A Day at Le Meridien

8 June 2008
N’Djamena

G Le Mer.JPGThe flight in to N’Djamena was not a good start to our arrival in Chad. We made it to Chad airspace and very close to N’D, but then had to circle around before landing because of bad weather. This going round and round went on for almost two hours. Except for the rain, the airport looked the same as the last time we came: the long line at the “get a first of many stamps on your passport” line; the luggage area, with many young men wanting to be the one that pushes your luggage cart; the taxis—beat up Peugeots—waiting in the dark streets. I was surprised at seeing that half of the route from airport to hotel had streetlights. Where there were none, it was very dark.

We had someone waiting for us at the airport, someone that works for the man that will help us navigate the many permits here in the capital. He did not speak English, but I did understand as he was telling the driver of the taxi to take us to the wrong hotel, the Red Dragon, which is next to the Le Meridien. When we got close to Le Meridien and saw that the car wanted to go past it, Katie-Jay and I told them “Le Meridien. Le Meridien.” The man told us, “No, Red Dragon.” I had made the reservation, so I knew where we were staying, but he had a piece of white paper with our name on it and the name Red Dragon, so he wanted to take us there. We insisted, “Le Meridien.” They finally relented and made us understand that we could try that, without taking our luggage out, and then they would take us to the Red Dragon.

As soon as I walked through the glass doors to Le Meriedien’s lobby, the same doors that were completely shot out the last time we walked out of the hotel, I was greeted with “Mr. Gabriel…welcome!” It is nice to see all the familiar faces from the hotel’s staff that did not stop taking care of us, even as bullets were flying.

YL KTJ G bgan test LA 2.JPG Today has been a regular Chad day. For more than half of the day, we were not sure about our permits or about being on the manifest to fly out tomorrow. But, I still felt pretty good about it all. We spent our time doing tech stuff for our tech team back home, Yuen-Lin and Carolyn. YL did not sleep at all during his California night. He was working away, long-distance, on the computers we have out here with us.

It has been a pleasure to get to know our on-the-ground teammat es, Scott and Colin. They are very prepared for this, although they still are not sure of what is to come. They are bright and dedicated. We will be a good team out in the camps.

I hope, really, really hope that my next journal will come from Abeche, where we will spend the night tomorrow. From there, the next jump is out to Guereda and close to visiting camps Kounoungo and Mile. As with everything out here, we cannot be certain that things will go as planed. We are ready to adapt to what comes at us, though. That said, I’m concentrating and need all of your good vibes to get us out to our friends in the camps as soon as possible.

Peace,
g

Gabriel co-founded Stop Genocide Now in 2005, which gave birth to i-ACT in 2009.

He became involved in the situation in Darfur out of a sense of personal responsibility. He believes the power of community and compassion, combined with personal empowerment, can bring about meaningful change.

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12 Responses to “A Day at Le Meridien”
  1. Amy M. says:

    It must be so strange to return to a place that was destroyed a couple of months ago, only to find it sanitized, freshly painted, clean.

    Do the E.U. forces have a presence in the capital? Or are they only along the borders? I am interested to hear whether they are actually making any difference.

    I look forward to re-visiting Abeche with you tomorrow (assuming UNHCR provides you with necessary clearance…) and hope you travel safely.

    • Gabriel says:

      Hello Amy!

      What’s also strange is that I just saw you at my place in Redondo Beach, and now we’re communicating from across the world (from such different parts of the world!) a couple of days later. Yes, Le Meridien looks nicer than before the attack, as if nothing bad happened. Chad was already a bit surreal before the attack we experienced, now it’s even more.

      There are EU soldiers all over the place, but we do not see them working. They are hanging out at the pool, going for runs, and pretty much what seems like some R&R before heading to the rough east.

      You know, they have the right mandate to protect, so I’m so much hoping they make a difference. They must not be deployed at a level where they can do that yet, since the instability all around the area they will be in charge of is so high.

      Thanks for your company, Amy!
      g

  2. Tim Nonn says:

    Hi Gabriel and everyone,

    It’s great to see you. Your presence in Chad reminds me why we are doing this work. It’s all about connecting with one another and the people of Darfur. We are busy planning the Nov. event. It looks like to may turn into a Global Day for Darfur. In a sense, it will be an extension of what you are doing by allowing the Darfuri refugees to speak directly to a global audience and world leaders. For some reason, dozens of photos of tents came in this morning at the same time that your “Day One” email arrived. It was nice to see Scott after all these years of talking to him on the phone. (Although it makes me feel old!)

    Tim

  3. Gabriel says:

    Hermano Tim!

    I have always felt so connected to you and your vision for this movement: a true grassroots, decentralized, say what is right, from the heart movement. Our work in the US and around the world has to come together with the grassroots from Darfur. The families that have survived these atrocities.

    Scott and Colin are great, and you’re not that old!

    paz,
    g

  4. Mimi and Gabo says:

    Hi Papi and HAPPY BIRTHADAY! Its great that you guys made it safe to Le Meridien. Its amazing that even on your birthday you are still doing amazing things! Can’t wait to see tomorrows video!
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR PAPI! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

    PEACE & LOVE
    -MIMI & GABO

    • Gabriel says:

      Gracias Mimi y Gabo!
      I miss you! I’ll tell the children in the camps how much you think of them and how you support me and put up with me taking these trips. It was nice celebrating my birthday in advance with you. Indiana Jones was cool!
      Besos,
      Papi

  5. Teresa says:

    Feliz cumpleaños Gabe, que tengan mucho exito en este viaje.

  6. Rachel says:

    Hey Gabe,

    I was thinking about today and about how important I felt that the Lakers should win (they did!) and realized… Wow! It’s only a game and yet I was so tense. I heard in the news that millions and millions of people were watching the game. Can you imagine if we took that much interest in what’s going on in Darfur? If the millions and millions would sit down and watch one day of i-ACT… what do you think would happen?

    Rachel

    P.S.: Happy Birthday!

  7. Lisa Goldner says:

    Gabriel, we were glad you reported seeing those hotel staff members you had to leave behind in the terror of February’s attack, were safe and going about normal business. It’s amazing the amount of repairs that were completed. Did you find the scenario throughout the city was relatively well restored, or just the primary tourist areas? BTW, will Ashis Brahma return to this area since his residence was destroyed? Hope you can sleep well, as February’s N’djamena nightmare is past, and you need your rest in order to face the nightmare which remains in the camps.

    Paz,
    Lisa

  8. Hi Gabriel!

    Happy Birthday!!! Stay safe and take care, and thank you for your awesome work.

  9. Mam says:

    Gabriel y Katie Jay :
    Ayer escribi para saludarlos y dar felicitacion del cumpleanos. Cuidense mucho y lo que hiceste que es tu objectivo ya este es tu reconpensa. Refiriendome a tu trabajo. El que espero sea fructicio. Feliz Cumple anos.
    Ayer escribi y anote lo que el angel me dictaba! Pero!
    No lo pude enviar tal vez pronto lo haga.
    Dios los acompana es todo momento provecho de espiritu.
    Hasta pronto, Mam

  10. Katie-Jay says:

    Thank you for staying with us on this journey back to Chad. And for your support before we left. I know for my mom, it was hard to support me once again, but you both stood strong, with us and with Darfur. I look forward to sharing more with you through journals, and once back in LA.
    Peace be with you, ktj

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