Central African Republic

Heading Back to Base

This is it. A glass of champagne in an Air France flight toward Paris and I’m suddenly realizing I’m out of Central African Republic (CAR). End of mission, end of twelve amazing, crazy and challenging months, pushing my personal and professional limits into new unknown territories, but bringing a surprisingly nice feeling of accomplishment. So much more could have been done though and so much more need to be done in a country just aspiring to peace and a bit of stability.

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10 October 2013: Clothes drying under the sun, in Bossangoa, CAR. [Click on the picture to enlarge it]

But despite the sadness, I know my job is done. Debriefing tomorrow and then a good break, before heading for another mission, another country and new limits to be pushed. But that’s another story…
On est ensemble!

OlivierChassot-Blog-Worker-MKI-620130820 June 2013: Messi, worker in Mboki, CAR. [Click on the picture to enlarge it]

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Normality

Normality is, by definition, relative. And with the arrival of my successor, I slowly start realizing that my year in Central African Republic is almost over. But I am also becoming fully aware that I won’t be able to share that year, my work, with most of my friends and family, with “normal” people. How could I explain to them that my normality, my daily routine, sometimes has nothing to do with theirs?

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A few people will understand, but the majority will either think that I am unconscious and naive, or a brave guy saving the world. Except that I’m neither of them. Our references, our perception of life, security or definition of common knowledge just became quite different over time. And there is nothing wrong with that.

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08 October 2013: Displaced cooking in Bossangoa, Central African Republic. [Click on the picture to enlarge it].

Sometimes, in extreme situations, you realize that normality is everything but universal. And that we all learn to cope with new situation, new surrounding. But are we all ready to leave our environment for something new? I have heard so many times people telling me that they would love to travel around the world, to work in Africa or to live far from their comfort zone. But what are they doing to realize that dream? What do you do to be yourself?

In the bush no one can hear you laugh

A new episode of “Life is tough”:
Having meetings with local representatives, including high rank officers, is sometimes a bit tricky and intimidating. Although I am now getting used to it and even started enjoying it, it can suddenly be very complicated to keep your nerves when you interlocutor welcomes you wearing his official pants, part of his uniform, and a… lady top (cartoon style).

Neither is it easy not to laugh when you get an official, but unexpected visit on Sunday, while watching an episode of the (excellent) series “New Girl” and still having the last joke in mind.

03 December 2012: Barthelemy, Zemio, Central African Republic. [Click on the picture to enlarge it]

And for those still wondering, here is a new definition of love:

– My ex-girlfriend, the model, we had sex and it was just like… I was happy. You know? We were connected, I wasn’t thinking about anything! What is that?
– That is love, you idiot!
– …
– [Whispering] That’s love!!
– … Yeuuuuurk!!
– Yeah, it sucks!
– So do I have to be in love now, to have good sex?

Schmidt and his boss, while in bed. New Girl Season 2, Episode 9

CAR Anniversary

On the way back from the airport, I can not prevent myself from smiling, listening to Alpha Blondy’s singing “You don’t have the right to shoot the children”. At the back of the land cruiser, a father and his daughter are trying to get used to each other again. Few minutes earlier, they embraced for the first time in two years, result of an incursion of the LRA in their house one night.

Later, watching a movie under a sky filled with stars, I feel relaxed and in peace. That was before I decided to apply some mosquito-repellant on my arms and hands and then went to the toilets, unfortunately in that order.

Life is tough… sometime.

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01 December 2012: A group of local taxi drivers performing during the 54th anniversary of the independence of the Central African Republic, in Zemio, close to the border with Congo. [Click on the picture to enlarge it].

Full of Surprises

5 years ago, I had made official my decision to stop working as an engineer and was preparing a 5 weeks trip to China. Nobody would have been able to make me believe that I could be the person I am today. And I cannot imagine who and where I am going to be in 5 years.


11 November 2012: Cow market at Mboki, South East of CAR (Central African Republic). For the first time in years, the persons present there asked me to take pictures but then did not try to pose in front of my camera [Click on the picture to enlarge it].

5 years ago, I was struggling to add new functionalities to a user interface. This week, I’m going to reunite a young girl, former child soldier, with her parents. Life is full of surprises…

P.S: I just put online a series of portraits I took in Peru