5. Abéché

The journey to Farchana is moving along at the pleasant pace of a water-logged pinball...

I was expecting a one-day turn-around time in Abéché, but the logistics just worked out such that the scheduled departure is on Friday, so it’ll be four days. Our Abéché-departing Land-cruiser meets the one sent from Farchana at a half-way point to transfer passengers in both directions. This operation, done twice a week, is uniformly and rather endearingly called “the kiss.” As much as I’m psyched to finally get to my project, I’m finding these extended layovers a great way to get a feel for how MSF operates. Today’s briefings were on security and the regional politics in eastern Chad, and it was no gloss. Lots of details, but I won’t write my opinions on this. (When I did, in a previous post, it was edited out by someone in Germany. And just for the record, while it sucks to be censored, I am not upset, nor particularly surprised. My writing was noted to be too political and, at times, factually uncertain. C’est la vie. It is the mark of expertise to speak broadly on a complex subject while still maintaining accuracy; needless to say, I’m not there).

So I’ve got time to dither, and when I’m not playing scrabble on my laptop (about eight games today… it’s awesome) I’ve been musing on the set-up here, and getting to know some of the in-country management team better. I'm having a hard time understanding the French spoken by the Chadians, mostly because of my poor ear for these things, and in part because ot the dialect. It's going to be a slog to function in French with the team in Farchana.

Abéché: the most environmentally trenchant fact about this desert town, which is the largest in eastern Chad, and it’s second largest city, is dust.  No paved roads, no grass, just dry earth. It feels like how I imagine Marrakech would have been in the early-mid1900s, but with cell-phones and white Land Cruisers. We’re in the heart of winter now, and it’s actually pretty chilly at night (about 15˚C), while the days get up to 27 or so. I awake to the sounds of birds chirping, and from the tin door of my small room at the compound, I can see streams of them lined up on the coils of barbed wire. While walking from the sleeping compound to the office, there is a chorus of chirping while they flit from barbed metal to spaces between shards of broken glass embedded on the tops of the walls. It’s a rather cheerful sound, and if you add their stochastic hum to that of the generator and the occasional yelping of the new puppy (named Tonto), you have the deep soundtrack to morning life here.