Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

If I had to be honest I'd have to admit to being on a bit of a lull here post-Christmas. We have set plans now for the internet project at the end of our time in Chad so we're not doing anything more with it at the moment. James had a few other smaller projects he wanted to do but with the complications we've had with getting a driver and basically pissing off every local contact that we've used so quickly, they've been put on the back-burner as well until a new way of doing them comes to us. We also can't be seen as totally incompetent by the missionaries and other aid groups here so we can't keep asking them for help either.

We've also had the ongoing idea of getting out to the east of the country. Originally it looked like a very doable idea, based on the info James had when he was here in 2008. Then it got more complicated and looked impossible. Now it looks like we are going for sure.

The story with that is that back in 2008 (and from info he received more recently) James found out that it is possible to fly for free with the World Food Program (WFP) out to Abeche in the east of the country. He almost did it in 2008 and back then it was literally tell them some story and as a white guy you could get on the plane. Hoping it was still the case, we went there early in the trip to find out the schedule, only to learn that now you have to get approval by OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) which oversees and organizes all the major groups here (and around the world). So we talked to OCHA and they said we needed proof of being a registered NGO in Chad and a letter of intent for the east. At that point James had to pull out the ENVODEV card, because they are somehow registered as a small non-profit development organization here. James was recently made a director and wrote himself a letter saying that we had to go to the east to do an assessment of the area for potential future work.

To some extent it is all true. ENVODEV would like to do more in the country and possibly do stuff in the east. I doubt they currently have the ability to act on that but whatever. It's good to get the name out there and be officially on the books. There was a bit of back and forth between James' contacts in ENVODEV overseas, and with paperwork for OCHA, and with organizing some dates, and in the end we have gotten approval. There is still some small mystery about whether or not we need a permit from the police or government to leave the capital, but few people use it anymore and we've told OCHA who've hopefully talked to people and got us cleared. Anyway, we'll see if we get on the plane.

Now James is trying to figure out what we'll do in the east.

The situation there is a lot more unstable than the capital. Eastern Chad borders on Darfur, and although that conflict is over now, there are still lots of refugee camps (and camps for internally displaced Chadians) around the area. Ground transport is possible though long, rough, infrequent and on the risky side. Security is now handled only by the Chadian government as all the foreign military support has left the area. OCHA is letting us go because apparently they are now interested in moving from a focus on aid to a focus on development thus letting us go as a development group. So we'll hopefully get into some camps, see some stuff, talk to some people, represent ENVODEV (which means dressing up and acting official) and not get shot or kidnapped.... We will be there from the 4th to the 7th.

In the meantime we've been mostly hanging out. Went to the only theatre in N'Djamena. It's recently rebuilt and actually very nice inside. For $2 we saw Mission Impossible 4. They must get the reels from France as it was dubbed in French and I understood none of it. Not that you watch that kind of movie for the dialogue anyway... This started a trend of watching movies here off my computer in the evenings as well.

Our cooking has gotten slightly more ambitious. After an initial setback with a few rotten eggs (literally), we've now confidently incorporated them into our diet and gone from eating 1 meal continuously to about 3 varieties.

We've also completely given up on the idea of a driver and now stick to the mototaxis (aka clando? Clandeau? Clandeaux? Clandaud? Clandeot? Clandault? Clandkdjgajeropa? Damn French....) to get anywhere in town. We've only almost been in 2 or 3 accidents on them and seen a crash or 2. Crashes or their aftermath are kind of a daily thing here so you try not to think about it too much.

New Years Eve was nothing exciting here. The city did put up a few extra lights and James and I had dinner at one of the nice restaurants in town, the Carnivore. It used to be a lot seedier apparently or else they'd made it nicer for the night. We couldn't be out late to do anything though as our compound has a curfew of around 10pm. James was in bed before midnight and there was no noticeable change in activity to mark the hour. No fireworks, no extra noise, nothing where we are.
Happy New Year! Lets see where this one takes us.

Ammon Watkins


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