[Doing much better today, but haven’t had a chance to write. Including, instead, some notes from last night.]
Security briefing packet we’re handed on the bus into town is sobering – instructions on how to respond if harrassed by soldiers or police; how to passively resist being taken somewhere by someone you believe means you harm. Chain of command in the event of an evacuation. What needs to be in your “quick bag”. Davor is our Security Logistics Officer. I find his Israeli accent reassuring.
Ride into town is unnerving – Not Kansas. Kim and I exchange nervous looks; we’re way our of our comfort zone.
Our contingent is staying at the Krystal Ocean Hotel; “Beautiful Ocean Views” – past several layers of cinderblock security fence and barbed wire. The ocean looks implacable, passively hostile. It roils a thousand disordered waves in dark flat gray, like it was shot in black and white with a colorized sky behind it. Something reminds me of those eyes that watched us on the bus.
Inside the walls, Tynesha greets us – she and Aliyah have been here for 4 days. Old timers. They hand us our per diem and more papers, including the bios. Holy cow, these are impressive folks we’ve been hanging with. Mary helped run the elections in South Sudan (where she lived in a spare shipping container). Susan is a Yale prof of Polisci. Oysten used to provide security to the UN on Sri Lanka during the war. Everyone’s done work in the DRC, Guinea, or Zimbabwe. Kim and I suddenly feel like imposters, dilettantes.
But we split up and head to our respective rooms; it’s 6:00 now, and there’s a reception with finger food in a couple of hours. My room is perfectly adequate – the equiv of a Motel 6. I’d looked up Krystal Ocean Hotel in TripAdvisor, so was pleasantly surprised at the reality. Mary’s room is perhaps not as nice, by her report. “It was like they ran out of room, looked around and said ‘Can we put someone in here?’ But it’s fine, really.” None of us want to sound like we’re complaining – I’m sure everyone here’s seen worse, and remember – Mary was living in a shipping container in South Sudan.