The most common comment I heard before we left LA was, “You’ll never be the same. This experience will change your life forever.” At that time I didn’t know what they meant exactly, and surely I didn’t think it would happen the first day of our journey.
But I think it has.
While “touring” the capital city of Chad, N’Djamena, Derk wanted to give a message to someone who happens to live in the poorest section of town. We were dropped off by Ali Mousa, the logistics manager for the Solar Cooker Project (Tchad Solaire) and our driver while are here.
We walked along an endless river of garbage: plastic bags, trash, bugs, empty containers, a few goats roaming, small fires burning… words can’t describe the smell and sight. On one side of us was the garbage with children walking across it and even wading into it, and on the other side were dung huts where families live in 10 x 10 hovels. There were a few children roaming about, some barefoot, as well as a woman braiding another woman’s hair, a skinny dog sniffing around for something to eat and, finally, the home of Martine.
Martine is a beautiful, poised, sweet woman who was so gracious and pleased to see us. It was putting this beautiful face and sweet personality to the reality of this slum-like living that was completely devastating. The realization that people were living, literally, on top of this trash dump hurt to the core of my being. This country and its people are supposed to be in good shape compared to Sudan… and we haven’t even arrived at the refugee camp yet.
All is well with our crew. A driver met us at the hotel at 5:45 AM. “Driver” sounds fancy… picture a small Land Rover with all of our luggage and the 5 of us plus the driver crammed in! We then flew on a 20 seat World Food Programme plane to Abeche, our next stop on the way to Iriba and the camps. The pilot looked about 20, but she did a beautiful job. Apparently these are the best pilots because they fly so much. No bathroom on the plane but luckily there was air conditioning!
We fly tomorrow to Iriba and, if all goes according to plan (not so common in Africa apparently), we will be in the refugee camp on Thursday. More then.