Voyage to the Tchad



by Madeleine Cirerol Golliard

- English version by Mariette -


- Part fourth   Fourth letter



Hello my dears:


Surely, this is my last letter.


We leave tomorrow. After breakfast, Manolo will take us to Sarth, a city bigger than Kyabé, at some hundred kilometres from here, running  on a bad road, happily compensated by a charming river crossing  by ferry.


There, we would spend the night in a religious house and the next morning , at 8, we shall fly to D’jamena in a light aircraft. This will make us win a lot of time. The journey by car from Sarth to D’jamena is endless. After spending a day at the Kabalay (the religious house  where we stood in our outward journey); at dusk, we shall take the fly Paris-Madrid-Palma and arrive at destination around three o’clock.


Today has been a farewell day. This morning , the women have made a balance of what they have learn, by groups. They are happy. They say their knowledge increased a lot during this course.


When you know about the hard living of these courageous women, the balance sheet is no more a cold amount of data, it acquires their name and visage .


Each one of these women had at least to face one death from malaria at home. They have really a very hard life.


To take an example: Gney gave birth to nine children and only four are still alive. The others died at four or five years old. And many of them suffer the same fate. When you ask a woman how many children she has, she uses to answer: “X” deliveries “X” living.


Another women told us that she had endured thirteen miscarriages, not induced. She wants to stop this turnout of pregnancies but doesn’t know how. It is normal for them to give birth every year; and, when they reach the menopause, they may already have had thirteen or more children.


Today, Suzanne, a beautiful woman serving us as translator, is telling us that she has twenty grand-children. She says that one of her daughters was attending school because she wants to be professor. It is very expensive here to study. She obtained a teacher diploma; but, to receive it, she has to present herself. She has to go to D’jamena and a journey from Kiabé to D’jamena, on an Arab camion, sitting on top of the loaded goods, costs 50.000 Fr. (about 85 euros) and this amount we have not – she said. For a girl it is difficult already, to gain admittance to the school. She could afford it and now it looks like it was a lost of time. It is really dreadful. All the efforts she did to succeed redound to nothing if she cannot go for the diploma in the prescribed delay. ... ... But, because Suzanne has been a great big-hearted help to us during the whole course, we give her some money.


As you see, the theme of the Artemisia is vital here; it is being of great help to the women’s living. They take the little seed bag we give  each of them like it was a treasure. When the seeds shall grow up  in the dedicated breeding ground, they would be awarded with little plants. Unhappily, we have to say that the climate here is very dry and the artemisia loves humidity.


It is late tonight for us because we had a farewell party in Tatemoe: supper, theatre, tam-tam dance, etcetera. So now we go to rest .

I hug you all warmly

See you soon




Fifth and last letter


Hi everybody :


At home again !

But they ask me to write the last page of our report.

Here Internet is fast, so I take the opportunity to send you some photos.


Returning becomes easier than going, because we had now the chance to join the last fly of the O.N.U.’s light aircraft from Sarth to D’jamena, which cuts the way a lot of. But I loved our long  outward and so interesting voyage to  Kyabé. For me, it is worth to penetrate in a new land little by little as we did.


I remember my great surprise at seeing  the little villages under the  mangos  in my first voyage. They were just the same as the ones I had seen as a child in the missionary revues my grand mother used to receive


We left Kyabé in an overloaded Toyota camion. At the rear were the Butano bottles, two gas cylinder; twelve women with their bulges; some of them with babies, too;  making ourselves comfortable the better we could. At the middle of the women was sitting María.  She was squashed but that doesn’t matter for her; what disgusts her is that she was unable to understand their language.


Each woman left when we pass through her village. The roads, if it is possible to call them like this, were dreadful. They tried to fit them by throwing clayey ground on them and, as a result, they are much worse now.  No wonder we got a puncture.



THE ROADS.  photo sent by Malén


In the Tchad, the camions of the Arabs are always overloaded and as they have no mean to hoist the vehicle, they make a big hole on the road when they have to repair a puncture. You can imagine the state of the road afterwards. They do the same everywhere without caring , also if the road is an asphalted one.


But Manolo is cautious. He took a jack with him, two spare wheels and  the efficient aide of Narcis, a good man.


We had to change the wheel. In the meantime, when we were working on it, the women looked for a shaded place. They found it and instead of complaining for the delay, they put themselves to sing and  dance. Even two of them made a little  wrestling show.


They were still enjoying when they heard the call :

Passengers to the camion!


All the women left the car smiling and clapping their hands on ours as a sign of friendship, when approaching their homes. The last one left when we arrived to the village near the river, which marks the end of the big parish of Manolo – covering an extension of ten times the Isle  Majorca  – .


We crossed the river on the “Bac name of the ferry  –. That  was surely be the last time we did it, because they are building a bridge to allow people to go one part to another more comfortably. But if I return someday. I shall yearn not to be able to cross the river on the romantic “Bac” again.


It was dusk when we arrived to Sarth.  María expresses the impression we had at entering the litttle town like this: “This looks like a bombarded city. Hardly lighted. Houses semi-destructed...”


Tradition there provides no maintenance. One of the principal causes is the lack of means. They do things and let them deteriorate since they fall in ruin. They are never repainted or repaired. In the “brousse” (savannah) instead, thatched roofs are remade more or less every two years.


We spent the night at the religious house “Maison d’Accueil” and the day after, we had to wait four long hours for a flight to D’jamena in a tumbledown airport controlled by soldiers.  The soldiers where just planted there, doing  nothing profitable at all.   Instead   they   were   trying  to get  Luz  into  trouble ,   only because they  found   her  taking  photos  “on their ground ! ” of some ants and birds. I wonder what damage we could make with these photos to their “precious” airport.


Despite this disturbance, we were lucky because we could make in two hours the distance that had lasted four days in our coming  journey.


And we are standing again by our good sisters (religious) of D’jamena  that always have been so kindly to us. Here we meet interesting persons. This time it is the turn of a Catalan priest. He tells us about the struggle he endured during many years to provide schooling education to the children of the city (boys and girls).  After fighting all these years , the result is that now a 80% of the children are attending school, when in the beginning there were only a 19%. But the education is quite insufficient. They have nothing , not even passable teachers.  It consists only of a lost of time for the children, who are treated like parrots.


Next morning, after breakfast, we met an Italian woman, who said to belong to a group that recycles teachers... This theme interested María a lot  because she dreams to do something similar.


After a repairing night and a risky walk in the never reassuring market, we took a fly Paris-Madrid-Palma. Now we face again involved the shock of the return. In spite of the primitive living in the Tchad, where life and death are struggling every day against each other;  in spite of  the ravaging illness;  in spite of the lack of food sometimes; we find it preferable to our sophistication.


We have a lot to say, a lot to balance... ...


Thinking about the many lives already saved and the lot that would  be  saved  in  the future thanks to the artemisia, makes us happy and satisfied. It has been worth to give them those “miraculous” seeds. But the idea goes far: we struggle to break taboo about epilepsy, female circumcision, contraception, etcetera.


We fell recompensed with their joyful human warm; their longing for knowledge; their capacity to overcome difficulties; their strength...




Our next goal is to obtain a prospering cultivation. Perhaps a drip would do ... but first we have to find the money...


Love to all of you

from Malén

and company




The Tchad is divided into three distinct zones,

the Sudanese savanna in the south, the Sahara Desert in the north,

and the Sahelian belt in Chad's center.




A lecture in the shadow