Saturday, 2 May 2009

Habub is coming! – Post 25

Kacper had a tiring day yesterday. He was to travel to N’Djamena, so he could catch his plane to Nairobi today in the evening, but nothing worked. First, when he made it to the airport building, he found out that his name wasn’t on the manifest for the morning United Nations flight. He tried to find out reasons, but all what he was given was some annoyed looks of the UN staff. The guy obviously didn’t intend to be helpful and the only thing he cared for was getting rid of Kacper.

Kacper doesn’t like pushing it too far, or perhaps he doesn’t like the feeling to be given favours. Talking the UN officer a bit more might have actually resulted with Kacper flying to N’Djamena, but it was just not right, Kacper didn’t like promoting behaviours leading to favouritism. He therefore returned to his office, slightly disappointed. ‘This is not the end of the world’ thought Kacper trying to comfort himself. ‘Mishaps happen, someone did a mistake and I was not on the manifest, not a big deal’ he went on. In the meanwhile, the country director of Kacper’s organisation found out he had been bumped off from the plane. He got upset. ‘Typical mess in the UN’ he commented and left the office.

Kacper started searching for email addresses of people in Nairobi, so he could write to them that he wouldn’t come due to problems with the plane. As he was preparing some coffee and thinking what to say in the email, the country director Bernard came back smiling. ‘I pulled some strings, called people I know and you are on the afternoon flight Kacper!’ he announced rather pleased with himself. ‘Thank you… that’s great…’ answered Kacper nearly resigned. So much for NOT HAVING SPECIAL TREATMENT and favouritism! Kacper was going to fly to N’Djamena, probably at cost of someone, who wasn’t lucky to have a boss with connections…

He finished his coffee, checked his email and called his parents to chat a bit and tell them about his travelling plans. He was glad to hear that they seemed to have enjoyed the May Day, and that his father was feeling better after his last chemo.

Kacper didn’t like the sky… it was dark, and it felt like a storm might be coming. As his Chadian experience wasn’t very long, he still hasn’t learnt what to expect from the weather. It didn’t look good though.

The airport building was packed, absolutely packed with people. All seemingly wanted to travel to N’Djamena. ‘There was no way, I was going to have a place in the plane, with all of these people, mostly UN staff’ thought Kacper. The UN staff had a priority to fly over non-UN folks, so even if for some reason they didn’t do the booking, but decided to take fly in a last moment, they could easily do so, by appearing at the airport and bumping someone off from the manifest (that’s probably what happened in the morning to Kacper).

He sat and observed the chaos. There was no any other word Kacper could think of, but chaos. People shouted at each other, tried to squeeze into multiple queues, whose logic Kacper was unable to work out. Everyone was stressed and angry. Kacper’s strategy was to sit and wait. Something was going to happen sooner or later. So he waited, and entertained himself with a bottle of guava juice, he just got for himself from the street seller.

‘Passengers to N’Djamena’ the man shouted all of the sudden. Wild crowd of people rushed towards him with their ID cards. Once the first wave of madness passed, Kacper approached a small table, behind which the man was doing his business. The officer took his ID card and looked up at him. ‘Yes, we had lots of trouble because of you’ the man snapped at Kacper after checking his name. ‘Here is your ticket… you will be on plane number 22’ he added coldly. Kacper was wondering, about the real intentions the man had in his mind. He looked like wanting beating Kacper badly – just to give him a lesson… Kacper promptly picked his ticket and thanked him.

Kacper sat with his ticket and waited and waited, and watched the chaos happen. He looked out of a window, and couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘God… the sandstorm was coming’, he whispered to himself. He knew sand storms very well – he experienced many of habubs – as people called them there, in northern Sudan.

The chaos kept on happening, and no one seemed to be noticing the cloud of dust approaching them. It was going to be messy here in a moment. Sand would cover the whole place, and it was going to be in everyone’s eyes, ears, and mouth… everywhere! It was obvious; they were not going to travel anywhere. It was too dangerous to fly with no visibility, and windy weather, especially; in these tiny planes the UN was operating.

The cloud hit the terminal, leaving everyone astounded. People were realising what Kacper had done a while ago – they wouldn’t fly anywhere. Some French women, from another NGO started swearing heavily in their native language, obviously realising their frustrations. Everyone was tired, and so ready to go, but no one would, and on top of that the unbearable sand was attacking from all directions.

Thirty minutes later, the atmosphere started clearing a bit. The storm was passing… ‘Ladies and gentleman’ the UN guy shouted, and announced that all planes for the afternoon were cancelled. He asked everyone with tickets to return the following day, and promised that passenger checked in would have a priority to fly… ‘Let’s see what life will bring’ thought Kacper and called the car of his organisation to come and pick him, so he could go and take a bucket shower! ‘Am I going to make it to Nairobi?’ he wondered in the car.


PS. Kacper will be going to the airport to catch the plane to N’Djamena in 30 minutes.


  1. An amazing photo. And I totally know what you mean by string-pulling and leading by example.

  2. Thanks a lot! And, best regards from Kacper.