Friday, March 23, 2007 (Part A)
After staying up till 3:00am Chad time, I finished my journal entry.
I was up at 5:15am. Yahya was up at 5:30am. Muhammad came to my room.
I greeted him, “Good morning my #1 nephew.” He smiled. We
decided to film the inside of the hotel. Around 6:30am a group of men
traditionally dressed came to my room.
As always, the men greeted each other with embrace, handshakes and the
face-to-face exercise. Aasalama Aleikum, IL Hamdu-Allah, I always engaged
in the physical exercise and mumbled and whispered peace, Aasalama Aleikum.
It seems that everybody, or maybe just the men, love to group, gab and
gobble. They can sit for hours, talking and eating or sipping tea. Intermittently,
this can go on for a whole day in some places.
I was getting anxious. I was eager to get to the camp and do the interviews
with the rebel leaders. It seemed we were not moving forward to fulfill
our appointments. As it turned out, we were late. The governor was gone
when we arrived at his office. It takes some time to get used to how
underdeveloped Abecha is. Even the most prestige’s persons dwell
and work in the humblest of places.
For the rest of the day, it was a frenzy of movements and meetings.
We had to secure a flight back to N’djamena in time for our flight
back to New York before we could leave for the refugee camps. This required
the signing of papers by the Interior Minister, the governor of the
area, National Secretary for Refugees and the secret police.
First, we were to be at the Governor's office at 7am. We arrived at
7:30. He was gone. Then we went to the office of the secret police.
We ended up at the airport. Both police and reservation are supposed
to be at the airport. We arrived at 8:15am. Then I was told there is
only one seat. Then we waited for, I am not sure, what. I guess for
more seats. Why all of this couldn’t have been done by telephone,
I know not.
As we drove through the dirty streets, it was becoming difficult to
see for the dust. Even the youths played soccer in dust that was so
thick, at times you could barely see them, especially as the evening
crepe upon the city. There was the feeling of nervous tension, as solders
seemed to be everywhere. They seemed more intense in there observations.
Their weapons were in readiness. I learned later, that one of the rebel
groups had decided to return to their military base in Sudan. The Sudanese
government was informed thus the bombing. They struck to cities near
Abecha. That was the reason the president was in the area and it was
hard to locate the governor.
Now we decided to drive to the governor’s office, which is in
the UNHCR’s office complex. I waited outside. They returned with
a paper that needed to be signed. We went looking for the security officer.
We stopped for more gas and talk. We located the security office in
the market place. There was a long discussion. Meanwhile, as we traveled,
I was told Air France has booked us tonight and tomorrow night.
It was now 10:15am. I was told we had secured only one seat. Now back
to the airport and more scurrying to and fro, and talking to more people.
As we sat in the airport, Yahya spied a solder he knew. As it turned
out, this solder was in charge of airport security. They walked across
the airfield to a huge transport plane. Yahya returned with a big smile
on his face. He said, “We have secured one seat on the transport
plane. We would have to wait 3 hours until the pilot of the helicopter
returned with the wounded from the bombing. Again, the tension was palpable.
The runway had planes in readiness, which is humanitarian planes. These
planes were now in readiness in case the war expanded and there was
need to transport more wounded. This is the reason seats were difficult
to come by.
After pushing our car to get it started, we returned to the hotel. There
is a problem with the starter in the car. Whenever we stopped we had
to disembark and push. Because it is a diesel it doesn’t require
much motion to start.
After several hours, we returned to the airport. Obviously, it was not
enough time to visit the refugee camps, nor to talk to rebel leaders.
When we got to the airport we discovered they had room for 3 in the
It was the first time I had ridden in a transport plane. The plane was
huge inside and dirty. But it had fewer seats than the smaller plane
we had taken on Wednesday. The ride was smooth and swifter. We arrived
in N’djamena in 11⁄2 hours. The smaller plane takes almost
Back at the Novella Hotel, I called my daughter in Augusta, Georgia,
to give her my flight time and to secure plane reservations to Augusta.
I would be returning to New York on a Monday morning. I had decided
since we didn’t get to the camps nor talk to the rebel leaders,
nor meet with President Deby, I would return Monday night.
Yahya went to check on our flight. I didn’t hear from him anymore
until 1:00am. The departure time was 11:30pm. I was furious. I had missed
my flight, I thought. When he returned, he was exhausted. He said he
had been at the airport 3 hours. The airplane had overbooked. The plane
seats 28, they had booked 125. The only people they were letting on
the plane were whites. The Chadians were angry. They refused to let
the airline pilots through the gate. So the flight never departed.
It meant I would miss my church’s National Holy Pilgrimage to
Georgia for the first time. It was a frustrating helpless feeling. I
was comforted, however, in the knowledge that I was on a super important
mission and my not getting to Georgia was no fault of mine. I returned
to my room, whispering to myself, a verse that I quote often, especially
in times of disappointment. “For we know that in all things God
will work for good to them that love God, and to them that are the called
according to His purpose.
Waleed had given me the videos of our travel. So, I watched our doings
till I feel asleep.
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Street Church, which served as a safe house for runner away slaves.
Many invited guest speakers. A Luncheon (invitation only) will follow
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