July 31, 2008 – 8:26am
It will take us 1:10 minutes to fly from Abeche to Bahai. I’ve done this route a few times before, and I never get bored. The Chadian desert, although harsh and challenging, is beautiful.
It is the first time that I’m here right in the middle of rainy season. The land outside of Abeche looks more green than it ever has, with what looks like, from high above, large patches of golf course like grass. As we keep going north, we can see the large wadies that snake back and forth across the desert. It is these natural obstacles that make it safe from rebels during this time of the year, since it can be almost impossible to cross some of the seasonal rivers without the large risk of leaving your car stuck in the water.
It is sad to hear that Abeche is now so dangerous, both for the aid workers and for the locals. There are very few places where Chadians can feel safe now. It is still a pleasure to see old friends again. Although they live and work under conditions that would have most Americans in need of twice-a-day therapy, they greet you with sincere warmth.
Youssouf has moved his family out of Abeche because of the danger, but he continues to tell jokes in his improving English, while he makes things happen with our permits and the never-ending hunt for stamps. (I had to rush-order new pages for my passport for this trip!)
The Abeche airport, which is usually stressful because you just never know if you and/or your luggage will get on the plane, was a close-to-pleasant experience this time. What was more than pleasant was when Jim, the pilot that flew us down to Goz Beida some months ago and who I have to thank for making me a hero before my son Gabo’s eyes (who today still believe I flew that plane and landed it in a dirt runway) by allowing me to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, came up and said hi. Jim and Lauren are our pilots today, and it’s been nothing but smooth.
I met Lauren a long time ago, when I came for i-ACT2 with Stacey. Lauren flew us to Iriba via Bahai. The landing in Bahai was exciting, or—if you ask Stacey—frightful. As we descended, Lauren had to pull the plane back up because of not being able to see the runway. We were in the middle of a not-too-severe sandstorm. When we later asked Lauren about the flying through the sand, she said it was really nothing, compared to her experiences flying in Alaska.
We are still flying, and I see less and less green as we move north. Bahai is just a few minutes away, so I’ll stop typing for now. I’m hoping we get to go to a camp today, but there are stamps to be collected and logistics to be worked out and important people to meet, so cross your fingers!