blog from chad

Archive for April, 2013

Saturday night glimpse Club Coton Chad

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013


It is a hot balmy Saturday evening. I am heading to the Club Coton Chad bar past the murky pool reflected by the dark blue=black sky over the Logone where the sun thankfully went for a swim an hour ago. Maybe it also wants cooling down! The heat of the day (48 C) is still radiating everywhere including my core despite the shower.

Timothy the gardener quietly asks me in his impeccable English whether there was water in the room tonight. I thank him for his efforts and admonish him for favouring the lawn more than the paying guests. Its the first decent shower I have had for 3 days ( and I thought I had problems in Boumou!). Because of the heat the staff have simply been watering the lawns all day thus neglecting to fill the cistern for our rooms and switching the pump over. The result is a shower that flows but halts to a trickle when you have soaped yourself! The second night I took the precaution to wait and see what happens ended up having a perfunctory wash with the little water the Club Cotton Chad allowed room 2.

A young Chadian executive talks loudly on his mobile. Amazingly he is organizing his Christmas party for 2013! It will be in Ndjamena although he is a native from Moundou. He has outgrown Moundou and claims that N’Djamena is the way to go. Another less well dressed young man joins him and orders a beer while his friend continues his arrangements for all to hear. Strangely his T-shirt advertises El Bethel Shalom.  Before I have time to reflect on this, a glamourous lady makes her entrance. And what an entrance! Red tights a black top with gold trim and a huge gold chain belt. Her ears are adorned by enormous gold Christmas trees! Her perfume almost suffocates me 6 m away. She is tall but well sculpted and you cannot miss her- large as life!

El Bethel Shalom greets her very warmly and introduces her to his executive friend. The latter barely has time to socialize as his phone constantly keeps him occupied. El bethel Shalom orders drinks and astonishes all bystanders by proclaiming his love, proudly stating that they have 3 children and then promptly begs her – let’s make a fourth! The perfumed one simply smiles and they wander off hand in hand past the murky pool in the darkness. followed shortly thereafter by our executive still speaking on his Iphone.

Two other regulars  sit at the bar with the chef and Timothy. They work for the Coton Chad Company, eat lunch at the restaurant and I wonder how much work gets done. . They remind me of Laurel and Hardy. They usually have long drawn out conversations Hardy leaning forward while Laurel is draped over his bar stool.They act as if the bar is theirs. They are not as comical as the famous duo but Laurel is on the verge of falling of his perch and then  bursts out laughing. It is a comical cackle which resounds around the grounds – often.

In the meantime a number of Italian pipe welders from Denys saunter in. Seeing their favourite bar occupied by the local glamour they slink off to the dining room. They are 43 in number mainly Italians from Sicily, a few Belgians, a Spaniard and two Germans. You can tell  them a mile off – Typical Denys issue gear- tough light brown leather boots – Denys T shirts and shorts – a sharp contrast to the once aspiring glamour of the Club Cotton Chad bar. They are a mottled mix of all ages. Many find a corner or a table with a nearby power plug. And before long the nether regions of the club cotton Chad are transformed in a cybercafé. Italian chattering outranking the Chadians at the bar. They are all Skyping their families with differing degrees of success. Our broadband is dismal but has become impossible since their arrival. Tigo the local broadband is grinding to a halt.  Our waitresses are kept hopping with beers and food orders all over.

Casimir our sommelier and maitre d’ gets his orders wrong causing many disagreements. He drinks on the quiet and holds his pose well except that his brain gets addled. Diane a friendly buxom waitress gets a lot of attention from the younger customers. Much to the mirth of all, a very volatile Italian youngster grabs her by the shoulders and rattles away in fast Italian convinced that she understands every word. To his astonishment,  she merely blinks and proffers the menu under his nose and walks away . She returns later to take his order. He got the message and points to the items he desires.

After a while only lukewarm beverages are available much to everyone’s chagrin. The staff and fridges simply cannot cope. They shrug their shoulders when tempers flare.

Tempers flare alright especially when the local satellite TV broadcasts European football. By now Denys have reclaimed their bar and lively arguments flare up between the various nationalities based on the football teams they support. Warm beers flow freely.

In the corner I notice a Chadian family arriving intent on a Saturday evening at the Coton Chad club. I count 8 children aged 3 years upwards. All impeccably dressed and well behaved and in awe of these foreigners who have usurped their weekend fun. They hang around the pool and eventually file past us towards the back where our long suffering waitresses have set up a table for them. The Denys  Spaniard remarks Nino?  and looks admiringly at the parents with a big gulp of beer.

I have had enough the heat of the day is still tiring me out and  I retreat to my air-conditioned bedroom. I can still hear all the antics at the bar as my room backs onto the other side of the pool. The cold beer I managed to get earlier with the hum of the airconditioner lulls me to a welcome sleep. Cool at last….


IKEA Africa Flatpack

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013


The office is an imposing dual  – double storey building with terraced rooftop.


The topography department has been here 6 months. Offices downstairs and the roving staff members occupy the first floor rooms. Up till now it was clear that they regard these premises as temporary. But in view of the pipeline work lying ahead they will be here for a long time! It is time to make this our home.I finally persuaded head office to upgrade the facilities so that we can work properly.


We finally received a delivery of furniture and goods for our Moundou office. A bunch of battered boxes and bags arrived on Monday. Chairs, a few desks, cupboards etc. in flatpacks.

The bags contained parts for 4 office swivel chairs and 4 normal chairs, backrests and seats. The steel tubing frames and wheels for swivel chairs stacked in a corner. Nassour and I tackled the 4 chairs – simple enough screw on the backrests and cover, bolt in the 4 seats with screws provided. No plans or instructions but who needs those for simple chairs. The backrests were easy except that we had to twist and strain to get the screws to line up with the corresponding holes in the support tubing. These backrests are made of bent plywood upholstered with mock leather. The plastic back covers sort of match their shape. The seats are much more rigid and at first we could not locate the screw holes. They were simply stapled over with a black cloth covering under side of the seats. We had to cut little holes in this cover to expose the screw holes. We screw in the left hand side and proceed to the other side only to discover that although clearly intended for screws, the holes do not match. It is no use, try as we may, we simply cannot fix the RHS screws. Our chair bases are now loose on one side. Manufacturer simply did not follow the steel tubing chair template. Maxim – where did you say they were made? Dubai.

We decide to give up, perhaps some local woodscrews will solve the problem. I miss my trusty old Makita drill!

Maxime and Yves in the meantime tackle the swivel chairs. Screw in the wheels at the bases. Put in the piston upright with its plastic cover. Screw in the metal support under the seat. Again no holes visible as the upholstery simply covers the whole chair in one go. We feel with our fingers and discover them hidden – snip away to expose. Careful you will tear the fabric –  mock leather – but they manage. The armrests are simple enough EXCEPT that we only find 1 screw for the 4 chairs and guess what, only ONE piston upright, where is the rest? What has N’Djamena head office been doing when they packed these in plastic bags or is it the factory? Maxim where did you say they were made?


We give them up for a bad job.

With renewed enthusiasm we tackle the first big flatpack.

It is evidently a desk all neatly packed. AHA IKEA style. We neatly stack all the planks and components on the side and prepare a clean assembly area with as little dust as possible. WHAT no assembly instructions!?  Maxim is getting annoyed and wails where do these come from? I immediately see how it is supposed to work thanks to my extensive exposure to IKEA flatpacks. So I direct the works. First these special screws in all the pre marked holes and see these special round “nuts” fit in these holes and you twist them to grab hold of the screws and voila two planks are held together.

By now there is no electricity on the premises AGAIN and the temperature is rising steadily. We are steaming inside. Only one of our screwdrivers works with these screws and it is hard. We assemble the side supports and put the top on. Miraculously the holes match the screws! But then discover that we have to take the top off in order to assemble the drawer supports. They sort of fit but start sagging along the middle. Nassour puzzles over some planks until I explain that these are for the drawers. How do they work then? Thanks to IKEA I know and show them how- BUT the steel roller guides are all different and it takes 45 minutes to discover the differences and how we are supposed to mount these rails inside the half made desk. Instead of holes nicely aligned we find some marks where the screws go. I miss my MAKITA drill! It is hard using only screwdriver- tools are scarce in this office. I only ordered screwdrivers etc for surveying equipment not carpentry! But we manage – sort of. The back plank of one of the drawers was packed at the factory all broken but we manage to nail it together. Where did you say there were made? Have they heard of quality control?

We are all sweating profusely, me the most and  my entire shirt is soaked. It reminds me of my time in humid Thailand – we give up it is lunchtime.

20130409_111724 - Copie

I arrive after lunch to find everyone sitting at their desk the half assembled desk forlorn and studiously ignored. Maxim says he saw similar desks in town and he will find out who installed those. I refuse to give up – My shirt has dried out at lunch and with renewed ardour we tackle the rest of the desk. It works but I drew the line at fitting the locking mechanism of the drawers – I figured it out but it is too fiddly and without a drill……!

So now we have ONE desk put together there are 3 more big flatpacks waiting and two smaller ones.

Surely the smaller ones will be easy- they are also small desks with no drawers. No assembly instruction (what did you expect?) but easily figured out. I manage to assemble this one ok but struggle with some of the screws as our screwdriver is too long to fit between the shelves. Many plastic trims etc simply fall off when you touch them. The glue simply did not adhere or is it the Chad heat? I sweat and curse the A–hole that designed and manufactured this. What were they thinking at head office buying this?

I have been doing too much talking and computer work the last few months. My hands have  become soft and I discover a blister where the screwdriver ate into it while forcing the screws in the non existing holes. Where is my Makita?

IKEA! You are sorely missed in CHAD.