Day 5: June 14, 2008

Scott’s journal

abeche street 3It’s been an eventful, uneventful day. Waking up after a rough night’s sleep, accentuated by the very vivid dreams produced by my weekly malaria medication, I had high hopes that we would soon be finally seeing refugees. Despite hearing the bad news that the Boston Celtics had taken a three to one lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals (bad news to everyone except to Colin), I remained optimistic. We were going to have a good day. Hell, we had to catch a break or two. Plus, it was my mom’s birthday (I think she turned 35, maybe a year or two younger). So all was going to work out well.

As you probably know by now, the day did not unfold in the ideal manner. Our plane didn’t leave, and despite the fact that we quickly made alternate plans to visit the Farcihana camp tomorrow, rebel movement in the East looks to have further complicated our trip. While we talked about sugar-coating the news, we decided to give it all out; I’m writing this from the gym of the Abeche UNHCR, where we’ll be spending the night. We have better accommodations than most people; I actually just used some of the gym facilities and took a quick bucket-shower, and feel great. We don’t know what next steps will be. But I feel safe.

It’s a weird feeling right now. We’re hearing reports of rebel activity throughout the East, but here, it’s mostly peaceful. There’s no sounds in the air, we’re all relaxing.

I talked to several Chadians throughout the day in my high-school level French; while all expressed concern that the rebels would be coming, none seem too worried. It’s a little sad that this insecurity has become such a part of their lives that they seem largely oblivious to any further activity. It’s just part of life at this point. It’s interesting, because as Americans, we frequently hear about the politics of fear, and how it can be used to exploit us. There is no politics of fear in Chad; the people are used to it. UNHCR representatives even refer to the rebels as “visitors.”

Obviously, I’m pretty disappointed that we didn’t see refugees today, and there’s a pretty distinct possibility it won’t happen this trip. The fact is, however, it’s out of our control. We knew we’d have to take chances in coming to an unstable region like Chad. And while I’m hoping against all hope that something finally breaks our way, I know I’ll be back. This cause means too much for me to leave it behind.

At the same time, however, I do feel safe. We’re in the UNHCR gym, close to the airport. I don’t think it’s a question of whether we’ll be safe; we will be. We’re being taken care of. The refugees, however, are still stuck. They don’t get preferential treatment when insecurity hits the region; they’re forced to stay where they are. Not only are they stuck in refugee camps, but they’re stuck in refugee camps in one of the most unstable countries in the world. If the UN pulls out its staff, it is only the refugees that suffer. But I’ll be heading home comfortably soon.

It’s really hard to describe how I feel right now, because it’s such a conglomeration of everything. I’m disappointed, but relieved that we’re safe. I’m exhausted, but raring to go. I’m concerned, but hopeful. We’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. But do worry about the refugees. Because their safety is much less guaranteed.

One reply on “Scott’s journal”

Hi Scott,
Don’t worry, your difficulty in reaching the refugees is a good lesson for all of us here about how the camps are extremely vulnerable. It steps up the urgency for us to get them home before things get worse and emphasizes why they need protection.

You guys be nice to the poor Celtics fan- he may be crying by the end of the story.
Kathleen (Katie-Jay’s mom)

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