In all the chaos, I have forgotten to take my malaria pills a few times on this trip. But tonight, as we wait outside of the registration office, at the French Military Base lit by a single fluorescent bulb, I remember to take it. This is the worst the mosquitoes have been on the entire trip. A female soldier stands tall on a make shift stool shouting names for the next flight. It’s 9:40pm and the last flight left at 6:40. They finish calling three pages of names. Although Miah (known back home as Jeremiah) thinks that each names is Forest with a French accent, we don’t make the list. They bring coffee, we wait, the mosquitoes feast.
Hours pass by and even those who were called at 9:40 linger in the area. The military transport truck holding the luggage hasn’t moved in hours. Just as news about the fighting is sporadic and unreliable so is news about flights out of here. We hear rumors: one airplane of the two is broken down, they are delaying the other flight due to fighting, the rebels are asking the French to suspend all flights and keep the airport neutral or they will think its an act of war. We shut everything down and I make my way to the kitchen area to plug in the computer, all batteries are down to less than 10 minutes. A soldier tries to tell me that I can’t plug in here, and I ask him to say it in English; with a discouraging shrug he walks away and I plug in!
The same officer stands again above the rest of us. Calling the same names, it looks like a flight will make it out tonight but we won’t be on it. The transport truck returns from the airport drop off and soldiers begin loading the remaining luggage. I reflect about all the things I left back in the hotel: the flip flops I have had since I lived in North Carolina almost 9 years ago; one of my Thai wraps; my zip off pants from Vietnam; Mansur’s t-shirt; and my backpack, another item I have lived out of in many countries and used for over 10 years now. I did gather my special bag of gifts that people have given me for protection and strength. Miah and Gabriel now have a few of these things, the rest are still tucked in my pockets. In Shallah, the luggage will be there when we return. These are just things, I have my life and my memories.
People begin to gather again, this time around a male officer. “Scott, KATie…Jay, Scott.”
“Oui, ici, present!”
“Stauring, Sundberg, Forest!”
We shuffle into the white vans. The hour reaches 1:00am but we are all relived not to be outside anymore. One minute, two minutes, three minutes, we stop. Gabriel jokes, “It’s like the N’Djamena International Airport.” I laugh, oh wait, people are getting out. I think to myself, we’ve got to stop saying this stuff out loud. A moment of reflection, how many times we have stated something in the last three weeks that has then come true, Law of Attraction. The rollercoaster started when I said in the car from Farchana to Abeche, “You wouldn’t want to be out here without a working horn in your car….” Moments later, we approached a herd of cattle and Alpha attempted to honk to move them from our way, nothing sounded.
We are dropped off at a line of green army tents with cots, some with mosquito nets propped above them, others empty. We grab a few with nets, exchange looks, and shoot up one more update; tonight will be more restful, maybe.
We wake to a typical sunny morning. We meet those who have arrived from the Embassy, “ahhh! This is Le Meridien Four.” They know us because of all of you! There is a station for brushing teeth and even a quick shower. I take my time with the cold water, skipping the hot, letting it run through my hair and wash away the plaster still stuck from the gunfire two days ago. Once out in a clean shirt, I am hurried to a new registration point and given a quarter of a pink construction sheet with the number 11 – our flight number, but to make sure we are clear, not the time we are leaving!
As we wait under a tree on the military base, we can still here heavy fighting in the distance, but everyone is calm. We joke around with others from the hotel who have made it onto flight 11 out of N’Djamena. Many new faces also, who are eager to watch the videos from our days in the hotel. We meet a few other American’s. And we wait patiently.
28 replies on “4 Feb 08 – at French Military Base”
I just want to say – I love you and Gabriel and I am so grateful Mia and Josh have been with you during this incredible adventure. Now – get your little butts home – you are all grounded!!!!
Lots of Love,
You rock! Glad someone finally said that- I know we’ve all been thinking it. Mom’s are good for grounding, wives are good for enforcing it!!! :)
I reckon your Mom just won “COOLEST comment for the entire trip” award. No contest :)
And – You’ve done brilliantly baby – every single minute of every single day.
love and hugs, Gayle xoxox
Truly Brilliantly, I agree…
Um yes…definitely GROUNDED!!
love you guys,
Get home now!
I’ve worked as a volunteer for 2 years in West Africa and we kept a stock of water, candles and food provisions in case of a coup. Nothing ever happened. The Gambia is relatively quiet.
Let’s step back a decade or more. The French have saved your lives this weekend in Chad, but your lives may not have been in danger, and the capital may never have been attacked if the French military had left Chad after independence – they stayed without legal standing and supported the corrupt Deby regime. Disgraceful.
In a purely political way, I’m glad the EU was embarrassed, but the human cost – how many died in the violence, how many more will die of illness or hunger now? You were lucky to be able to bear witness to the violence and turmoil, to put the story on people’s desktops.
I ask – and I have not seen this suggested elsewhere to date – is the EU seeking control of Chad’s oil, trying to compete with the Chinese economic and political machine in Africa, while dressing up the operation as a military-helping-refugees story? I would respect your opinion, if you feel free to give it.
I am alarmed that once-neutral Ireland (I’m a citizen) may join what looks to me like neo-colonial military intervention in Africa. After all, by moving into Chad, their presence would shore up mega-corrupt Deby’s rule.
How bad is Deby? He has taken personal control of oil revenue that the World Bank made him agree to spend on poverty reduction. He has stuffed government with family members and cronies. And he has sold off much of Chad’s huge oil rights to China. There has been next to no mention in the media of Chad’s oil reserves, as if to even mention the fact that Chad has oil would taint the EU intervention force with suspicion regarding Europe’s underlying political motives.
Katie-Jay, I am glad you and your colleagues are safe and your reporting has definitely helped shed more light on the events of the past few days in Chad.
The following lines touched me most:
“Many of the male staffers huddled in the small hallway in front of the TV are reminiscent of the men huddled under the shade of trees in the camps. Although an entirely different situation, and many of these men are simply on break from their duties, I can’t help but to close my eyes and think about the camps we just came from. The world in the camps continues.”
As one of your aid workers comments, the EU should be flying in troops right now to protect new refugees and aid workers and activists if it is serious about the genocide in Sudan and crisis in Chad.
Finally, until I am more assured about the EU’s intentions when it comes to the use of military force outside of Europe, I am inclined to vote against the EU Treaty when we have our referendum on the issue here in Ireland later this year.
– Allen Meagher, development journalist and member of the National Union of Journalists.
Well done – you have done brilliantly in highlighting the Stop Genocide Now website. And good luck with pushing politically – while the media spotlight is on you – for whatever the Chadian and Darfurian refugees think is the best thing for them.
Hope you are on a plane by now. See you soon. Love, Grammie
Just what your mom said. I can’t wait to see you guys home!
First let me say how glad I am for their being safe. You guys were doing a risky job out there (maybe too risky) and you’ve given us great live infos from chad. Hope you’ll get back to your homes soon.
I wanted to point out the irelevantness of Allen’s reaction. I’m sorry to disappoint you Allen but neither the French or EU is exploiting Chad’s oil (to our greatest disapointment). Exxon a US compagny is doing the job. We’ve lost lately several contracts in Chad in favor of the US and there is a strong resentment against the french.
Basically our soldiers are here for no point (right now) and have helped your fellows get out of there.
Stop blaming the French, blame Exxon which is giving money to a (dictatorial) president in order to finance his military and stay in power. (look what’s happening in Kenya, former british colony, same thing and the uk doesn’t have any military)…
KJ, 1) Don’t get sick, 2) Don’t get shot, 3) Keep reporting! I am taking time out of my classes at PSU today to talk to my students about the work that you are doing and send them to this website to see the world changing THEY can do! When you get back, we want you here to tell us all about it!
Love how you added the Law of Attraction. Your love and light shines through your appreciative entry. Know that you all are held dearly within my heart and prayers.
Thank-you for your amazing courage and dedication.
Enveloping you in spirit for the journey,
Blessings and prayers for your safe return. We are holding you and your team in our thoughts at Ackerman.
First thing in the morning, afternoon, and last thing at night is to check on how you all are doing. As a mother I agree and think you should all be grounded. But first you will get great big hugs and kisses and chocolate. I pray that the next entry is from the air or another country,
Glad to hear your names were finally called! Now, we’ll all be happy if we don’t get any more posts from “Le Meridien Four” till you’re safely home! As you wait under your tree for Flight 11, I’m sure you’re reflecting back on your time under the shade of trees in the camps, and the people who are still waiting for their way out to return to their homes.
Peace and praise to all of you – GKJJ!
Lisa and family
Just want you to know we are all thinking of you! Thanks for sharing this window into your life with us. Be careful.
The next message will be from ???? and then we can breath fully.
Watching this sgn website constantly!!!
Be safe, pam
I’m just relieved you’re safe for now.
Hooray! Your name was finally called, I hope they get you on a plane out soon. You and your team’s bravery is so inspiring, keep up the great work and heart!
Remember to drink as much water as you can!
I just listened to your BBC interview and you are my hero. The last thing I said when I dropped you at the airport for this trip was “go change the world” and let me tell you little sister, you have done just that (at least for me). You and Gabriel are a voice for this cause that so many more have heard now due to the unfortunate timing of the coup. I would rather have had you safe and out of there before it all started but what you can do now having been there in the chaos is limitless….that is if you do it from here in the States (remember, you are grounded!!) We love you so much and to say we are proud of you doesn’t do it justice. I am saving the world’s biggest hug for you when you get home.
I hope you and your team get home safe and no bad things happen.
KTJ, Randy Blazak told my Soc 302 class about your courageous effort. I am touched by your commitment. I wish you and your team the very best and come home safe.
Hi Katie-Jay! This is Saurabh Mahajan. I’m from Crossler Middle School, (remember, your the speaker for our assembly :) And don’t forget, it’s on February 29th!!!!) I just wanted to say, you guys are so amazing for what lengths you go to for your cause. Because of the presentation you gave at the Peace Makers Conference, I’ve been inspired to help with your cause. Thank you for all that you guys do, you really are making a great difference in the world. Hope to see you as you were, good luck, and the entire Peer Helpers class will be praying for you!
Hi KTJ I’m Tommy and I’m from Ackerman Middle School. I was wondering if you ever saw the Rebels with their guns. Also when do you think you will be able to get on a plane safely?
I hope you stay safe,
My prayers and the prayers of many, many are with you. Remember “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things”. And He will see you safely home!
I have to agree with everyone….proud is the biggest understatment. And grounded….well, I’d like to see you on the ground in Portland! Big hugs, kisses, and much gratitude awaiting you at home.
Thank you so much for the updates, this is the first thing I check in the morning, and the last when I go to bed. I love you, miss you, and are looking forward to your safe return.
Peace, Love, and Light,
Reading the posts, the comments…
One thing missing : Thanks who ?