Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chadian Christmas

So I had a Chadian Christmas this year. I would never have guessed it and I that is part of the fun of my life, not knowing in which part of the world I'll have my next birthday, Christmas, etc...

Chad is technically a Muslim country as I mentioned before. I know it is, and you see guys praying on the side of the road and women covered up, but it's not an overwhelming majority of the population. You actually don't see many mosques and the other day we were in front of the Grand Mosque doing our market thing and I could barely even hear the Azan (call to prayer) for the main Friday prayer. There are also a lot of Christians here and between the president's palace and the National Plaza right in the middle of the city is a church. We are hanging out in a missionary compound so of course we were going to get some sort of Christmas.

As it turned out, one of the missionary families here invited us out to a Chadian Christmas service on Christmas Eve. For them it is an all-night service but we went for just 3 hours. It was interesting because the members are a mix of different tribal groups from the middle of the country so they do the services in Arabic as their common language. It's one of the few Arabic Christian churches in the capital. They actually use the Muslim phrase Salaam Aleykum and sing hymns to Allah, which just goes to show that it's all a matter of language translation. The church was in a small concrete compound and if that is the norm then there are probably lots of tiny churches and mosques everywhere and we just haven't realized it.

There was a lot of singing of hymns, not only congregational but also the children and women did separate choirs as well. It's really incredible to hear African music as it has such a different sound. Robin, the missionary that took us, explained that they have very different perception, with a pentatonic tonal system (only 5 notes instead of our 7) and also don't even distinguish between the colours blue and green. We also were brought into the back room to eat with the assistant pastor from a communal dish with our hands. It was good and we were given that honour because they knew we wouldn't be staying all night and would want to eat before we left.

On Christmas day we went to the church service in the compound we're staying in. They do a church service there 2 Sundays a month (rotating with another location) and it is attended by the mostly white, English-speaking missionaries in the area. It was also mostly hymn singing (I recognized almost none of the songs though) and had a very different sound and atmosphere to it. Robin and his wife Claudia invited us into their home in the compound to spend the afternoon and early evening with their family (they have 5 children). They've been very kind and helpful to us during our time here and this was great. They've had a very interesting life as well, having lived and worked in some very crazy places. I've now learned that the missionaries associated directly with this compound are all working as Bible translators (translating into Chadian Arabic) so I'm surrounded by linguists and feel very out of place here as well. There is always loud music playing from the shops just outside the walls of our compound and apparently we are living in the middle of one of the seediest parts of the city. If you want bars and the Chadian version of a red-light district, apparently we are in it, though neither James or I had even clued in or suspected at all.

We keep hearing about how dangerous the city is, but I've had much worse vibes from larger cities elsewhere. I think one of the biggest concerns here is a lack of health services. For example, we were told the hospital is closed on the weekend and the other day Robin's oldest daughter badly cut her forearm when she stuck her hand through a pane of glass. The wound was deep and jagged and they ended up going to an old English doctor out here who eventually got it sewn up. He had the material to do it, but no running water and electricity at his place and only had Robin's flashlight to rely on for the 1 ¾ hrs it took to put her back together. Yikes! They only learned after all this that James is a paramedic and has most of his stuff here too. So it sounds like if I get injured I'll be relying on him to fix me more than any hospitals around here.



At 11:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy New Year !!!!!!!!! Have a great safe year with lots of travel and all your dreams comming true !!!! wish i was there! I miss you. Love Mom


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home