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MAY 2015


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


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.