Thursday, December 22, 2011

Regrouping and starting anew,

We have mostly been in reorganizing mode the last few days. Taking it easier, working up some other contacts and ideas (which if they come to fruition will be worth writing about but I won't preempt anything on here). We've been without a driver so have resorted to motorcycle taxis to get around. It's the typical hang on and zoom in and around traffic and people and along very bumpy streets hoping you don't hit anything or fall off. It's fun. The compound we're in is on the opposite side of the city that we need to be on so it's about a 5-6 km commute on the bikes. We typically do our stuff in the morning and by early afternoon are back in the compound relaxing or in James' case trying to organize more details. I am the cook which amounts to me throwing everything we got at the market (potatoes, carrots, meat, cabbage, onion) in a pot until it's mushy. Fortunately we tend to have lunch over at a nice cafe in the centre while we're running around and get croissants for breakfast so something still tastes good.
Speaking of running around the city, the hassle is not bad at all, and we never get harassed for transport. Taxis simply ignore you. There aren't enough foreigners taking them here for it to be worth their while and it's obvious they aren't really used to it because we have yet to use a driver that actually knew anywhere we wanted to go. Embassies, hotels and UN buildings are not really very useful landmarks. When we go out, we either go to the market or to the phone company headquarters on the main street as a reference. To get home we go to one of the bus stations and then walk nearly a km to our compound. We don't have a map of the city (other than google maps to reference once in a while) and James is pretty hopeless with directions so I am the navigator from place to place.
As for the compound. I don't know what to say. We're the only guests staying here at the moment, and I guess they don't get that many as it's mostly a residential compound for missionaries and their families. As this is a contact James doesn't want to abuse and wreck (since we are in there because of connections through some of his organizations and friends working in Chad), he tries to be overly gracious and friendly, and I spend all my time hiding. James takes me a little too seriously and literally sometimes and I've managed to convince him that I'm some sort of paranoid, anti-social, anti-religious, fire-breathing, Satanic monster hiding in the midst of the my enemy. Thus I don't actually know how many people are in here. They get visitors as well but I haven't seen all that many people regularly running around. There are about a dozen small buildings within the compound for various purposes, a few of which are residences. But the missionary culture is pretty big in Chad. As someone told us here, it is easier in many ways to get visas and permits to do NGO and non-profit work in Chad as a missionary so some go that route, but most have legit religious affiliations. So within the community they all know each other and the various other mission compounds in the city and elsewhere in the country.
It's through this network that James has finally got a solid lead on setting up the internet cafe project. Originally he wanted it to be a working solar-powered internet cafe in N'Djamena, but at the moment it looks like his equipment will end up as support for an educational project and learning centre in a town 300km from here. That is to be set up in our final days here so we won't see the results of that until the very end. James is against me making daily assessments in terms of success and failure (though personally I see us still being alive and getting back with food from the market as being a success), but maybe that's because micro-assessments throughout the day would see us tallying up many small failures, eventually overcome by one larger success. Either way I'll remain optimistic because being here is interesting and regardless of the outcome, I will still take something from my time here (though I can't recommend N'Djamena as a place to come visit for weeks).
It's also becoming increasingly obvious why all the cars are in such bad condition here. Yesterday on our way home in a taxi we were T-boned by a motorbike who obviously had failed to see a car in front of him. The motorbike sort of deflected and bounced off the car and wobbled away quickly while our driver got out to pick up pieces of his front light that got ripped off from the side. One thing that has surprised me is that there aren't any roadblocks or police checks in the city so we haven't been harassed by the uniforms at all so far nor asked for our ID.
Today we were to meet with our new driver that James had arranged through his ENVODEV contacts. We met the guy out front of our gate and there he was, all alone. Somehow, lost in translation we ended up with a driver and no car! This is the kind of nonsense that sets things back everyday. The good news of the day so far is that our stay in the SIL compound has been extended for our full time here (there was originally a mix up with the reservation dates. I also finally got my visa for the Central African Republic (CAR) today.
Ammon

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