Tuesday, June 19, 2018
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A Snapshot of Life in CHAD - not the most comfortable of existences.

wasteland Africa is unique!  The people are unique… and if you allow for the hot climate and difficult conditions, they are usually very hard working.  In CHAD there is no social system with a government that has the resources to make sure no one goes hungry; there is no ambulance service you can call for if you have been injured or are sick; there is usually no electricity – certainly none at all if you live in the outlying village areas; there is very little water… but there is relentless heat and dirty sand that blows down from the Sahara in the north;  there is AIDS and there is lots of starvation: there is dirt and disease… and premature death!

cows And yet for all that I found most people seemingly happier than many I have encountered in the developed world.  Perhaps it’s because nobody can depend on government help when things are tough, for there is none.  Even the government struggles to keep itself afloat.  If they don’t work, they don’t eat.  If they don’t eat… they starve so people do almost anything to survive.  For most, life is as simple as that!  Within a couple of weeks I think I was as thin as the cows that wander the Savanah scrounging for whatever food they come across.  You could count their ribs as they ambled by and in no time at all, you could also count mine.

Despite all this Chad is a country that has heart.  People make do with whatever they can get by on – there is no point in complaining… there is no one to hear.  So everyone tries hard no matter what the conditions and quite honestly, when I see how little the people have and how hard they do try to get by, I feel ashamed and wonder if I could I manage if I had no choice but to stay.

ron_with_truck On one visit I travelled from N’djamena, the capital, to Sarh in the south, about 300 km and yet it took us a day and a half to get there.  We broke down at one point and then I was told that a breakdown can last anything from a few hours to a week depending on the problem.  We were away again in five hours – we were lucky that time!  We were also fortunate to arrive in Sarh without incident apart from a Japanese co-worker who had contracted malaria and was alternating between extreme shivers and burning fever.  Once in Sarh we managed to find a pharmacy where we could buy some medicine which helped get her back on her feet.  Country travel is challenging at the best of times because it’s mostly dirt tracks and pot holes but an added concern was the problem of bandits who occasionally hold up vehicles on isolated stretches of land.  They rob and sometimes worse but again, we were fortunate and saw none!

artist_workshop Once in Sarh we met fellow IRFF volunteers and friends.  One, an artist runs his own one room studio.  He is almost seven feet and a smile as wide as my outstretched arms.  There is no air conditioning… so we sweat and drink and drink lots of water… and get thinner by the day.  A week later we return to N’Djamena and I prepare to go back to the UK.

People thanked me when I arrived and thanked me again when I left and everyone seemed to want to give me gifts.  When I arrived I was met with such a warm welcome I couldn’t help the tears running down my cheeks and the same again when I left.  People who have next to nothing gave me so much and with such gratitude, but I know it was not them who should have been thanking me… it was me who should have been thanking them.

ron_and_catherine I had lots to think about on the plane home.  Time can go by quickly when you are busy but there are moments when the heat and fatigue won’t go away and it starts to get at you and the dusty sand gets in everything and you just wish it would all stop and go away for just a short while.  I usually carried around a few 2 ltr bottles of boiled water and I finished them every day.  When I asked my guide how he and others manage to keep going (they never seemed to drink more than a few mouthfuls of water) don’t they get thirsty?  “Of course,” he said, “but we live here, where can we go?  What can we do?  We have no choice but to put up with it.”  With that I leaned my seat back and closed my eyes.  Glad to be going home to see my wife (to whom I owe much thanks for taking care of things while I am away) and my family but knowing, after a long hot bath, a nice cup of tea, fresh, clean clothes and a good meal I would already be thinking
of how soon I can return.

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