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EwomanshelldressWe've been evacuated from Chad again. I didn't get rushed out of the country, I was already abroad, but that doesn't make it any easier. Rebels approaching N'Djamena, streets swarming with military, continued reports of battles in the east, the future like a knife about to break skin.

What was supposed to be a two week trip for me now may become months of displacement. Last time this happened I roamed the world working on various projects: I grew weary of hotel rooms, the same five shirts and three pairs of dress pants, new countries and languages every few weeks. My Chadian colleagues were evacuated for a week, but now they're back and they call me: "No, things are calm in the capital, it's OK, come back." I don't have much context to understand this.

Now begins the rather painful process of managing a program remotely.

I make daily phone calls to my staff on their cell-phones: screaming over bad lines, trying to coordinate reports through a chain of faxes and scans. Things don't fast move fast. It's hard to solve problems from 4000 km away.

The World Bank tends to like experts - I'm not so sure. We often operate on a model of consultants, experts flying in, advice, knowledge, moving us forward. Our project in Chad works because we're on the ground each day: the mix of dust, heat, meetings, crossing paths in the evening, slowing piecing our work together. It all adds up to development over time. I'm not sure how to do this remotely, I'm not sure that any experts or knowledge could get us out of this one. I work in the flesh of everyday life.

I miss the people of Chad. The man who runs an auto repair shop and just got a contract with ExxonMobil; the woman who runs a Senegalese restaurant where we hide out when things get too tough; the streams of entrepreneurs who come to us for classes and advice. I miss them.

My brother-in-law, born and forced to leave Uganda at age 13, writes about Africa:

How many times will you break my heart? A hundred times exiled from your body, a hundred times I return, such is my condition.

Such is my condition.

(Photo credits for this post go to Esaie N.)


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