Back in Beirut and beyond...

Since October 10th 2013: 144 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.

Forward, always forward...

Photo 11 03 2018 16.31.44

I spoke to my father on skype. He just turned 70 years young ;) In our conversation he spoke of a hypothetical T-section and said you have two choices: you can turn right or you can turn left. I replied: “you can also turn back and look for another way” ;)


That is the essence of the Saga. There is always a way that nobody else sees. But can you find it? So far so good. We put Syria behind us in a logistical sense, however that country, as so many others, will stay within me forever. I hope you enjoyed last weeks blog. It was very emotional for me to write it. I had to stop writing twice when my eyes turned red and I headed to a mirror to look deep inside me. What a wonderful country full of extraordinary fine people. I wish they will have the best possible future ahead.

Photo 15 03 2018 14.36.30

I have been hanging out a lot at Food Style in Beirut. Yesterday I was treated this complimentary meal :)

Now I’m back in Lebanon. I’ve been back for a while however I let the social media run with updates from Syria after I returned to Lebanon. There was so much to show and tell you all. Thank you all for your wonderful support.

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Streetart in Beirut.

People sometimes ask me what motivates me to continue after more than four years of this. Four years and five months to be exact. I’m not solely motivated by a single thing. It’s a lot of different things and it shifts around a lot. I’m very proud of what we have achieved so far. I see this to be a good project which continues to be under constant development. I would be devastated to quit so that alone is a motivation for continuing. People from around the world write me and thank me for all sorts of things. That motivates me too. The logistics to complete this project is massive and I’m a logistics coordinator by profession and heart so that motivates me too. I’m a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross and through that I have interacted with the Red Cross and Red Crescent throughout the entire journey. Some of my memories are absolutely devastating and I sometimes feel like screaming “ENOUGH!!!” However the beauty of the overall picture within what's the world's largest humanitarian organization is uplifting. I have seen so much good in so many volunteers and their actions. I have looked into the eyes of thankful beneficiaries and that alone can certainly motivate. I have good friends within the movement and their persistence to carry out their work motivates me.

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Downtown Beirut.

I’m still curious about the world which I have still to see. The people I have yet to meet. The handshakes that are yet to come. I still want to learn and I still want to develop myself. I REALLY want to go home though. I’m not homesick because that’s something else. To be homesick would mean to be unable to do anything because the only cure would be to return home. I’ve met homesick people in my life and I know from that, that I have never been homesick. I still see myself as a person who’s in a tunnel of countries and that is the only way home. 59 more countries to go. We can do it. ‘WE’ because nobody travels to every country in the world on their own. My network is at this point unbelievably large and thousands of people across the world have come together to push the Saga this far ahead. The work year in Denmark is approximately 250 days in total. The rest is weekends, holidays etc. Both 2017 and 2018 count 252 workdays in Denmark. I’m out here 365 days a year and converted to Danish work days it would mean that my four years and five months would be six years and five months in comparison. Have no doubt: what I do is a lot of work. In its most basic form I’m sure you would agree that I couldn’t possibly have reached 144 countries by accident ;)

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Streetart Beirut.

There’s stuff at home as well. I come from a good life in Denmark and when I left home I had money in my account, an small old sailboat and an apartment which I rented out. I still have the apartment but the money and boat is now gone. The first tenants chose to go back to the UK after living in Denmark for a year. They were wonderful. However imagine trying to rent out an apartment when you are far away from home? It’s a lot of effort. Thankfully I have a good friend in Rasmus Brohl. He has a company called Home Connector and he found me some new tenants. Then last year my new tenants (who were perfect) decided that they didn’t want to rent anymore and began looking for something they could buy. What can I do about that? I wished them all the best of course but I wanted to keep them. They moved out last month and I had to find new tenants again. This time while finding a way into Syria on my mind. The market in Copenhagen (Denmark’s capital city) has changed and while I have a nice apartment we struggled to find new tenants this time. Rasmus fortunately succeeded again but there was an overlap and I had to pay one month's rent. I’m not complaining. I’m merely trying to convey that I have a lot of other stuff on my mind while I still try to move us forward. My new tenant seems nice and hopefully this will keep until I return home in a few years.

Photo 14 03 2018 20.19.55

There are oh so many reasons to love Lebanon. Food is certainly one of them.

I have a fiancée too. We were together before I left home and we got engaged when I brought us to Kenya. If you’ve ever been in a relationship then you know that takes effort too. If you’ve ever been in a long distance relationship then you might be puzzled about how we made it last this long? She’s an amazing woman so that’s a big part of the success. We both work hard at it and we have managed to grow stronger in spite of the distance. I usually shave my beard off when she comes to visit. She has been out to visit me 15 times already and I ended up shaving 13 times. As such you can nearly always look at my beard and judge how long it has been ;)

Photo 15 03 2018 17.00.01

THANK YOU Farid!! :)

I’m now traveling with a laptop. It was gifted to me by Farid soon after we met. It is seven years old and initially it gave me some grief as I couldn’t make it work after just two days. I found someone who could install a new HDD and now it’s a blessing! Thank you so much Farid!

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It could soon be time to shave?!? :)

I have the most wonderful host here in Lebanon. My host has asked to stay neutral so let’s keep it like that. Can you imagine having a guest staying in your guest room for more than two months?!? I personally have a three day rule for guests. I once heard that “people and fish smell after three days”. However having been hosted for this long I need to rethink my rule of thumb. My host is absolutely phenomenal and I’m ever so grateful!! Imagine how else my long wait in Lebanon would have turned out going from one bed to the next? Or financially for that matter? People are just people however sometimes they are amazing!

Photo 15 03 2018 16.55.30

There’s a walking tour in Beirut which you absolutely cannot miss out on! I joined in on it last Saturday and the guide is incredible. Marc Ghazali is behind the tour and the tour itself is called: “layers of a ghost city”. Beirut has some 5,000 years of history to boast from and has been rebuilt seven times. Marc takes somewhere between 20-40 guest with him every Saturday through the downtown area of Beirut. It’s really well developed and there is access to toilets throughout the four hour walk. Marc greeted us with a bottle of water and there was a break in the middle of the tour so you could grab a small snack. At every stop Marc would present us with two stories: one which supports the actions of what has happened and one which opposes it. Afterwards you have both sides of the story and can make up your own mind. Brilliant!! I sincerely believe that Marc is some sort of genius! In order not to appear biased he will ask the group which version you want to hear first. Well done Marc! He only asks for $10 dollars per person and that is worth every penny! Afterwards you will find yourself much more educated and enriched. I mean; I had 79 days in Lebanon waiting for access to Syria. I have done plenty of research on Lebanon and seen much of Beirut. However having been in the tour I still learned a lot. Remember to book the tour because it’s popular. You can reach Marc on WhatsApp +961 70 347 571 or on the Facebook group.

Photo 10 03 2018 17.07.46

Moking around! Taking a selfie with my old Nokia 1100 :)

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This was a great group! I got to speak to a lot of them :)

Photo 10 03 2018 19.57.07

After the tour this gentleman asked if anyone wanted to sit down for a drink. I said okay and it turns out that this is the former Minister of Transportation in Syria. His name is Yarob and he is now the regional Advisor for Transport and Logistics at the United Nations here in Lebanon. You just never know :)

For a while I wanted to tell you all about the hippodrome here in Beirut. Beirut actually has two: one from the Roman era which is buried beneath the city and the other which is called Hippodrome du parc de Beyrouth. The latter one is a horse racing facility which built upon reestablished traditions which open up in Bir Hassan in 1893. Horse racing bears long traditions in Lebanon but were banned by the church in the 4th and 5th centuries. The Hippodrome du parc de Beyrouth was effectively achieved in 1921 along with a cinema and a casino. In the 1960s it became one of the busiest racetracks in the entire world. Naturally I had to go and have a look. I had never been to a racetrack before but chose to join in on the gambling. Five horses were racing to begin with. I chose to gamble on number one because of its name and nothing else. By mistake I got a ticket for number five and didn’t care since I didn’t know anything anyway. Number one won the race! I gambled again for the second round and picked number five. Number five won the race! I gambled again for the third race and picked number two...which also won!! That’s when I decided to stop and leave with my winnings. It was enough to pay for a few days of the Saga's budget.

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People went all in for the races. Some would scream and cry. Others would cheer!! For the second race a man ran onto the track after winning, took off his shirt and ran around half naked in joy. He also began taking off his pants and made thrusting movements with his pelvis out of pure excitement!! A lot of men were smoking cigars and it was clear that people were there from all layers of society. There were hardly any women present but free access is open to the upper class area for those women who should choose to join. Apparently the same is true for foreigners. Photos are not permitted and telephones are banned.

Photo 25 02 2018 14.27.41

It’s a rather peaceful location walled away from busy Beirut’s outside traffic. While there you can hear the birdsong and see a few of Beirut’s remaining pine trees. It’s an oasis within the city. Unfortunately I hear that the hippodromes future is unsettled. It may be torn down to make way for more modern high rises or it may be restored to its former glory? Time will tell... I couldn’t share this story with you before now as my friend Minna was writing a piece on this historical part of Beirut and asked me to withhold my adventures in the hippodrome until her story was published. Anyone can be lucky and pick the right horse out of five. It’s a 20% chance. However doing it twice is really unrealistic! I did it three times so that is directly implausible!! Last Sunday I went back and tried my luck again. My first horse came in third. My second horse didn’t even complete the race. My third horse won and that’s when I quit. I made my money back on the third horse so I can say I left the hippodrome twice while I was ahead. You can gamble different amounts but I only gambled around $3 dollars each time :)

Photo Nov 17 12 59 02

It may not always seem like it but I have actually been moving forward as fast as I possibly could since I left home. Sometimes logistics slows me down, sometimes bureacracy slows me down...and at times my physical limitations is what holds progress back. I came across this old photo from Gabon in 2015 and chuckled. It's still appropriate :)

Next up for the Saga is Jordan. The borders are closed between Syria and Jordan although the distance would only have been a few hours. It’s unfortunate but not news for me. I’ve known about the closed borders for a long time. The border between Lebanon and Israel is also closed. I wouldn’t travel that way anyway as it would complicate the Saga unnecessarily if I visited Israel before a number of other countries in the region. That means I’m still sticking to the plan I developed long ago. I now need a ship to take me away from Lebanon. It will likely be a containership and I’m not going to go into great detail about how difficult it is to gain access to travel onboard such ships. My friend Niall Doherty has written an excellent piece on the subject. I’m a part of his article where I give some of my hard earned wisdom on the subject. If I return to Egypt as planned then I need to make my way overland to the Gulf of Aqaba, which is more complicated today then just a few months ago. Fortunately my network has provided me with good intel on how to execute that part of the Saga so I’m hopeful. Across the Gulf we will reach Jordan and make it country number 145. And who knows...I might have to shave again ;)


Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - looking at the horizon.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"


Thor emblem

Once Upon A Saga

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In and out of Syria – the cradle of civilization

Since October 10th 2013: 144 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.

The heart is just an organ that pumps blood

46. I Love Damascus.Photo 05 03 2018 13.27.18 2

Sometimes I think that I might have seen and heard enough. I mean that both positively and negatively. There is no way I can share my experiences without channeling them through myself. I’m no recording device, which simply contains information until it is released. Sometimes I feel very, very full…

Arguably we have at least five senses: feeling, hearing, sight, smell and taste. I have felt the grip of a thousand hands, I have heard the voices of people from 144 countries, I have seen where countries meet, I could smell Canada’s trees hours before we could see land and I’ve tasted the salt of waves crashing in over my face. That is all fine and well. Would that be enough to prepare me for Syria?

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This warning is from WikiTravel.

I applied for a tourism visa for Syria on December 15th and began to wait. After waiting long enough I began to draw on my connections and develop new ones. There’s a theory that there are only six degrees of separation (or less) between you and any living organism in the world. The idea links the chain of a friend, of a friend, of a friend and so on. The concept was originally formed in 1929 but all I want to say is that I know that there are only six or fewer steps between me and anyone I need to reach. You would be surprised how many influential people I managed to reach while waiting for the tourism visa! I know you would because I’m surprised myself. However a few weeks ago the Danish Red Cross (DRC) stepped in and offered to facilitate my visa application from Damascus. It may come as a surprise to you that even humanitarian workers sometimes struggle with bureaucracy, which they wouldn’t in an ideal world. I remember seeing a Red Cross ambulance in a port, where it had arrived after being donated by the Japanese Red Cross. The ambulance had been sitting in the port for six months when I arrived as the particular situation demanded that high taxes were to be paid before it could be released to the Red Cross. Let’s hope that the person who made that decision does not suddenly find himself in urgent need of an ambulance? Well as a goodwill ambassador of the DRC I’m not essential in the same way as humanitarian workers are. My role lies within positive publicity. For that reason it was unknown if I would get a visa through the Red Cross; if it would take weeks, several months or if it would ever be approved at all?

19. DRC always present. Photo 03 03 2018 17.15.31

The Danish Red Cross has been present in Syria from even before the civil war.

I continued on making connections while we waited for the outcome of the Red Cross application. I do not know how close I got to achieving the tourism visa as it is well understood that we know what we have but not what we will get. And after only a two week visa process the DRC informed me that my visa had been approved. The overall situation of Syria is very delicate and I was asked not to inform anyone about going to Syria prior or during my visit. I was told that I would be heavily restricted during my visit and that the outmost caution had to be applied to anything I would say afterwards. While we act with our best intentions in mind we cannot always foresee the outcome of our actions here in life. In Syria that might be especially true.

85. First photo. Photo 06 03 2018 15.49.16

As such I was collected in Beirut and brought to the Lebanese Syrian border which is a short two hour drive (69 km / 43 mi). I received my Syrian visa at the border, which was just a humble little stamp in the corner of my passport. Then we continued into Syria. What could I expect? Destroyed cities, burning tanks, dark craters… Nothing could be further from the truth. The one hour drive to Damascus (46 km / 29 mi) was as ordinary as in any other part of the world. The landscape was magnificent as we drove through green mountain passes, small towns and fields. It didn’t take long before we approached Damascus and what a magnificent city that is! Beirut is 5,000 years old and Damascus is at least 10,000. Where else in the world can you drive between two such ancient capitals? How many people throughout history have already done so in the past? The main road into the center of Damascus was wide and aligned with large building blocks full of life. We reached a large roundabout with a spectacular water fountain in its center and a large colorful sign reading: “I Love Damascus”.  We had reached the Umayyid Square with its mighty “Damascus Sword’. There were still no obvious signs of any conflict. Just the magnificence of a city which could potentially rival Paris. Then we continued into a very specific neighborhood and I got to meet the DRC which were hard at work.

11. Damascus Abed Street. Photo 03 03 2018 14.25.53

18. Damascus vegetable market. Photo 03 03 2018 16.16.18

Life in the neighborhood was ridiculously normal to observe. There were no damaged buildings, the roads were in good condition, the shops were open and stocked, people played cards, smoked water pipe, took selfies, a policeman directed traffic, children on their way home from school, people waiting their turn to buy a sandwich, a blue sky above me, very clean city, green parks, colonial architecture…in fact you would need to have a very good eye to detect that something was not normal. Sure enough we had encountered several checkpoints on our way to Damascus and a great deal of NGO and Red Crescent vehicles were mixed with traffic but life appeared to continue startlingly normal. Startling as airstrikes and fighting was only taking place some 20 minutes away. How could life be so normal and yet so close to a completely different reality? It poses an interesting question: does the distance even matter? How far are you from Ghouta? How affected is your life from those who live amidst armed conflict? How close would you be able to go and still be relatively unaffected?

66. Four Seasons Hotel. Photo 05 03 2018 15.27.56

Damascus, the Four Seasons Hotel.

12. Damascus Franciescan Church. Photo 03 03 2018 14.29.29

Damascus, Franciescan Church.

Ghouta is a countryside region and suburban area in southwestern Syria. It surrounds Damascus along its eastern and southern rim. It has historically been an oasis formed by the Barada river around the area where Damascus was founded. In the 1980s urban growth from Damascus began to replace agricultural use with housing and industry. 20 minutes away from where I was, life would be completely unrecognizable from what I was looking at. How surreal is that? Someone told me that what I was looking at wasn’t real “it is a bubble”. Don’t we all live in bubbles? How many bubbles does Syria have? Is Syria a bubble among the remaining countries of our world? I don’t know…but I do know that armed conflict is a losing game. I have seen far more hardship from the Sagas first 144 countries than what my heart can carry. And after all the heart is just an organ that pumps blood. I have seen so much more good in the world than evil, however the evil weighs in heavy. Syria is by far one of the historically most interesting countries I have ever been to! I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to research it well.

53. Tekkiye Mosque. Photo 05 03 2018 14.11.28

The Tikayya Mosque is not very old all things considered. It is buildt in Ottoman style and was completed in 1559 CE.

50. Tikiyya artscraft. Photo 05 03 2018 14.07.36

Amazing woodwork at Tikayya market.

Everything began here. Countless battles with countless kings have been fought across the soil of Syria. Nearly every famous traveler, king, emperor or historical figure throughout history came this way at some point. The national museum of Damascus contains relics and artifacts from every age, starting with the Prehistoric Age and extending to the modern Classical Age. The Al-Madina Souq was an important link in the ancient silk route and even today it is filled with exotic goods and stunning architecture. The very idea of civilization started in ancient Syria as the Mesopotamian civilization! The world truly owes this part of the globe so much. So how is it now? I really don’t know. I spent three nights highly restricted in a small part of a large capital. The people I spoke to were very civilized, well educated, very gentle and very polite. I do not speak much Arabic but I do speak many of the polite words that go with starting a conversation. In Damascus people would commonly greet me with ‘ahlan wasahlan’ which generally means ‘welcome’. However it is derived from its original meaning which is loosely: ‘may you arrive as a part of the family, and tread an easy path (as you enter)’. That beats a western ‘hey’ with lengths.

16. Damascus mixed grill. Photo 03 03 2018 15.09.44

Mixed grill with hummus, tabouli and baba ganoush - Syrian style :)

39. Damascus Al rawda Mosque. Photo 05 03 2018 09.26.39

Damascus, Al rawda Mosque with Mount Qasioun in the background. According to legend it was on Mount Qasioun that Cain killed his brother Abel.

Fatigue. There is a donors fatigue with Syria. Some call it a war while others call it a conflict. No matter what you call it, it began in 2011 and is now seven years of unrest in a magnificent country. Donations do not flow as easily towards Syria as they used to. People have seen and heard about the worst from Syria over the past seven years and the fatigue amongst donors is felt. I wonder how people would feel about donating more if they related more to Syrians? I have many Syrian friends by now and some are refugees. In Beirut I meet with Mohammed several times every week. Mohammed is a refugee but he does not live in a tent. He shares a small apartment and works hard at a café to pay rent. He is gentle, well-educated and polite. Every day he dreams of going back to Syria and continuing his life.  What if the armed conflict in Syria is now coming to an end? If people knew that a few extra coins out of their pocket could make a significant difference to bringing families back on their feet, would they then reach for their pockets? You can only show me the horror so many times before I will turn away and find refuge in my bubble. But if you reach me by showing actual progress then I am easier to persuade. I don’t know about you but for me that difference could be the difference between reaching for $10 dollars or $50 dollars. There’s another fatigue which doesn’t come from the donors. This fatigue comes from the Syrians. Most Syrians are not involved with the conflict. They just found a way of living with it and they want it to be over. Can you imagine “finding a way to live with it”?

23. Damascus old car. Photo 03 03 2018 22.53.24

Nearly all the vehicles I saw were modern. However I chose to take a photo of this odd one out :)

20. Damascus cafe. Photo 03 03 2018 20.24.24 2

Just a cafe like any other cafe anywhere else in the world.

On my first evening I found a café and ordered tea and arghile (water pipe). The café was full of young people and the flat screens were showing premier league. The music shifted between western and Arabic and on and off a Pepsi commercial would roll over the flat screens between the matches. I logged on to the available wifi and observed how ridiculously normal everything seemed compared to all the warnings visiting Syria came with and the horrible images from TV. Around midnight I walked back to the apartment I had been given and observed people sitting in the parks or quietly walking in the streets. I went up the stairs of the apartment as high as I could go. Then I stuck my head out of the window and listened. It was a quiet and cool night. I could hear thunder in the distance but I knew it was not thunder. I wish it was thunder but I know better. A cat silently moved about in the night. Then I heard a single distant shot. I heard the footsteps of a man walking home and saw him crossing the street below me. It was almost midnight. A few cars turned around a corner of the residential area. I listened to the “thunder” and thought to myself: some girl probably took a last selfie out of boredom which will never be posted. I heard no children screaming and no mothers crying. I only heard the sound of a television set from where I stood…

25. Damascus at night. Photo 03 03 2018 23.34.02

My view as I listened to the night.

The next day I was invited to visit a response point of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). I was accompanied by two SARC volunteers to the premises where I was introduced to Mohammed El Khalili who was the Manager on duty at the response point Mezzeh. He greeted me ahlan wasahlan and showed me around. He explained that they have two ambulances in connection to the response point and that they were both out responding to calls at the moment. There was an office. There was a room where they could rest, play games and watch tv. There was a room with beds for the nightshift. There was a room for small medical tasks but Mohammed explained that most often patients were brought to nearby hospitals. Finally there was a storage room and a garden. When I asked which items from the storage room they use most frequently he immediately replied: rubber gloves. Mohammed explained that the government used to manage most of the ambulance service before 2011 but now SARC manages at least 80%. Then the door opened and the team of one of the ambulances arrived. They were all dressed in their uniform and they were all very young. In their 20s if I were to guess. The spirit was high and so was the energy. SARC has lost a lot of good people over the years but it has not deterred these heroes at all. They are like brothers and sisters and they are often first responders. They set their feet on the ground as quickly as possible. It’s hard to wrap your mind around such dedication. We all went out to take a look at the ambulance which wasn’t new but it was still roadworthy. It had some scratched paint and a few dents. Apparently they use a lot of oxygen apart from rubber gloves. Unfortunately the oxygen is getting harder and harder to come by. Their last call before returning to the response point was an upper class man who had a heart attack in his home. So there’s a fatigue amongst donors? I know for sure that these amazing people will find a way to keep that ambulance moving even as the funds grow smaller and smaller. Horrifically I suspect that their passion is so strong that they would still be out there even when there are no more rubber gloves left. What are 20 year old Danes doing today? Or Americans or Germans? How remarkable these people are.

42. Damascus SARC. Photo 05 03 2018 12.52.53

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent are amazing!

As I mentioned I was heavily restricted during my visit in Damascus. The city has been divided into zones and only a few months ago more zones were open and classified as safe. However daily mortar attacks on the “safe part of Damascus” have restricted access even more. And even the area I could move about in was at risk. Mortars are like relatively small bombs which are projected into the air in order to land and cause damage. If a mortar hits a strong roof then it might only create some small damage to a few roof tiles as the energy is released into open air. However if it goes through the roof then the energy is released in a confined space such as a living room or apartment. In that case the damage is severe. There were several mortar attacks every day I was there. Usually in the afternoon and seemingly random as opposed to having a target other than the city. On and off rockets are fired upon the “safe zone” as well. And somehow it just becomes a part of normal life and people cope with it. On my last night we were sitting outside in front of a restaurant speaking about probability and how unlucky you would need to be to be struck by a random mortar in such a large city. How does that even compare to normal life in any other city? Anyone could fall sick from cancer…anyone could be near a gang war shootout? I really don’t know how it works but I know that I accepted the same risk as long as I was there.

79. ICRC notice. Photo 05 03 2018 18.15.07 2

I had this phone for a few days to stay updated and in contact.

On my first day one mortar landed in a nearby neighborhood. On my second day five mortars. On my third day several mortars. I left in the morning on my fourth day so I frankly don’t know how many landed that day but you get the picture. I was watching a little bit of television on my last night. It was around midnight and suddenly I heard a nearby explosion and the building shook a little. 10 minutes later it happened again.

33. Damascus The Kings Speech. Photo 04 03 2018 22.27.24

Watching The Kings Speech in Damascus.

64. Hejaz Station. Photo 05 03 2018 15.23.48

Hejaz Station.

62. Damascus cafe. Photo 05 03 2018 15.20.08

Cafe behind Hejaz Station.

30. Damascus Al Hassan Mosque. Photo 04 03 2018 17.28.55

Damascus, Al Hassan Mosque.

Have I been to Syria? Yes I have. Have I seen Syria? No I have not. I have seen a tiny part of Syria’s capital city. Perhaps some 15-20 streets in total. The day before I left I spoke to a local man who lives in Ghouta. Every morning he gets on the bus and comes to work in “my part of Damascus”. Every night he goes back home to Ghouta. It is incredible what people learn to live with in life. It just shouldn’t be like that! On that same day the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) was able to negotiate an open corridor and delivered food parcels for 27,500 people, flour bags and medical supplies to eastern Ghouta. The convoy consisted of 46 trucks. Meanwhile someone is taking a selfie… After all, the heart is only an organ that pumps blood…

84. Syria Denmark. Photo 06 03 2018 15.49.11

Now minimum one dane loves Syria.


Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - heavy hearted.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"


Thor emblem

Once Upon A Saga

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Around Lebanon in Eighty Days

Since October 10th 2013: 143 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
How clever my sister is
Today marks 79 days since I arrived to Lebanon. That’s not quite 80 but tomorrow it will be. My sister suggested a relation between my 80 days here and Phileas Fogg’s journey ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ by the french writer Jules Verne. It was published in 1873...145 years ago...
I enjoy the story and the adventure of going around the world in 80 days. If I stick to my plan then I won’t actually go around the world. I will “simply” go to every country although I have already covered the distance around the world nearly five times. Phileas Fogg was in a hurry. It was a race. He had a set amount of days to achieve his mission. I’m only in a hurry because I want to go home. However theoretically the Saga could go on for a hundred years. The Saga is no speed record and I aim to do things right, however let’s just take a look at what I have done since I arrived.

Around Lebanon in Eighty Days:

- I disembarked a ship in Tripoli (Lebanon) on December 13th 2017.
- I had traditional Lebanese food (many times).
- I visited the corniche (many times).
- I applied for a Syrian tourism visa at the Syrian embassy).
- I stayed in Hamra.
- I stayed in Ashrafieh.
- I had local beer (many times).
- I met a delegate of the Danish Red Cross.
- I visited the Saturday market at Souk Beirut.
- I visited the Roman baths.
- I visited parliament.
- I visited Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.
- I visited Saint Georges Maronite Cathedral.
- I have walked the streets of Beirut (many times).
- I visited Sunday mass at All Saints International Congregation.
- I made a presentation at LWIS City International School.
- I visited the National Museum (twice).
- I’ve been invited for traditional Armenian food (twice).
- I visited the Bekaa Valley.
- I visited the ruins of Anjar.
- I visited the ruins of Baalbek.
- I visited Ksara winery.
- I saw the great Cedars.
- I visited Gibran Khalil Gibran’s museum and tomb.
- I visited the Monastery of Qozhaya in the Qadisha Valley.
- I had my birthday here.
- I spent Christmas here.
- I spent New Year here.
- I visited the Lebanese Red Cross.
- My fiancée came to visit.
- I visited Pidgin Rocks, Raouche (twice).
- I had sushi (twice).
- I visited Jeita Grottoes.
- I visited Byblos/Jbeil (twice).
- I visited the wonderful mountain town of Ras El Matn (twice).
- I bought running shoes.
- I went running (many times).
- I visited Tyre/Sour old town.
- I visited the Roman hippodrome of Tyre.
- I visited MiM mineral museum (twice).
- I watched six seasons of Suits.
- I went to the cinama (twice).
- I wrote twelve blogs from Lebanon.
- I wrote and sent 88 postcards to six continents.
- I had a haircut (twice).
- I made a presentation at the Maersk Line office.
- I experienced the nightlife (once).
- I did an interview with MTV.
- I did an interview with Tele Liban.
- I have also done interviews with media in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and USA, while in Lebanon. 
- I went skiing at Mzaar Skiresort (twice).
- I got sunburnt (twice).
- I visited Sama Beirut penthouse and stood on the top (Lebanon’s tallest building).
- I went hiking on Mount Lebanon.
- I had a friend fly in and visit from Denmark.
- I went to the dentist (twice).
- I went to the doctor (twice).
- I met with two Danish travelers.
- I met with one Swiss traveler.
- I went to Beirut Horseracing (race track).
- I attended and spoke at Hakaya Storytelling.
- I attended the screening of ‘Lost in Lebanon’.
- I visited the ‘Haneen’ exhibition at the cultural center.
- I Skyped (a lot).
- I researched (a lot).
I guess there is much more - but I’m sure you get the idea. I’ve been here for a very, very, very long time :)
Downtown Beirut.
If you did not read last week's blog and you are wondering why I do not simply go somewhere else, then I suggest you read last week's blog ;) Has it gotten worse to visit Syria in the past 80 days? Yes and no. The road to Damascus in Syria is still as safe as it was a few months ago. Tartus and Latakia are reportedly more or less untouched by the war, which has been going on for seven years now. Tartus and Latakia are both towns located on the Mediterranean coastline and serve as vacation destinations. However as you might imagine business has not been booming for a while. Northern Syria has become more complicated lately. Damascus, which is only 82 kilometers (50 miles) from here, has become slightly less safe as it is now being occasionally bombed. The fighting in Ghouta has no doubt reached you through the media? Ghouta is part of Damascus and lies east of the capital. It was originally described as an oasis formed by the Barada river. Mind you that Damascus was founded more than 10,000 years ago and is among the world's oldest cities. Much history has passed through its city gates. Fast forward to the 1980's and the urban growth of Damascus began to replace the agricultural use of Ghouta with housing and industry. Back in the 80's the region used to be home to around two million people. Anyway, before I get off track I just want to say that Ghouta has been a hotspot for the conflict for a long time but it’s only recently that the occasional mortar attacks on Damascus has become common again. You’ll be able to find recent videos on YouTube with nightlife and dancing from Damascus while the horrors of war continued just 15 kilometers (10 miles) away. Indeed life still continues in Damascus with schools, workplaces, shopping and ordinary everyday life. As ordinary as it can be anyway, given seven years of war within the country. If anything can be said with certainty about the war then it must be that it is complicated. Traveling to and from Damascus should however still be reasonably safe.
old new
The old meets the new all over Beirut. Beautifully restored buildings and new architecture side by side.
The wonderful Danish Viking woman I introduced you to last week has gone back home. Minna, which is her name, is such a cool personality and she was a hoot to be around. On the day she left to go home we met up at an event in Beirut. That was last Sunday. She was there with another Dane called Simona Abdallah. Simona was actually born in Germany and is of Palestinian decent. She has lived in both Lebanon and Denmark and is what you would call a free spirit. She is also a talented percussionist and we only spoke briefly as she wanted to go home and sleep. Simona had been out in the city life until 07:00am the night before :) Anyway I’ve got a funny story for you. If you’ve ever been to Denmark then you would know that nearly everyone speaks English quite well. However we are Danish and sometimes we get stuff wrong. As such I remember being on a motorcycle trip with a friend from Australia long ago. I made a reference to the “exhaustion pipe” only to be corrected by a loudly laughing Aussie: “it’s called ‘exhaust pipe” mate! ;) I also mistook the handlebars for being called “steering wheel” at some point. But enough about me! This one is on Minna!! :) 
Isn't she just beautiful and photogenic :)
At the event Minna was an invited guest and a man appeared to tell Minna, Simona and I, that there was a table ready for us. However we had to share it with two gentlemen from the American Embassy. Minna was the first to approach the two young men and tried her best to promote Simona. It went something like this: “You should really meet Simona! She is an amazing musician and maybe she could come and visit your embassy. She will blow you off!” Now this is quite subtle but there is a distinct difference between “to blow you off” and to “blow you away” :) I love you Minna!! The gentlemen simply paused for a moment and the conversation went on uninterrupted :) aware when the Vikings come to town ;) On another note Minna used to play the keyboard in a band called ‘Miss B Haven’. That name resonated with me so I looked it up on YouTube and discovered that during my childhood I used to listen to a song called ‘vent til vi ses igen’ 
I'm grateful to Chawke and Juliano for fixing my laptop. And to Farid for providing it :)
What else? Oh yeah...I was given a seven year old laptop by Farid whom I met last week. Farid was the one who arranged and invited me for the Hakaya Storytelling event. Farid even installed Windows 10 on the damn thing. Well, it was a really nice gesture so perhaps I should not call it that? but it has given me some headache already :) I’m not writing all of this on the laptop. It’s with a technician right now. It got really hot, it operated really slow and eventually it couldn’t find any WiFi connections. I did manage to do some work on it and after all it was free :) The repair guy told me that it probably won’t cost me much more than $30 dollars to repair. We think the problem is the hard drive. It’s my plan that this laptop needs to last until I reach Kuwait. Apparently new laptops are really cheap in Kuwait and Kuwait is only four countries away. Anyway: yet another blog typed out on a smartphone...
'Pidgin Rocks' at Rouche, just off the coast of Beirut.
The crowdfunding money finally came through! That’s good news! The campaign ended on December 12th 2017 so Indiegogo has certainly taken their time transferring the money. It was a real hassle communicating with them and we must have sent them more than 30 emails and reminders. “Indiegogo Customer Happiness” might have replied 4-5 times. They were not helpful and left us to solve how US American tax forms were to be completed? When we finally solved that riddle, Indiegogo told us they had all they needed from us and that the money would be disbursed within the week. Three weeks and many emails later they finally released the money to our account...minus 16%. That is too much but I can’t get into that with them. And they probably know... Lesson learned...and paid for. I’m in fact happy that all of this went on now while I had the time to deal with it rather than if the Saga was swiftly moving forward between countries.
The Barakat building. The windows give away that the building has been restored on the inside.
I’ll round up this entry by sharing a strange emotion. First I’d just like you to know that I interact with Syrians nearly everyday. I mean how couldn’t I since Lebanon is very small and more than 1,5 million Syrians have sought refuge here. You might imagine complete chaos but it’s not like that at all. A lot of them work in stores and cafés around Beirut. I have no doubt that it must be mentally hard hearing horrible news from back home while wanting to go home and not being able to. I have a number of Syrian friends by now and we talk about the things that people talk about. Sometimes they tell me what life was like before the war. Often they are well updated on various activity in various regions and as such it’s a healthy contrast to what we hear in the news.
Beit Beirut literally means "the house of Beirut" in Arabic. It is a museum and urban cultural center celebrating the history of Beirut and namely the civil war. The cultural center is in the restored Barakat building, also known as the "Yellow house", a historic landmark designed by Youssef Aftimus. I went there a few nights ago to see the ‘Haneen’ exhibition which is really hard to wrap your head around! It’s a collection of poems and texts by children from the age of 10 to 14 years, whom have all fled from the war in Syria. Artists have then interpreted the children’s work into paintings and sculptures. It’s mind boggling to get such a window into the hearts of these children, which in many ways have endured more than any adult ever should. In the words of Waad Al-Zouhouri (14 years old): 
“...we are the generation who has grown too old too soon...”
art display
Definately happy that I went.
The exhibition is both harrowing and beautiful at the same time. And that feeling is very confusing to me.
Thankfully I'm not stuck in Beirutti traffic every night :)
Oh well, we cannot end this blog like that. I’m actually doing quite well here in Lebanon. As I have mentioned several times, Lebanon is a wonderful host country to me. I have friends here, I have daily and weekly routines, I have options to explore regarding getting into Syria, I make new connections every week and I expand on my wasta. In case you’re not smiling right now then let me just remind you that there is a distinct difference between “to blow you off” and to “blow you away” ;)
TCP run
After a run, I'm always happy I did it.

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - thanks sis ;)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"


Thor emblem

Once Upon A Saga

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Once Upon a Saga
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