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i-ACT 21 Day 1: The Capital of Chad

The Familiarity of the Capital

By Sara-Christine Dallain

Day 1 in N’Djamena started off true to a Chad experience. Jet lagged, I woke up an hour too early due to the wrong time zone setting on my phone. Oh how I would have loved one more hour of sleep. I think my roommate Felicia would have appreciated that as well (oops!). Following breakfast, we were promptly ready and waiting for our 8:00am pick-up. Two hours and 11 minutes later, and we were still ready and waiting. I’m proud to say I’ve become exceptionally good at waiting.

Our car did arrive, and as always, we began the hustle and process of acquiring permits to “circulate” to the refugee camps, a process that requires approval from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Chad National Commission of Reception and Reintegration of Refugees (CNARR). This is a process that we must complete every trip and one that is always subject to people, timing, and circumstance. Things went smoothly today, and we have high hopes for a departure to the east, sooner rather than later.

This trip, i-ACT 21, is my eighth to Chad since 2011. Every trip is unique and brings forth new experiences, insights, friends, obstacles and challenges, but our time in the capital is starting to feel all too familiar. While this familiarity gives me ease amongst the uncertainty of our travel schedule, permits, and security, I also find myself having to consciously appreciate simply being here. It’s difficult to stay present and patient in the capital, being driven to and from our hotel, when I know the critical work and needs that await us in the camps. We all feel a sense of urgency and responsibility to be there as soon as possible. We know the refugees are facing a food crisis. We know we need to reach more children with our Little Ripples preschool program. Every day in the capital is one less day we have in the camps to address these needs.

But today I did realize that bringing new team members along on our trips helps me gain a new sense of appreciation. They look out on the city with such wonder and fasciation. Noticing details. Asking questions. It’s a humbling reminder that out time in the capital is in fact special.

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