Far, far away…
With each new leg of our trip, we keep getting farther and farther away from the world I’ve lived in.
N’Djamena was a pretty radical departure to start with. The whole city has an atmosphere of palpable unease. Then we jumped to Abeche, which does not have one paved road. Donkeys are the main mean of transportation. Abeche was a big town, compared to Guereda. Guereda is quiet and pitch dark at night. There is not running water. Almost three hours further out, if you can make it through the sandy, bumpy road, and now we are in Iriba. It is a town in the desert, with electricity on for a very few hours per day. We do not stop here. Going another four hours away from isolated Iriba, we will be traveling to Bahai, which is right on the border with Darfur.
Diet Cokes are long forgotten. Well, not really forgotten, but I feel bad complaining.
An aid worker was telling us last night that she asked other workers, men that had been in the development field all of their lives, where did Chad rank as far as challenging places to work in. They said that it was at the top. There is not a more difficult place than Chad.
It thin that’s pretty good for me, since it’s really my first time out. After this, any other adventure should be a piece of cake!
Electricity went out at 11:00, so I’m writing on my notebook, the paper one, so I don’t use up the “juice” we need in our laptop to do the upload of the video. I have one of those flashlights that you put o your forehead, which frees up my hands to write. Another thing my light does is to attract mosquitoes by the dozens. I just bathed in repellent, and they keep on coming! They are very annoying, buzzing around my ears and making dive bombing runs through my field of vision, between my eyes and this notebook.
Our last day in Iriba
We ran out of “juice” last night, so we could not finish the video and do the upload. We could have started the car and plugged in, but it was pretty late, and the noise from the car would have disturbed our hosts at Norwegian Church Agency. Accommodations here are not as “luxurious” as they were at CARE’s Guereda compound, but we have all that we need.
Almost all. They do not run their generators for as long as I would wish. This morning we had to come out to the CCF compound and plug in, and we just finished the Day 12 upload. So, it’s time to get on the road to camp Iridimi.
We’re on the road now, and YOU try and write as you ride on this bumpy road! Bechara, our driver, loves any straightaway. He is a very thin man, with a very heavy foot. We’ve had a couple of close calls on the road. Once, we were going way too fast, way too close to the care we were following. When it stopped to maneuver over some nasty bumps, I was sure that we were going to rear-end them. Bechara hit on the brakes, but our car was now sliding with no intentions of stopping. The car in front of us jumped forward at the last minute, saving us from the impact…and the great embarrassment of crashing into the only other car in the middle of a desert.
A second time, a huge truck loaded with goods suddenly appeared at the top of a hill, just as Bechara had accelerated to gain momentum to make it up. Good thing that Bechara has good reflexes and that there was room on the side of the road! He had to completely run off the road to avoid a confrontation we would have surely lost.
Out at Iridimi:
What a great day. There were mixed feelings, as always at the camps, but I really allowed my self to just have fun for some uninterrupted minutes.
I got to play some futbol (soccer) with the young men of Darfur! What a joy! I just got into the game and tried not to think about them playing without shoes and probably low on energy because of their deficient diet; but I didn’t want to talk about that part right now; I just wanted to talk about the joy. Out on the field, we were just players. It was a long field! I’m used to playing at the beach with my family, and we set up short fields on the sand. Oh, we also play barefoot back at Hermosa Beach, and that’s how Rachel, my sister, broke her toe the last time we played. I asked the kids here why the long field, and one of them told me (he spoke just enough English), “It’s not long…short!” I told him that it was short for him, because he was a young man, but way too long for me, almost going on 40.
I shouldn’t brag, but we won! I’m two for two in Chad. Both games I’ve played, my team has won. It could be just luck, or it could be skills baby! I had an assist, a beautiful “taconsito,” which is a pass with the heal of the foot (but it sounds a lot sexier in Spanish).
After the futbol, it was time for volleyball, and Chris took on the challenge. Chris’ form is something to be admired, but he could just not get any of his teammates to give him an adequate high-five, after he had a killer hit.
One not very positive note, we wanted to see some of the girls play volleyball, which we are told they do. Our translator for the day told us that they did not come out to play at that time. It was a bit before noon. We did see a lot of women and young ladies around, but most of them were working. Some were transporting wood on donkeys; some were making mud bricks; some were building a fence; some were taking care of their younger siblings.
I know that I keep mentioning this a lot, but I have really been impacted by the women we have seen so far. They are tireless. My western eyes make push me to being judgmental, and maybe I’m over-generalizing. There are men working in the camps. There are not too many men in the camps to start with. Many have been killed. We have been told my men, women, and children that, during the attacks, men are the first targets; they are tortured and killed.
Man, it’s just not a simple thing. But, day to day in the camps, women are the leaders…by example.
Day 12, Iridimi
We had another busy day today, at camp Iridimi. It’s the largest camp we have visited so far, with about 17,000 refugees. Divide that up into 17,000 individual stories. That’s what it is. We cannot lose track of the fact that it’s about people, individual, with all the same hope and dreams as ours.
I did not have time to get to answer every comment, but I will tomorrow. I did read every single one of them, and I really really appreciate them, and so do the people in the camps.