In the Moment in Eastern Chad

i-ACT’s Gabriel Stuaring, James Thacher and the Little Ripples team are in eastern Chad documenting the stories of Darfuri refugees and opening the first Little Ripples’ center. This trip, i-ACT #16, coincides with the 10th anniversary of the start of the violence in Darfur and the more than 300,000 newly displaced in the region.

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Only 76 steps each lap, so I ran quite a few laps during my 30 minute jog around a tiny small space inside the UNHCR compound that is our home for another week. It was a tiring, long, hot day, and it started way too early for me, which is normal out here. There’s a rooster that starts warming up its pipes around 3:30am, and then is going at full-volume by 4:00. Of course, other roosters in the neighborhood are not going to let this guy show them up, so they start answering and trying to be louder. Donkeys join in, whenever they feel like the roosters are not measuring up.

The rides to the camp are sometimes slow and bumpy and other times fast and bumpy, but always bumpy. I’ve been testing my meditation skills, which are not good at all, by closing my eyes during the rides back from the camp and letting go. It has actually been more therapeutic than the runs around the tiny track! I relax and try not to think of anything, and I don’t fight the bumps. I just go with it.


Photo: i-ACT/Gabriel Stauring

Self-Portrait. Photo: i-ACT/Gabriel Stauring


Over the years and the many visits to this unforgiving region, I’ve learned that one of the most valuable traits is to be flexible. It also helps to be able to bring out (or in) a little zen and be in the moment. Expectations can really mess you up. But, you can also not settle and allow for status quo thinking to take over a vision or goals. You have to find a balance.

Where I have a hard time being zen is with how much I miss my kids. I’m looking at beautiful children out here every day, and I see my own in each of their eyes. Seeing the new arrival children was especially painful because I hear what they’ve been through, and I just cannot imagine what it is like to be a mother or father living through that with your own child.


Refugee Girl. Photo: i-ACT/Gabriel Stauring


During the bumpy rides, I’ve been able to let go, but during my 76 steps laps, I keep thinking of what we are doing and what else we can do, and I have the faces of the kids flashing through my mind. I also have to stay alert, looking for rocks and ready for the next turn every 20 steps or less.

I’m sorry that this blog is too much about nothing. Maybe too much zen—or too little sleep and too much heat on the brain.

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