This is a great logistical challenge!
Logistics is the art of controlling a large amount of information and releasing it at the right time, to the right people, in the right order.
I feel exhausted. I'm trying to work out why? It could be the high altitude of Kenyas capital Nairobi (1,795m/5,889mi above sea) - but I don't think so. It could be because I sat outside a few days ago while it was cold and windy - but I don't think so. Really I think it's the mental stress and the toll of running into adversity. So what is it this time?
Well, let's take a look at the map. We've been to Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan. We're planing on going to Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan. Ethiopia has declared state of emergency for 6 months and their embassy here in Nairobi is reluctant to give me a visa as long as I'm not a resident in Kenya. To become a resident I would need to pay $5,000, have a job and wait for several months.
Apparently I can apply for a visa in my home country of Denmark, which is 6,665km (4,142mi) away from here. But I can't apply for it here, which makes no sense to me. Furthermore, I can apply for the same visa from Djibouti without being a resident (I've heard). Which makes it even more senseless that I cannot apply from Kenya? So how about going to Djibouti? Well sure...why not? But to reach Djibouti I would need to go east around Ethiopia, which means to travel overland through Somalia. Unfortunately that comes with warnings of 100% kidnap risk and to be kidnapped in Somalia can easily become a yearlong affair. To go west around Ethiopia would mean to go through South Sudan which comes with more risk than traveling through Somalia. So there you have it.
I have investigated my options for obtaining a visa from the Ethiopian high commission in Uganda. But that's the same story. My visas for Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania are still valid so there is room for exploration. However, we have already traveled a distance equal to going 3 times around the planet and I'm not looking positively at adding to that distance by going in the wrong direction. Frankly I'm quite fed up with transportation and the insanely congested traffic of Nairobi does not improve on that. Nairobi is however a great city! I could certainly live here and be happy. Nairobi has large green parks, everything modern you can imagine, the newest movies in the cinemas, cool cafes, lots of shopping opportunities, a nice temperature, a national park and Kibera slum. So what's more interesting? That Nairobi has a massive slum area with as many as 1.5 million inhabitants or that there is actually a large national park here with lions, elephants and the rest of Disney's cast? I'll let you decide.
The traffic is truly extreme. During certain hours it's fine, but when it isn't, it really isn't! Kenya is an economically powerful country and certainly in Africa's top 5 along with Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. The middle class of Kenya grew really fast in the past 10 years and as a result Nairobi suddenly had a lot more cars. The cars are just as modern as in Europe and the roads here are really good. The issue is simply that there are too many of them. Then you can add the matatus to the equation. A matatu is a public bus operated by a private company/owner. They are everywhere and they are pretty cheap. They all drive around as if they own the place, but they are cool to look at, as most matatus have been creatively decorated. Finally you have the boda bodas which are motorcycle taxis. Those are my favorite, because they move through traffic while everyone else gets stuck. Walking is in fact a very viable option too, as long as you don't need to go on the other side of town. But pedestrians generally have it good with sidewalks, bridges and walkways to escape the traffic (although boda boda drivers may also opt to ride on the sidewalks). It's truly a great city! :)
With its population of around 46 million people, Kenya has a large amount of celebrities. But as western culture doesn't mix much with African culture, I rarely have a clue about who they are. In my defense I would be surprised if Kenyans knew any Danish celebrities? As such I have been shaking hands with a lot of well known people without really knowing much about them. The Kenyan Red Cross Society is impressively powerful throughout Kenya and the Secretary General is pretty much a celebrity on his own. His name is Abbas Gullet and he has basically revolutionized the Kenyan Red Cross from its former state to become a strong, highly independent national society with hotels, training centers and Africas 2nd largest privately owned ambulance service! On top of that it's transparent too, which really combats the regional corruption of Eastern Africa. As Abbas is quite influential he may be able to help with the Ethiopian predicament if he should chose to do so?
The Kenyan Red Cross has a goodwill ambassador in Gina Din. Gina is also a UN ambassador, a formidable businesswoman, a multiple award winner, a defender of women's rights and a mother of 2. I think most people would find it hard to keep up with her! I had a meeting scheduled with Gina 3 weeks ago which I missed. So we had to reschedule which wasn't easy as Gina left for New York to accept The Stevie Award woman of the year for media and communication!! As such she became the first East African woman to hold that honor and its well deserved.
I managed to meet with Gina who is basically as lovely as one can be! She's bright, kind, attentive, funny and adventurous. It didn't take long before I felt that she grasped the struggle and hardship I'd been through to reach Kenya, since the Sagas beginning. More importantly I sensed that she also understood the beauty, importance and potential in this project, which really surprised me! On the other hand Gina wasn't born yesterday and makes her living from understanding companies, projects and organizations in order to boost their market positions when asked too. Gina, of course, happens to be a good friend of Abbas.
Then I've met with Oga Obinna (278,000 followers on Instagram) who is an award winning comedian who definitely made me laugh. He was the MC at the gala which both my fiancée and I attended a few weeks ago. When we took a selfie together I had no idea about who he was. How could I? But he was kind, interesting and funny - that I knew immediately. Lately I met Eric Wainaina who's a Kenyan singer and songwriter who on Facebook is followed by 206,869 people. Eric was super kind to me! We met a the Kenyan Red Cross Shinda Washinda lottery show. Eric told me he might know someone who could help with the Ethiopian visa too. People know people...
Last week I was invited to speak at the local Maersk Office in Nairobi. That's how I met with Steve Felder who is the Director Manager for all of East Africa. I guess I've seen him more on TV talking about the financial development of Eastern Africa then I have in real life. But in person he's really down to earth and he has been a good friend already. Maersk being the worlds leading container shipping company, is very influential and Steve's help has already proven really valuable. In fact Steve's Managing Directors in the region are doing what they can to help the situation. In the most extreme I could imagine making my way to Mombasa which is the main port city in Kenya. From there I could possibly find a ship to Salalah in Oman and make a connection to Djibouti. While that sounds easy in theory you might just want to consider that it's nearly impossible in reality. Especially for most people. However we have 151,450km (94,107mi), 4 continents, 121 countries, 3 years and an endless amount of handshakes behind us. And that is no small thing! This is not an "I project", it's a "we project" and when the right people step up to the task nothing is impossible as we have seen many times before. So surely we will solve this predicament too.
In fact we've been on every ship we needed to board. We've crossed every border we had to cross. We have received every visa we needed to have. We beat every virus and parasite my body took in. There is a certain comfort to look at life like that. We have come this far successfully.
I'll end with a special treat for those of you who speak Danishly (as Helen Russell would say). The Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet released this article by Johanne Eliasson:
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - logistics coordinator
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga