May blog no 3
The tortoise has overtaken the hare! The school we have had most problems with has suddenly got its act together – when I arrived there yesterday, there was a huge pile of gravel in the playground, ready to put into foundations. The gravel had been collected as parents and staff cleared their fields ready for planting again. Their next move is to collect sand from the river bed before the rains really get started. No pesky council rules here! There was a real buzz about the place as the kids invented games with the stones – it looked like noughts and crosses and some form of Solitaire. There are few toys here so everyone is used to improvisation. The Development Committee has also done some work on the appeal to the British High Commission for aid – this is so difficult for
these people as only the head, his wife and one other member of the committee are literate and that committee has more literate people than the others.
Went in to Maroua last Wed. to print extra copies of plans. There had been no electricity there since Tuesday and it didn’t come back until Friday evening. No showers either, although there is always a bucket of water in every bathroom as a reserve. Got started on printing in the VSO office on Sat. morning and finally got it all done but not without two brief power cuts and the printer running out of ink! Now the only person not to have a nicely bound copy is me.
Fridge number 6 is now in the scrap heap, finally condemned after emitting CFCs. During these spells without a fridge, the thing we miss most is plain cold water. Anything else we can cope without; we just don’t buy things that will go off, which certainly limits the diet but we get by. After a couple of weeks with on/off fridge, then none at all, we have been given an ancient chest freezer, so Fridge No.7 or freezer No.1? It does freeze but can’t be used as a fridge. At least we have iced water again and Hamish can have a cold beer at the end of a hot, hard day. His Fulfulde is improving – he can now say, “Mi yidi mbal!” – I need a beer!
Having been brought up to believe that as the only member of my family with straight hair I am a complete failure in life, I have bought a small, second-hand generator so that I can use my heated brush. Hamish is speechless.
Early on the morning of 20th May, National Fête Day, 80 children from local schools crammed into two open lorries to go to Mokolo and take part in the processions there. During the morning, word got back to Zidim that there had been an accident and 5 children were dead. Someone phoned the headteacher of the secondary school and he assured everyone that there had been no accident. That afternoon when the lorries were returning, two children fell from one of them and died. One was daughter of a nurse at the hospital so the hospital vehicle has been ferrying staff to her home to pay their respects to her family.
Lydia got a good price for her sheep at market – about £25. She hoped to pay her mother’s hospital bill and have enough left to buy a young goat. Before she could do that, her mother took ill again. She tries so hard not to be in debt and never asks for anything. This is so unusual.
Not flavour of the month again. He and his wife were due to travel to Maroua with me last Thursday for a VSO meeting on Friday. He and his wife were then to spend the rest of the weekend there – only her third trip to the big city. They didn’t turn up and he did not appear for the meeting. Apparently two national volunteers are on the black list of people not to be used next year. He is Number 2.
This has been an interesting week to say the least. May 20th is a big fête day here – National Day. As it fell on a Tuesday, the Monday was also declared a holiday (jour du pont). Anne P suggested we take a long weekend from the Friday afternoon through to the Tuesday. Anne (T) went to Maroua on the Thursday to do some work with VSO and I came in on the Friday by moto & “bush” taxi. We decided to do a bit more research on behalf of family/visitors and took ourselves to the second dearest hotel in town for a couple of nights. It has a large swimming pool, which is a great attraction in the dry season. Unfortunately the hotel proved a real disappointment – poor standards of cleanliness, disinterested staff and although the pool was refreshing, we’ve seen cleaner. Both of us wound up with tummy upsets.
Guess we’ll be giving “Maroua Palace” a body swerve in future!
One advantage of being there was that the main stand for public processions is nearby, so were able to take a short walk to see the action. The street was crowded and people were climbing trees to get a good view (see photo). The parade was due to start at 08.00. When we arrived at 09.00 the troops were all lined up with no shelter from the sun. There were platoons from various outfits, but the riot police looked the most sinister (again, see photo). The stand (where all the dignitaries could sit in the shade) looked very colourful. Eventually there were signs of action when somebody important (we presume) appeared to inspect the troops. This was not done as H.M. at home would do it; it was a rapid “fly past” from the back of a jeep! At this point we headed back to the hotel where we were able to get a view of the youngsters
taking part in the “défilé” with the crowds on the footpath, including folk selling a variety of goods. (See photo).
On the subject of the parade – défilé as it’s called in French - the head teacher of the school one of our fellow volunteers is working in, tried to describe, in English, the day’s proceedings. He announced that “after all the children had been defiled, there would be a party………….”!!!!!
The biggest issue this week has been preparation for an emergency medical evacuation for Anne P to Holland. She’s just about the 28th week of her pregnancy, but started having contractions on Thursday afternoon. Eventually she was admitted to one of the private rooms in the hospital and put on a drip (with Salbutamol for the technically minded) and fortunately the contractions have stopped. VSO have arranged for her to fly out of nDjamena (capital of
Chad) which is relatively close, on Monday. At one point it was thought that the insurers would insist on a doctor accompanying her, and it was suggested it might have to be me! Not sure how much good I would be as my obstetric experience was over 30 years ago! Fortunately it has been decided that since the contractions have stopped, it will be OK for Anne to travel unaccompanied. We have been very impressed with the speed and efficiency the VSO staff have shown in getting arrangements made, with several of them staying on late and coming in on days off to ensure everything goes well. For this antique volunteer this has been hugely reassuring!