totally tchad

bringin teen pop to the african masses, represent.


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flashback march 16th 2006

something i wrote at site, long before the actual evacuation. if anyone still reads this and wants to see why it's been so hard for me, i think this kind of explains it.

Last night, after preparing a Mexican feast (guacamole mixed with mashed up beans and tortillas). I turned on “Focus on Africa” as I do every night at 6. Of course, every night, the top story isn’t an attempted coup in the country where I live. Bring cell phone to Kizitot to charge since had actually turned on the generator for the first time in a month or so (it stayed on about 10 minutes before dying again), I asked him if he’d heard the news. He hadn’t but a group of neighborhood men who had just come over for the evening’s causerie had. Finally, they could confirm that I wasn’t hallucinating, that as our lives went on without change, someone out there was trying to take us over. Not that I (or anyone else) didn’t know the country is unstable, but the rebel situation hadn’t made the news in a few months, and then all of the sudden, “attempted coup d’état.” And as much as there aren’t many people who are fans of President Deby (well there’s my host father who has explained to me repeatedly that he can have any job he wants because he belongs to the “partie de pouvoir.” I never ask him what he’s going to do when that party isn’t in power anymore), no one wants a coup.
“If there’s a coup, we well suffer,” says the surveillant of the lycée where I teach, one of the men who have gathered in our yard. I want to remind him that earlier today he and the other teachers explained to me that they were suffering in a conversation about hunger. But I know the answer so I don’t ask. There is suffering, and there is suffering. Hunger, thirst, disease come and go, but war is another thing. And I can’t possibly understand this like they do. I’ve never been hungry or thirsty. I’ve never been slapped in the face by death. And I’m constantly judging Chadians for being aggressive, petty, and corrupt, but maybe I would be that way too if it was all I knew, if it were necessary for my survival.
I tell the men if there’s a coup that I might have to leave. That, they don’t understand: “Il faut rester ici.” The impersonal structure of that comment makes me realize that they aren’t just talking about me. We all must stay here. This will pass like it all passes. They joke that we will have to go fight, me too, they’ll give me a gun and I’ll go to the border to keep the rebels out. And if Chadians laugh at me now, I can’t imagine how much they’ll laugh at me dressed up in camouflage, toting an AK47.
This morning, I do what I do every Thursday morning. I sweep my yard. I turn on the radio, a rarity in the morning, itching for more news. The government has shut down cell phone service in N’Djamena (and the whole country is the rumor later at school.) Our cell phone tower hasn’t worked for approaching two months. N’Djamena loses service for two days, and its world news. If I had service, I’d call up the BBC: “Our top bulletin, the Kumeur antenna has been broken for six weeks. Becca Silverstein, her friends and family, and whole lot of Chadians would really appreciate it if Celtel got their asses down here to fix it. Thank you.” So, all I can do is wait. The situation doesn’t seem that serious. Hopefully, they’ll turn the network back on because I was planning to go to Kélo to call home this weekend. I’m sure my parents are more worried about this than I am.
Here, life just goes on. Kids still show up to school to learn and at my house to ask for candy. This afternoon, we’ll play soccer. There was a much larger crowd than normal outside the Mayor’s office today. I thought maybe there was an important communiqué from the government. But no, just the normal prosecution of a sorcerer. Nobody’s glued to 24 hour a day CNN, nobody’s stocking up on toilet paper and bottled water. They couldn’t if they wanted to, and what good would it do? So, I’ll just go to the market because I have to eat. I may not be hungry, but I sure feel like I am.


i guess i have new perspective on life in america now

this will probably be my last entry. unfortunately this chapter of my life is over, i hope that i will get to go back to chad someday, but it will never be the same. i'm going to put together a package to send for chancelin's birthday with baby clothes and pictures and things, and hopefully in the next few weeks, i'll work up the courage to call. i do still feel guilty for leaving (as much as i rationally know it wasn't my fault) so it is hard for me to imagine speaking to people. i don't want to put my life there out of my head, but i almost have to to be a productive member of american society.

most of the material adapting hasn't been that hard thanks to our "transition" conference in cameroon. i had already spent two weeks with electricity and flush toilets before i got home. still it's weird not having to worry how much water i use when i wash dishes, remembering that in the middle of the night when i get up to go to the bathroom i can turn on the light, that i don't have to separate burnable trash from nonburnable, that i can drink any water or ice and eat any fruit i want. all the fruits and vegetables in the grocery store seem so big and i always feel like i should eat as much as i can because i don't know when i'll next be able to find plums or something, then i remember i always can. but i did laugh at the hard, yellow, expensive things whole foods were calling mangos.

the hardest thing for me is realizing how self-centered people are here. when i was in chad, i feel like i became more american in this way because many many of my conversations centered on the topic of me or american culture or me and chad. and i was okay with that, with being the celebrity. sometimes i realized how much of my time was spent talking about myself, and grossed out by that, went back to the quiet observer/question asker role. but more often than not, i was the star and no one else ever wanted to be.

here everyone wants to be the star all the time. everyone goes on and on about his or her latest drama, and really believes that these things, as silly as they are, are of grave importance. people lose sleep over, can't work because of, etc, the problem of the week. and yes sometimes people want to hear about other people's drama and offer their input, but more often then not, it feels like that is just waiting for one's turn to spill. and, no one, no one, wants to hear about my life in chad once they realize how boring and free of drama it was.

this whole phenomenom is just so weird to me now because i was away from it for long enough to kind of forget it exists. but i also am realizing that i am better capable of feeling like i do belong here if i just listen to other people's problems and let them know i care. it's weird because i know i have these giant problems of my own, but i really don't have any desire to share them because they aren't the kind of problems my friends can understand, so this is where i am. and it's okay, i'm okay with being here, but i don't want to give up what i've lost and i hate that i'm thrown back into this as if the life that i knew and loved was just a dream.




i'm coming home. so i guess maybe i'll see you this weekend.


i've lost my life how are you

i'm in cameroon, i'm never going back to chad.
i was never unsafe there, this decision was made way too quickly. a temporary evacuation until the elections would have been fine then they could have reevaluated this is just ridiculous.
i was away from my site at the time, i didn't get to say goodbye to my family or friends, people that i care sooooo much about, who are never going to understand why i had to leave because where i live it is so safe. i may never see them again, who knows.
i lost my entire life, everything i know.
i don't know what i'm doing yet. i don't think i can handle coming home i don't know if i'm ready to just jump right into life in another country.
i do love and miss you all, but right now my heart is in tchad.


Going to Cameroon

Due to increased rebel activity in Chad over the last few days, including reports that rebel forces are at the edge of the capital, the Peace Corps volunteers are being taken to Cameroon. Rebecca and her fellow volunteers are hoping that the situation stabilizes within the next few days so that they can return to their new homes, families, work and lives.

We are very glad that they are safe and hoping that they will get to return to Chad soon.