We wound our way through the back streets of N’djamena in the taxi, coming to a halt outside a doorway spilling out light into the street. We were ushered through the courtyard and up onto the roof where our host was waiting for us, reclining on a luxurious carpet spread out acrtoss the rooftop. He rose to greet us and bid us join him on soft cushions laid out on the carpet.
We had barely got through explaining why we were here in Chad when more guests arrived, this time bank directors, businessmen, academics and even the UN were represented, all sat cross-legged around the carpet.
As our host delighted us with tales of his global travels; how he learnt English and all the backstreets of Washington D.C. by becoming a taxi driver, tense moments with tribal leaders in Somalia, and his love of the Congo jungle tainted by a sadness of the violence there, I sat enraptured, absorbing all his stories.
‘Just a simple supper’ he said as a veritable banquet was laid out in front of us on the carpet. Our plates were filled and refilled, as more and more courses were brought out. Eventually the group sat sated in the moonlight, discussing politics, women, and more philosophical debates on the true meaning of ‘equality’.
It was an amazing privilege to join these men for dinner, as they shared experiences, stories and thoughts on life and the world around them. Years of experience and wisdom surrounded me and I sat attentively listening to their conversations, knowing that my own inputs would be inadequate. When the evening came to an end I thanked our host sincerely and realised that those were the only words I had spoken the whole evening.