“They call us Sons of the Sun” a wiry Djiboutian explains to me as I sit at a bus stop squinting down a shimmering dirt road. The heat is oppressive, and the color palette is a mute brown. The uniforms are brown, the roads are brown, a brown film of talcum dust covers every surface, coating throats and nostrils with each hot breath. If brown had an auditory descriptor it would be crickets, a dull high pitched whine constantly assailing the ears until the brain mercifully obscures the noise. The bus we catch to the plane is blissfully cool, the plastic nozzles blow chilled, dusty air, fighting despondently against the 85% humidity…it’s so hot the windows are sweating.
As we are waved through the gate we see the plane, hulking, squatting lower, as she guzzles thousands of pounds of fuel in preparation for the day’s mission. The doors swing wide and we step back into the brown. Each crewmember trundles to the ladder and we all know our feet won’t touch solid ground for another twelve hours.
What happens next in those twelve hours is what I captured over the past month. The slight insanity of our conversation, naps caught when possible, guessing trivia facts from an almanac (can you name the top ten syndicated cable shows from 2015?), fighting equipment malfunctions, scanning the endless barren desert below us…this was our life for the past month.