Well, it was one of those roller-coaster days. Check-in was at 6:30, so Adoum reliably picked me up at 6:00 and we rattled off to the airport. My bag was 17kg and sometimes they’ll make a fuss over even 2kg, so I was relieved when they let it go, though later I found they’d lost a bundle that accompanied the checked bag. There is only one gate at the airport, though it is dutifully numbered “gate 1” and about 5 flights of passengers were all crowded into the one cramped waiting room. Just as my flight was due to head out, a bunch of soldiers armed with AK-47s, rockets and other small arms formed a perimeter around the parking ramp in front of us. It was rather disconcerting that they were facing our door rather than the world at large. Then President Deby’s plane came in to pick him up, people rolled out a red carpet, others swept it, soldiers in formal dress lined the carpet and everyone waited – for two hours, while the entire airport was closed down.
I didn’t mind waiting; I’m used to that. But it was making me miss my connection to Goz Beida and I knew Nick would pay me back for my bragging about not having to spend the night in Abeche. We landed in Abeche a couple of hours late. I registered with the local government official and called our local man to come pick me up. Stepping out onto the front step of the two-room airport building to wait for him, I heard someone say “all passengers for Goz Beida.” I grabbed my bag, pushed it at a guy with tags and a stapler, and said, “Goz Beida? I’m going to Goz Beida.” So he grabbed my bag, tagged it, tagged my knapsack carry-on, and pointed out the tiny airplane parked across the crumbling brick-paved parking ramp. I caught up with the 3 other passengers and told the pilot I was going to Goz Beida. He scribbled my name onto the manifest and away I went, wondering when they would pitch me off the plane. But they didn’t. Usually there is a painfully long and bureaucratic check-in procedure in Abeche, so I was astonished that I was going to be let onto this flight. Quickly I sent a text message to our man in Abeche and to the guys in Goz Beida that I was on my way. Life occasionally throws a bone your way and I reveled in it.
All the team’s senior staff and Nick met me at the dusty clay airstrip. It was a nice welcoming. Off to one side was the MINURCAT (UN peacekeepers) compound with helicopter gunships stationed in a barricaded compound. Last February rebels overran the local government military in Goz Beidafor the second time and occupied the town for the better part of the day before they were chased off. Our team took shelter in their compound for a night or two. To prevent another battle, UN peacekeepers have been based here to support the Chadian military. If NGOs like World Concern have to leave because of security, then about 60,000 people will not get such basics as food, water and medical care, so the role of the peacekeepers is very important.
I was dropped at the house to collect my wits and eat the first food I’d had today. Jetlag had me up at about 4am this morning, so I wasn’t much good. Later, we went over to Oxfam’s compound to use their internet connection. Even though I’m in Chad, I’m still supporting responses in other countries, so I had to answer several emails each from Kenya, Myanmar and Sri Lanka to keep things from stalling, as well as various administrative duties from HQ. It’s hard to be in a place like Chad and think about budget planning for 2010.
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Read other disaster relief journal entries
- Day 1: Traveling to help with disaster relief in Chad, Africa
- Day 2 & 3: Arriving in Chad, Africa – assessing the disaster relief situation
- Day 4: The airport and soldiers with AK-47s
- Day 5: Disaster relief at an IDP camp
- Day 6: Meeting with people who need disaster relief
- See all disaster relief journal entries