View from the hotel into Cameroon. Photo: i-ACT
It is hard to really give a sense of how difficult it can be to do the work we do. I’m not talking about the challenges of working with a refugee population and all the complexities that come with that. I’m simply talking about how difficult it is to get to the camps. We usually say that it takes us five days from the time we leave Los Angeles to actually be walking in a camp. This surprises people. To make that happen, there are many logistical hurdles that have to be jumped over, crawled under, or rammed through. In the nine years we’ve been coming out here, I’ve aged twenty because of that process. Notwithstanding, we’ve always been able to get through—in three to five days. Not this time.
We will get through this time, but it is now twelve days since we left LA, and we’re still in the capital of Chad. I should actually say, we’re “back” in the capital. Today, after waiting exceptionally long for our permits to be ready, we went on a flying tour of Chad. We got up early, loaded up way too much luggage and too many bodies into an SUV, and headed to the airport with permits in hand. We got on a plane with two stops before our destination, Goz Beida. In the second of those stops, Abeche, we spent three hours, and during those three hours we were told that our permits were “missing some text.” We had to return to the capital. I scrambled, sending a flurry of texts and making calls that would immediately drop. I said that we would go to Goz Beida and wait there for our friends in the capital to fix the papers and send them by e-mail. As we are about to board the plane, an airport staff runs to us and says, “They say you HAVE to go back.” A text I receive as I’m about to board the plane mentions something about “jail.” Needless to say, we are back in the capital.