From N’Djamena to Koukou
By Felicia Lee
As for Gabe’s and my 45-minute-long ride to Koukou, I can’t even find the words to describe what the trip is like (it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced), but I can say that today was my first time doing any kind of off-roading. Here are some of the sights along the way:
LOTS of trees: the further south we went, the less brown the trees were – at one point they actually became green, although their leaves were still sparse
camels, donkeys, goats, one herd of sheep
donkeys carrying firewood
animals being herded by children
two whole animal skeletons lying on the ground
part of a marriage ceremony taking place on the outskirts of Koukou: a group of people were holding up a bed and walking in a pack – I waved at them and some waved back
When we arrived at the UNHCR compound in Koukou, I noticed that I have the beginnings of a farmer’s tan. I am sure that this tan will deepen over the next 2 weeks, since we will be out and about in camp Goz Amer, and I cannot wear tank tops here.
Tomorrow morning, and every morning while we are here, we will be transported to the camp by our friends at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). One piece of good news is that there is no longer the need for a security convoy to escort us, which means that we will have much more freedom in planning our daily travel schedules.
Miscellaneous thought of the day: What myriad respiratory problems must the residents of Chad have? A couple days ago I began coughing here and there as result of inhaling all the dust that we’re constantly bathed in while outdoors. Even if Chadians aren’t as sensitive to the dust as I, a newcomer, am, the hazy air must contribute to Chad’s being ranked at the very bottom of the list of life expectancy by country. How do the thousands of refugees here fit into this statistic? How do they escape it? Hopefully, the programs, that i-ACT implements and trains refugees to run as their own, will be one step of many to helping these people carve out new futures for themselves.
It was a Journey
There weren’t enough seats available for all four of us to fly together to the east. So we partnered off. Tobi and I taking the longer route. There we are at Abeche Airport, waiting for our connecting flight to Goz Beida. We were told the flight would be in about five hours. I turned to Tobi, and said, “Welcome to Chad, we’re waiting five hours at this desolate airport!” I then gave him the lay of the land. “There is the indoor waiting area. Out there is the bathroom with 4 stalls, choose wisely, and over there under the tree are chairs and tables next to a small stand made of wood and corrugated metal selling soda, juice, and water. And that’s it.”
Flash forward six hours later and the small plane that would take us to Goz Beida finally did arrive. Tobi and I were giggling in awe at the amount of time we had just spent sitting and waiting under a tree. The longest wait I’ve yet to have on these trips.
After that plane ride and two car rides later, including a vehicle switch somewhere along the dirt road amongst the camels, cows, and sheep, we made it to Kou Kou to reunite with our teammates! In total, it took us 12 hours from the time we left the hotel this morning in N’Djamena to arriving at the UNHCR compound in Kou Kou.
Though however exhausted and dehydrated I may be, the journey was worth it. Tomorrow morning I get to wake up and see the Little Ripples teachers. I can say with certainty that greeting them will be a highlight of my day. I will collaborate with a group of young men and women who will help us implement more assessments to measure the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical health of children, and I get to be a part of expanding Little Ripples. I know for sure there will be so much more that comes up each day in the camps, but for now, I’m just grateful to be here and ready for a fresh start tomorrow.
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