From the sky above, I can barely see the dried up wadi, instead I follow the trees and green shrubs of its watershed and tributaries as we leave Goz Beida heading to Abeche, then off to Gaga and Farchana. We pass a massive flood plain with splinter-like rows of green extending across the plain. The southeastern Chad is much greener but still there is an abundance of sand. Camp Djabal looks more dense then Kounoungo did from our plane, the trees and saplings that line the washing areas, small living quarters and surrounding the camp itself, again, make it look like a village from here.
I want so badly to make it to Gaga and Farchana. Not another day without visiting the camps. Without speaking to the people and holding the hands of small eager children. There is one woman in particular that I will be looking for in Farchana. I have watched her in the videos with both Stacey and Connie. She is one of the Massaleit that bears the three scars in each cheek, a sign of womanhood and experience. Her husband died in Darfur during the attack on her village. She has several small children. In the last two visits that we have made here, we have never remembered to write down her name. If you have seen the cards that we have made with a picture of Mansur, Leila or Fatma, then you know who I am talking about. She is the 4th card that we made, the woman with the orange and white head scarf.
I don’t know why I am drawn to this woman in particular. Farchana is a large camp of almost 20,000 and I am almost positive that her story is similar to many others. Each time I see her picture or watch the videos from i-ACT Dec 2006 and July 2007, I see sadness in her eyes. And I see experience beyond her years. I am intrigued to hear more of her story. To sit with her for hours, to follow her through her daily routine, and help when I can. I know that with only three days in Farchana, many stories to collect, over a 100 canvass tiles to be drawn on by kids (in an orderly manner? Say what?), I know I will not have the time I will want to talk with her.
The bumpy unpaved road brings me back to the present. Squished against one window behind Elfa, our driver, I feel lucky not to be in the middle like Gabriel and Jeremiah. We honk at every corner and at every animal to scoot over on the road. We pass three checkpoints, only one asks for papers – we are fortunate that EVERYONE knows both Elfa and Bouba! At one point we follow a heavily armed tank with an even more heavily armed truck following us. We joke about being literally caught in crossfire as we pass that area where just last month rebel forces and government troops challenged one another. The sun sinks behind the mountains as we pull up the ever familiar blue UNHCR gate. They aren’t expecting us? C’est le vie en TChad!