13 stamps, 48 hours, and an Interview!

Man, I wish I had brought a French dictionary! Slowly its all coming back to me – all 5 years of reading and writing with very little speaking of French still gets puts me in situations of “Je ne comprends pas ou Je ne sais pas!” But as I hear more and more, I begin to feel more confident, even if I don’t’ know exactly what the other person is saying!

Yesterday was the last day in the capital, at least until after we return from the camps. I must admit the most entertaining part of the day was not my Parisian style eggs topped with mushrooms and red sauce (I tried to get Gabriel to branch out of his omelet and pizza, to no avail!) but meeting Ashis for lunch which produced a great many laughs. French military personnel sat nearby wearing shorter shorts than I would ever imagine wearing in public and a few business meetings were taking place in the garden. We discussed the history of Chad and its relationship with Sudan. I listened as Ashis bounced around from idea to idea of what in the world he could possibly put his energy towards – a speakers tour, teaching at University, or playing futbol in camp Oure Cassoni. We laughed a lot, he dished them out and in my usual way, I had no problem handing jokes right back. In this type of work, laughing and light hearted comments go a long way.

We spent the rest of the day waiting…wondering if our permits, one of which had the wrong date, were going to be ready by 6am today, and taking a visit to see Abraham, the luggage god of UNHCR. “We have over 70 kg more than we are supposed to,” we struggled to say. With a smile, “I think it will be good, come tomorrow and Bienvenue Chad!” I crossed my fingers and somehow, even after being late for the plane, it all made it aboard this morning.

After landing in Abeche we line for a stamp; the man two people ahead of me was enduring yelling from the ominous general in the security office, as Gabriel looked around for our ride to UNHCR, which here is only HCR. Upon making it to the front, I struggled with my few words in French until Eva, a UNHCR worker translated – thank god for aid workers, eh? Hahaha. He wanted to see my official press badge…what, I thought? He asked what I would do if he sent me back to N’Djamena – mental note: make i-ACT press badges for next trip! – I shrugged my shoulders and looked innocent, or at least tried too! He stamped it and greeted Gabriel like an old friend.

Once on the road, my eyes shuffled between dirt, piles of trash, donkeys, a small herd of unattended goats, and walls. But the kids huddled around what looked like an ailing rubber tree and women selling Heirloom tomatoes, were still smiling. Once inside the blue gate of UNHCR, we made our way to various desks – Annette, Marcel and Victorian. Discussions of our itinerary, focus in the camps, and education initiatives filled the morning. We would return in the afternoon, but first, PERMITS. I know have 13 official stamps either on my passport or my precious papers calling me a professional journalist. All which cost us several days and more cash than a Doctor earns here in a month.

The most exciting part of today was speaking with refugees who were participating in a secondary school initiative through RET (Refugee Education Trust). There were 10 refugees age 15-25 from each of the 12 camps testing in Abeche to earn their secondary diploma. We interviewed one young man from camp Oure Cassoni who wants to be a journalist and who translated for a few others. It was exciting to think about how our community, your community, can partner to strengthen and widen the effects of such programs. Among many others, this is only a pilot project, but each refugee spoke of the desire for more education and emphasized education as the key to successful personal and community development. A similar view that many of us share.

I am beginning to get comfortable with the camera and now can take photos and film simultaneously! I am only beginning to know what Chad is like and today I received lesson 101 in interviewing refugees. I am eager to continue and look forward to bringing you more stories from Chad.

Peace, KTJ

Katie-Jay keeps i-ACT running on several levels. Much of her work entails coordinating partnerships with other grassroots organizations and implementing the campaigns developed by Gabriel and seeing through the details. She graduated from Portland State University with a BA in Sociology and a focus on Community Development. She has previously worked as a community organizer in Thailand, Guatemala, and with grassroots organizations across the United States.

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Category: Before i-ACT · Tags: , , ,

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7 Responses to “13 stamps, 48 hours, and an Interview!”
  1. Kathleen Scott says:

    KTJ and Gabriel,
    Send our blessings to the refugees, and let them know I look forward to seeing their signatures in the “guest book”.
    Kathleen AKA ommie

  2. Brenda Hodges says:

    Glad to hear you made it into Camp as an “official journalist”! While you were arriving late and crossing your fingers for extra weight, we were racing go karts for Matt’s b-day. There is no doubt you would have given Matt a run for his money, if you had been here. Speaking of here, it has been quite the opposite of the climate you are experiencing. It has been cold and icy, which makes for an interesting drive on Germantown. None of this, of course, compares to your life-altering experiences, but I thought you might enjoy a bit of news from ole’ Pacific NW. Can’t wait to hear more! As long as you keep writing, I’ll keep reading. So proud of you! Love, Brenda

  3. tiffany says:

    Every time I see a new post, you two online, or an email I can’t explain the sense of excitement I get. There is a feeling of relief that you are both still so close with internet but beyond relief I seem to get more excited the more you write. I didn’t know such emotions were possible:) I wont tell you how tough the movie wasn’t to put on the website haha!! I am glad you left me with the job. I will update it as you post i-ACT on the site and shoot out reminders to the college world!! I only write for you, don’t spend time writing back we will catch up soon enough, I know time is limited!! I was looking through the SGN website and found a quote that you put up after the Portland torch that I had told you in an email and even still no one seems to get me more inspired, determined, or hopeful as you. I can’t wait for the kids in the camps to get to experience all that you are!!

  4. connie says:

    Wow KTJ and Gabe,Nothing comes easy in Chad,but everything falls into place!You guys are so positive that no matter how many obstacles, you get things done!!!Keep up the good work!
    Did the people at UNHCR give you any information on the Zoe’s Arc incident? Please be careful sometimes governments will use these kind of stuations to create a collective paranoia and distract it’s citizens from other important issues. I can just hear some one saying “here come those people to take your kids again.”
    And by the way,when you saw the French soldiers, did you feel like breaking out, singing that 70,s song “Macho,Macho Man,You’ve got to be a Macho Man”?
    Amor y Paz,Connie.
    Monterrey,Mexico.

  5. Lisa says:

    Hi, KTJ! The interviews must have been quite moving, knowing these students’ determined efforts to secure better education. I hope the initiatives of RET in Chad and Southern Sudan bring continued successful educational outcomes for these refugees, and will foster the restoration of their communities. Having visited Liechtenstein, one of RET’s program donors, it is impressive how such a tiny place can offer generous donations which bring RET programs to improve so many lives in a much larger nation. This is a reminder to us as individuals, that even our small advocacy efforts can combine to effect positive change. Thank you and Gabriel, and all SGN members for encouraging us in i-activism. Glad to hear you are fast becoming a professional photographer as well as official journalist! Good luck with all of your upcoming interviews and reporting. Take care.

    Paix,

    Lisa
    San Antonio

  6. Sabrina says:

    KTJ, geeez, your words make me feel tingly all over. Its fantastic! I love hearing your stories. You never seize to inspire me. I am so proud of you, your doing it!!! YES!

    A big warm hug and sooo much love for you via… Zurich, Switzerland!

    SMH

  7. Nell Okie says:

    Dear KTJ and Gabriel,

    So wonderful to read your entries.

    Reading about your experience with RET made me think of how great it would be to connect middle and high school US genocide studies students with students in camps. I’m partnering with GI-NET on CT-TAG (enough acronyms!), Connecticut Teach Against Genocide campaign, to mandate inclusion of genocide education in CT school curricula – hoping to get legislation passed within 4 months – the first state in a national initiative. Just seems to be a perfect fit.

    Eager for your next entries. I haven’t heard “in solidarity” since Lech Walesa. There is emphatically something about your west coast sensibility that is irresistible and so-o-o-o comforting.

    I think of you both often. Stay well.

    Paix,
    Nell

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