Balmy Chad Siesta
Itâ€™s hot here. So hot that by 11:00 in the morning itâ€™s getting hard to move. I lie in my cot in my tent, snoozing in brief spurts â€“ and, between naps, pouring bottled water on my head. Itâ€™s the temperature of half-hour-old coffee, but itâ€™s cool as it evaporates, which it does in seconds. By noon, the sun is directly overhead, blazing through a clear blue sky, and even sleeping is impossible. I lie half-awake, feeling sweat roll down my neck, chest, legs. In a million years or so, itâ€™ll be 4:00, the sun will slink towards the horizon, and itâ€™ll be cool enough to sit up, stand up, put on some pants and maybe get some work done.
Just existing in Chad is tough â€“ never mind deploying and sustaining a hard-working military force. At Abeche, an Italian military doctor told me to drink six liters of water a day. Here in Iriba, Polish commander Marc Gryga says his troops work in two shifts: 6:00 to noon, 4:00 to 6:00 PM, with the four hours in between for napping, hydrating, cooling off. Gryga compares Chad to Congo, where he last deployed. Congoâ€™s hot. But Chad is HOT.
Theyâ€™re still just setting up here at North Star Camp. The main body of Polish troops isnâ€™t due until August. Itâ€™s then that life will get really hard. For instead of just knocking around the base building stuff, the battalion will be patrolling, often for days at a time, living out of their trucks and sleeping when and where they can. Poor bastards.
But then there are the Chadian nights: cool, breezy, alive with the songs of crickets. Almost makes you forget the days.