I slept only 2 hours got up at 4:30 to catch a flight to northern Chad (dejavu?). We are always running and packing last minute cables and wires and all that electronic stuff because usually either Gabe or Yuen-Lin or both are still working. I want to make a small sidetrack here to make a point. Yesterday we arrived in Abeche and went straight to UNHCR headquarters; we went to see about our flight. Also we had lunch there. A delicious, scrumptious out of this world …EGG SANDWICH! We have been eating the same thing everyday; a granola bar for breakfast and a granola bar for lunch Gabe and I ate tuna (Yuen-Lin had a little more variety thanks to Carolyn) every night for I believe it was 5 days. The point is you get tired of the same old bland food everyday and long for your favorite food. So now imagine our friends here at the camps, they have eaten the same ground grain mixed with a little water, some of them for ur to four years!
Getting back to our flight… We left a couple of suitcases because we would be coming back through here on our way out. Ali#2 picked us up and we were off again.
Well we finally ran out of luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When we were weighed in we were still over 2 times. There was no convincing this guy. And guess what? Not only were we over but Ali #1 was not on the reserved list! And there was no getting him on either! So right there in front of everyone we started sorting the entire luggage and left everything except all the equipment we needed to make the video and write our journals. No more gifts, only a change of clothes and no food but for a few granola bars we stuffed in our pants, oh and no translator! We got on our plane (an older model than the first plane to Abeche!) single engine, and started our flight. It would be a long flight because we had to drop-off some passengers to the most northern corner of Chad, Remember Ann did not recommend coming here at all due to violence spilling over from Sudan.
On arriving the scenery completely changes because you are now entering the Sahara Desert. Our landing strip, rocks on both sides of sand. And the same for our second landing where UNHCR employees who drove us in an armed convoy to town welcomed us. There we met Jorge he made everything happen quickly so that another military escort could lead the way to the camp. We arrived and as usual had to be signed in at the camp managers office we met several men. Jacob the inspector of the camp school and the Sheik tribal leader of the camp. Gabe had met Jacob in 2005 and the wonderful thing; he speaks great English! (Who needs Ali… not us) Today the conversation was about the wants and needs of the refugees and how 10 different tribes that otherwise have many differences here as refugees stick together and coexist. The interview was very informative and Jacob is a charismatic eloquent representative of his people here at this camp. There was also something very different at this camp; the kids and women were although curious and friendly much more subdued and reserved. Back at our camp Jorge gave a very good explanation; this camp has lived under constant fear of violent attacks and some have died here from those attacks so this takes a great toll on the refugees. And they may be weary and cautious of outside people. Today was not enough time for me to really evaluate the feeling here but tomorrow we will be back to make new friends.
Back at the camp Jorge invited us to stay at their compound and that lunch was waiting for us. Wow, with a few good friends, a day that started out with a few more challenges worked itself out perfect! And the icing on the cake was that Gabriel’s good friend Hala also arrived. She is in charge of UNHCR here and has been in contact with Gabe. Together they think they will come up with ways to help the refugees here.
Everyday here has been exciting and rewarding. Gabe and Yuen-Lin are incredible companions and the people we have met on this journey here in Africa have all been helpful and eager to share with us. And you guys back home, also very supportive. It means a lot to know that you appreciate the work we have accomplished and you inspire us to work even harder. Tomorrow is our last day and I am looking forward to making more wonderful friends!
Amor y Paz,Connie.