Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Bullets in the Bath

Today was all about admin. If international flight bureacracy is a nightmare, then it's nothing compared to getting anything done in Chad. Firstly, we have to register with the Police on arrival - failing to do so results in all sorts of trouble when you try and leave the country. So our friendly crew from UNHCR guide us through the process, involving a visit to the Police compound in N'Djamena. This is a frantic, noisy, heaving mass of humanity all getting permits, paying fines, getting motor bike licences etc etc. Besides which it's 10.15am and already 40 degrees. I am not looking my best when we are ushered into a side room to have our permit photos taken, and as such the photographer even offers me his comb. I must look dreadful...

Registration secured we bounce out of the compound en route to the Ministry for our travel permits - these are something like the Holy Grail and we have been trying to secure them via various routes (again it's bureacracy, after all we are trying to help people and their animals here so it really SHOULDN'T be difficult).

That achieved and after a tortuous but frankly anticipated battle with reception staff at the Novotel Hotel over payment (every time we come here we have a similar problem) we decamp to the Meridien Hotel (which in any case is much nicer, cheaper and the wifi is free unlike the frankly extortionate £15 per hours the Novotel has thebrass neck to charge) -The Meridien bore the brunt of bombardment by various pieces of military equipment during the attempted coup in February. This manifests itself in my bathroom. On the metal exterior shutters opposite my room is a large hole around which the metal bars are bent inwards. This hole lines up with another in the wall beside my door and (inside my room), several replaced tiles on the bathroom wall. Finally there are a number of shrapnel holes in the bath mended ineffectually, since it leaks, with some sort of putty and blobs of silicon. Jeremy has to make do with a bullet hole in his door patched over with wood filler, and a hole in the ceiling.

Tomorrow we leave for Abeche for some real meetings and hopefully leave the bureacracy behind, at least for 24 hours...

Simon Pope

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