I have been saying this quite often, where it has become something of a mantra for this trip. In Tchad (as you see Chad written out here), you have to roll with it. Things seldom go the way you would like them to or even the way you expect, even if you don’t like what you expect! The simple becomes complex, whether it be at the pre-paid hotel in the capital, where they try to charge you again (three times!); or at the airport, where the plane gets to the runway and then stops and returns, leaving you stuck one extra day where you don’t want to be; or in the east, where electricity and water flow only on and off — and on and off, so you have to be ready.
Our projects also can get stuck in the deep sands of eastern Chad. It’s difficult to get precise information that would help us implement, and even with the information, every task becomes monumental as you move forward.
During our expeditions, the i-ACT team has gotten sick, extremely thirsty, tired, hungry, stranded, ignored, and even shot at. We roll with it.
Our “rolling with it,” though, is far from passive. It is inspired by the “rolling with the punches” that boxers do, where they absorb punches without getting hurt, as they assess their situation and then come back with punches of their own, which seem to be powered by the rolling.
Muhammad Ali was a master at this. In the second stage of his career, his legs were not the same as when he was young. The young Ali could float like a butterfly then sting like a bee. The older Ali had to conserve energy and deplete the energy of the opponent at the same time. The extreme case of this was when he fought a mountain of a man, George Foreman. I am sure that George could bring down an elephant with one good punch, and Ali knew this. Nonetheless,Ali invited George to punch away at him, as he lay on the ropes — round after round, for almost eight rounds. If you look closely at this fight, Ali is not getting hit full on. He is rolling with the punches, swinging his body from one side to another, as the punches come in and hit on his shoulders and arms. Some do connect, but Ali was lucky to have one hell of a chin. After many rounds of George using Ali as a punching bag and Ali saying, “Is that all you got?” over and over again, Foreman wore out. Ali came off the ropes and, with an amazing combination to Foreman’s head, brought the mountain down.
Our team rolls with it because we love our “sweet science.” With my remarkable group of teammates, we believe in doing and do not allow ourselves to get stuck on the can’ts, don’ts, or shouldn’ts. We believe in acting for the people we meet as if they were family, which they are. We take what Tchad throws at us, and we roll with it and then come back swinging even harder. Is that all you got?
It has been amazing to be here to watch things fall into place. While here, I have paused as I am in awe about these serendipitous moments. I wrote yesterday about awareness, actions, and serendipity. Nothing serendipitous happens without action, and serendipity is never recognized until after the fact.
There is something magical about movement. As a drop in an ocean creates a ripple, an action causes a ripple effect. What has amazed me about this, is often times these action aren’t even really connected. They are actions happening on the opposite sides of the planet, yet in some mysterious way, they are very connected.
In Goz Beida we met Jairo. Jairo is a young man from Ecuador who became aware of a need in the camps, food. So what did he do? He packed a bag, took a year off, and came to Goz Beida to create a greenhouse that could be implemented in the camps so refugees can grow food year around. (Very inspiring, reminds me of another person who came out here six years ago when he saw a need – he is not quite as young though).
Back in California, Gabriel’s friend Azra had heard of the short rain season this year and her action to help was dropping off a bag of vegetable and herb seeds. Gabriel, not knowing exactly what he would do with them, put them in his suitcase. Then after meeting Jairo, he mentioned his big next stop is getting seeds to test. Suddenly, it all became very clear. Two people, from two different places created action, which somehow was all connected in order to provide better food for the refugees.
I was also amazed today as Yakoub said he has been out of the camps for the last few months and returned just last night. We also had the experience of Adam moving to Camp Djabal, moving there in time to help with the Human Rights library. All of these being perfect moments that happened to fall right into place.
Without action, things become stagnant. It is when we make movement that the universe and others can begin to move, bringing together a perfect symphony of actions that make real change in the world. Take that next step, make that next movement or action, no matter how small it may seem in the grand scheme, for it is a ripple that will create other ripples that soon becomes waves crashing upon a shore.
I got up early to do some serious packing. Even after leaving communication equipment, soccer balls and clothing, and eating some of our food, we were still carrying with us five large suitcases, plus our heavy backpacks. Traveling heavy through eastern Chad is not something I would recommend to anyone. Well, traveling light in eastern Chad is not something I would exactly recommend to anyone either. We did make it through two airports – one tiny one in Goz Beida and one small one in Abeche. Other travelers, carrying their small packages and bags not exceeding 15 kilos look at us with disbelief when we arrive.
As we fly north, we see the terrain change quite drastically, from the greener south, to the more desert like north. If we had continued going north, up to where camp Oure Cassoni is, most of what we would see is sand – the Sahara. Here in Guereda, there are a few shrubs and thorny trees, but not a lot of other vegetation.
The last eight days visiting Goz Amer and Djabal camps have been a roller coaster, with even more ups and downs than our flights in the small planes. We laughed with our friends, but we also had our guts punched by some of the stories and feelings shared. Rahma, on our first full day with him, shared his frustrations and disappointments, as he hit the invisible refugee camp wall and came to the realization, real or not, that he might not have much of a future there. We heard stories of death and escape. Adam told us about the the importance of the donkey, an animal that made the difference between life and death for families fleeing their burning villages and not having enough hands to carry all of the children or water and food.
We are now in Guereda, a small village not far from the border from Darfur. Tomorrow we head to camp Kounoungou, a camp that has people from twelve different tribes. We’ll be here for three days; then we go. The ride on the roller coaster continues.
Gabriel and the team visit Guisma’s family in camp Djabal. She has grown a lot since Gabriel first met her but is still much too small for a girl of her age due to the meager rations provided to the refugees. thankfully, her knowing smile is as wide as ever.
You can learn more about Guisma and her family’s story at thisisdarfur.com
Teacher Abdulaziz is excited about the R2E Library and is going in to high gear to help us find the right librarian. He said that this program is very important, so the person that will manage it at the camp has to be good. We agreed that the number one trait for the librarian has to be responsibility. The librarian will have to commit to working at the schools every school day in collaboration with the teachers. He or she will be taking care of equipment and material that needs to stay in good conditions, and this is no small task in dusty, windy, hot camp Djabal. The librarian must also speak English, since the library is to teach about human rights and English. Being good, kind, and patient with kids is also a must. Abdulaziz told me that he will have five candidates for us to consider tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it!