I hope Jessica and I get a chance to visit Ethiopia one day, instead of just passing through the airport. If Ethiopian Air is any indication of the type of time we'd have there, it'll be fantastic, with great food, friendly people, and English! Don't get me wrong, I've been enjoying stretching my French chops while here in Chad, but sometimes the language gap is tough even for those who have been here a while. The airport in Addis Ababa was very efficient, directing us immediately off the plane to our next gate which would take us to N'Djamena, the capital of Chad. The airport was well-worn, especially by U.S. standards, and the bathrooms were our first smell of third-world toilets, though the airport toilet was no worse than those of some bars I've been in.
Our last leg of air travel was fairly short and uneventful, though we did have a meal, which as all meals on Ethiopian Air, was delicious. Then we were at the N'Djamena airport, but before even entering the airport our first stop was at the door to get our temperature taken with an infrared thermometer. Dad, you can add "check for Ebola" to your list of uses for your IR Thermometer. It was inside the N'Djamena airport that we encountered our first language challenge: Immigration. Thanks be to God for the two semesters of high school French that I took, and the helpfulness of the guards. Helpfulness or impatience, it was hard to tell at times, but either way they helped us fill out our information tickets, get our fingerprints scanned and figure out the address of the L'Hospital Adventiste de Bere. One guard truly was simply helpful without impatience, and as he said to me "I speak little English; you speak little French; we do okay."
We left Immigration and entered the circus. Luggage retrieval was a madhouse of shouts and thrown bags, offers to help carry your bags, and guards demanding you put your bags through a last barrage of x-rays before entering the country. Jessica thinks I should be more aggressive, or I'll just end up stuck in Baggage Claim Limbo, but we seem to have gotten through okay. Actually, at one point we thought we were going to be delayed when a woman grabbed one of our bags coming out of the x-ray machine, presumably to search it. But before she could, someone who we assume was her supervisor, told her to give back the bag and let it be.
Outside the airport (past the guards with the machine guns) and into N'Djamena. I don't know about you, but being in the airport at a particular place doesn't actually count as fully arriving. They are universally a place between places, being neither here or there. So sadly, I don't feel I can count Ethiopia on my list of places I've been to, even though technically I was in the country for a few hours. But now we were in Chad and under the careful guidance of Zach from the hospital.
Zach (as opposed to Zachary who is also a Adventist volunteer at the hospital, or Zacharia, who was hired to work on the computers at the hopsital) greeted us with a smile and a "BAH" (Bere Adventist Hospital) sign. We were not long for chit chat as his hired taxi driver had already grabbed one of the bags, Zach took the other and we were off to the cab. Zach, to my mind, looks very much like a typical seasoned American overseas worker/missionary. He keeps a crewcut, wears sandals constantly, loose slacks and a short-sleeved button down shirt, half the time the shirt is made with a locally patterned cloth. He has been a wealth of information which he offers with his running commentary and in answer to any questions. His French is "functional French" as he calls it: he is able to make known his intent, he is able to understand most things spoken to him.
Our walk to the cab was hot and dusty ... you can pretty much sprinkle the word "dusty" between every third or fourth word after this and every subsequent Chadian blog post by the way. That should give you a pretty accurate description of things. January is part of the dry season in Chad. Essentially it rains for 8 months here, and then completely arid the other 4. I'm not noticing it as much now, but for the first few days everything smelled and tasted of dust. I'm sure Jessica and I will probably smell of it for a few days after we get back, so be sure to drop by the apartment soon after we get back to get the sensory experience part of the blog.