THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Chad—our next and last assignment—brought us again into the
vortex of evolving Africa. After the struggle for independence
and a long civil war, the country was now poverty-stricken and
unstable. Hundreds of uniformed African soldiers on the streets,
all bearing Kalishnikov rifles, underscored a deep sense of fore-
boding felt throughout the country.
In March 1980, five months after our arrival in N’Djamena,
civil war again broke out in the dead of night, with great feroc-
ity. Members of the embassy staff, unable to leave their homes,
hastily erected barriers of furniture and mattresses, while
machine guns were fired from positions in their gardens and
mortar rounds fell indiscriminately. Fortunately, foreigners and
diplomats were not a target. Three days after the fighting began,
a lull made possible an escape by car to the French air base on
the edge of the city, with white flags on broomsticks signaling
neutral status. All our possessions, with the exception of one
handbag each, were left behind.
Those who were evacuated felt inordinately grateful to be
alive, but the continuing plight of the Chadians, a kind and gra-
In March 1980, five months after our arrival in
N’Djamena, civil war again broke out in the dead of
night, with great ferocity.
cious people, haunts the memory of all who were there. It was
typical of this era that our view as we flew out of the capital was
of explosions and mounting plumes of smoke.
The period in which Africa has achieved independence is
drawing to a close. On lonely mountain slopes of the countries
we came to know and in the dusty villages of the African bush,
small health clinics and rural schools are beginning to blos-
som—albeit, tentatively. Now the battle to survive in the modern
world, and to progress, is being waged.
Getting Involved in Local Communities
As many a Foreign Service wife has found, the almost unlim-
ited needs of developing countries offer abundant opportunities
to participate in the life of the local community. In Botswana,
a small, enthusiastic American Women’s Club and the sturdy
support of the embassy wives enabled the American community
to join effectively in various health, educational and cultural
projects, and to undertake some of their own.
Several American wives had full-time positions in the field of
COURTESY OF KIT NORLAND
Patricia Norland, seated at center, joins daughter Kit, second from right, and Vietnamese-language teachers for the Tet festivities at
the Foreign Service Institute in February 2007.