My name is Tahani. It was given to me by the refugees in Camp Goz Amer after much laughter at trying to pronounce Trudy. It means “congratulations.” They told me it’s a nice name. I like it.
Here in Chad, the iACT team, Joslyn, and I live a simple life. In the morning, the five of us head to the refugee camp in a white UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) jeep driven by Mustafa, a tall Chadian man who can identify which country all the songs on the radio come from. He has a wide, handsome smile. It’s fun to speak French with the Chadians who’ve learned both French and Arabic in school. There are hundreds of tribal languages across the country. The Darfuri refugees, too, speak many different languages; Arabic is the common one. At Little Ripples, all the children are learning Arabic so they can speak with each other. Hearing the children also count from 1-10 in English and chant their ABC’s here in the Sahel, where many are illiterate, is amazing!
Joslyn and I are now humanitarian mindfulness teachers. Seeing what iACT has accomplished here under unimaginable circumstances is awe-inspiring. It is a privilege to be part of helping the refugees create a cutting-edge pre-school education for their children in a place where everyone lives in grass huts—without electricity, running water, or enough food.
By late afternoon, I’m back in our room at one of the UN compounds in the tiny, neighboring village. With a small hand shower, I rinse off the heat and dust of the day—no need for hot water here. I eat a snack and before dusk I’ve zipped myself into the mosquito net over my bed, where I’ll spend the next 12 hours—only leaving to eat our freeze-dried supper or use the bathroom across the dirt courtyard. It’s a big enough bed for me to spread out and be comfortable meditating, reading, writing, planning our teaching, and chatting together. The compound has the luxury of electricity, air-conditioning, and running water—even intermittent wifi. We take nothing for granted; we never know what will be working.
Being grateful for whatever works is a clear, good way to live. Images of my home, beloved family, InsightLA community flit through my mind, as though from another lifetime, long ago. Even Jack, my husband, whose texts I eagerly await, is a memory, a dream of the past and future. This present moment is vivid and powerful.
The present moment is Africa. The present moment is a golden full moon rising over mango trees. The present moment is our blue-shirted UN guards relaxing on straw mats spread on the ground in the warm night air. It’s the scent of charcoal, the faint hum of the generator, and barbed wire coils on the cement walls. This present moment is being Tahani, living a simple life here in the village of KouKou Angarana in southeastern Chad.