Wednesday, 21 September 2016

My Chad life: your questions answered (part one)

Here are questions that some of my supporters have posed about life here in Chad.  Hopefully my answers will give you another insight into my life here.  There were too many questions for one blog, so this is part one of two!

When you go to the local bazaar do the folk accept you as you are from the hospital or are you an object of interest and comment?
When I go to the small market in Guinebor II I am accepted, as the local people are used to seeing white people in their community and they will know that I live and work at the hospital.  When I go to the bigger markets in town I am an object of interest and comment.  How much I play along with their comments depends on how I’m feeling and what they’re saying!  Most comments are made in good humour and end with some chit-chat, laughing or nodding of heads.  However some are blatantly made to make me feel unwelcome or uncomfortable, and so I ignore those comments.  Children in the bigger markets find my white skin fascinating and sometimes I end up with a child clinging to my arm and following me round for a while!  They are invariably wanting money and that can be tough to deal with.

In the hospital is singleness a challenge? Is it assumed you have a ‘man on the side’?
Singleness is a challenge here in Chad for a variety of reasons but the main one is that it’s an unknown concept.  A woman of my age without a husband or children is rarely seen amongst Chadians.  There are a lot of factors playing into this culturally, but I think the main one is that the role of a woman is generally seen differently.  Generally speaking (there are exceptions) the belief is that women are on earth to reproduce and look after their husbands and children.  As I’m white, people make exception for me in this I think, although I’m sure they think it’s a bit odd that I’m not yet married and have no children.  As far as I’m aware, it’s not assumed that I have a ‘man on the side’, and for that I am grateful!

What makes you laugh?
When I try to speak Chadian Arabic to some of the staff.  They think it’s great that I’m trying and we all end up laughing when I get to the end of my vocabulary and have to say “Arab ma’fih!” (“I’ve no more Arabic!”)

How is the Chadian Arabic going?
Slowly!  It’s coming along but it can get frustrating.  I’ve basically got the language abilities of a two/three year old when it comes to Arabic, so my conversational skills are somewhat limited.  We’ve a very patient teacher though which helps!  Starting another language does however help me realise how far I’ve come with French, so that’s an encouragement.

What is the most beautiful thing about Chad?
When a Chadian lady in her standard, colourful clothes, smiles and greets me

What character trait in Chadians is the one you would love to develop in your own life?
Continuous optimism.  A lot of Chadians are forever optimistic about life and circumstances.  It doesn’t matter what’s going on in their lives, most Chadians I’ve encountered don’t let themselves get down for too long.

How is the whole hospital team seeing spiritual fruit from your work?
We see people sitting on their beds reading Bibles in French or Chadian Arabic that are at each bedside.  The hospital Chaplain gets to chat to a lot of patients and family members about anything and everything.  Often the subject of faith comes up and they ask him questions about Jesus and what we Christians believe in.  Conversations explaining our faith occur a lot and there have been some people who have made positive decisions.

What impact does the local terror group (BH) have on Muslms in Chad?
I can't answer this with much insight, but what I have experienced is that most people here have a sense of fear about this group

What are your encouragements in the first year?
My French language speaking is much better thanks to the time I spent in full time language study in Paris last year.  The fact that I can express myself verbally is an encouragement and also makes life a tiny bit more straightforward.  The Chadian staff I work with in the pharmacy are all very loyal and hardworking, they are such a blessing and encouragement to me.  The fact that I’ve started learning Chadian Arabic is something else that’s an encouragement as once I get better at speaking it, it will help me speak with local people in Guinebor II (most of whom don’t speak much French).  I’ve also had the opportunity to work with the Chaplain on his work programme and get funding secured from BMS to help pay towards his expenses (such as buying Bibles).

In what ways has God spoken to you whilst in Chad?
I've often felt weak and useless here, questioning why on earth I'm here and what difference, if anything, I can make.  God has often reminded me that His power is made perfect in weakness.  Thank goodness for that!

What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?
Cold season!  That should be 'cold' season, as the lowest temperature will be 16C.  I'm looking forward to sleeping with a blanket on the bed and the windows shut.  I'm looking forward to not sweating.  I'm looking forward to guava season which I think (hope!) is coming soon.  I'm looking forward to being able to share Christmas and all that it means, with patients, family members and staff at the hospital.

That's the end of part one of my first ever Q&A from Chad!  Watch out for my next blog post, where I'll answer some more.

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