02 February 2004

The Rhythm of Africa...

The drum beats pound loud and long into the night. It is the rhythm of the plain. The rhythm of Tchad. The rhythm of Africa. The young dance in tune around the drums and small fires their twisting bodies keeping perfect timing and allowing a temporary joy in an otherwise desperate life. The rhythm flows through all here. The generator giving me power and light pounds out its cadence. It is everywhere. The turbans flowing, the robes churning up and down on the pedals keep its rhythm.

The pattering of chickens feet. The bleating of goats. The crowing of roosters. The buzzing of flies. The hum of mosquitoes. The crying of Sarah's cat when left indoors. All the animal kingdom keeps time with the rhythm of this place.

The rumbling of intestinal sounds. The fast paced breathing of the severe malaria or chronic tuberculosis patient. The pounding heart of the dehydrated infant. The short grunting squeals of the 5 month old in the midst of a seizure due to meningitis. The sucking of the premature twin now breastfeeding well having survived against all odds. The popping of fluid filled lungs of a child about to succumb to severe Falciparum malaria. My own stomach demanding its own rhythmic ritual of purging as I call for the car to stop just as we're about to leave N'Djaména. The fish/sesame seed balls come up in the rhythm of vomiting as my body tries to adjust to the rhythm here. Fortunately, it only happens 8-10 times more over the next hour or so and then my body has found contentment in the local cadence. All sickness, death, healing and life marches in tune with the pounding out of this rhythm flowing in and through all here.

The lilting chant of Lazare, the maintenance man, singing hymns in N'Djeré with a rhythm unrecognizable to the western mind but in harmony with all things Tchadian. The rise and fall of Tchadian Arabic shouted and bartered in the open air markets where one can buy anything and everything to the harsh cries from the Mosque and the Koran is taught to the people. The washing of feet, hands and head systematically with a small plastic pot on the side of any road or in front of any shop prior to the hour of prayer. A hundred or a thousand forms rising and bowing and touching the forehead to the ground facing Mecca five times a day. The erect, proud stride of the turbaned Tchadian with robes flowing as he goes about his business. The beat runs through all.

You can try to fight it...it doesn't work. Show up at seven as promised...but that is Western rhythm...move on...do what you can and come back...then come back again...work with the rhythm. All we can do is take the rhythm that is here but sing our own song to it...try and find a song pleasing to God that at the same time doesn't disrupt the fundamental heart of Tchad, that doesn't interrupt the soul, the rhythm of Africa. I believe that rhythm has been placed here by God...just some of the popular songs that have been sung to it haven't been His...now its time to find what songs he really meant for this beat here at the Hospital, here in Béré, in Tchad, in Africa. The beat goes on and on and on...boom batta boom boom battata boom...

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