An American's Impression of Bangladesh

Men muscle 3-wheeled rickshaws through the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The average income for a Bangladeshi: $1,500 a year.
Men muscle 3-wheeled rickshaws through the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The average income for a Bangladeshi: $1,500 a year.

I arrived in Dhaka at the peak of the summertime, where my sweat-drenched shirt never dries in the near 100 degree heat, and the power seems to go out every few hours (like it did as I typed this  sentence).

During my first five minutes in Bangladesh, beggars approached us as we walked to our vehicle at the airport, then more beggars asked for our help as we drove on the streets. Crammed among the cars are 3-wheeled rickshaws driven by thin chauffeurs. If they’re not waiting for a customer, they’re standing on the pedals, straining against a load.

Other countries where I have documented World Concern’s humanitarian work face more significant problems with infrastructure. In Haiti, some roads in the city are in such disrepair, it is like they had never been leveled or paved. In fact, it was simply years of neglect – coupled with some storms.  Dhaka generally has nicely paved streets, and many homes and businesses have power, outside of the frequent blackouts. In Kenya, access to clean water seemed like a greater need than here, though I have not yet seen conditions in the poorest homes made of scrap wood and sheet metal.

This is not to say Bangladesh does not have great need. I can see it in the man without legs who instead walks with his hands. I see it in the older gentlemen crouched on the hot sidewalk, without eyes, who was hoping that somewhere in the blackness, people would provide him with coins for a bowl of rice. The average income here: $4 a day.

Outside the wall of a World Concern-sponsored school that was in session, I see the need in the children without shoes or uniforms, who play marbles in the dirt instead of learning how to read in a classroom. Like in many places where we work, schooling here is not guaranteed. It is usually only a privilege for the wealthy, or for those benefiting from an organization like ours. We give 5,000 children an opportunity they may not have otherwise had.

I was not able to find a guidebook about Bangladesh prior to my trip here to document programs. It is the least Western country I have visited, with no familiar stores or advertisements, and very little English on signs outside of on the primary thoroughfares. From what I’ve seen so far, I suspect there are very few people from the West who visit Dhaka, which means less foreign investment, both financially, and in awareness of the country. Did you know Bangladesh is more populated than Mexico or Russia?

So far I have visited a medical clinic and a school, both packed with people and highly regarded in the community. Once again I am pleased to see World Concern working in areas of intense poverty. Though Christians amount to about one half of one percent of the population, I see the hands of Christ working through our humanitarians, both employees and volunteers. They touch the lives of those in desperate need of compassion.

Beautiful children outside a World Concern school in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We have a special interest in seeing girls have an availabilty to education.
Beautiful children outside a World Concern school in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We have a special interest in seeing girls have an availabilty to education.

Anti-Government Protests Escalate in Thailand

Anti-government "red shirt" protesters climb on top of two tanks outside a busy Bangkok mall.
Anti-government "red shirt" protesters climb on top of two tanks outside a busy Bangkok mall.

When I exited the train at a Bangkok mall, people were running to the railing, shouting and looking down. I thought this couldn’t possibly be a “red shirt” anti-government protest. But as I joined others and saw the street below, it was clear that demonstrators had returned to the city in force.

Two government tanks sat in the middle of what is usually a busy street. On top of the tanks were dozens of men in red; all around them were hundreds more. Some protesters waved the flag of Thailand, others wearing red bandannas over their faces pumped their fists in the air. In spite of the prime minister issuing a state of emergency to help keep Bangkok and other areas secure, police and soldiers did not do much to stop the protesters, from what I could see.

As I was getting out my camera, a lady next to me shouted down at demonstrators, who quickly returned her remarks with hostile gestures. Presumably, the woman has a “yellow shirt” mindset, a supporter of the existing government.

Looking through my viewfinder with one eye and trying to maintain my focus on the activities around me, I noticed red shirts running up the stairs into the rail station. One man with a red bandanna stood next to me, waving with both hands at his friends below, encouraging them to to join him. Behind me, police began to drop the emergency gates to block out the protesters. I raced inside the now-secure station just in time.

The basic story is that “red shirt” protesters want the prime minister and other leaders to resign and want a once-popular prime minster (who was convicted of corruption and was ousted in a coup) to return to power.

Just yesterday, “red shirt” demonstrators had stormed a hotel in a town 90 miles south of Bangkok, disturbing a summit between Bangkok’s prime minister and the leaders of other Asian nations. The intended goal of the summit was to plan a coordinated response to the economic crisis. Instead, the leaders had to leave by helicopter.

One reason why I wanted to exit the train at the Siam Center stop was that it was a very “Western” area where I could probably get a hamburger. It’s regarded as a safe place. Signs in the Siam Pavilion shopping mall are in English. You might mistake it for any luxury mall in America.

I still don’t think the area is unsafe, in spite of the rowdy protest. But other areas of Bangkok saw even more action, including an attack on what protesters believed was the prime minister’s car. The next few days will be telling. If the government decides to act with more force, I worry how “red shirt” demonstrators will respond. For now, the “red shirts” have considerable power.

Some say that the polarization in Thailand is growing, calling the country “ungovernable.” That causes me some distress, as the interests of the poor and marginalized are at the forefront of my mind. With an ongoing power struggle, it may be increasingly difficult to improve the plight of those with the greatest need.

Writer’s note: Humanitarian organization World Concern focuses on helping the poor and generally declines involvement in political activism. All opinions are the blog author’s only and not those of the organization. The author just happens to be in Thailand as he sets out on a 40-day visit World Concern’s humanitarian activites across Asia.

A "red shirt" anti-government protester motions to his friends to join him inside a Bangkok rail station.
A "red shirt" anti-government protester motions to his friends to join him inside a Bangkok rail station.

Hundreds of anti-government "red shirt" protesters climb on top of two tanks in Bangkok April 12.
Hundreds of anti-government "red shirt" protesters surround two tanks in Bangkok April 12.
A "red shirt" protester wearing a mask uses a megaphone to help coordinate outside Bankok's Siam Pavilion mall.
A "red shirt" protester wearing a mask uses a megaphone to help coordinate outside Bankok's Siam Pavilion mall.
"Red shirt" anti-government protesters move barricades without resistance outside a Bangkok mall.
"Red shirt" anti-government protesters move barricades without resistance outside a Bangkok mall.
Security officials at Bankok's Siam rail stop lower security gates as protesters arrive at the entrance.
Security officials at Bankok's Siam rail stop lower security gates as protesters arrive at the entrance.
Security gates shut out "red shirt" protesters and other potential riders at Bangkok's Siam rail station.
Security gates shut out "red shirt" protesters and other potential riders at Bangkok's Siam rail station.

Six Countries In 40 Days – Documenting Humanitarians in Asia

Can't get there without a visa stamp! I will visit Bangladesh and five countries in SE Asia.
Can't get there without a visa stamp! I will visit Bangladesh and five countries in SE Asia.

I am not sure what to expect with this trip across SE Asia. Six countries in almost as many weeks. And I’m visiting countries with strict restrictions. Who knows, I may be stranded in Bangkok instead of visiting projects! My goal: to try and relax and make the most out of each day.

I’m documenting World Concern’s humanitarian activities with video and photos, finding stories to help prove the value of our work. I’ll also be conducting some educational communication seminars to help the local staff.

I’ll be in some far flung places. Jungle villages with no electricity. Cyclone disaster zones. The leader of World Concern Asia said that if I am ever offered bugs by villagers, I should eat them and be gracious. I couldn’t resist bringing a bag of Clif bars, though.

The journey should last for 40 days. Sounds Biblical. Like the rain before the flood. I think God used that figure because it sounds like a long time, but not too long to where you’d go bonkers. I don’t know, though. I just left a beautiful wife and three-month-old daughter in Seattle. I already miss my baby hugging my neck.

The video monitor here on the seatback of this Boeing 777 shows that we are approaching the Sea of Okhotsk. Another few hours before Tokyo, then a connection to Bangkok. In the morning, I’ll be off to obtain a Myanmar visa. Later in the trip, I will document our child protection programs in Cambodia. I’ve been thinking a lot about human trafficking recently. I look forward to seeing what we are actually doing to stop it.

So join me over the next month or so. I look forward to showing you why World Concern makes it its mission to reach those who might otherwise be forgotten.

I was in Tokyo for three hours, long enough to check out this sweet drink in a vending machine.
I was in Tokyo for three hours, long enough to check out this sweet drink in a vending machine. I presume it tastes like a strawberry flavored bird.
In Tokyo's Narita airport. This is the plane I took from to Bangkok to begin this humanitarian journey.
In Tokyo's Narita airport. This is the plane I took from to Bangkok to begin this humanitarian journey.
What time is it? It's about noon in Seattle, but the middle of the night in Bangkok, where I have checked into my room.
What time is it? It's about noon in Seattle, but the middle of the night in Bangkok, where I have checked into my room.

Glimpses of hope in Haiti

UN member countries contribute police forces to help stabilize Haiti's security.
Ever see one of these near your home? UN member countries contribute police forces to help stabilize Haiti's security.

Haiti is a country of contrasts. Some roads in downtown Port-au-Prince look like a rocky river bed, with jagged rocks and certainly no indication of recent maintenance. I was amazed to see piles of trash dumped in city streets or sidewalks, the mounds rotting or smoldering.

The country’s government is a fragile entity. When World Concern staff travels to Haiti, we carefully evaluate the security in the country to minimize risk. You might see some Haitian police forces, but at least as often, you will notice UN security forces. Sometimes they will be working on foot. Other times, they will be in full armor, travelling in an armored personnel carrier, which looks very much like a tank. The poverty is so widespread, I was wondering when I looked at some poor families selling their fruit or other wares – if they could really find a better life.

There is another Haiti, though. It’s the Haiti that once was, and a Haiti that may one day return. I saw this in the white sand beaches that could be any Carribean paradise. If only tourists felt safe getting to the beaches, they would come. They could walk under beautiful canopies of trees, with coconuts and bananas growing in villages. Actually, as I understand it from locals, some cruise ships do now dock on an isolated area of the northern coast, allowing passengers to enjoy a secured beach. The locals tell me that cruise ship operators don’t make it clear that they are in Haiti.  They say the city name instead. Maybe one day there won’t be the stigma. Haiti once did enjoy tourism.

I can also see this potential with the Haitians who are able to educate their children and who value the rights of women. I am proud to see how World Concern humanitarians are helping Haitians who share our sustainable vision. Once-hungry families are now able to feed themselves.

There is a movement in this often desperate country to break out of the despair.  In situations where it’s easy to focus on the enormous challenges, it is refreshing to see hints of a better life for the good people of Haiti.

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, piles of trash line many streets, sometimes set on fire.
In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, piles of trash line many streets, sometimes set on fire.
Does this look like Haiti? It is a beautiful beach, near Les Cayes, on the southern coast.
Does this look like Haiti? It is a beautiful beach, near Les Cayes, on Haiti's southern coast.

Fighting Poverty in a Violent Place: Sri Lanka

Ragu was killed while helping the poor in Sri Lanka.
Ragu was killed while helping the poor in Sri Lanka.

9/11 is a date that will always be associated with violence. For most of us, we think of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon but there was another act of violence on that day. On September 11, 2006, Ragu was killed-shot down as he worked with World Concern to serve the poor in Sri Lanka.

 Ragunathan (Ragu) was one of the field workers, working with community members to get their homes rebuilt and also to rebuild their lives and livelihood after the tsunami that devastated Banda Aceh, Indonesia washed ashore in eastern Sri Lanka. .

 After the tsunami struck the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers crafted a fragile truce. In August 2006, the truce fell apart. One of the hotly contested areas was around the port city of Trincomalee, built on the largest protected natural bay in all of Asia.

 On September 11 2006, during the course of his work near Trincomalee, Ragu stopped his motorcycle beside the road to answer his cell phone. While he was talking, he was shot dead. To this day nobody knows who did it. Was it a soldier thinking that Ragu was reporting information to Tamil fighters during this time of war, or a Tiger assassin, mistaking Ragu’s development work for collaborating with the government? Or was it a targeted killing because of a dispute going on in Ragu’s village at the time? Nobody knows-even now.

 When I was in Trincomalee last year, I passed by the spot in the road where Ragu was killed. I wanted to find out more about this man who had died while helping others.

 Ragu, a Tamil, was a father of five, three daughters and two sons. His last born, a son, was only four days old on the day Ragu was killed. Ragu was the poorest of the World Concern field workers. Though he was poor enough to qualify for a rebuilt home for himself and his family, he removed his own name from the list. Others needed homes so much more than he.

 When he attended staff meetings and training events with the team involved in rebuilding, Ragu asked the practical questions, always with others in mind. “Why is the supply of concrete delayed?” “When will the supplies be transported?”

 Ian McInnes who later led the Sri Lanka office once listened to Ragu talking with farmers who had received a house and were now were asking World Concern to give even more things-things that they could now provide for themselves.

 “You have a home now. Now is the time for you to pick yourselves up and rebuild. And, if you are thinking of fleeing the area, make sure that you give this home to someone else, just as it was given to you.”

 Ian wrote a letter to affirm and praise Ragu. Ragu carried it in his rear pocket wherever he went.

 The World Concern family in Sri Lanka and around the world rallied around Ragu’s widow and the children. All of Ragu’s children are able to go to school. Ragu’s oldest child completing secondary school at a local Catholic boarding school and the youngest will celebrate his third birthday on September 11, 2009.  

 Fighting world poverty in places of violence carries a price.  The number of humanitarian workers killed worldwide has continued to climb. Nine in ten die in acts of violence.

Fighting Poverty in a Violent Place: Somalia

Poverty in Somalia
Photo courtesy of the NY Times

Working on poverty reduction is hard anywhere in the world but is harder some places than others. World Concern is one of the few agencies that has worked in Somalia for over three decades. There is no effective central government in Somalia and the areas of our work are sometimes occupied by one of the rival groups and then another, sometimes from one day to the next. Violence in Somalia is always imminent. It is one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world to fight poverty. We were recently asked by a donor how we are able to work in places like Somalia where there is so much violence.  Here is how our staff in Africa answered.

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Somalia has one of the worst human development indices and the south in particular bears the burden. Due to the protracted conflict and natural disasters there have been an estimated 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian aid and a further 1 million are internally displaced (Somalia CAP 2009).

World Concern has worked in Somalia for almost 30 years. Through that experience, we have developed an understanding of the Somali people, especially in the areas that you referred to in your email. The current program primarily targets the unarmed, marginalized Somalia Bantus, who have small farms, and people affected by leprosy. Because of frequent conflicts with neighboring pastoralists (herders) who come in search of water and pasture for their animals, World Concern expanded the program to address water issues for the pastoralists.

The program is being implemented in an area that is located away from the main trade routes, providing some protection from conflicting groups. The residents of the area are the marginalized Somali Bantus. One of the villages a major settlement of people affected by leprosy. The project is designed to benefit 45,000 people, 24,200 of whom are direct beneficiaries.

The Somali political landscape is very dynamic with frequent changes. World Concern has always worked with and through the community elders and their structures such Community Development Committees, and Sector committees for the various activities. These are manned by the beneficiary community who come from the target groups. We do not deal with the armed groups in any way.

World Concern works with the locally elected central committee of elders which has remained unchanged over the years in spite of the constant shift of power in the area. The Central Committee is in charge of selecting the Community Development Committee. World Concern has continually trained the Central Committee and the Community Development Committees to build their capacity for project implementation.

The present programming is aimed at saving lives and reducing conflict between communities through capacity building. World Concern through consultative meetings with the community leadership has shared responsibilities in the implementation activities.

What would happen if our programs were forced to end either by a decision of the US government or because of violence from the Somali groups in power in our areas?

    1. We would have to immediately cease our activities without any planning or preparation.
    2. It would negatively reflect on the image of World Concern in the community because we failed to honor the obligation of completing the program. This would also make reentry into the community difficult. It would enhance recruitment of militants.
    3. It would negatively impact the work and reputation of our the local partners we work with on the ground.
    4. Most of the resources we and the communities have invested would be wasted because we would be unable to continue the activities essential to securing benefits to the people in the area of our work.
    5. The very fragile local economy would shrink even further because of lack of employment and reduced commerce.
    6. The community would suffer even more.  The already marginalized households and leprosy affected people would suffer greater oppression and be deprived of access to services essential to their welfare. Without our work with both of the competeing communities, conflict between pastoralists and farmers would probably increase.  Because we would not complete our planned activities, many in the area of our work would either lose their livelihoods. It would affect 80% of the pastoralists, 90% of the farmers, and 100% of those who fish as a major part of their livelihood.

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Doing good well is more than simply knowing how to pursue interventions with excellence. Working in places like Somalia requires a strong commitment to the Somali people, patience, great wisdom in complex personal and group relationships. It means that we develop relationships with local leaders who are concerned about their people. It means that we must find local partners who will risk violence and carry on even when there are infrequent visits and interrupeted communication.  It means that our staff must depend daily upon a merciful God and be willing to submit their ideas and action to His direction.  It is only God who nurtures the courage of our staff to work in the face of uncertainly and sudden violence.

Global Recession and the Work of Reducing World Poverty

From Wikimedia
From Wikimedia

As I sit here today trying to figure out how best to handle reduced funding as a result of the global recession, I remember what I have often heard during my career. People have lamented, “If only those agencies dedicated to helping the poor could be run like businesses, they could operate with such efficiency that things would be great.”  They often have in mind not small family-run businesses but large corporate entities.

 I recognize that there are many things that we in the volunteer sector must learn from business. While I deeply appreciate the insights that I’ve received from those whose vocation is private enterprise, recent events have made me skeptical of this comment when said without critical thought. 

 For instance, let’s take one of the controversial bonuses in big financial firms-a modest one of only $1 million-and look at what we do at World Concern with the same amount.

 For an entire year, we operate microfinance and village savings and loans in five of the poorest countries in the world–Kenya, Sudan, Haiti, Bangladesh and Bolivia.  There are over 21,000 participants who directly benefit with savings and small loans. Most are poor women. If we include the family members of the participants in the programs, the total number of those who benefit climbs to over 100,000. Each participant also receives additional training in business practices and many also receive training in the broad number of problems that they face in their community-health, agricultural and some vocational training. The cost per participant per year is about $47.50(thirteen cents a day–or 1/50th of the new McStarbucks breakfast offering) and, if we include all who benefit, it is $8.33 per person per year.

 The repayment rate on the loans that go to these 21,000 families-over 92%. What about the credit default instrument? If one person is having problems paying the loan on time, and those problems are legitimate, the group will often assist in repayment. And then the group will make sure that the ir group member, who may have suffered an illness in the family or other problem, eventually repays the group.

What kind of business environment do these people operate in? A tough one. And they have survived floods in Bolivia, multiple hurricanes in Haiti, ethnic conflict in Kenya, grinding poverty in Bangladesh, and clan warfare in Sudan in which their businesses and stock were burned to the ground. And still with an overall repayment rate of over 92%. 

And for the $1 million, we not only meet on-the-ground costs, including the full cost of our program staff. The million includes all our overhead and technical support costs globally as well as the cost of raising the money to support this ministry.

 And what is our bonus? How about enough left over to provide community schools to 3500 kids in Bangladesh for a year and to pay for six months of anti-trafficking and child protection in Southeast Asia?

 What can we learn from some businesses that have recently been in the press? Probably not cost-effectiveness or excellent performance. There are better ways of investing a million dollars, and our lives.

Haiti Humanitarians – HIV Seamstresses

This woman is learning how to sew in World Concern's HIV support program in Haiti.
This woman is learning how to sew in World Concern's HIV support program in Haiti.

It’s not exactly a place filled with optimism, but I saw glimpses of hope today in a World Concern Haiti care center for those living with HIV. Within a compound surrounded by concrete and a sliding metal gate, I slipped into a warm, sun-lit back room that was packed with sewing machines, amateur seamstresses and a couple of teachers.

While many of these HIV positive people may have lost their jobs because of the ongoing stigma about HIV and AIDS, these ladies will be able to start their own tailoring businesses once they learn this valuable skill.

Today I saw these seamstresses hard at work, but they were not sewing clothes. It wasn’t even fabric. They were cutting out paper patterns and practicing on those before they moved on to the real thing. If they stick with it, one of their first paid jobs will be to make school uniforms for children in Haiti.

And here’s the really inspired thing: Many of those school children are orphans who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. So you have a generation of seamstresses facing an enormous obstacle brought on by this horrible disease who are helping children who are also touched by AIDS, but still have plenty of hope for a good future.

This is good humanitarian aid. Incomes for people who were shut-out from opportunities – and promise for the next generation. Pretty cool!

Finding Hope in Haiti

I find it interesting how people react when I tell them that I am going to Haiti for a week and a half. “We’ll pray for you,” is a common response. No one seems to have a good impression of the country, though many Haitians try as hard as they can to live good lives. The problem is that the country is broken in many ways, and has been for far too long. The rate of AIDS is quite high (5.6%), Port-au-Prince is a haven for crime (don’t go out after dark, I am told), and people are eating dirt out of desperation (really).

World Concern's Derek Sciba shows boys in Kenya their image on a video camera viewfinder.
World Concern's Derek Sciba shows boys in Kenya their image on a video camera viewfinder.

World Concern humanitarians have worked in Haiti for a long time, through crises and hurricanes and political upheaval. We’ve had the same director there for the past couple of decades. In spite of the ongoing poverty, we’ve had a significant impact on the thousands of lives we’ve been able to touch.

My goal in Haiti is to document what’s going on there right now. Our programs include support for those with HIV and children orphaned from AIDS. We are rebuilding water systems and livelihoods after hurricanes roared across the island last year. We’re even doing simple things that mean so much, like giving children goats. The goats have babies and produce milk, providing income and tuition for schools.

I’ll have a still camera, a video camera and a notepad, and will travel with Christon, the country director, to projects across the island. If I can get my international phone to work as I wish – I will also microblog on World Concern’s Twitter account. We want to show our supporters how their money is being spent – and relay stories about those promising people who are determined to change the nature of the country.

After I return from Haiti, I will spend a couple of weeks back in America, then head to Southeast Asia to document World Concern’s work in that region.

Disaster Relief Journal – High Security During Travel

World Concern travels to hard-to-reach places to provide disaster relief. This often means many hours on difficult roads to reach people in great need.
World Concern travels to hard-to-reach places to provide disaster relief. This often means many hours on difficult roads to reach people in great need.

The most common element in all our program fields is the difficulty in just getting there.

This past week we ventured into a new area, just north of our current program area in eastern Chad.

Although it is only about 150 miles, it took us about 12 hours and a couple of days to prepare.

In the whole country of Chad, there are only 2 paved roads outside the capital, N’Djamena, neither of them terribly long.  Around here, we mostly follow tracks in the sand.

The short 3-month rainy season is intense, creating many wide sandy river beds called wadis.  These fill quickly with water during the rainy season.

In the dry season, you can easily get bogged in the deep soft sand of the wadi.  In the dry season, the main problem isn’t the wadis, though, it is the militia.  They find NGO vehicles soft targets.

Not long ago in an area not far from our destination the director of another NGO was killed in an ambush while attempting to provide disaster relief.

We take security very seriously, traveling in as large convoys as possible, carrying radios and satellite phones, checking with locals along the way about the road ahead.

We were supposed to meet up with a convoy of 4 vehicles at a town part-way there, but the government had declared that day a national holiday the night before.  So we arrived at the meeting point only to find that the other group wasn’t traveling due to the holiday.  We had 2 vehicles of our own, the minimum required for that road to avoid an ambush and plowed on anyway.

The drivers are used to sand, so were able to slip into and out of 4-wheel drive as we would fourth gear on a highway.  They were great and never let us bog down in any of the wadis, though it was touch and go a couple of times.

Our lead drier was from that region and hadn’t been there for a year or more, so every now and again we’d suddenly stop while Isaaka ran out into some seemingly random field, falling into an embrace with someone out harvesting their millet.  Then we’d be on our way again.

Although we arrived at our destination at around 2pm, we were sent onwards to meet the Chef de Canton (like the Mayor) and Sous-Prefet (like the Governor) in Hadjer Hadid, another 30km (18 miles) up the road.

It took about an hour to get there, then another 3 hours to find the Sous-Prefet, wait for him to decide to meet with us, then meet with him, then repeat the process with the Chef de Canton, all the while drinking sticky-sweet, scalding hot tea in 90+ degree weather.

All the formalities done, we were able to trundle back to Arkoum, our final destination, arriving much later than we really should have been on the road.  Within 15 minutes of arriving, we were setting up camp in the dark under a thankfully bright moon, eating a meal of rice and canned sardines.

It took us about 12 hours to get 150 miles, and that was without any problems at all with the vehicles or the road.