Today we fly from N’Djamena to Abeche. On the small prop planes you are only allowed a total of 15 kg’s (33 lbs) of luggage per person, and that includes whatever personal bags you bring with you in the cabin. Four of us flying together = 60 kg’s (132 lbs)… we had closer to 160 kg’s (350 lbs)! We trimmed this down a little bit by doing some extreme pocket stuffing. Whatever you can pack on your body doesn’t get weighed and count toward your luggage allowance. I managed to squeeze 5 kg’s of food and equipment in my pockets: laptop charger in left rear, 2 Cliff bars in right rear, 2 more Cliff bars and a Flip video camera in left side, another 2 Cliff bars and iPhone in right side, a large bag of prunes in front left, and 3 large foil-packed bags of tuna in my right front pocket!
When we got to the airport we played it cool and acted like we weren’t trying to get double our allowed weight on the flight. Gabriel and KTJ were friendly with the people working the desk and shared some of our Humanity before Politics t-shirts with them… unfortunately we didn’t have any XL’s for the big buy, I wonder if he’ll try to squeeze into the large we gave him? They were still very appreciative, everywhere we go people love the Humanity before Politics shirts. Anyway, long story short, they didn’t say a word about all our luggage and we didn’t have to leave anything behind! The team has always had to compromise and leave stuff (like extra clothes and food) behind on previous i-ACTs… we lucked out!
I’m sitting on the 19-seater World Food Program plane. Besides our group of 4, there’s only 2 other people on the flight. I’ve never flown on such a small commercial plane like this before… it’s LOUD! I’m grateful for the ear plugs that I picked up in the sleep kit on the Air France flight to N’Djamena. Last night I didn’t get any sleep, stayed up all night to test the video conference equipment. I dozed off in the airport for a few minutes while waiting for the flight. I’m really starting to feel the fatigue, but I don’t want to sleep through this flight across almost all of Chad. So sleep will have to wait a little while longer.
There is a dirty haze above the desert that makes it impossible to tell the ground from the brown clouds in the sky. It’s almost as if we are flying through a thick brown ether. The clouds on the horizon are perfect clean white cotton puffs. How far away are they, and why so different? The land below is so dry and desolate, I wonder how different the land in Darfur could possibly be. I wonder what would become of me if I was given a parachute and tossed out of the plane with nothing more than the clothes on my back? Would I, by myself – not carrying a baby or sick child, be able to walk for weeks with no food or clean water? How horrific must the janjaweed attacks have been for mothers and fathers to have felt that taking their children on the long trek across the desert to escape their villages was their best hope? Certainly they knew that many would not make it alive to the end of their trek, or if their trek even had an end. But that was their only choice, so really they had no choice. I am thinking about Adef and Achta. Achta’s baby died on her back while they fled Darfur on foot. They had to burry their baby and keep going. And now in Camp Djabal, in the past year they had to bury another of their children, baby Marymouda, far from their home in Darfur.
I am getting restless to make it to Camp Djabal so I can see with my own eyes what the conditions are like. I feel like we have already traveled so far, and accomplished so much. But we haven’t even started our real work until we reach the camps. Our journey continues…