Friday, February 5, 2010
Back in the Heat
I'm finally back in Dar after a long trip to the field. It's been busy but a good few weeks of meetings, working with staff, emails, etc. Not much time to relax, even on weekends, but that's how these trips are supposed to go. I'm not in the field all the time so I need to take advantage the time that I'm there. But I'm exhausted.
One of the things I was doing was checking out our construction in the village of Makere. With the beginning of our operations in the Congolese camp (Nyarugusu), we needed to construct offices and housing to accommodate our staff who will be stationed there.
Makere sits a couple of kilometers away from the camp and makes it easier for staff to get back and forth to work. Our field office is well over an hour away and less time on the road not only saves resources, it's safer. Random banditry is a concern out here near the border and it's always good to spend less time on the road.
The camp has increased to around 63,000 people. It's the last remaining refugee camp of Congolese in the country but they don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Repatriation has come to a standstill and there are signs that people are still trying to make their way here. Violence in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues and moves around preventing people from returning to their homes.
The flight back was actually quite nice. We were on time. The weather was good. We had a hot meal. No one annoying next to me. All was good. Until the landing. I was jotting some notes down in a notebook as the plane touched the ground. The sound of the landing was louder than normal and the flight attendant was immediately summoned to the cockpit even as we were still speeding down the runway. Upon touching down we'd blown a tire and the pilot's sensor went off. He was having her go do a physical check.
The plane is a 50-seater Bombardier Dash 8. The landing gear consists of a pair of tires on each side that are retractable from the wings. As we got out of the plane, and started crossing the tarmac towards the terminal, I stopped to look around to the other side of the plane to check out the tire. To my surprise, both tires were flat. We'd been rolling on rims and the pilot had done a pretty skilful job of keeping control of the plane. The discussion in the baggage claim seemed to point to one tire blowing on touchdown and the second eventually giving way between then and when we stopped. Keeps things interesting.
I shared a lift home with the head of another organization who also works with refugees. He's a very cool Scandinavian guy that lives near us and I've known him since I lived in Kibondo. As the driver skilfully navigated the Dar traffic, air conditioner on high, we chatted about the refugee situation. Times like this are valuable for information sharing. As is often the case, he knew a lot of things I didn't and vice versa. It's a difficult line of work sometimes and it's always good to empathize with one another.
Breathless after the humid march up several flights of stairs with my bags, I opened the door. After a few weeks away, I immediately scanned the apartment looking for dead plants or flooding and sniffed for the pungent smell of something rotten. Overall, all was well. Good to be home.