Sunday, 16 March 2014

Ten months later

I leave Chad on Tuesday evening and I can’t quite believe where time has gone to be honest.  It’s a weird feeling.  In some ways the time seems to have passed quickly and in other ways it feels ages ago that I was last in the UK.  It’s been an interesting ten months and a steep learning curve in many areas.  I thought it would be good to document the highlights before I leave and everything comes a bit more distant in my memory.

The hospital site, taken December 2013
(the 'grass' you can see is now no longer there as it hasn't rained here since October 2013)

Regarding the work at the hospital, all the staff have been good to work with and it’s been good to learn the systems already established here and help to develop the pharmacy related ones.
Recruiting and training new Chadian pharmacist – the Chadian pharmacist here when I arrived wasn’t really up to the job so we didn’t renew her contract and so I went through the recruitment process with our hospital administrator.  We interviewed three candidates – in French obviously, interesting experience – and I knew straight away who I felt would be the best candidate.  I’ve been proved right as he’s been really keen to learn from me and work hard to continue to maintain and develop pharmacy services here.  I’m hoping he’ll continue to ensure that the hospital is stocked with sufficient quantities of vital medicines, despite the sometimes inconsistent nature of the drug supply chain here.

My three Chadian pharmacy colleagues – in addition to the pharmacist there are two assistants in the pharmacy.  It’s been a pleasure to get to know them.   I’ve enjoyed working alongside them, especially as they’ve all got a good sense of humour (once you’re on the Chadian humour wavelength!).  They’ve also all be very patient with my slightly dodgy French which I’ve appreciated.  As mentioned in a previous blog post, they’ve also enables me to taste various Chadian delicacies.  As well as the crickets, savonier and bouille previously mentioned, I’ve also had the delight to taste a fair bit of mutton (staple meat here, I politely declined the stomach lining), boiled eggs (from the children who walk around the village selling them), Chadian ‘sandwich’ (baguette filled with either meat or egg), bananas, the list goes on.
Improved drug supply to the main wards – one task asked of me was to improve the system used by the nurses to dispense drugs to inpatients.  With the help of my parent’s Church in the UK I have been able to design, commission and install a drug trolley!  This has enabled better segregation of each strip of tablets so that the nurses can easily find the drug they’re looking for on their drug rounds.  Previously the system was a bit more chaotic and not very easy to use.

A road in N'Djamena

Living where you work, in the desert, means you need to make as much of an outside life as reasonably possible.  The hospital is located on the edge of N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.  It takes about 20 minutes to drive there (longer in rainy season!).
Friends in town – it’s been good to get to know other expatriates in who live and work in town.  They are mainly other mission workers with other agencies and it’s been great to have them to socialise with when there’s some down time.  There’s not a lot of variation in the things you can do for leisure here.  There’s one good outdoor pool, a lovely café and various restaurants.  So those are the things we tend to do, other than that we just hang out at a friend’s house and watch films.

The pool – being able to go to the good outdoor pool here more-or-less all year round has been a highlight and was a definite treat.  The only months we didn’t go were December and January because the high temperatures were ‘only’ in the twenties and the water wasn’t warm enough!

Grande marché (central market) – you have to be in the right frame of mind to go but I have enjoyed the busyness, craziness, hustle and bustle of the central market.  There are people *everywhere*. And motorbikes.  And the odd crazy driver who decides to drive his car through the narrow streets.  You’ve got to keep your wits about you.  Add in the high temperatures and you can begin to understand why you need to be in a certain frame of mind to go!  At the beginning are ladies selling fruit and veg by the side of the road.  Further in are the meat sellers and men selling cloth and headscarves.  The list of what’s for sale at central market is endless, it’s a cavern of stalls and boutiques selling a wide range of stuff.  It’s amazing what you can get there sometimes!

Chadian family – Rebecca, my colleague and housemate here at the hospital, introduced me to her Chadian friends who she met when she lived in town at the start of her time here in Chad.  I’ve enjoyed visiting them with her, seeing where and how they live and experiencing their typically generous Chadian hospitality.
L’amandine – no expat visit to N’Djamena is complete without becoming acquainted with L’amandine!  I mentioned it in one of my first blog posts and predicted I’d spend a fair bit of time there….which I have!  It’s a lovely, air-conditioned café selling coffee and yummy pastries amongst other things.  A definite treat and break from the heat and dust of living here.

I hope this has given a flavour of some of my time here!  It’s been a hot, dusty experience with difficult times, but an experience that I have enjoyed overall.  It’s been great living and working with the other Brits here at the hospital and being part of a team of expats and Chadians that is endeavouring to bring high quality and affordable healthcare to the people of North N’Djamena and beyond.
I fly back to the UK on Tuesday evening and will begin to adjust back to my home culture, with all that that entails.  Thanks for journeying with me through my blog.  Hopefully I’ll get to see some of you in person soon!

Signing off from an increasingly-hot Chad x

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