Thursday, February 10, 2011
Arriving in Chad.... barely
Arriving in Chad is just PART of the battle
Thank goodness in this world for good friends! I'd like to give a shout out to Sara and Jen. Both transport and hostess godesses!
I ended up with a day layover in DC and spending it with my dear friend Jen and celebrating her birthday. What are the chances that an annoying change in flight could work out so well?!
Saturday morning I woke up to snow on the ground.... if it were Portland, or Seattle I was flying out of, I would have been worried, but DC could handle it. I got the whirl wind drive by tour of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument on the way to Dulles airport. Bringing up the thoughts of how pristine, clean and sought after this area is. I felt lucky.
At Ethiopian Airlines ticket desk I found myself feeling really self conscious. I felt odd that of all the people in line behind me I was approached twice by two different women travelers asking questions about checking in. I realized I was one of about 4 caucasians standing in a line of 50ish people and was blown away at how quickly I became the minority. I wondered if they asked me because I too was a women traveling solo, or because I was white, or both....I saw a couple in front of me with a load of bags and a folded stroller. A boy not 2 years old was running around and I kept thinking it was their child. Then, I realized he belonged to another women. "Hmmmmm" I thought wondering why they had an empty stroller "ohhhhh, they must be going to adopt a child!" There was a combination of satisfactory for figuring out this question and excitement for them. Then I wasn't sure if I should be irritated with myself that I assumed that just because we were flying into a developing nation they must be adopting. Would I have been so quick to assume that if we were on the Seattle to DC portion of the flight?
I ended up with the only seat on the WHOLE plane that had the TV not working. the plane was pretty large and REALLY full. Ironically I ended up in some strange seat next to a stretcher, something I have never seen on a flight before. I thought how fitting this was.
Arriving in Ethiopia was magical. The plane was predominantly people from Ethiopia, and I never have heard a plane get so silent and see so many people trying to look out the window. I could feel the pride and excitement in the atmosphere.
The landscape was beautiful, I just kept thinking.... I'm looking at Africa, I'm in Africa!!!! We touched down and the people applauded.Getting off the plane in Chad was a whole new experience. We walked outside and it was dusty and windy. The airport was small and there was even a smaller propel plane with cloth covers over the blades. There were men lounging waiting for other to arrive in full Arabic outfits (and I am horrible because right now I don't know what they are called).
I realized sometime on the flight that I was one of few females, probably the youngest one, and the only white one. I was told a taxi driver that Olen and Danae trusted would meet me at the airport. I walked through the doors and a man came up saying "Jessica?" I said yes, then, when he took my hand with such a soft touch but rough hands, it felt to good to be taken care of. He took me to an official and they filled out my immigration form, cut me through the lines, and I walked straight through, I got my bags and we walked out into the sun and dust. There was another two guys that they handed me over to. These were the guys I was really supposed to meet. Before we did ANYTHING the one in charge Tchib Chang called Olen so I would know he was logit. We spent a while at a hotel and I spoke to an Italian couple and watched as a group of italian men arrived whom I had met at the airport. Of course I don't speak Italian and the men spoke zero English, it was all smiles and one or two words that somebody knew and a whole lot of laughs.An hour later we realized the hotel was full. So on to the the next hotel... closed! The third, closed, fourth times a charm here in Chad. I think I'm the only foreigner here. Its not very nice but I am getting to lay horizontal which is AMAZING!
My new found friends really took care of me. We went to the market to exchange money and they sandwiched me. Always making sure Facka was in front and Tchib Chang in back... at one point he said "I do good because I was soldier" Very sweet and has really looked out for me, I felt like a long lost friend, or sister or something. I saw people riding camels on the side of the rode and my eyes bugged out and they laughed at me. Since the first hotel that was booked, I haven't seen anyone that even closely resembles a traveler. It has been only Chadians as far as the eyes can see.
One part in the market, I was walking past a couple young boys, one looked up and we smiled, but he quickly looked away to get his friend or brother and get him to look at me. I was definitely the only female I could see that wasn't dressed like the others. I felt like I was in one of those sesame street songs of which one is not like the others. OBVIOUS!!
Dinner was tough as well, we went to two 'restaurants' in the states we'd call it a 'hole in the wall' (but this is WAY worse then anything I've ever seen). It's Sunday, and apparently tomorrow is a big celebration. We found a place and I was informed people in Chad eat with their hands, so I better wash up. With no soap of course, but a huge drum of water. It's so dry, dusty and sandy. I felt like I shouldn't be washing my hands and wasting water it's so dry which was a strange feeling, but non the less I washed up.Dinner was long soft French style baguettes, plates of a salty seasoned meat, some chicken, onions, and some REALLY hot dipping sauce! we broke the bread to use to scoop up the meaty sauces, it was delicious. They asked if I liked avocado and I think my smile gave away my answer. I thought we were getting some, then a HUGE mug with light green stuff appeared in front of me. Blended avocado, sugar, and either ice cream or ice... either way I was a little uneasy about water that I'm sure wasn't purified in any way.
We played 'pass the pigs' to pass the time while we sipped our dessert. They walked me back to my place and made sure everything was fine. Made sure I locked my place and if ANYONE knocked, not to answer, and to lock myself in. All-in-all I feel safe, just an outsider which draws attention. I wonder if they are just as curious about me as I am about them. The clothes, food, everything is so different then how we live, and I am so different then how they dress.
This is the poorest capital city I have EVER seen. I think I saw one paved road. The 'big' market isn't very big. It's sandy, and I didn't see any two story buildings, let along even one nicer looking one.
Tomorrow bus ride to Bere after getting my national id taken care of with the police.... not to worry, standard procedure.