By Zachary Gately, MPH - zgately.com
Béré is a happening place! It does not seem like it on a day-to-day basis but looking back over the last few days, I realized I stopped a lot of things 18 November. Most emails I need to respond to are from around that date, all my receipts from them on were not entered, and I haven’t blogged since then. I had a few great ideas for blogs: “Birthdays in Béré,” “Holidays without Hype,” or “Too much Food for Thought.” Alas, the timing came and went so here I am writing now.
It steadily has picked up pace here and I am more and more surprised at how fast each day and week is flying by. This week started with an awesome celebration. Our translator, Naomi, turned 30 this year! We prepared a feast full of all types of food! I killed the guinea hen and blood squirted all over, drenching my pants and flip-flops. We plucked it then cleaned it. Naomi was running around like a mad women so Shannice and I took over the making of the sauces.
Naomi lives on the other side of Béré, on the edge of “the bush.” It is so peaceful and it was so much fun to be out there with friends celebrating under the wide open sky! Though the day was busy and we were thoroughly exhausted afterwards, her party showed how we are still learning culture, language, and customs, but also how far we have come since arriving in this corner of the world.
Unfortunately, not all gatherings bring happiness. This week we also had to attend a funeral of one of our Traditional Birth Attendants. She was only 32, leaving behind children, husband, and community. She worked herself too hard and by the time she went to take care of her health, the malaria had spread to her brain.
All the Community Health Workers and Traditional Birth Attendants came out and we presented our condolences as a group. It was hard on many of them as they had worked together for two years. We sang a song similar to “We Have this Hope” and talked with the family. I believe her death inspired her fellow health workers to take action in their community. She loved her community and made sure that they knew it.
Late yesterday afternoon, Daniel and I raced into the market to get ingredients for potluck today. It was almost 5pm which meant most of the well stocked vendors were closing up. Muslim prayer is at 5pm but they were squeezing every franc they could out of the day. We walk over to get credit for our phones. We are in a hurry, but by sitting and chatting for a few minutes, we add another layer of cement to building that relationship. This particular vendor has helped a lot recently and by spending those few precious minutes, we showed our appreciation for his help. We then rush over to another vendor who has onions, pasta, garlic, as well as other random things we buy on a regular basis. He’s obviously trying to close but as he sees us, he lights up, stops what he is doing, and asks what we would like. I start going through the onions and find some good sized ones (Coming from the land of supersized, the “large onions” here look more like scallions and the small ones like olives). He shakes his head and pulls me around to the side of his shop where there are even bigger, better quality onions! Score! Daniel noticed how this relationship just grew in that moment and we talked about it a bit on the ride home.
Western countries don’t usually value relationships as much as other countries, especially in Chad. As a vendor of any status, you usually buy on credit but there aren’t banks or collateral items here. Trust is required. People get burned easily as too often business falls through or the crops don’t do as well as expected.
I didn’t understand this (though I was told it) fully until this week as I witnessed the coming together of multiple types of relationships. I like this way of working and I assume that in a perfect world, it would be the way to work more effectively. But since we don’t, this method of working has a huge potential for loss, both financially and emotionally. I’m still learning daily as I gain linguistic skills as well as understand cultural nuances more fully. Good relationships take time to build and regular maintaining! I encourage you all to let those who you care about know it, especially I this holiday season.
Happy holidays to all! No worries, my next blog will be a lot sooner!