Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Questions of (my) life

I thought asking my supporters to send me questions that I could make into a Q&A blog entry would be an interesting thing to do, and it has been.  Although I suddenly realised it would be a wise idea to put in a disclaimer when I sent out the plea for questions:  ‘I can’t promise to answer every question’.  I was concerned about what may possibly be asked!! 

Here are the answers to the vast majority of questions I’ve been asked.  Thanks to those who sent them!

What things do you miss the most when you’re not in the UK? 
Apart from the obvious answer of missing my family and friends, I miss cheddar cheese and Cadbury’s chocolate!  When I’m in Chad I also miss the different seasons.  Chad just has two seasons, the longest one is hot, dry and dusty and the other is wet, humid and a little bit cooler.

Are you enjoying learning French?
Yes, I am really enjoying learning French.  I love language-learning and I’ve always wanted to become more proficient in another language.  It’s therefore been an absolute pleasure and privilege to be here at language school in Paris, with six months dedicated to full-time language learning.  However it’s not been easy and my head has been spinning for most of the last six months with everything I’m trying to learn and remember!  It can also be frustrating when you can’t completely express what you want to say, however I’ve definitely improved in my abilities to read, write, listen to and speak French and this will be of great use once I get to Chad.

Do you get much free time whilst at language school?
We have about 20 hours of taught French lessons a week, plus homework every night and on the weekend.  When not doing formal school work, I guess that would be called free time, but we’re encouraged to meet with a language partner outside of school to chat in French, so that’s another hour a week, and we’re also encouraged to listen to French radio, watch French TV, read French newspapers and so on.  All of that is not actually that relaxing, as it’s not in your mother-tongue and takes a lot of concentration!  If you’re out and about in Paris everything is in French and if you’re in the communal kitchen cooking a meal we’re supposed to speak in French too.  So despite only having 20 hours a week of formal teaching, most of daily life is like a classroom too!  But yes, we do get free time and sometimes we speak in English for a break - shhh….don’t tell anyone ;)

What’s the weather like in Paris?
A lot drier than the UK which I’m grateful for!  Slightly warmer than the UK by a few degrees, although it doesn’t feel like it today!

What will you miss most about Paris?
The boulangeries and patisseries (bakeries and cake shops)!!  It is such a treat having these on nearly every street corner.  I’ll also miss just being able to pop into the city and take a look around and soak up the atmosphere.

What has been your biggest thrill over the last year? 
A lot has happened in 2015 so I’m going to say two things!  One was my commissioning service at my home Church in Torquay.  Being surrounded by so many people who love and support me and my work overseas was amazing and humbling.  The other is living in Paris.  I never tire of exploring this great city.

What has been the biggest challenge over the last year? 
The many goodbyes.  Packing up and saying goodbye to friends that I trained with at BMS’s International Mission Centre (IMC) in Birmingham, who are now spread around the globe.  Saying goodbye to friends and family in the UK. Saying goodbyes to friends at the language school in France.

How do you think your preparation and study will equip you for your return to Chad?
As I’ve already said, I’m definitely going back with a greater ability in French which will help immensely.  Hopefully I’ll be able to communicate with people in Chad more freely and be able to express myself at a slightly deeper level.  I’ve often said that not being able to do that last time I was there was a source of frustration and so hopefully that frustration will be less this time.  My time at IMC has definitely given me a wider perception of the needs of people the world over and how integral mission plays its part in that.  It’s also equipped me with a wider perception of how the work of the hospital in Chad fits into the bigger picture of world mission and also that longevity of mission projects, such as the hospital, is key.  Nothing happens overnight and so I need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul, however long that may end up being.

How will your return to Chad be different from your first experiences?
Following on from the question above, this time I’m going with a wider and longer-term mind-set.  Last time I was there for a relatively short, fixed period of time and with a couple of fairly-quickly-achievable goals. 

How ready do you feel for your return to Chad?
With 18 months of training under my belt, I feel as prepared as I can be, although I can never be 100% ready I don’t think.  There are always things to learn and be aware of.  I feel ready to return though (my flight is booked for 7 January 2016).

What are you looking forward to about living in Chad again?
Seeing friends that I made there last time.  The almost perpetual blue sky.  Eating copious amounts of mangoes between March and September (mango season!).

What are you dreading about living in Chad?
The heat.  Especially April, the month I missed last time I was there and which is the hottest month of the year.  Temperatures are regularly around 45C (113F) and don’t drop much below 40C (104F) at night.  There’s no air-con to cool yourself down.  You just have to live with being a sweaty mess all the time (yuk).

Where you will live in Chad?   Will you be sharing with anyone or have somewhere to yourself?
I will be living in a single-storey house on the hospital compound that I will probably have to myself.

What do you like doing in your spare time in Chad?  
I watch lots of DVDs, mainly box sets of TV series, but also films.  I also do a lot of reading.  I also like visiting friends and hanging out with them. 

How much spare time a week do you have?
That will depend on my work schedule which I don’t know yet, but I should typically work around 35 hours a week and have the rest of the time off, just like in the UK.

Is there a local church you will be able to attend?
Yes, there are a lot of churches in N’Djamena.  Some have their services in French, some in Chadian Arabic and some in one of the local village languages.  I’ll go to one that has the service in French so I’ve at least some chance of understanding what’s being said!

Do the prayers of your church partners help you and encourage your faith?
Most definitely.  If it wasn’t for people in the UK and beyond supporting me in various ways, this journey and my work would be much more difficult.  I really appreciate you all.