My vacation started out in typical Tchadian fashion. I was scheduled to leave for Denmark on Tuesday evening to get married. By Tuesday morning the chauffeur hadn't returned from N'Djaména. So I found myself biting back the tears and preparing myself for the Danish winter by racing along before daylight on the back of Andre's motorcycle on the bumpy route from Béré to Kélo. All I had was my small backpack and a secret dread that with taking public transport from Kélo to N'Djaména I wouldn't make my flight and maybe was destined afterall to nevere marry...I'm this close, but until those words are said I can't be sure.
We arrive in Kelo after 1 1/2 hours. My eyes will remain bloodshot and teary for three days from the cold wind and dust. We pull into an open courtyard filled with milling, robed arabs and an array of Toyota mini-buses in varying stages of being overloaded. We notice one is mostly loaded and appears about to leave for N'Djaména. André leads me over to a thatch roofed, no-walled shelter supported by four twisting former small trees. An turbaned, bearded arab speaks to me in French tinged with a gutteral Arab accent. I buy a hand written ticket. I sit on the front seat after tossing my backpack on top of the other luggage already in the rack. I happen to sit next to one of André's wife's classmates from nursing school. Then I notice my backpack being loaded onto another bus. I go out to protest and find they want to switch me to another bus because they've "overbooked". I protest but to no avail. Then, André returns and with the help of his wife's friend they convince them I can squeeze in since I'm trying to make my flight.
So I spend the next 7 hours with one butt cheek on a hard bench and the other free floating in the air by the sliding door. Wedging me in is the young arab assistant to the chauffeur who opens and closes the door barely packing him in against me. MY legs have to be forced left and cannot move at all. I find solace in conversation with the nursing student and in reading all of the biography of Paul Farmer, MD called Mountains Beyond Mountains which proves to be quite inspiring.
After many stops, I nourish myself with a green papaya carved up at an Arab "watering hole" (tea and warm milk stand) with a borrowed knife. I also eat two bananas I've brought with me and a couple of doughnuts cooked in a deep fat pan over coals by the side of the road.
We have a blowout that causes no harm to the vehicule. We put on the spare and then stop at the next town to replace the innertube. Quite an interesting process when done by hand.
Finally, we arrive in N'Djaména. The bus station is part of the eastern market. Fortunately, I see we pass Pasteur Job's house which is only about 5-6 blocks from the bus stop. I grab my pack and try to ignore the constant stares and cries of "nasara". Pasteur Job is with the group from Loma Linda who came to do a dental survey. His relative tries to grab a taxi but finds it too expensive until I go sit out of site until he bargains for a fair price. We travel to the Big Central Market where we change taxis normally but we pay the dude a little extra to take us near the airport. I've arrived in time.
It feels very weird to be boarding the plane. I realize this is the first time I'm boarding a plane in a third world country in order to take a vacation and not return from one or go home. This is my home...I will be back. The guy wants to take my backpack from me carrying it on. As I desperately try to make it fit in the sizing apparatus he finally just smiles, shrugs and motions me on...I'm grateful as I'll be flying Air Chance (France).
The flight to Paris is quick. I'm kind of in a dream world as I view the modern world for the first time in a year but it's not as strange as I thought it would be. I get on the flight to Denmark and start my vacation...
Just a few tidbits...
Danish weddings have some different traditions than American ones. The groom and best man are on stage before it starts and everyone including bride and groom sit during most of the ceremony. This was cool as it allowed me to leave the Best Man seat empty in honor of my brother, David, who I always knew would be my best man...alas he was killed on September 3, 2001 in a car accident.
Then the Groom rises at the time the wedding starts to wait for the bride. Normally she should make him wait 5-10 minutes and only if she's wicked will she make him wait 15. I waited over 20 minutes! Later, she explained it was because her brother insisted on stopping and washing the car after it traveled down the dirt road from her house to the main road...yeah, right,...she's a tough one:)
Then there is both a general reception for everyone and a wedding dinner where only the closest of friends and family are invited. This dinner is a big deal, much more important than the actual ceremony. We had an amazing 7 course meal and everyone had speeches all prepared to roast and toast the bride and groom. The differences in culture was topped off by my being attacked by the guys and held down while the toes of my socks were cut off!
For a brief glimpse into the whole vacation visit Click Here http://www.geocities.com/appeltwin1
Tomorrow, Sarah and I return to Tchad...