A Day at Le Meridien
8 June 2008
The 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.
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.