Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jan 08 – The Compound, Residential Side

Jan 08 – The Compound, Residential Side

Our first day in Bere was pretty laid back, starting with coffee and cinnamon toast with peanut butter at the McDowells.  Bread and peanut butter are a bit of a staple on the compound as there aren't a lot of sanitary protein choices to be had: peanut butter, eggs and beans are pretty much it. You can get meat—goat and chicken—but you want to make sure that the animal in question was killed that day, in front of you, to truly assure that it's fresh. For the McDowells, this job falls to Solomon their cook, who pretty much showed up on their doorstep looking for work the day after they arrived, as he had been cook for a previous couple who had lived on the compound.

I don't know if any jealousy ensued on the compound, but it's generally agreed that Solomon is the best local family cook, and I'll say his cooking his excellent. Part of our stay included lunch everyday at the McDowell's, and after the first lunch Jessica declared Solomon's food as good as any restaurant's. All of his bean dishes were great, but his spaghetti sauce (called Sauce D'Emmie, after the McDowells' younger daughter) and pizza are superbly excellent.

We also received home-baked bread from the McDowells, one loaf from the wife of Dr. Bland on the compound, and a couple almost baguette-esque loaves from Moundou, the nearest large town, two hours away. They were all tasty, but with zero preservatives tend to get stale pretty quickly. This meant eating the bread quickly, keeping it in the fridge, and making French toast with it toward the end of the loaf's life.

Instant Nescafe can be bought here, but not grounds or whole beans, so those are a regular part of care packages for the McDowells, and I was definitely glad we brought some. Jessica had brought some single-serve creamers for coffee, but the local option is a spoonful of powdered milk, the only real dairy option here since hardly anyone in Bere has refrigeration. One can get cheese and butter in Moundou. At home, I can take my scooter to Ingles in about five minutes there and back for decently fresh milk, butter and cheese in such variety that it should make anyone's head spin; here you travel four hours for cheese and butter that is what you get. 

After breakfast, Kim took us on a tour of the compound. Facing the compound from the road, it is divided left and right into residential and hospital sides, respectively. On the residential side live the American missionaries: Dr. Olen and Dr. Danae, husband and wife, general practitioner and obstetrics respectively with their three kids Lyol, Zane, and Addison; Dr. Rolland Bland, a GP who is the primary surgeon here, and his wife Dolores who are Danae's parents; Mason, Nurse Anesthetist and Kim (our hosts) with their daughters Maddie and Emmie; Zach our trusted guide from N'Djamena who is part-time dentist (no previous experience, not counting that his father is a dentist in the U.S.) a public health worker alongside Charis, another public health missionary. Two other American student missionaries, Mickey and Zachary, live off compound with local families who live almost adjacent to the compound walls. Mickey serves primarily as a nurse and Zachary is an engineering student who helps out with all sorts of projects, but seems focused on building up the computer systems here. Charlie, who came in on the bus with us, is also staying off compound with a family, so he can get the full Chadian experience during the month he's here (and boy did he!).

Three Chadian families live on the compound as well, who, admittedly, I did not get to know as well separated as we were by the language barrier. One family is a doctor nurse husband and wife team, another the husband is a doctor, and the final Chadian family is the hospital administrator. It has been hard to tell how the power structure of the hospital goes, as the Americans, especially Olen and Danae, seemed to be where the buck stopped, but the administrator holds frequent morning meetings with the staff, but whether to disseminate the Americans' orders, or somewhat independently, I was never completely sure.

A good number of Chadians who don't live there can be found on the Residential side of the compound with any number of other reasons. Wa'ye and Mohammed were the night and day gate guards; Mohammed we of course saw anytime we went in or out of the gate, but he was also often seen playing with any of the children who happened to be on the compound at any given time.  Solomon is Kim and Mason's cook, of course, and Bebe is their housekeeper who Kim hired after Bebe with her daughter came in for the Infant Nutrition Program and her daughter died. Selene is a laundress for several of the families, and graciously added our laundry to the mix, which she cleans at a cement trough with bar soap and a hose (soap provided by the patron).

The soap la savon Azur, by the way, is a four-inch cube, and is used for laundry, dishwashing, and hand washing here. It's pretty neutral smelling and pretty effective at cleaning, though without hot water and machine agitation, it's cleansing properties are limited. This soap, it turns out, is now a traditional gift among Chadians on the occasion of a birth. We bought for Jeremy, Jessica's friend in the OR who got her the cock, 3 bars of les savons because his wife is expecting shortly after we leave.

One might also see on the residential side, the Adventist School administrators and teachers; Naomi (the ten strong polyglot) who works as dental assistant to Zach and translator when he and Charis go out to the villages; the teenagers Allah and Appolinaire, "Appo," who have been associated with the compound one way or another for years (Allah is especially prominent in the life of the compound); and the constant stream of people who come to the families asking for cadeaux "gifts" to form friendships (asking for a gift is a perfectly acceptable way to start a friendship here) or just for the help which so many need.

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