Friday, January 13, 2012

Moussoro

Just got back from our trip to Moussoro. It was very different from the trip to Abeche and had clearer objectives this time. I mentioned the internet cafe project previously and how James ended up deciding to collaborate with a different group of missionaries (not involved with SIL) Sam and Dominique. Sam is a young American guy and Dominique the French-Swiss boss and head of their group. They have a project creating a computer training centre in Moussoro in support of a centre with additional ambitions just being set up there by a local group that they had previously met. Sam would be conducting the classes and staying in Moussoro for the duration while Dominique was just going to be a part of the set up, social network and check on additional projects he's involved with in the area. James donated his solar panel, laptops and other equipment to Dominique and we were invited to come to witness it's use and film what was going on. Dominique had other laptops and things already but the additional support is always welcome. They drive up the equipment, charge the laptops with the solar panel during the day, conduct the classes in the late afternoon and a couple weeks later when the course is finished, bring it all back.

Sam had gone up the day before so we met up with Dominique on Tuesday morning to drive up to Moussoro in his 25 year old Landcruiser. Isabel, a French friend of Dominique's joined us and we were

fully loaded with all the equipment as well. Moussoro is almost 300km northeast of N'Djamena. The first half of the road is paved but the last 150km is just sand tracks. It felt much drier and sandier than outside of Abeche and just as uninhabited. There were villages of course, and plenty of camels and donkeys to be seen, but not a lot of traffic or real development yet. 6 hours later we arrived in Moussoro without incident and met up with Sam, dropped off the equipment and went to visit and stay in a different compound with some of Dominique's friends.

Up until now we've been staying in compounds run by westerners and haven't really experienced the hospitality and hardship of the “local life”. Now we were getting it. No electricity, stinky hole in the ground for a toilet, water from containers filled up....somewhere, and lots of really really sweet tea offered all the time. Nothing new for me, but I was wondering if we were going to experience that at some point. One of the more interesting things about it all is that Moussoro is a very Muslim town and we came with very Christian missionaries doing developmental work, working and staying with Muslims. I hadn't had the impression before that they mixed all that much. But maybe that's the way Dominique does things. We've never seen him wearing anything other than the local Gelabiyah and they insisted that we buy and wear the same for the trip. This of course made us also look like the Muslim populace and make it easier to fit in I guess. The weird thing for all that is that the guys at SIL seem to not work with Muslims as much but all speak Chadian Arabic (which is definitely more of a Muslim language) and Dominique and Sam speak none at all, despite being in very Muslim communities. James was quite popular in Moussoro with his ability to speak Arabic to everyone.

Moussoro itself is a town of 50,000 or so I think Dominique said. There are no paved roads leading up to it for 150 km so of course all the streets in town are also very sandy and uneven. It does seem to be built in a more or less grid pattern but with the uneven streets of sand and garbage, the few trees and bushes with old shredded plastic bags in them, the few beat up 4WDs and motorcycles, and mud walls with fewer doors and shops appearing from them, the place seems like the perfect set for a post-apocalyptic western movie. January and February are the months of sandstorms too so when we started to get that and the visibility drops to a block or two, the shrouded figures walking donkeys up the street just add to the effect. I was surprised that one of the streets has street lights and I suspect future development will occur quickly and probably not too far off in the future.

But of course we were on a schedule and program dictated by the course and its set up and the social networking involved. I was put to work filming the meetings I couldn't understand, the set up, and the class itself. It was the official opening of the “centre” when we started the class. The area used being a small open area and building with 2 small rooms walled off from similar areas beside. The was a table and borrowed chairs and a blackboard on a stand. Not much else. There were 7 laptops in total, with 2 students to each computer. The students were adults, most of whom would have a job with the government or something and so possibly access to a computer that they had no idea how to use. This was the level 2 course, so they are being introduced to Microsoft Word and Excel. I suppose for most of us now it seems strange that you can still find people that don't know how to even open programs or turn off the computer but this is the level of understanding out here. It's also interesting that technology has made such inroads into communities now that these people have cell phones and are taking courses on laptops, but have no electricity in their homes and their kids run around without shoes...

Moussoro is also known for it's weekly camel market so on Thursday morning before leaving town we had a quick run around the market. It's big, as the nomads come in to trade livestock on an open field near the market. We were there before it was fully underway but there were already large groups of people and animals standing around. Our drive back was through a bit of a sandstorm which at time brought the visibility down to zero, but generally gave the effect of skiing between the trees in a heavy fog. Exciting but my lungs are looking forward to leaving Chad and hopefully finding somewhere less dusty to hang out. James and I have been on some strong anti-histamines for a while now to stop our allergies to all this dust. Wheezing and coughing all the time are no fun and I don't know how these people deal with it all their lives.

Ammon

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