Saturday, 6 October 2007

Novotel Hotel, Ndjamena

While Jeremy was getting embroiled in a civil war, we were actually out east in Farchana. The rain didn’t materialise but we had an interesting experience on Wednesday night – our colleague from UNHCR led us out of our compound into a now starry but ink black African night, and kept going for a couple of hundred yards, way beyond the relative comfort of the lights of the guest house.

Suddenly we heard voices and then laughter, and as our eyes adjusted to the dark, found ourselves outside a small rectangular block house, outside of which were some 20 or so aid workers merrily drinking away at bottles of beer. There were people from Mali, Togo, Cameroon, Benin, Sudan...There we were, in one of the most volatile places on the earth, just an hours drive from Darfur sitting out under the night sky drinking beer and laughing with our new companions. Life in SPANA is never dull.

The next morning there was no breakfast, aside from cake. This flattered to deceive, since it tasted almost exactly as it if had been cooked in an ash tray, and then had cigarette butts thrown in for good measure. We struggled to recall having done anything to offend the chef but came to the conclusion that he was simply an awful cook. Even multiple rounds of teeth cleaning failed to rid us of the taste. On the way back we stopped off at the Ga Ga refugee camp, which Jeremy and I had visited in May. It was almost unrecognisable this time round with all the greenery. It was also day 4 of the monthly food distribution programme so everyone was in a very good mood and happy to have their photos taken. We eventually bumped back into Abeche around 2pm, and some rooms were found for us all at the CORD offices in town and thanks to the wonderful hospitality of Laura Snoxell who runs CORD in Abeche, we had a very convivial evening, relieving her in the process of a crate of beer and some plastic cooking utensils with which we managed to set fire to her kitchen.

Friday morning saw us up predictably early and off to the airport and to our utter dismay, we discovered that our names weren’t on the passenger list. We were travelling on a WFP plane and through some arcane booking system, even though we had tickets that didn’t guarantee us a flight.

We were all set to head back into town when a man in a suit appeared, and began setting up shop behind an utterly ramshackle table in the corner of the airport, which had fallen apart quite spectacularly when I had sat on it ten minutes earlier. This was the check-in desk for Air Tchad, which, we soon discovered, had a regular flight departing for N’Djamena in a couple of hours. Through tears of joy we pooled our scant resources and scraped together enough for 4 tickets. At about 1pm we stepped out of the airport in N’Djamena, boarded a familiarly decrepit Renault 12 taxi and now here we are at the Novotel. The staff are generally rude and sulky, the wi-fi costs £10 an hour, and the pc connection to the internet 15 pounds and hour (how CAN they justify that!), and Jeremy’s bathroom is malfunctioning, but it’s a step closer home.

We’ll post some closing thoughts when we get back, probably on Monday. If anyone has been following this blog over the past ten days please post some comments!


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