Friday, May 20, 2011

You have reached your destination

After nearly three days of traveling I have reached my destination at last. I am in Kome, a small oilfield settlement in the southern parts of Chad. When I left South Africa I was wondering of I should take my point-and-shoot or my proper camera. From previous experience I knew that I won't see much of the surroundings. Because of security we are not allowed to move around much, so there would not have been much time for finding nice pictures. Secondly, there is not much to take pictures of. Basically this is just a flat piece of land with a few rivers and a lot of trees and shrubs. No grass. While we were coming in to land I was looking for any signs of wild life. Except for a few birds, I couldn't spot any. I asked a local here if there is any wild life left and he said yes, some goats and cattle. He later corrected himself and said no.

It is good that I didn't take my descent camera. My point-and-shoot was nearly confiscated when we checked in at N'Djamena. I wasn't sure if he wanted the camera or the batteries. He said something about batteries but my French is as bad as his English, so I played dumb. After he looked at the camera he passed it back to me. I asked a colleaque about taking pictures and he told me that in Chad you need a permit to take pictures in public. He mentioned a few incidents where people were actually locked up for more than 24 hrs, fines that had to be paid, cameras that were confiscated, all just because they took pictures in the streets. For a moment I was very relieved that I didn't take pictures of the mothers and kids that slept overnight on reed mats in the middle of the road. It seems like they've slept right there despite the dust and mosquitoes. It is so dry and hot here, people seem to sleep wherever they feel like it. I guess wherever they lay their mats, that's their home.

Needless to say I don't have any pictures of Kome and I couldn't find much on the Internet either. As we were driving from the small airport with the gravel runway I was wondering why anyone would want to live here. I know that the discovery of oil attracted a lot of people to this desolate part of the country looking for work, but most of the people I saw next to the road looked more like subsistence farmers with little hope of harvesting much again this year, if anything. I was wondering about the meaning of life and what each individual eventually wants to achieve in his or her few years on this earth. The people living here definitely have different dreams and goals than what Westeners have. I would like to know if they are inherently happy or not. Even in the small rural towns, which does not have much more than a shop or two, there is nothing that the people here could want. They never see televisions and computers, or eat ice creams and drink milkshakes. Do they miss that in their lives, or are they content with what they have? They also do not have irritating neighbours or sit in traffic jams, or have to go to work every day and live by that time piece around their wrists like we have to do. That sounds quite attractive to me.

But in Kome there is not much to take pictures of, so I am glad I came without my camera. I will capture what I've seen in my head and remember how this place made me think about my life once again. Do I have too much? Do I want too much? Am I better of than these people, or could I do with a simple and relaxed lifestyle like theirs and learn from them? Maybe I have reached my destination today in more than one way, Kome and my destination for some deep introspection.

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