Slowly saying farewell to Kenya
I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave
What can a man do? Can you fall in love with a country? Can you fall in love with its people? You certainly can and I have. It's the curse of staying too long in a country. It always happens to me. The countries I've stayed in for the longest periods of time have always meant more to me than others. Thank you Kenya for receiving the Saga with open arms.
Kenyans might very well have come to dominate the social media of the Saga? In just a few days the social media jumped by more than a thousand! In fact I have been busy with talks, interview and meetings. And I feel exhausted, very exhausted. There is no "off button" for this project. If I want a break then I need to take it where I am. This carousel has been spinning for more than 3 years and we have come across 121 countries on 4 continent. And we keep spinning...perhaps I have bitten into too much?
The Ethiopian visa is now a sticker in my passport. I made a mistake and could have had it long ago. But given that Ethiopia is undergoing 6 months of state of emergency I though it better to "attack" the visa issue head on and powerful. As such I had acquired a Letter of Invitation from the Ethiopian Red Cross. That would be a strong move - no? Well, as it turned out the immigration officers in Ethiopia were unwilling to approve the invitation letter since I wasn't a resident in Kenya where I was applying. But now we were already at that level. It didn't help that the woman at the Ethiopian consulate in Nairobi didn't speak English very well. It took me 4 visits before she sent me to meet the Ambassador. At the Ethiopian embassy they wouldn't let me in without a formal introduction letter from the Danish Embassy. So I went to the Danish Embassy and got that letter. And for that I had to pay? It still puzzles me why I need to pay anything at Danish Embassies? I mean, I have worked hard in Denmark and payed my taxes. And employees at the Embassy are payed by the Danish government. So should their work come straight out of my taxes? Well...its oversimplified of course but it's certainly a thought.
With the letter from the Danish Embassy I was able to visit the Ethiopian Embassy again the following day. I never entered the Embassy...at the gate they took my passport and the letter. Minutes later a woman returned with the letter which had now been signed. I was then sent back to the Ethiopian consulate. At the consulate I was then able to apply for a tourist visa without being a resident in Kenya. You live you learn. The visa cost $40 and I had it the same day. Valid for 1 month. So now what? Well next step would be to get the visa for Sudan and those wheels had been put in motion already.
For my Sudanese visa I was relying on the kind assistance of Maersk Line. Steve Felder who is the director manager of Maersk Line for Eastern Africa had asked his office managers to assist me. And they did. Maersk is not an official partner of the Saga and as it turns out they don't want to be. But there is no way around how big a part of this project they have been up to now - and I don't see Maersk's involvement decreasing. Without turning this into a "Maersk blog" I think it's safe to say that I respect the company immensely and its employees even more.
Now how about Kenya Red Cross? Well, they are not to be neglected either. Because without starting a competition I'm happy to say that Kenya Red Cross is a huge anomaly! They are not the only anomaly I have met with across this planet and the Red Cross all over is doing so much good that you couldn't possibly imagine it. Not even if you're a Red Cross veteran with decades of Red Cross experience!! I've seen, read and heard more than my fragile little mind can bare, and I can't believe I've lived this long without having some real understanding of the humanitarian involvement! You're not helping the Red Cross when you donate time or money - you're helping people! At least 150,000,000 every day. So if you feel like donating a bit to the account here on the Sagas webpage then please be my guest.
Back to the Kenya Red Cross, I can only say that it's involvement in Kenya is mind boggling. Imagine some form of disaster: a flood, a building collapsed, a traffic accident or something else. Kenyans will go to Red Cross social media and verify that it has happened before they believe the news! Think about that! As a result Kenya Red Cross has some of the largest social media with the Red Cross. They also have the second largest privately owned ambulance service in Africa. They also have two very fine hotels, a training center and much more.
The hotel part of the Kenyan Red Cross has benefitted me greatly. While both The Boma and The Boma Inn are highly popular, the hotels general manager Mr. Juergen Gruebel, has managed to keep a room for me. To have the same base over a prolonged period of time is a blessing. To have the same base for this long is more than that. The Boma Inn is a 3 star hotel which was constructed 16 years ago and is such a classical beauty. I enjoy walking up the stairs, looking at the lighting, the decorated walls, the warmhearted staff, and the view to The Boma. The Boma was built 3 years ago and might as well have a million stars. It's luxury at its finest and it's certainly among Nairobi's finest. My fiancée and I stayed at The Boma, while she guested Kenya and since I dropped her at the airport I have been comfortable in The Boma Inn.
I tend to smile a lot and in return I find that people treat me with much kindness. With Kenyans a smile is seldom far away. Kenya as a country boasts a very strong economy and you'll find many rich people here. The middle class is also large, but the trees do not grow all the way into the sky. There is a big gap between the income of various Kenyans and a part of the country must run fast to keep up. As my friend Doctor James Kisia says: "There are many who wish for nothing more than water, education and health". It's easy to oversee those people if you do not look for them. The Red Cross knows they are there.
Generally I find the average Kenyan to be of an enlightened spirit. They are well informed on world events and know much about Kenya and it's inner workings. I know more than 1 Kenyan who would be more than ready to tell any cocky American who it exactly is that lives in a third world country ;) You could argue that Kenya is a developed country with a developing country within itself. Corruption is on everyone's tongue, which I believe helps keep focus on real development. As far as I'm concerned corruption is the cancer of any country and there's more than enough of it around the planet.
I have a friend who goes back quite a while with me. Her name is Anne-Mette and we were trainees within the same shipping company many years ago. She's a great gal and even at 6,000km distance she's still looking out for me. She introduced me to Jan Jensen who is the managing director at DSV for Kenya and Uganda. I used to know DSV as this relatively small transport company in and around Denmark. To my surprise they are now worldwide! Apparently DSV now has offices in at least 75 countries around the world?! http://www.dsv.com/
Jan invited him to his office here in Nairobi and it was good to enjoy a conversation in Danish for a change. On that note I recently did a Danish radio interview with Malthe at NOVA where I struggled a bit to explain myself. If you're a Viking then you can listen to it here. It's the first 20 minutes: http://www.radioplay.dk/nova/aftenklubben?episode-id=29515
It was great to meet Jan, his staff and see the office. We agreed that I would come back and deliver a talk on the Saga and he would see how he could help me out. In any case we already have a lunch scheduled which I'm looking forward to.
Let's end this one by reminding ourselves that people are just people. While some are prone to praying to a God or following a certain political tune, I honestly find that more people are into: family, sports, weather, music and complaining about traffic. When the sun shines down from above it hits our faces equally. There is no difference between the shadow of the man next to me and my own. He listens to music with his ears just like me. Women all over the world worry about their appearance. Makeup, hair, clothes... I have never been to a country I didn't like. Now governments - that's a different story ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - tired
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga