achatfromchad

blog from chad

Archive for January, 2013

The Adventure Begins Before It Should!

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

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Chad 10 points, France nil points!!
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The lost passports!

The lost passports!

 

Three days to go and our passports, complete with Chadian visas, have disappeared into Chronopost’s bottomless pit of lost post! Lets not panic …. Chronopost’s website shows they were delivered four days ago SO where are they? Phone calls, frantic post mistress, stressed Rosie and Carlo! Time to think outside the box – Carlo has a brainwave. He checks Avignon on Google Earth and finds there IS a Chemin des Cedres. Could the courier have delivered to Avignon instead of CABRIERES D’Avignon. Half an hour later we are there …. good try but no luck. Back to base. Oh forgot to say the Chronopost site shows the package was delivered to GBA (??) and the signature is shown as a diagnonal line. This is worrying. Who and where are GBA? Eventually a Manager at Chronopost tells us GBA means ‘gerer au boite au lettre’ and therefore no signature. NOT what we paid €30 for!!! We check every neighbour and no luck. At least now we know we have just to find the right postbox …… no mean feat!! Then we realise that our immediate neighbour (the not so friendly one) has not been contacted. We ring her mobile. She is ‘en deplacement’. Only back at the weekend and no one else has a key to her postbox. Meanwhile Carlo is out at her postbox trying every one of his dozen or so postbox keys! No luck. I have to restrain him from trying to break it open! We just have to wait anxiously for her return.

So on Saturday, as the missing neighbour opened her postbox Carlo virtually pounced on her and her pile of mail ……. and guess what, there in the middle of it all was a plastic Chronopost envelope. For days we had blamed the Chadian embassy who had in fact turned round our visas in 24 hours. Bravo Chad.  Our advice, think twice about trusting Chronopost with important documents.

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The First 24 Hours

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

SURREAL with a capital S!!!!!

 

France seen from the TGV!

France seen from the TGV!

 

7am Tuesday 15 January we awoke to a white world in Provence and slipped and slid our way to Avignon in Susie and Gray’s capable hands. 30 hours later, thanks to TGVs and Air France we find ourselves in Carlo’s new office in a portacabin in a dusty suburb of N’Djamena, Chad! It is no ordinary portacabin though as it has aircon, computer connections, a fax and a phone! This is one of the posher offices on site as others are ‘container’ offices. I am totally staggered that a company of 250 employees can run efficiently from such a location but such is the ingenuity of these Chadian Africans it seems. They recently had their offices expropriated by the Government so this is a temporary location for this Chadian civil engineering company. Hello, no disguising we are back in Africa!

It’s 36 degrees as I write and a dry, warm breeze is blowing dust around outside. Employees in smart, brightly coloured jellabas float from office to office or should I say from container to container! About 25% are women immaculately dressed in elegant long dresses in bold African colours and most with elaborate head-dresses. We’ve met them ALL, the men and the women but their names are mainly a blur. Was Mohammed Human Resources or Accounts? In which department did we meet Moustafa, Ousame, Rahim?!! See my problem? The only ones I have remembered are those who stood out for one obscure reason or another:

NINA the attractive electro mechanic with manicured finger nails and bejewelled outfit …. not what I expected for a mechanic!! AND she speaks English.

LUCIEN, the Administrative & Financial Director (the titles are all VERY impressive!) and brother of the big boss. Lucien recently returned from the UK and insisted he show us a photo of his son at an Arsenal v Southampton football match! We waited while he fired up his computer.

This is going to be one HUGELY varied experience. On top of it I have been immersed in more french in 24 hours than I have in Provence in the past year. I’m likely to return with a Chadian accent!

Oh before I end I should mention that we are currently staying, not in our 3 bedroom house but in the Meridian Hotel on the banks of the Shari River. Our house is still being painted!! We’ve seen it and it does exist. All the furniture is sitting outside under a tree!! More about this in the next episode of a Chat from Chad……! (thank goodness for explanation marks as everything here is so different that I think they must have been invented for Chad!)

The portacabin office!

The portacabin office!

First day at the office

First day at the office

Double click on any photo to view them properly!
 

 

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Our New Home

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

The House ……  

(double click on photos to view properly)

First impressions, not bad! The barbed and razor wired high perimeter walls are a little daunting though. Our entrance is a newly painted, bright blue, very solid metal gate with peep hole. Parmenas, our guard’s white eyes and smiling face pop up in this hole every time we pull up in the car and hoot! I have to keep thinking ‘Parmesan cheese’ to remember his unusual name!!

Our street, hmmmm somewhat of a rubbish tip. It’s a dusty red earth road with potholes. There are women sitting in the dust, shaded beside high walls. All day we see them chipping away at large stones, breaking them into gravel size pieces. Further down on the street corner are a group of cheery young children with begging bowls. They are well positioned close to our nearest supermarket (proudly called ‘Modern Market’)which attracts a steady flow of expats! These young girls call our boss, Annabelle, Mrs Bonbon as she usually gives them sweets if she has some in her pockets.

We live in a residential area of N’djamena, the capital, very close to the centre of town. It seems that all the foreigners are housed in this area called Quartier Klemat. The properties are large, have gardens and plenty of much needed shady trees. Each house has secure perimeters and its own private guard on duty 24 hours.

Front of house with Sudan Embassy behind (yellow building)

Front of house with Sudan Embassy behind (yellow building)

front verandah

front verandah

Back to the house …… It must have been quite smart in its french colonial heyday. Now, like most of what we have seen in Chad, the glory days are over. The paint is peeling, the shutters are rusting and the once manicured garden runs wild. BUT and there is always a positive BUT in this part of the world …… the interior of our house has just been newly painted from top to toe and is squeaky clean when it comes to cupboards, doors, windows and walls. So newly painted that we had to stay in the Meridien Hotel for 3 nights while the work was finished. We moved in to very strong paint fumes and have been running the overhead fans constantly to clear the air! First day was quite tough.

Now, 4 days in, the paint fumes are fading and the smell of mosquito coils permeates the air!

La cuisine

La cuisine

Carlo reckons last owners had a fight with the pans - they are dented!

Carlo reckons last owners had a fight with the pans – they are dented!

Found in the sink.  Cute ghecko, you can move in any day as you eat mosquitoes!

Found in the sink. Cute ghecko, you can move in any day as you eat mosquitoes!

Le salon and dining room

Le salon and dining room

Carlo and I are rattling around in a spacious 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom house, larger than our house in Provence. It doesn’t have quite the same comforts and that is an understatement BUT (see what I mean?) it is bright, airy, has air con, overhead fans, a modern TV, washing machine and plenty of scalding hot water. The fact that the gas bottle leaks whenever turned on, the kitchen taps have to be banged to turn them off, there’s air in all the water pipes which sing, splutter and cough when we use them just seems normal in Africa! Oh there’s a shower missing in one bathroom, two loos won’t flush and don’t have seats, our washbasin floods the floor along with our shower which mainly sprays water horizontally! BUT (here we go again!) a plumber did come on Friday, did some of the repairs then disappeared to the market to find washers etc., never to be seen again. BUT I have no doubt that he will return …… sometime …. Probably when Annabelle puts a bomb under him!

Just heard a crash in the main bathroom. A mirror has fallen off the wall and shattered. It was already badly cracked so no bad luck for us.

main bathroom

main bathroom

Haven’t yet found a way to take any photos out in the street ……. will try the IPhone as it is discreet. Next time a bit about how one copes with day to day things like impure water, buying a SIM card for the IPad or perhaps about our safari on Sunday, by car and dug out canoe, to see elephants in the Cameroun! We’ve not been idle!!!

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