Saturday, August 27, 2011

#55 HOME

We returned to America in June. I came back 44 pounds lighter than I had arrived in Africa. Danae came back 13 pounds heavier, but 6 months more pregnant.

Two weeks after landing, Danae gave birth. (Yes, she flew on an airplane while very pregnant and lived to tell about it.) Two days after giving birth, Danae took her Ob/Gyn boards... and passed. A feeding for Zane before the test, a quick test and a feeding for Zane after the test. She’s pretty amazing, huh?

We took our two-week-old (and also the two-year-old) to Institute of World Missions at Andrews University. Rumor has it that he’s the youngest-ever attendee. For the next three weeks, we were able to learn all the things that we had been doing wrong for the first six months abroad. There were 47 attendees along with 27 children, an apparent record for the most number of children. We were able to reconnect with some old friends, the Seerys and the Sandovals, as well as meet many new friends. Most of the missionaries were not from the US and I think every family had at least one member who had lived outside the US. It was such a wonderful opportunity to garner wisdom from so many cumulative years of missionary experience in the room. During those three weeks of Mission Institute, we were also able to stay with the Zygowiecs, old childhood friends/accomplices.

From Michigan we set out on more cross-country driving in our no-AC 4Runner. We had a grand plan to drive our 4Runner all summer to make certain that there were no kinks in the system before shipping it to Africa. We left record-setting heat in Maryland to go to Michigan and on through more record-setting heat to visit relatives in Arkansas and Oklahoma. It was the record-setting-heat-tour. One night in Oklahoma it was still 100 degrees at 11PM. The next day it was officially 115, but the thermometer we drove by said 120 degrees. The thermometer we drove my in our car WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING. We were wondering why we every left Africa!!! We have 120 degree heat and AC-free cars in Tchad too, you know! But then we’d walk into air conditioning or make ourselves a smoothie or stop at Taco Bell and... ah, yes... annual leave is nice.

The state of New Jersey, my youngest son’s birth state, would not have been my first choice. (No offense.) Burlington County, New Jersey, in particular, won’t allow you to mail in a request for a birth certificate until 30 days after birth. Thirty days after Zane’s birth, I mailed in the request. It arrived at my parents’ house August 4 and they overnighted it to us in Oklahoma, where it arrived Friday, August 5. Sunday night, August 7, we set out from Oklahoma City and drove all night, arriving at the Passport Agency in Atlanta at 7AM, ready for our 9:30AM appointment. That afternoon, around 4PM, we received Zane’s passport. Just before 5PM, August 8, we overnighted the passport to my parents, who then marched it down to the Tchadian embassy August 9 and waited in their office until it was stamped with a Tchadian visa the same day. Whew!

From Atlanta, we drove to Florida, from where we hope to send our 4Runner on a container, and then flew back up to Washington, DC, where we unpacked and repacked to return to Tchad.

Returning to Tchad, we got stranded in the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia airport for 11 hours (scheduled two-hour layover) for maintenance reasons. Eleven hours in an airport with a seven-week-old infant and a two-year-old... right after an overnight flight the night before. We had even been baited onto the bus that would drive us out onto the tarmac to our plane, then told to return to the terminal for 20 minutes. We received regular updates from the extremely friendly and apologetic airlines staff, about every 20 minutes: ‘The plane should be ready in another 20 minutes.’ TIA. (This Is Africa.)

We got into Tchad after dark. I sent Danae and the boys off to the Evangelical Mission to stay the night while I waited for the bags. The skeleton airport crew decided to unload first the Air France flight baggage which had arrived well after us. Then they decided to load up the baggage on the Ethiopian Airlines departing flight before putting our bags on the conveyer belt. Then they decided to load up the Air France departing flight. Finally, our bags came out the carousel. I finally crawled into bed at the Evangelical Mission in N’Djamena just before midnight. (We had left home some 36 hours prior.)

The next day I sent Danae and the boys to the bus terminal to buy our tickets and guard our bags, then I went to the police station to register Zane. The man took me to a back office and filled out the paperwork for me. Then he quietly asked me for help to make it go faster. I started to raise my voice as people walked by the door and he shushed me. Then he told me I had to wait for another signature. I knew that the signature was already in the passport so I just left before being asked for another bribe.

I met up with Danae and the boys and the bus finally pulled out of town on the road through the countryside to Ber... uh oh... flat tire... ok... change the tire... and we’re back on the road through the countryside to Ber... oh hang on... it’s prayer time... which way’s Mecca?... ok, back in the bus and back on the road through the countryside to Ber... could somebody get the camels and cows and goats and sheep and bicycles and people and children out of the road (the only paved road in the country) so we can continue through the countryside to Ber... oh that pothole hurt pretty bad actually... are your knees hitting that seat in front of you too?... is this padding on the seat non-existent or is it just my imagination... is that sweat running down my back or did the kid behind me spill his drink?... really, you don’t want the window open because you’re afraid of the wind?... you’d rather sit in 100 degree heat?... no, for the fourteenth time, I do not want to buy a hard-boiled egg... well, actually... that sounds pretty good... I’ll take one... shouldn’t you need to stop to pee sometime during a six-hour bus trip?... why don’t I need to pee at all?... is this trip really just six hours?... why does it feel like six days... goodness, this looks much different in rainy season... we’re not really going to try driving through that puddle are we?... ok, we’re back on the road through the countryside to Bere.

We come uneventfully (all the above events still qualify as uneventfully here) to the fringe of Bere. Actually, we’re even past the welcome to Bere sign. The turn off for the hospital is about 100 yards up ahead. But there’s a barrier down. Because it’s too wet to drive. In one to four hours it might be dry enough.

Luckily, in just a few minutes they raise the bar and the bus drives the final two kilometers to the bus station. There, some men jump up on top and start unloading our bags. We told them that we could do it ourselves and we told them that we wouldn’t be paying them anything. With each bag we tried to grab the bags ourselves but they insisted... and with each bag we insisted that we wouldn’t be paying them anything. After our last bag was down we started to drive away and there was the expected commotion as one of the porters (and the drunkest one) tried to open the back of the van to pull out the bags. When that didn’t work, he ran around the side and opened the front passenger door where Cory was sitting. Jamie stopped the van and the man was quite belligerent. I called the local police, who came and sorted it out. ‘What would Mission Institute do?’ was what Danae and I asked ourselves. At any rate, we arrived at our house.

Our house had changed! We had a fence around it! And the Parkers had planted us a garden! It’s so exciting!

Well, it was days of travel, plane delays, bribes, flat tires, Muslims prayers, fights with the locals, calling the police, rain delays, dogs with mange, etc etc etc. Yup, we’re home.

olen and danae

Olen phone: +235 62 16 04 93
Danae phone: +235 62 17 04 80

Olen et Danae Netteburg
Hopital Adventiste de Bere
52 Boite Postale
Kelo, Tchad

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