Still traveling. It’s already been a long trip and it’s still only half done. Leaving Seattle on Sunday evening, I’ll arrive in Ndjamena on Tuesday.
On arrival, we’ll immediately apply for my travel permit to go to Goz Beida, the town in the east where we work. Because it is a conflict zone, the government must control which foreigners go into the area. As we have permission to work there and an on-going program, it is little more than a formality, but it must be done and it takes time.
Usually about a day – if we catch the right people at their desks. Then I’ll get a seat on a UN flight to Abeche, the main town in the east where I’ll have to spend the night, arriving in Goz Beida on Thursday or more likely Friday. So that means travelling from Sunday to Friday to get to our base. The airline I’m on is notorious for losing bags – about half the time I have to wait days or weeks for my bags to show up. Once, after 4 months, they showed up on another continent, 6,000 miles away. Another time they never did arrive. Now, I carry the essentials with me plus any valuable equipment I am taking to the field.
I’ve been doing disaster relief work for about 13 years now. It is unlike anything else in the world. Mind-numbing days of tedium and discomfort mixed with unbelievable moments exhilaration when things work out that more than make it all worthwhile – when you can provide disaster relief to someone. After so many years, the learning curve is still very steep. It’s one of the things that makes disaster relief and aid work so exhausting while at the same time so compelling. Until the last few years, I was always based in the field, working for months and even years in a single place, on a single crisis. Now, I work more as an advisor and hop around to different programs. One of the things I miss most in my new role is the close relationships with my teams.
Although I helped start this program in Chad (a country in Africa) a year and a half ago, I expect to learn a lot on this trip, as I do on every trip. I expect to learn not just about Chad, or this particular crisis, or about specific techniques, but also about people in general – the people we are there to serve, our team on the ground, and even myself. As Chadian food isn’t exactly my favorite, I expect I’ll lose a bit of myself as well (in pounds).
Today is my brother’s 40th birthday. I wonder if I can call him from the airport in Rome where we’ll have to sit on the runway for an hour between 8 hour flights.
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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