateful every day for a fridge that works well.

Posing next to my new fridge

How’s the French and Chadian Arabic going?

The French is going well, I’d say I’m probably almost fluent now.  I definitely speak a more basic French than a French person would and I have a very anglicised accent.  However I can communicate well in French now and only have to consciously think about what I’m saying when I’m trying to say a grammatically complicated phrase such as ‘if he’d have done that, it would’ve have been much easier’.  That kind of thing.  The Arabic on the other hand has kind-of stalled for the moment, which I’m frustrated about.  I’ve only had one lesson since coming back from home assignment, for a variety of reasons.  I’ve been out to the village of Guinebor II twice, with a member of staff, to visit someone in their home so that I could hear Arabic being spoken.  I understand more than I can speak myself but it’s still something I’d love to get a better grasp of.  Ciyya ciyya (little by little).

Do you feel the lack of Arabic is an issue?  You are, no doubt, very comfortable in French now, but do you often feel limited, perhaps particularly in being able to communicate more deeply with patients?

Every. Single. Day.  I can communicate with about 5% of patients in French.  That’s it.  So yes, it can get really frustrating not being able to communicate in Chadian Arabic with people.  But I remind myself that I used to feel like that with French.  So one day, hopefully I’ll get there with the Arabic!

What is the most difficult thing about your daily work?

There’s no one thing to be honest.  Often the thing I find most difficult changes from day-to-day.  In hot season (March to June) it’s the heat that’s the most difficult thing.  Other times it’s my lack of Arabic.  Other times it is frustrations linked with differences in culture.

What is the best thing about being back in Chad – what is fun/who is special?

The perpetual blue sky (now that rainy season is over) is always a delight.  It’s great to be back with my Chadian hospital colleagues and work alongside them and hear about their lives.  My Chadian pharmacist colleague got married last Saturday and it’s been interesting to hear all about his wedding plans and associated stresses (it all falls on the guy and his family here).  Unfortunately he got married in a town a long way away and a lot of us couldn’t attend, but he’s probably going to have another celebration in N’Djamena in a couple of months’ time that we can go to.  We’re currently in the process of all buying his ‘wedding fabric’ so that when we go to the celebration, we’re all identified as being part of the wedding, as we’re all wearing the same fabric!  It’s interesting that at a wedding here, you’re expected to wear the same fabric as everyone else.  In the UK, women especially are mortified if someone else turns up at a wedding in the same dress as them!

What’s the hardest thing about life during the wet season (July to October)?
The mud and all the swamps and lakes that suddenly appear on the road into town, making the drive ‘interesting’.  Also, the risk of malaria.

How many people live in the vicinity of the hospital and how do they provide a living for themselves?

There are a lot of people living in the vicinity of the hospital.  It’s hard to quantify but probably 200 – 300 people.  They provide a living by one of the following means:
– Running a small shop selling basic staples
– Selling cooked meat from a little stall
– Selling sandwiches and tea from a little stall
– Selling vegetables at the local market
– Rearing goats and/or sheep
– Operating a motorbike taxi or car taxi
– Working at the hospital

What do you have against Ziploc bags?

Haha!  Those of you who read my blogs will know that I’ve joked about my American friends just loving Ziploc bags and it amuses me!  They store just about anything that will fit, in a Ziploc bag.  I can kind-of understand if they travel and it’s a liquid.  It’s a good idea to store your bottle-of-whatever-liquid in a plastic bag in case of spillage.  However my American friends seem (to me) to take it a tad too far.  See picture below.  Why would you need to store packets of tissues, where the tissues are already in plastic wrappers, in a Ziploc bag?!

Tissues safely stored!! 😉

What do you think God is doing in Chad today and where have you seen visible expressions of God’s Kingdom in your work?

God is definitely working here in Chad in a variety of ways.  We often hear of one or two people in different areas of the country, from the majority faith, becoming Christians.  It’s often through friendships built up, that people come to a realisation of who Jesus really is and what He has done for them.

At the hospital, we see people being healed when the situation looks dire.  We’ve seen a lady healed from mental disturbance as a result of prayer.  We see the expression of God’s love played out in the way our staff welcome and treat patients.  Some relatives get irate at the hospital gate, if they want to visit their sick relative in hospital and it’s not yet visiting hours.  The guards have to show immeasurable patience with these people.  We try and instil in our staff that we’re here to be different than other hospitals, to work well together as a staff team, to give the best care possible in a clean and tidy hospital and to treat people with dignity and respect.

That’s the end of part one.  Watch out for part two of this blog coming soon 🙂