Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Chad Is Rad

Last month I went to Kenya.
This month I went to Chad. Or Tchad, if you're a French speaker... which I am not. For those of us who need a little refresher on where exactly Chad is, I give you this:

I spent a week in the capital city, N'Djamena, visiting my friends and their four boys. They've lived there for nearly two years, and they plan to be there for many, many, many more.

our welcome sign made by the boys

We flew into Chad in the middle of a dust storm, the likes of which I have never seen. It was so dusty that our plane must've overshot the runway on our first attempt at landing. As we were nearing touchdown, the landing gear was put away and we suddenly started ascending again. Fortunately, there are only one or two flights coming in each day, so we didn't have to staying in a holding pattern waiting for our turn again. After making a large circle back, we were able to land successfully on the second try.

Chad is a French and Arabic speaking country, so it was strange to not be able to understand or communicate freely with Chadians, but my friends were gracious translators and helped me out when necessary.

It was supposed to be one of the hottest times of year during my visit with normal daytime temperatures hang out around 110°F or 115°F. I was prepared for the worst. Prepared to pour water on my mattress at night and put on soaking wet pajamas to provide a few minutes of relative cool as the water quickly evaporates in the dry, desert air. But because of the dust storm that blew in on the day we arrived that thoroughly blocked out the sun, we experienced a bit of a "cold snap." Temps stayed around a comfortable 99°F most days, and cooled down to a chilly 70°F at night. Expats and Chadians alike were thrilled and thankful for some relief from the typical heat! While I would've liked to experience "real" Chadian weather to better understand what people deal with year in and year out, I was grateful for the cooler, manageable temps.

the sun blotted out by dust

It's illegal to take photos in Chad without a permit, so I don't have many of the city itself, but here we are dressed up to leave the compound. When living and working among Chadian Muslims, it's extremely important for women to wear ankle-length dresses or skirts and have one's elbows and hair completely covered when in public. These dresses recently became popular in Chad, so we're basically runway-ready!

me, danielle, dawn

Henna is another traditional form of beautification. Single women are allowed to have their hands done, but only married women are allowed to have henna on their feet. In fact, if you're a good wife, you should have your feet henna-ed on a regular basis.

I got to visit one of AIM's schools for missionary children while in N'Djamena. Wellspring Academy offers an American-based education for 1st-8th graders of missionary families in the area. All of the teachers and staff are members of AIM, some short-term and others long-term. This is an incredibly important ministry in Chad, and I was happy to spend a day at the little school observing the classes and getting to know the teachers and students.

Chad is in the Sahara desert, and though I only saw a very small portion of the large country, I was struck by its beauty. It's not beautiful in an obvious way, like all the greenery and rolling hills of Uganda. From the buildings to the streets to the compounds, everything seemed to be the same few shades of tan-ish gray. There were no riots of pattern and color fighting each other for attention, but that could've partially been due to the dust that so quickly and completely covers everything inside and out. Even so, I was awed by the simple beauty that can be found in the desert.

The whole week I was there, I felt a deep gratitude for the chance to visit Chad. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself there, even for a visit! I had no idea what to expect going into it, but I came away full of awe for the work being done there. I have a deep respect for the many people who've dedicated themselves to loving and serving Chadians. Seeing firsthand the outpouring of their lives in such a difficult place was a beautiful gift. Few people get such an opportunity, and I'm forever thankful that I was granted this experience. 

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