Dr. Henry Reitzug of Puyallup, a member of the board of directors of Lakewood’s Northwest Commercial Bank, is on a mission to Darfur, Sudan, as part of Tearfund, a leading relief and development charity, working in partnership with Christian agencies and churches worldwide. Dr. Reitzug has been sending his observations of the country and people and we are reprinting them (in a series) with his permission. Read the other installments (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen)
Khartoum, Sudan – Thursday 5/29/08 – 8:30pm (10 hours ahead of Tacoma, WA)
Flying into Khartoum, with rooftops just to the right of the final approach, close enough to clearly see a family sitting down to supper, it was obvious I had arrived in tropical Africa. Lining the single runway on either side were concrete block buildings of varying sizes with rebar sticking out of the top, interspersed with blocks of dilapidated make-shift housing, all set in a monochromatic landscape of beige. Even from the taxiing airplane it was evident that concepts like wastebaskets, garbage pick-up and litter control had long ago been defeated by the overwhelming forces of sandstorms and poverty.
To get the full tropical impact as soon as possible, exiting from the big plane was down a set of outside stairs to an un-air-conditioned bus. The 105 degree heat released a multitude of fragrances, unfortunately most of them various flavors of body odor.
After over 20 hours of traveling I had finally arrived at my first destination, Khartoum, Sudan. Although I will travel further to Darfur, for now I am here, have a bed, a place to rest, and the opportunity to get to know some of the other members of the Tearfund team.
I left Seattle at 1 pm local time for the 9.5 hour flight to Amsterdam. The sheer isolation from my wife, Anne, from all that is familiar, from all the trappings of my life, and the enormity of working in as-yet-undefined conditions with a significant element of danger and inconvenience, on the other side of the world with no one I know, finally hit me about three hours into my first flight. I struggled with a panic attack and had to once again go before the Lord. Peace came over me like a cleansing wave and I felt OK once again with whatever lay ahead.
After a retrieving my luggage — that took an hour — I was met by a driver from Tearfund, the organization I will be working with. The Tearfund apartment in Khartoum where I will be staying for the time being has three bedrooms. I share a room with Mike from Manchester, England, who is one of the program directors in Darfur. He and the other two suite mates, both from Kenya, are all here for a big meeting. Charles is a director for one of the localities in Darfur, and George is in charge of Water and Sanitation for Tearfund in Sudan.
I will be staying here in the relative comfort and safety of Khartoum until Monday. Friday is like Sunday for us and we will be going to Christian Worship services. What I will be doing Saturday is a question mark in my mind and Sunday I have briefings and meeting most of the day. On Monday I am scheduled to fly to Ed Daein in South Darfur, a relatively safe place, with visits to El Genein and Beida in West Darfur later.
I had been led to believe that the 15 kg limit applied to checked luggage only ‚Äì not so. I will be allowed to pack one bag of no more than 33 lbs for my time in Darfur. My pockets will of course be full, but it still means a lot of my stuff will have to be locked up here until I return.
Stay tuned. More to come…