Most of our first full day in the capital was spent at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) doing the Byzantine paperwork necessary to travel through eastern Chad. After our driver picked us up at the hotel I got my first chance to see rush hour life in N’djamena. The streets were busier than I expected. Cars filled the roads and swarms of motorcycles filled any spaces between them, sometimes the bikes carried two or even three men apiece.
The first automatic rifle I saw came as a shock, not because it was being carried on a busy city street (post 9/11 New York is filled with such sights) but because of the casual style in which they were handled. Uniformed and plain-clothed men alike sling them around their necks like electric guitars or hold them across their shoulders and hang their hands off both ends.
We spent most our time at the UNHCR compound trading our passports back and fourth and discussing the educational situation in the camps we’ll be visiting. While there has been some progress in reducing class size and turning plastic sheeting classrooms into concrete and brick ones, there’s still a long way to go. Secondary school is particularly lacking and it’s one of the main reasons for our trip. The Sister School Program is helping build up the camp’s educational capacity. We’ll be connecting classrooms in the camps with American schools using our communication kits. We’ll be showing the potential of this technology in coming expedition reports.