Old Friends

Hut at Ali's home - 2The thick layer of sand and smoke hangs in the air. My throat raw and scratchy from the days we have breathed in the Chadian air. Every visit has fallen at a different time of year: Jan, February, now March, June and August. And each one feels entirely different. I am parched and dry.  The hot sun forces re-application of sun screen, followed by aloe in the evening.  The wind was strong today, carrying small tornado like wind storms that tore one roof of a tukul near Zaineb’s house. Chad is the harshest and most unforgiving environment I have experienced.

Regardless, today was a great day of rejoining with old friends. We met Oumar again whom we had met last year. He was very obviously thinner and sicker looking than before. His youngest brother, hardly one when we met him, didn’t look as if he had gained much weight either. He was shy at first but opened up eventually, laughing by the end of the day.

ali drumming girl jumpingWe saw again Ali, our futbol team mate from last time! He speaks a little English now and is very smart. His mother referred to him as clever, as she pointed out the blackboard at their house that he uses to teach Amouna how to spell her name in Arabic. He also brought out his drum for a small crowd that had gathered at his house. Young girls began to jump and dance, Bahtun began to sing in their local dialect, Doja. To see the Darfuris singing and dancing was unique. For a moment it seemed like we had all forgotten where we were.

field team taking break intermonWe spent most of the entire day in the camp, taking an afternoon break during the hottest hours. I continue to think about how I would struggle to survive in such a harsh environment without the amenities I am used to. The water would be the first. In the last few days I have developed a sore throat and sneezing. I am lucky to have cough drops, vitamins, and an anti-biotic at my fingertips. The refugees have very little, if any, of these, and probably none for the common cold I am experiencing.

I don’t think I would survive in the conditions they have been forced to live in. And, of course, they all wish to return home to Darfur. Zaineb is going to be a Doctor. Ali wants to go to University and be a teacher or administrator. All the children want to be more than what they are at this very moment.

I hope that we can help them  succeed in their dreams.

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: Day 5: March 28 · Tags: , , ,

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4 Responses to “Old Friends”
  1. Katie-Jay,

    Thank you once again for your report, the pictures and video. You bring it to us in such a way that we get a better understanding of how life is for our fellow human beings. I especially liked the children’s chatter while the drumming and dancing was spontaneously done. This sentence “All the children want to be more than what they are at this very moment” just emphasizes we are all connected. And what happens to them in their time of need is a reflection on each one of us.

    Could your daily journal entries’ texts, videos and pictures be placed on a dvd and sent out to journalists and our politicians (once you are home)? I keep thinking “how do we get the attention of those who are choosing to bypass this story?” We may have to raise the funds to do it, but it is a thought.

    I think we have to put it in their faces until they feel the pressure to do what is right.

    Our love is with you,

    Sandra

    • Gabriel says:

      Dear Sandra,

      Thank you so much for your continued support. I started crying today when I read your comment and Marv’s below. We share when we can that so many people like you are working for peace in Darfur. Their spirits are lifted when they hear about you!

      I think sending out a compilation DVD to media outlets would is a fantastic idea. Let’s work on it when we return home. The brief time that Kristof was out here last month, even his articles were more passionate and more moving then his usual op-eds. Why is that he has continued to be one of the only voices for Darfur? Another man, Edmund Sanders, has been writing for the LA Times from inside of Darfur, somehow. His articles have bene powerful, as well as online photos. But this is two Darfur media advocates of the thousand that are out there. Darfur is new media worthy and I feel should be on the front page of many newspapers. Perhaps then people will be more motivated to pick up the phone and take action.

      peace, ktj

  2. marv steinberg says:

    You are in our thoughts and prayers. We gathered on the Sundial Bridge, sang two of Greg’s songs “For the Camps” and “Genocide No More”–I talked to them about your blog re being creative and Greg’s songs– and gathered in a prayer circle. We prayed for all of the Darfuris and for you an Gabriel and especially for Adam in Camp Ko. Then we moved out on to the bridge for five minutes of silent prayer. Tonights seemed even more poignant than usual, given the situation in Darfur and Chad and the plight of the displaced. So frustrating that things are so negative. So frustrating that we can’t do something to be able to send Ali to university so he can become a teacher. So frustrating that we can’t help Adam complete his library. Keep sending your wonderful reports. This year I am forwarding your reports to the 200+ on our Email list. God bless!

    • Gabriel says:

      Dear Marv,

      The image of your group standing at the Sundial bridge moved me tears. It is your group in Redding that are the true heroes of the Darfur movement. Relentless with your representatives. Continuous fundraising for education on the ground. And on-going programming at high schools, churches, and community centers. Thank you for doing what you are doing! And for spreading the voices and images of Darfur!

      peace, ktj

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