Monday, December 01, 2008

Arrival: Part Two

For part one, click here.

As I cross the blue line into the crowded hall, I eagerly embrace my parents. It’s been months since we last touched and the hug feels so good. Their clothes are warm as if they were just removed from a dusty dryer and faintly laced with the scent of sweat created as they waited for us under the airport’s tin roof. Our joyous exchanges are cut short by the loud shrieking of the baggage conveyor belt coming to life – a reminder that we are not yet fully home.

My bag shuffles around the corner and I reach for it. Before I make contact, a quick arm flashes in front of me and a porter snatches it and loads it on a cart. I protest and explain that I do not need help. Ignoring me, he begins to maneuver my bag toward to the long cement tables on the other end of the room. I shrug and follow; after all, he needs to eat. At our next destination begins the process of showing our passport to one grumpy soldier after another. Each one searches for a reason to detain us, delay us, or otherwise bother or us into offering him a bribe. Disappointed that our paperwork is in order, they pass us along to the next.

Finally before me is the last hurdle before exiting the chaos – the bag checkers. These men and women stand in between me and the light shining through the doorway. They know it and use their power to take advantage of us tired, emotionally drained passengers. My bag check lady rolls up her sleeves and gleefully paws through my luggage looking for contraband. Finding something of interest, she casually asks me if she can keep it. No, I answer, it’s mine. She replaces it with a shrug and asks about the next object. No again. Seeing an obvious tourist behind me with over stuffed bags, the women waves me on with a flick of her wrist. Perhaps she’ll have better luck with him.

I grab my baggage and try to stuff it all back together. I resign myself to sitting on the bag to drag the broken zipper around. The sweat beads start to drip down the back of my neck – it’s 6:00 o’clock in the morning. I tip my porter, sending him dashing back to coerce another unsuspecting traveler. I grab my bags and step through the doorway out into the airport’s grand hall. Harkening to a more majestic time, murals on the wall show hunters chasing gazelles and dancers careening across the mud-brick walls to the sound of silent drums. The strong smell of perfume and garbage wafts up around me as the duty-free shack sits next to a toilet that doesn’t work. I forge ahead and with my family around me, move out into the morning sun.

The brightness momentarily blinds me as I blink away the dark spots dancing in front of my eyes. Once they adjust, I take in the sights and sounds all around me. Taxis. Vendors. Bicycles. Dust. Wind. Shouting. Everything assaults me and I pause to take it all in. One white boy trying to adjust to the heartbeat of Chad. We drag ourselves over to our four-wheel drive vehicle and load it up. I brush the dust off the seat and reach for the seatbelt, only to find none. I settle back and look out the window. My heart leaps inside my chest – I’m back. I’m home in Africa.

Secretary of State: Change Darfur Needs

Today, President-elect Barack Obama chose Hillary Clinton to lead our State Department. Although I have some personal reservations about Sen. Clinton, this nomination bodes well for our efforts to bring an end to the genocide in Darfur. Obama, VP-elect Joe Biden and cabinet members Clinton and potentially Bill Richardson all expressed strong support for helping my friends in Darfur while they were on the campaign trail. [Check out a previous post after one of their debates: click here] Now that they are off the trail and not seeking election, it’s time they stepped up to the plate and put actions behind their rhetoric.

Here, in her own words, is what Sen. Clinton feels should be done in Darfur:

“There are three things we have to do immediately. Move the peacekeepers--that, finally, the United Nations and the African Union have agreed to--into Sudan as soon as possible. In order for them to be effective, there has to be airlift and logistical support, and that can only come either unilaterally from the United States or from NATO. I prefer NATO. And finally, we should have a no-fly zone over Sudan because the Sudanese governments bomb the villages before and after the Janjiwid come. And we should make it very clear to the government in Khartoum we're putting up a no-fly zone; if they fly into it, we will shoot down their planes. Is the only way to get their attention.” ~Clinton at the June 28 2007 Democratic Primary Debate.

OK Clinton - now you have the power. Let's make it happen.