This post is direct from the journal of Merry Fitzpatrick. She is providing disaster relief to the people in Chad, Africa.
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Today is Thanksgiving and I’m in Chad. It means nothing to the people around me. I knew I’d be out of the States today, so I celebrated with a nephew and some neighbors last Saturday just before leaving. That helps.
I arrived on Tuesday afternoon (along with my baggage, hallelujah) and was picked up at the airport by Jonas, our local logistician. All our work is on the other side of the country so the rest of the team is there. Unfortunately, the capital has the one international airport so we have to pass through here when we arrive and depart. So we keep a simple house and a room for Jonas’ office here.
Because of security, we have to take UN flights to get to the field. Last week we were sending out a 4×4 vehicle we’d purchased and it was attacked along the way by bandits. No one was hurt and nothing was stolen, but we did have to replace a couple of wheels.
Jonas met me with Adoum, a taxi guy we use on occasion. Adoum borrows a car off the owner and they split the fare. The car is an ancient little sedan that rattles and shakes along on 2 to 3 cylinders at a time. Sometimes the windows will open or close, sometimes not. At the house I met up with Nick, our Deputy Relief Director who is also visiting Goz Beida. All houses here are surrounded by high walls, even if your house is made of mud. Our compound is rather small and the kitchen, such as it is, is tucked away in a little cement block room in the back corner of the compound. Just inside the gate is a large bougainvillea vine that sprawls along the wall, showering down bright pink-purple flowers during the night (which the guard sweeps with maddening enthusiasm before 6am). These plants are great in that they grow in both rainy and dry areas and their thorny confusion of branches provides much better security than barbed wire – while also being quite beautiful.
The walls and floors are cement and the walls are painted an odd pink. The 3 bedrooms contain beds and nothing else. Some built-in closets in one room provide storage for our field team’s city clothes and such. The living room contains a small fridge (the only one in the house), a sofa/armchair set and a coffee table, and nothing else. The house is mainly just for people to transit through, so it doesn’t need much more. The compound across the narrow sandy street is occupied by a variety of young singles, so loud contemporary African music blares through most of the day. Noise isn’t the villain here that it is in the States so you confuse people if you are upset by loud music or whatever.
Down the street, across an open sandy area littered with trash there are a few shops and restaurants. The restaurants are tin shacks with plastic tables and chairs set around on a dirt floor. In a corner 3 sinks with running water are lined up – a bit of a luxury in a place like this. Usually there is just a metal tank with a spigot. People eat mainly with their hands, so washing is important. There are rarely ever any women in the restaurants as this is a Muslim section of town. Because I’m obviously a foreigner, they don’t mind when I go there to eat. Last night Nick and I went down there for a plate of fries and a large glass of fresh guava and banana juice for supper. It didn’t make me sick, so I’ll probably go there for supper tonight too.
Nick’s flight to Goz Beida left early this morning and Jonas is chasing down a number of different signatures, so I’m largely on my own today. Today is Thursday; Monday morning between flights was the last time I was able to download emails, so Jonas took me to a cyber café on the back of his motorcycle and dropped me off. It is the best connection in town, but is still slow and erratic. It took me about half an hour to receive my emails, then another hour of constant trying and retrying to get the emails in my outbox to send. Everything here takes more time and effort.
Normally, we have to overnight on our way to Goz Beida in a pit of a town called Abeche, but miracle of miracles, I will be on a rare flight tomorrow that will connect directly with a flight to Goz Beida, arriving almost the same time as Nick, even though he left 24 hours before me – which I’ve kindly reminded him of about a hundred times. The flights are coordinated by the UN and we’re allowed only 15kg (about 30 pounds) of luggage, including our carry-on bags because the planes are so small. Considering an ordinary laptop weighs 4 to 5 pounds (2-3kg), this doesn’t leave much for personal gear. There are also always supplies and spare parts to take to the field as well. So we usually end up with about half the weight for our personal items. That’s about enough for a few toiletries, shower shoes, a flashlight, about 4 changes of clothes, a towel, a book or two, and some small odds and ends. Really though, that’s about all you need as long as you can get your clothes washed once or twice a week.
I pray all goes well tomorrow and I don’t get stuck in Abeche.
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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