Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Restaurant Nightmare

April 15, 2008

Hans, Liz, and I are in the capital, N'djamena, right now. Dear Sonya was too sick to come. We are waiting to pick up some new volunteers this evening who are going to do a dental clinic for a couple of weeks. Planning to do a little shopping, we came a few days early. It has been strange enough being in such a big, noisy city (really nothing compared to U.S. cities), but nothing prepared me for our experience today.

Yesterday we went shopping at the Grande Marche (market), bartering for all sorts of things. It has been surprising to see so many white people (we are used to maybe seeing a new white person every couple of months), and we had trouble not staring at them or running up to ask them what they are doing here. Last night we went over to Rich & Anne's place (Evangelical missionaries who moved up to the capital for a while from Bere -- they are basically our adopted parents here) and Anne fed us some of her famous delicious pizza. It was great seeing them and as we were leaving, Anne gave us some extra money to go "fatten" ourselves up at a good restaurant for one meal. They recommended a place for breakfast, so this morning, Levi picked us up in the hospital truck and took us to a bakery/cafe.

It was a nice, small cafe with croissants, pizza, omelettes, etc. We took our seat at a small round table and tried not to stare at all the white people sitting around us. There was at least half the cafe filled with white people! And the rest were rich, African business men. The problems started with ordering. We were a bit confused with everything, asking all sorts of questions, because it has just been too long since we've been in a place where you order food. I felt like a backwoods country girl, awed by my surroundings. Our drinks were brought to us, and as we waited for our food to come...things started to feel very strange. Everything was too clean and polished, white people were coming in and out, the food was too different and perfect, the building felt enclosed and claustrophobic with lights on during the day?!, women wearing pants and shorts. I felt so uncomfortable and nervous, constantly shifting in my chair and darting my eyes around at everything.

Slowly my chest started tightening, my hands started shaking, and I started feeling light-headed. I'm having an anxiety attack?? This isn't even a real full-scale restaurant! Resting my head down on my hands, and trying to control my breathing, tears started coming out of my eyes. And there in the middle of the cafe, I started crying! I couldn't believe myself! I was finally able to control myself some as Liz and Hans agreed they were feeling really uncomfortable too and tried to distract me with other topics to talk about. I kept looking at Levi to focus my mind on Bere and what we are used to -- open space, no electricity, cooking outside, dirt floors -- everything I'm comfortable with. Our food came, and although my omelette tasted amazing, once it got to my throat, I thought I was going to choke on it. I couldn't get over my nervousness, and kept pushing my tears down over and over. Finally forcing everything down (there was no way I was going to waste any food when it was so expensive), I excused myself and practically ran outside. Walking down the sidewalk a ways, dodging motos, I calmed myself down while the others finished eating. We paid, left, and came straight back to our guest house, all feeling too spent from the experience to go shopping as planned.

Back at the guest house, I feel like things have even changed here for me. When we arrived on Sunday, this place seemed amazing -- real beds, fans, electricity, air-conditioning(!!!), refrigerator, microwave, bathroom with shower and toilet, just about everything you could think of. When the caretakers arrived and showed us everything, I was a bit overwhelmed when they turned on air-conditioning, fans, lights and plugged the computers in all at once. I thought for sure the fuse was going to blow! Now, however, after our experience at the restaurant, it all makes me feel uncomfortable too. Too big, too much. I have definitely changed. I can't even imagine what it will be like going to Europe and back to the States. So be prepared for me being a crying wreck for a couple weeks :) I know I will adjust again with time -- but definitely after TIME! Hopefully Europe will be a good buffer before going home to family and friends.

We all feel a bit better now after handwashing our clothes in buckets of water and hanging them up to dry outside, to the amused look of the housekeeper. They do have a washer and dryer here...but doing what we were used to was much more therapeutic :)


  1. Do you really want to adjust back to the way you were before coming to Africa? Do you really want to mindlessly consume, to take for granted things like cleanliness, delicious food, money and the power and privileges it brings? How the heart of God must ache as He sees all the bounty He has given to us Americans, hoarded upon our selves and spent on our lusts instead of being selflessly shared. Praise the Lord for His goodness in allowing you to feel a tiny segment of what His perfect heart must feel. Pray you never adjust back to the way you were before Africa. Pray He creates in you a desire to feel His pain and to do your part to alleviate the suffering of His precious children - your brothers and sisters...until we all can sit down at that great table and "sup with the Lamb".

  2. Hi Sarah, it looks like your remote living these last 7 months compares well with the PCT through hikers that spend 6 months hiking from Mexico to Canada. So if life in the US becomes too claustrophobic, you can always hit the trail with only a pack on your back. Your summer at Big Lake will give you more TIME to adjust. May God continue to bless your work with the Tchadians. They are going to really miss you.

  3. Sarah, it is always exciting to read your blog. I can't wait to hear the many stories your haven't mentioned yet on your blog. I found out that I will most likely be going to Tanzania to work in a hospital there and can't wait. Also this weekend was our SM retreat and I talked to three people that have decided to go to Bere. Hope to see you this summer at camp. Miss ya and have fun.