Connie’s Journal

The longest day of the year!

Gabriel and Connie hard at workI hope you bear with me, today was a long one! First I rose at 4:00am. We had to be at the airport by 6:00. There we really sweat it out because we were over the weight limit, what would we leave? Some food? Maybe the gifts we brought? My PJays? Anything but the equipment! After much back and forth and scolding and repeating that something had to stay, the kind employees said they would try to get everything on but that we should call a friend (A friend? In N’djamena?) To pick up the extra bags, if it were not possible. Time to board, now I find out why all the fuss An 8 seated old, tiny winy, old, did I say old? A VERY OLD PLANE! We were in luck! Two passengers didn’t make it and our luggage took their place. Then, our pilots, who didn’t look like a day over 12, but to their credit it turned out to be a beautiful flight, the smoothest landing since L.A. Landing in Abeche started out a little rough, with 3 military helicopters landing right behind us. Later we went to wheel and deal a rental, where a man sitting on a large red rug in a little room negotiated the price of the SUV and our driver.

View from our carFinally we are on our way to the first camp. Gabe had never been here during the rainy season so he got stuck in dry riverbeds, this time they had water. Lots of water! There were trucks on both sides of the river waiting to see if the it would recede. We were not going to wait. Ali#2 (our driver is also named the same as our guide;Ali #1 ) drove to another part of the river, There a huge truck loaded with I don’t know what, was stuck in a humongous hole, with a dozen men trying to dig it out we couldn’t get around it. I started looking for a tree,where for sure I would have to sleep under for that night, because we weren’t going anywhere! Don’t ask me how but after thinking we would be there for hours if not days in 5 minutes they had the truck out! Before we started another big truck passed us and started to cross the river we stopped and waited to see their luck, a boy comes up to our car and motions that the water is up to his waist (he was tall), then I see the truck half way across and all of the sudden it drops about up to the windows! Ali didn’t hesitate he went right in, the other truck was stuck! I held my breath (literally). Then suddenly the other truck pulled out and we pulled to the right, fell in a bit but also pulled out. WOW I’m getting a Toyota!

The road to the camp was BUMPY! It’s a dirt road and there are many cows and goats just wandering, we also saw several camels, boy but this is remote! Gabe says this is about as far out and remote as you can go. Finally by noon we were at our first camp. To get into the camps also is a big production. There is a military man sitting under a palm palapa, with 10 other men sitting around him, he asks for our permits and reads every single word on all our documents while all the other men look at him and then look at us, this goes on for about 30 minutes and then just sits there as if he is trying to make up his mind whether he will let us in or not. Yes, he lets us in but just as we start to go to the car another man says we will have to go to his office and register, we do that and again another man says to follow him to his office. As all of this is happening a few children from the camp start coming toward the station. I cannot see them but I can hear the crowd getting bigger and everyone saying:ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok……………We come out and there are about 60 children waiting for us. Even Connie with camp childrenthough I tried to be friendly and smile at first, It broke my heart to see them. I have seen poor, I’ve lived in Mexico half of my life, but I have never seen this before! Many of the smaller children had runny noses, also many had weird bumps on their skin some coughing, and all of them had rags not clothes. But as you can tell they were happy, happy to see us. For some reason they wanted to touch me. And they were smiling the biggest smiles. Leila is very beautiful and several of the boys very handsome and showing off their few words of English. As far as the camp, there are tents and shacks as far as the eye can see, and they have divided it into blocks. There is a constant fowl smell because in the middle of every cross path there is a hole that serves as a latrine. The sun just bears down and you only see a small tree here and there. We couldn’t stay long because we still had a way to go to get to the camp where we would set up and spend the next few nights. We started to make our way to the car we got in and they were asking us for books, pencils, balls, if they only could understand that I almost didn’t get to bring my pjay’s. It’s so hard to see that they have nothing and leaving them I felt this big emptiness a giant hole. HOW CAN WE HELP THEM?

Driving to our camp I was thinking why the indifference? Are some lives expendable? I saw my nieces and nephews (I don’t have children) in their faces. What if that were them? I just cannot believe that there are not enough of us to do something for these people!

I was exhausted and fell asleep right through the bumpiest ride of my life. And then we arrived at our camp. You have never seen bugs like this. LOT’S AND LOT’S of BUGS! But that’s another story.

Everybody keep safe and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Amor y Paz, Connie.

Sad boy

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Category: Day 3: July 12, 2007 · Tags: ,

Comments

15 Responses to “Connie’s Journal”
  1. Gina says:

    Hi Connie! Awesome reporting! Every sentence I read, I feel your joy and frustrations. You are helping them, you are there, offering hope and spreading the word! Keep up the energy and great work!
    Love you,
    Brandon and Gina

  2. Gayle Rogers (Australia) says:

    Connie – the post is brilliant – fabulously detailed and very much appreciated; particularly given how tired you must be.

    People ARE reading and spreading the word (and the i-ACT 3 link) all over the world ….. take care of yourself and THANK YOU!

    (and tell Gabriel to iron his t-shirt from me :)

  3. teresa says:

    Wow! After the adventurous road trip we can see in your faces that it was all worth while once you entered the camp and were received by those beautiful smiling faces. You can’t beat that! Maybe they want to touch you because you are that ray of sunshine that brings them hope. They are our motivation to do something and continue to ACT. We will continue to spread the word.

  4. Zahara says:

    Hola Connie, me gusto mucho tu manera de relatar tu experiencia, senti que estaba contigo. Wao! me gusto poder ver una vez mas sonrerir a los ninos pero tambien senti la tristeza de la manera que siguen viviendo, pude oir como estan tosiendo todo el tiempo, que pena. Bueno nosotros sguimos con ustedes, cuidate mucho, te quiero.

  5. gabriel says:

    Hi Gina:
    That was a good entry by Connie! It was a wild day. That river crossing was pretty intense. We saw the truck in front of us go so much under that you only saw from the window up, and all the rest under water. Then our driver, Ali, just went for it, with little time for us to think about it, and I knew that the car had to keep on moving, or we’d be trapped in the water. The new camera we have is not that good for open-and-shoot, so it took a while to get it going, and I did not capture the entire crossing, but wow, that was a lot more excitement (of that kind) than I expected yesterday.

    Gayle, my friend :)
    What are you talking about!? My t-shirt looks just perfect. I’ll look for the nearest dry-cleaner next time, though.

    Hey Tere:
    Yeah, those faces! I think I use this word a lot when I come out here, but overwhelming is the best way to describe what it is to be welcomed by smiling children like that.

  6. KTJ Scott says:

    I’m sitting in the airport and to cry….all I can is skip around the words and look at the pictures. I will have to wait to watch the video since I don’t have head phones. Connie, your words reach into me and remind me why I am doing this work. Lives are not expendable, but some powers that be think they are. They use their iron fist and make decisions that wipe out entire tribes, lineages, children, entire futures. I look forward to reading more about your journey, in the camps and emotinally.

    peace and luv, ktj

  7. Rachel says:

    Great job team!

    The video is very touching. The children are so beautiful and Leila does have a wonderful smile!

    Yesterday was my niece’s b-day and today is my sister’s b-day. I was thinking about all the fun parties we’ve shared together. Nothing big, although coming from a large family, everything becomes big. Usually the family gets together to share a meal, eat cake, and open presents…We are very lucky. Do you have any idea of how the kids at the camps celebrate their b-days? I know it’s a silly questions, but I was just wondering…

    Love to all.

    Rachel

  8. Lisa Goldner says:

    Good morning, Connie!

    Your great detailed reporting certainly made me feel like I was along with you on the ride over the bumpy terrain and through the anxious crossings of riverbeds. Thankfully, Ali 2 is an experienced driver to transport you so safely. The video of the children’s warm greetings and smiling faces was very touching. I’m sure you’ll make many new friends as you travel through the camps.

    Salaam,

    Lisa

  9. Ashis Brahma says:

    Hi Connie,

    I loved your report. Keep on writing about what you see and feel. The refugeecamps are a great place despite all

    Namaskar

    Ashis

  10. Mimi Stauring says:

    Hi Connie,
    WOW, that was a bumpy ride!But worth it,because you got to see all the beautiful children.It must of been wonderful to be there.
    Mimi

  11. Irais says:

    Hola Connie,
    WOO! que detallado journal cannie es como estarte escuchandote narrando unas de tus tantas historias. Me gusto mucho el video ver las hermosas sonrisas de los ninos, pero tambien medio mucha tristeza ver que siguen viviendo en muy malas condiciones. Esperemos que este viaje sirva de mucho y que mas gente se entere de lo que esta pasando en Darfur. Cuidate mucho!

  12. Mimi Schiff says:

    Dear Connie,
    I remember being in Camp Darfur and how we wanted to try to replicate the environment in Darfur to bring awareness to the public. I live with the hope that your being there, experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells and bringing it back to us in pictures and words impacts the powers that be. Thank you for your eloquent journal entry. Seeing the faces of the children, smiling, curious, and continuing to learn is a blessing. I wish you all a continued safe trip.
    Mimi Schiff

  13. SPENCER ADAMS says:

    Gabriel and Connie:
    You’re continuing the good fight with your own determination, in the beginning of the rainy season, no less! I guess the saying “don’t let the bedbugs bite” gains new significance now.
    Amor, paz, y ayuda por todos,
    Spencer

  14. MaryAnn says:

    You guys are great! How many emotions you must have racing through you at one time, sadness, happiness, love. The way things are written one can almost see with their minds eye what you type until you get to the bottom of the page and see that little face, that beautiful little face with swollen eyes and wet cheeks. It’s completely heartbreaking. Keep up the great work, be safe.
    Peace

  15. stacey says:

    Connie,

    Your description of this day was so heartfelt and I felt like I was there again ( except you and Yuen Lin are braving the rainy season!) You ARE making a difference one person at a time and those children ( your children now) will always know that someone stood up for them when the most of the world sat quietly by and did nothing. Stay SAFE! stacey

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