I had this impression I would be continually hungry in Tchad. I pictured myself squeezing between herds of children trying to get one spoonful before it was all consumed. There is no doubt this has been the experience of some, but I couldn't have been more off-track. My stomach stays in a nearly permanent state of "over-fullness". I will figure out the system yet, but for the time being I pray specifically for my stomach when I get up in the morning.
The food has not been very problematic for me. My evening meal of bouille with slimy sauce is quite edible. Their bouie (rice porridge), Gat-toes (unsweetened doughnut) and sugared beans are delicious. But in great quantity any one of these dishes can challenge me.
At meal times I am often served my own personal portion while the family eats off a platter. I have started calculating and have decided I am served 1/3 of the amount that feeds the family. For example: 3 Bouille loafs are served to my hungry family of 8 or 10, while I am given a whole loaf of my own. This could just be chalked up to generosity, but they aren't satisfied unless I eat 3/4th of my food. A typical loaf of Bouille resembles a loaf of artisan bread the size of a small dinner plate - only much denser and more filling than bread.
At the beginning of the meal I attack my food with gusto. At the half-way mark my stomach says "enough!" My chewing slows ever so slightly. My African mother or sisters have very keen eyes and seize the opportunity to command me to "Eat!" I've tried every polite argument, hand gesture and pitiful look, but all to no avail. If I fall short of their expectations I get a click of the tongue and a disapproving look.
If I happen to miss meal time, never fear! My meal will be waiting for me whenever I return. I may have already eaten at a missionary’s house or accepted the hospitality of another family. No matter. "Rochelle, manges!" I’ve tried: "Oh, no, I've already eaten" and "Oh, that's ok, I'm really full" or "My stomach is very small"--all to no avail. The food is set before me with finality. Woe be unto them if I should ever experience hunger!
To my African family: there may be millions starving in African, but thanks to you I will never be one of them.