Friday, January 13, 2012

Reflections of Chad

I have been to 19 countries, unless you count the ones I've been to each time, then 24.  Some for several months, some for a day, (ok, just Myan Mar and Ethiopia for a day).  Some of these places like Bolivia, Peru, Cambodia are so poverty stricken, and because the most time I have spent out of the US has been in Bolivia and Peru, I thought I'd be prepared for Chad. 
    I was told by several Doctors that is was the poorest place they had ever seen, they too had been to 3rd world, or developing nations, even in Africa, but NOTHING compared to Chad.
    I'm asked, "How was your trip?"  I am flooded with emotion, and depending on who's asking steers my response.  I'll say "great, how are/was...." and redirect the conversation back to them, not really convinced they want to hear about my trip.  Other's get the raw truth, and some a sweet combo... it's kinda like a dance, and I am not the leader in these conversations, unless the questioner wants me to flood them with information.
    Chad?  Well, it's the poorest place Iive ever seen.  Not just poverty in small amounts, pockets in the city, or in rural communities.  It's infectious and everywhere.  I don't think I saw a representation that resembled anything less then extreme poverty.  It wasn't like some villages I've been in where there are 5-15 families that live there and after a week you kinda know everyone.  There were thousands of people even in the smaller town 6 hours south of the capital.
    I can't help but compare what I saw (or didn't see) to other places.  Bolivia and Peru is so beautiful.  I sat in this women's small hut high in the mountains, she had invited us in to chew coca leaves, as I entered I knocked my head on a carcus and she giggled a toothless smile.  He clothes were hand made from the yarn she had spun from the wool she had cut from the llamas she had raised.  There were resources, water, beauty.   We looked out the space where we would think a door should be and had an amazing view of a magestic mountain and a blue lake and the bottom, it was so picturesc and magnifiscent.  She told us she was Pacha Mama (mother earth) and that she owned the mountain and lake. 
    I had these flash backs as I looked around and saw nothing but flat nonundulating desert as far as my eyes could see.  The whole bus ride from N'djamena to Bere (6 hours) was like this.  I hardly saw any trees, and no animals, because they had all been hunted.  There were a few camels, some donkeys for transportation.  Once in Bere I only saw a few dogs the Arabs would sometimes have hourses, some chickens, pigeons, pigs, and a donkey.  Dare I say it, this place was ugly!  I think of myself as a person that usually finds beauty in things, especially landscape, I know this because I get made fun of this quality periodically, but I just find nature to be so pretty.  But this, the Sahara desert, wow, it's a whole other beast. 
    Now lets talk food.  One of the great things people talk about in the US is trying cuisines from other countries.  Let's just say the likelihood of finding a Chadian restaurant anytime soon is a long shot.  There was one dish that was OK if you like meat, but that seemed to only be in larger towns at a 'restaurant'. 
    I lived with a family and they are considered 'rich' not to mention they eat much better if they have volunteers staying with them and what I was fed was plain white rice for breakfast.  Sometimes it had a little sprinkle of some sort of tomoto paste, or left over splash of the sauce from the night before.  I usually felt full because of the rice, but the lack of nutrients quickly caught up with me.  I can see why there is such a problem with malnurshiment.  I was so sad.

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