Skittishness and homecoming

In Foreign Policy, Home Life, International Development, Kids, Peace Corps, Tchad on February 16, 2011 at 7:51 pm

I’ve been home from Chad since Friday evening.* The flight out of Chad was fine, my flight from Paris to DC was delayed, but otherwise fine.

Spent my last evening in Chad drinking, basically. I got to hang out at a very cool Ethiopian restaurant, the food was great, and I got to have a couple of beers under the stars with my feet in the sand, so to speak. The problem was my sudden anxiety when I got to the restaurant.

A few weeks ago, two young Frenchmen were kidnapped by Al Qaida from a busy restaurant in the middle of Niamey, Niger. The restaurant was a regular expat hangout, in the middle of the neighborhood where all the NGO’s are, including the Peace Corps and their hostel. The poor guys were killed before their kidnappers were subsequently attacked in a failed rescue attempt.

This kidnapping had ripple effects; the Peace Corps program in Niger was suspended indefinitely, and travel is generally going to be more difficult in the region. Personally though, this whole thing had me freaked out from the second it happened.

Call me a defeatist or weak, but terrorism scares the crap out of me. I do not want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, very far from home, and be kidnapped or killed because of this whole amorphous and hard to understand global war on terror.

I took a calculated career risk in 2009, working with Iraq programs, thinking that might earn me the chance to work on projects in more peacefully, chronically poor countries in West Africa. This chance ended up panning out for me, but now this kidnapping has really messed things up.

So there I was on my last night in Chad, arriving at the restaurant in N’Djamena, in the middle of a quiet neighborhood where other NGO’s and expats live. It was my very last night at the end of a long trip that I couldn’t wait to finish. Wouldn’t it have been just my luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time…

But after two grand Galas and a satisfying plate of tef bread and spicy meat, plus some informed words from my new friend, who is a young US Foreign Service Officer (and Mauritania RPCV) on his first tour, and I felt a little less stressed.

Being home has been great. A few weeks more, and my third child – a son – will be born. Who knows what my next trip will be, but I know I’ll put myself through another wringer emotionally, balancing uninformed fears and calculated risks.

* I’ve actually been home for about four weeks, but sat on this blog post until I had the time to look it over before posting. I know that isn’t saying much but thanks for reading this far! Ah life with full time work and always-on family.


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