I don’t know how old the tyres on my car are. The car itself, (affectionately known as ‘the gold mobile’ by your correspondent), is a Toyota Corolla, circa 1982. The bonnet is a slightly different colour to the rest of the car, and looks like it’s been repainted with the sort of glitter pen I used to use in school. It had to be repainted after I crashed into the back of a pick-up truck one day on Avenue Charles de Gaulle. It’s been repaired many times before, I know, but I like that. Here a car will last almost forever.
I guess these tyres are no more than a year old - they even have treads, but that doesn’t stop me getting a flat at least once a week. I left the house today to be greeted with the familiar image of the car listing sadly to one side. I was already late to a meeting with a Chadian Women’s group to talk about how they manage to prepare food and look after their houses when there has been no electricity for one week (that’s another story). I asked my guard if he could help me to change it. He didn’t know how to do it and started turning the nuts the wrong way. My new clothes from America are now covered in motor oil.
After the rainstorm on Monday (this is not the real rainy season – just a two day break in the infernal 48C heat cruelly tempts with the sort of cool breeze that can instantly change a bad mood to one of reverence), I looked at those tyres and realised quite how useless they are going to be in the rainy season. Six months after the last drop of water fell here, one hour of ‘Mango Rains’ left plastic bags, banana skins, broken electrical goods and other assorted rubbish swilling about on top of a pungent black pools. The painstakingly perfected new tarmac roads which are springing up all over town thanks to Chinese engineers flooded instantly, the freshly cut drains blocked already.
Every season in Chad reminds me of how far away from home I am. Every season gives a false sense of security. Of course when it’s hot, it’s a relief to not have to spend half an hour staggering about, half asleep in the dark (power cuts – I’m getting to it!), trying to work out whether the mosquito net is inside out or upside down. But the mosquito’s demise pales into insignificance against the 4am 38C room temperature and the associated wet pillow. I long for the slippery leaves stuck to wet pavements and insipid air and drizzle.