The thick layer of sand and smoke hangs in the air. My throat raw and scratchy from the days we have breathed in the Chadian air. Every visit has fallen at a different time of year: Jan, February, now March, June and August. And each one feels entirely different. I am parched and dry. The hot sun forces re-application of sun screen, followed by aloe in the evening. The wind was strong today, carrying small tornado like wind storms that tore one roof of a tukul near Zaineb’s house. Chad is the harshest and most unforgiving environment I have experienced.
Regardless, today was a great day of rejoining with old friends. We met Oumar again whom we had met last year. He was very obviously thinner and sicker looking than before. His youngest brother, hardly one when we met him, didn’t look as if he had gained much weight either. He was shy at first but opened up eventually, laughing by the end of the day.
We saw again Ali, our futbol team mate from last time! He speaks a little English now and is very smart. His mother referred to him as clever, as she pointed out the blackboard at their house that he uses to teach Amouna how to spell her name in Arabic. He also brought out his drum for a small crowd that had gathered at his house. Young girls began to jump and dance, Bahtun began to sing in their local dialect, Doja. To see the Darfuris singing and dancing was unique. For a moment it seemed like we had all forgotten where we were.
We spent most of the entire day in the camp, taking an afternoon break during the hottest hours. I continue to think about how I would struggle to survive in such a harsh environment without the amenities I am used to. The water would be the first. In the last few days I have developed a sore throat and sneezing. I am lucky to have cough drops, vitamins, and an anti-biotic at my fingertips. The refugees have very little, if any, of these, and probably none for the common cold I am experiencing.
I don’t think I would survive in the conditions they have been forced to live in. And, of course, they all wish to return home to Darfur. Zaineb is going to be a Doctor. Ali wants to go to University and be a teacher or administrator. All the children want to be more than what they are at this very moment.
I hope that we can help them succeed in their dreams.