I was rounding on surgery one day shortly after arriving in Tchad. During rounds, I sent a post-op hernia patient home. He asked me what his diet should and shouldn't include when he went home. Then he asked specifically, 'Can I eat some poop?'
I asked him, 'Why would you want to eat poop?'
'Because it tastes good. Just a little bit to flavor food.'
'Do you use your own poop or where do you get it?'
'Well, we usually get it in the market.'
I was completely baffled. They hadn't covered this in Institute of World Missions. I asked him to describe what exactly this poop looked like.
'Well, it's a white powder, naturally.'
I finally realized that he had asked, 'Est-ce que je peux manger du sel.' I had heard, 'Est-ce que je peux manger des selles.' 'Sel' and 'selles' are pronounced the same. The only difference was 'des' (pronounced like 'day') and 'du' (pronounced like 'do'), both of which mean 'some'. 'Sel' is salt and 'selles' is poop, always in plural.
Another time, I greeted one of our local government medical officers and asked him, 'How was it in the countryside?'
He looked at me very strangely and asked what I was referring to.
I explained, 'Well, I've heard that you really love the countryside.'
Now he was shifting from defensive to frankly offended. 'Who told you that?'
'Everybody you work with. I thought it was well known. You mean you don't like the countryside? All the small villages out there in the countryside. Don't you find it relaxing and peaceful and tranquil out there?'
He threw his head back and started laughing. It didn't really seem funny to me, but at least he wasn't aggressive anymore. So I laughed along.
Then he explained to me the difference between the words 'bourse' and 'brousse'. I had actually asked him how it was in the scrotum.
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