There are two supermarkets in N’Djamena. One is reportedly owned by the president’s wife. Many of the goods are imported from France or Cameroon, so when it’s been a few weeks since the last delivery, the shelves begin to look bare. Goods which were temporarily cheap to import and / or fell through greasy palms off the back of a lorry are stacked high (ie. tinned brussel sprouts), as if by their sheer force of numbers they might become desirable. There was no butter in either shop for close to two months, dried pet food disappeared in November and has not been seen since. I’m pleased if UHT milk is on sale, otherwise it’s powdered. Likewise, tinned kidney beans or chick peas are a rare luxury and must be snapped up as it’s never certain they’ll be seen again.
Once a week I summon up the courage to drive to the shop – usually on a Saturday afternoon when it’s quiet. The children swarm around the car before I’ve turned off the engine – “Madam madam! Les arachides, sont bonne pour la santé!” I don’t like the peanuts – like everything in Chad they taste of sand. If I want to buy phone credit, I will ask. I am wearing sunglasses, why would I want another pair? The artful teenager who appears to be the leader of the street kids sidles up to me, ragged sleeves flapping. With sparkling eyes tells me he will guard the car for me while I’m inside.
The shop depresses me. This is what I buy:
4 fruit yoghurts - $5
Small packet powdered milk - $4
Cameroonian coffee (a bargain!) - $6
2 cans Orangina - $3
Pasta - $2
Tin of kidney beans - $2
Tinned fruit salad - $3
Toilet rolls - $4
Mint tea bags - $5