Grant told me I have to write about something positive for the next blog. No more vomiting cholera patients or corrupt shopkeepers. So the most positive thing I could possibly think of is R&R [rest and recreation]! A long weekend in the capital city (N’Djamena), promised to each expat after 6-8 weeks in the field. R&R is particularly wonderful for Grant and I as we actually get to see each other!
There is a hotel in N’Djamena that epitomizes exactly what an R&R is and should be. It is one of the nicest hotels in the city (and by default, in the country) and has a full-size, outdoor, clean, swimming pool, complete with lounging facilities, a snack bar, and showers that have both HEAT and PRESSURE! The shower alone is worth a visit, after weeks of cold bucket showers in the bush.
It costs 10,000 francs, or about 20 dollars, to use the pool. 10,000 francs is the largest banknote available in Chad and equivalent to 3 days salary for our well-paid unskilled daily workers, facts that quickly fade from your mind as you slide into a padded lounge chair and beckon the waiter for a fresh pineapple juice, on ice. ICE! They have ice!!!!
At the pool you will find a collection of NGO workers, bush pilots, oilmen, off-duty international soldiers, and a licorice all-sorts equivalent of UN and other diplomats. If one were to generalize, one could say that the bush pilots are a friendly bunch with little pot bellies and salt and peppered hair; while the soldiers travel in packs and collectively display an impressive portfolio of tattoos. The NGO/development crowd seems the largest, youngest, and most female-dominated, making for an interesting pool-side mix.
You can tell those who have office jobs in the capital and are regulars at the pool from those who sweat it out in the bush and are just here on R&R. The former have beautiful, bronze tans from head to toe, while the latter have beautiful, bronze tans from the elbow down and the neck up. I also have the classy bandana tan across my forehead.
This particular day, all the women are in bikinis. I seem to be the only one in a one-piece – a sensible speedo at that! Here, apparently, men wear speedos, not women. Quite a contrast to the world beyond its walls. I feel like a bit of a prude, but just wait until I pull out my swim cap to do some laps! Not to mention hairy legs. Fortunately I need only to impress Grant and he is already sun-burned and obviously no pool-princess either.
We had an amazing day of relaxing, swimming, snacking, reading, vacation planning, and just being together. And for the first time since we arrived in Chad, we didn’t once think about…..what organization is it that we work for again???