A bit slow these days - but not really. More Congo.
The Saga is a bit like Hotel California: "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave" ;)
Ah the Saga. The continued madness of never giving up. I'm still doing pretty well after the personal success of reaching in and out of Equatorial Guinea. And as wonderful as that country might be I am overwhelmingly content with having that enigma behind me.
But I've been put on yet another "bureaucratic pause" which slows down everything. This is where the Red Cross once again comes into the picture. Some people have pointed out that I seem discontent with the Red Cross. That is not the case at all!! If the Red Cross would ask me to jump off a bridge tomorrow I would gladly do it!! I couldn't be bothered to do so when I left Denmark more than 2 years ago. But it is now beyond my personal ability to describe to you the amount of Red Cross related data I have since piled up inside my head. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm on my knees for the Red Cross Red Crescent movement and its ability to reach hundreds of millions of people every day in ways you cannot even begin to imagine. Especially the volunteers are made out of unbelievable stuff.
Back home in Scandinavia I have my "flesh and blood" family. In 190 countries around the world I have my Red Cross family. You don't always agree with family. But you're always in it together. And if you would take my word for it, then the good and bad within the movement isn't at all a 50/50 kind of thing. It's more like an "it's unbelievable how big a difference this makes where it really matters" kind of thing.
Lunch - yum yum.
Like a few days ago I visited a joint Congolese/French Red Cross project 100 km north of Brazzaville (Congo's capital). It was a WATSAN (water and sanitation) project, where engineers from France are working hand in hand with the local community in achieving better hygiene, sanitation and drinking water for thousands of people in a rural area. That's a small and important part of that particular project. But it made me think: "If water is life...is better water then equal to better life?" I tip my hat to Gaëtan, Elio, Garonne, Jean-Claud, Distel, Prince, Marie, Jérémie, Roland, Florianne, Romuald and Roberte plus all the others whom take part in that project!
Elio inspects the foundation for the 20 meter tall water reservoir in Imvouba.
The French Red Cross has also been housing me since I came back to Brazzaville (so no couchsurfing here). And I have received help in terms of contacts, receiving translations and other administrative stuff (so no asking strangers for help either). And really they don't have to do any of that. But it is often born out of the motto: "We are together". On that note I may soon have something to thank the Angola Red Cross for: A new invitation letter. And with that in hand I can do the bureaucratic dance which should soon be coming to a discotheque near you ;)
Only residents can apply for visa to the DRC in Brazzaville. We'll see about that.
With that invitation letter a visa should soon follow - and with an Angolan visa (one of the toughest in the world) I shouldn't have great difficulty obtaining a TRANSIT VISA for the DR Congo. And then: Off we go! Followed by a: "See you soon Namibia!"
It rains heavily with thunder and lightning roughly every 3 days?
No, I have much to thank my RC family for. And together we have achieved a hundred interviews which have enabled me to write stories about the Red Cross Red Crescent movement throughout exactly half of our world so far. The other half doesn't know I'm on my way. Family is complicated like that ;)
Silvan, Marie and Francesca gets ready for the half marathon.
A half marathon kicked off here in Brazzaville last weekend. I got up early to go and support Marie (mentioned above) who had been training for it. Congo is also complicated like that. There are plenty of modern sporting events, everyone has a smartphone, people take selfies and upload them, the same international football matches are shown on TV, people watch Game of Thrones and play Candy Crush...but not everyone has access to a fresh water supply. So it's certainly not all gorillas and poisonous darts. But it's also not all Versace and dancing in the club. It's however a lot more about dancing in the club than shooting with poisonous darts ;)
I do enjoy a good shisha now and again and although it's culturally misplaced here, it's not hard to find. Libanese businessmen thrive along with the Chinese and the French all over West- and Central Africa. But you knew that already, right? ;)
The very same Marie invited me for lunch with a few of her friends. She surprised me by driving me 1 hour out of Brazzaville and into a secluded and quiet little forest garden where the lot of us ordered a good meal, enjoyed a beer, played some pétanque and some went bathing in the nearby stream. I guess she wanted to show me how diverse Congo can be. Or maybe she just wanted to get me out of the city for a few hours. It can be a little torturous to be so close to "our next country". You can clearly see the buildings from this side of the Congo River.
Another thing I didn't think I'd be doing anywhere in Africa: Pétanque.
Well, let me finish this one with a salute to a fellow Viking traveller. Actually I met this "nutcase" last week and we spent a few days together drinking beer and talking about travel...and stuff. His name is Jakob Øster and he is on a personal mission to visit 9 CENTRAL AFRICAN counties within a month!! I say nutcase with affection, because what I'm doing isn't exactly normal either ;) Jakob is a family man, a corporate employee, a passionate traveller and a writer/photographer.
Jakob and I.
He will be visiting most of the countries I have recently left behind me but he is flying, which makes it much easier. However don't be fooled! It's still quite a challenge!! He is doing it for personal satisfaction and that should be respected and not judged. I know that some of you thinks he is doing it "wrong". But we are all entitled to our own opinions and we are not always obliged to share them. Before you judge then go and have a look at some of his incredible stories from the world. He has seen a little more than 160 countries now: http://www.jakoboester.dk/ Within this blog, the photo of us together, along with the photo of me in profile, are credited to his talent.
Okay people, it's back to business. I'll keep on keeping on and I assume that so will you. We are in this together ;)
On the "Ilivileq" as part of crossing the North Atlantic Ocean.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - forward, march! (not the month, oh well, that too)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga