We seem to be a little more stuck than before. The various forces in conflict here in eastern Chad move are making their way either towards population centers or back to Sudan, depending on which rumors you believe. UNHCR and the UN peacekeeping force in Chad are advising traveling only with an armed escort. We understand that there may be one for us to join tomorrow, or that perhaps we can fly a 4-seater back to Abeche. Then again, some people are saying that it is really not that dangerous at the moment between here and there. As one Chadian put it to me yesterday–aptly I think–“For you it is a security situation, for us it is just Chad.”
In the past couple days the work has progressed, if by small steps. Eric began some individual interviews, which in general seem to provide some nuance to the “refugee narrative” problem in which everyone is desperate. Yesterday’s large market (every Saturday, as I understand it) provided a great opportunity to get at the things that make some people in the camp more successful, thus identifying potential protective factors. They also get around the demand characteristics inherent in meeting with individuals at NGO locations. At this point I don’t think one can underestimate the power of these demand characteristics–when refugees go to NGOs, they think about what they need, not what makes them more or less in need or in danger relative to others. So, by moving out of these settings I think I can say we are getting somewhere. Of course we are still challenged by the expectations inherent in wealthier white people associated with aid groups asking poorer African refugees about their needs.
And then, this morning, our interpreters decided to make their way out of Hadjer Hadid to Abeche by arranging their own transport instead of waiting for our escort. For them “it is just Chad,” and in Abeche they had a few potential job opportunities starrting tomorrow. Of course I could not say no, particularly when they had already extended their contract because of our change of plans last week to stay in the area. So, we are now at a stand still as far as collecting data. We will use the time we have to look into analyzing the data we have collected. And, maybe we will move soon.
Lest anyone feel too sorry for our team, we did find beer. We also have my good friends Angelica and Rob’s copy of the first season of the HBO series Mad Men (thanks much). With some peanuts Eric bought at the market, we have had a few good TV nights (on Eric’s Mac), which provide a welcome escape from the tension around us and some release from the workday.