Day 3 – Deployment

[note: I’m back in the US now, but in keeping with the need to respect radio silence until The Carter Center STO mission is over, I’m putting these posts up in sequence, with a one week delay from realtime.]

It’s remarkably easy to keep your mouth shut when you’re surrounded by people like these. All too often in “normal” company, I can’t resist blurting in, saying “Oh, I know what you mean – something just like that happened to me in [name-dropped exotic location]!”.

That doesn’t happen to me with this crowd. I honestly have no idea what if feels like to camp out for a month in a Congolese village, wondering whether the UN helicopter was going to come this week to extract you, or maybe next week, or the week after. I can’t say I have anything to help me relate to the challenges of keeping a refugee camp running in Liberia as guerilla fighters from both sides take turns overrunning the town. Or to have people try to stone you in Tunisia. Or, or, or… Not that I have any desire to have tales that can match those of Hans, Emma, Moshood, Nancy or the rest of the seasoned observers on this mission. Honestly, as we see each other off this morning, I’m feeling okay about my “safe” little assignment.

And I’ll admit that I’m a little nervous about even these baby steps out. Sure, I’ve been “in Africa” for three days now, but except for two little excursions on my own that first day, I’ve been cloistered here at the Hillpark, surrounded by our little international enclave of observers. Now, finally, we’re going “out there” to do what we’ve come to do, even if “out there” – in my case – is just across town.

This deployment is so different from my last one, two years ago in Liberia. It was raining then, and the pre-dawn mood was somber and nervous, piling ourselves and days worth of emergency supplies into a glistening black convoy of Land Rovers poised for a long overland journey. Some of us would be in those cars for two days just trying to reach our Areas of Responsibility.

This morning, the air is fresh and clear. The teams headed for Mombasa and the northeast left hours ago, but the rest of us are taking our time, sipping coffee on the patio, chatting, reviewing maps and checking email.

But it’s time to load up. Next stop, the Westlands.

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