On how Zambia grows on you and the Red Cross "black sheep".
If I knew what I was getting into before I left home...
In hindsight everything stands so annoyingly clear. I should have done that...I shouldn't have said that...I should have kissed her...I shouldn't have kissed him...I should have invested...I wish I said, I wish I did, I wish, I wish, I wish...
What has the Saga become? Something else than what I imagined for sure! Do I regret? Not a thing! Would I do it all over again? NO WAY!! NEVER!
I'm grateful to be in Zambia. I've been through quite a few countries by now and I know a thing or two. The last few countries have been surprisingly gentle and pleasant to visit. Zambia is no exception. I love a culture which finds it easy to smile. And while Zambia has a lot to offer, I don't feel like the locals are hassling me to buy or try anything. And if they do then I simply reply "no thank you" and smile. That is most commonly returned by a smile.
Thank you very much!
I feel like I just wrote a blog? I don't think I did anything since the last one? Or perhaps I did too much? After my girlfriend left I spoke to the general manager at the Best Western Plus in Lusaka. He likes the Saga and offered me 2 nights complementary! Boom! Thank you sir!
I turned my room into an office and attacked the piles of administrative work I had neglected during my girlfriends visit. A huge part of my work is in connection to the Red Cross and the all the social media. This blog e.g. has taken 5 hours to write, edit, upload, edit and post. It may be read by up to 3,000 people over time. But likely no more than 800 within the first few months. That makes you special ;)
Obviously the journey it self takes a ton of work: Transportation, cheap but healthy food, accommodation and naturally visas!! I don't know most countries in advance so research takes up a lot of my time too.
Could you do this? Perhaps you could. But if you want to increase your chances then cut out the Red Cross and social media and do it for you.
The social media is in place for me to come across with my not very well hidden agenda: The world is a far better place than we give it credit for and a stranger is a friend you've never met before. When someone shows me that tattooed on their body then I know we are going somewhere ;)
But seriously, our social media and the mass media is misleading us and while we know it does create our reality. And the perception of reality is in dire need of a boost upwards.
Soooo, it turned out that Lusaka was much nicer than I first thought. And the national museum is spectacular. There is a lot of music and good restaurants too.
Why does the Red Cross take so much of my time? And why does nobody know? This is strange indeed! I never intended this much involvement of the Red Cross within the Saga. But on average I think the Red Cross swallows around 2 full days in each country. That would amount to more than a year on this project before the end. It's substantial.
Originally I just wanted some affiliation with the Red Cross for the Saga. And it made sense: I'm going to every country and the Red Cross is found in nearly every country. There is obviously great synergy.
Someone within the Danish Red Cross came up with the idea that I should write an "always present" story about the Red Cross or Red Crescent for each of the 190 countries where the organization is found. And I agreed. Nobody thought that decision through. Neither I nor the Red Cross.
How do you write 190 stories about the same organization? Well, my solution was to visit them individually. And I've mostly done that. But how easy do you think it is to get in touch with the Red Cross globally by email? Especially in Spanish and French speaking countries which I have visited a lot of? And to top it off then my emails are often regarded as spam. Because as they told me in Nigeria: "We didn't think anyone would be dumb enough to travel the entire world without flight and offer free promotions of our work!" Good point Nigeria...
I was invited to visit the western province which is on the other side of Kafue national park (coming from Lusaka). We saw a single elephant near the road and a snake which tried to cross. That's it. The trip took 8 hours! But what a sky!!
Also as it in hindsight seems abundantly clear: You can't walk into a Red Cross office in a foreign country and request information about what they are doing without offering anything in return. The stories I write have all been in Danish so no one has had a chance to read them which adds to the tension.
Then at some point during the Saga I started to have something to offer. At this point where the project has more than 100 countries behind it media became a natural part of the project. It's not front page stuff most places...but the media always has interest. And with that I could offer the Red Cross exposure to create more visibility. Something which is clearly needed many places. It's the worlds largest humanitarian organization but honestly; how much do you really know about it? ;) Right...me neither a few years ago...
Genius! Someone at a primitive roadside toilet clearly got tired of turning the water off after people have washed their hands. Add a rubber band and it closes itself! ;)
Well if you know this then I'm happy: It was founded in 1863, it's found in 190 countries, it's completely neutral and it's in place to alleviate human suffering within basically all its forms.
Then they slowly began asking me to meet with the volunteers. Or translate my stories. And visit programs and projects. And much, much more... And I don't mind. Often I even enjoy it. But here is the thing: I can't make myself say no. If the Red Cross anywhere in the world is asking me to do something, then how can I say no? Especially if it's something relatively small and within my grasp. So it adds up and builds up and becomes a lot of work.
The western province is "sand country". Although there is much green I figure those roots must then go deep!
Nobody told me to do it. It just kind of became that way. So now what? Quit it and go back to "just writing stories"? The stories alone take me around 8 hours each if you calculate everything including getting in touch with the Red Cross, locating the Red Cross, visiting the Red Cross and writing the story. Especially if I want an original angle so the stories do not all resemble each other.
So who manages the Red Cross part of this project? No one does. Because it's mostly invisible and largely nobodies while everyone's business. The individual Red Cross countries I've visited see it as a Danish Red Cross project. After all the stories are in Danish. The International Federation of the Red Cross also largely views it as a Danish project. The Danish Red Cross views it as my project and all the social media of the Saga is about something else than the Red Cross. The only exception is the "RC Sunday" post every week.
Ever tried riding a bicycle in soft sand? Good luck! But it doesn't faze the locals.
Project for sale? Hmmm... It's odd that no one takes ownership? After all: Who can imagine a larger internal and external promotion of the Red Cross Red Crescent than what this could be?
But everyone seems to be busy and nobody wants more work. So the bulk of the Red Cross work I carry out is lost behind the scene. As an example I can mention that the Danish Red Cross recently spent several days on social media promoting their work in Malawi. Guess what my next country is? ;)
On the 3rd day of the Red Cross training the villagers heard about the 3 P's: Proper Preperation Prevents Poor Performance ;)
Perhaps I'm too dangerous for the Red Cross? After all I do break nearly every rule there is in terms of transportation. Humanitarian workers are most often well protected with a thick book of rules to conduct their behavior. I'm free to travel as I please. And admittedly it's not all safe. But it's all legal. Everything I have done has been legal and by the book. Some book... :)
The Danish Red Cross fitted me with a letter of intent before I left Denmark. This letter has enabled me to legitimize my presence at the Red Cross or Red Crescent in other countries. So they have initially created the link. And it is true that the Red Cross in some countries has in some situations has been key to certain logistical matters. Although not many...and mostly none I couldn't have solved on my own. E.g. when the Ivory Coast Red Cross enabled me to cross the border from Liberia to the Ivory Coast I probably couldn't have done that in that specific situation without their paperwork. But I could have spent two days backtracking to Liberia's capital Monrovia and have found a boat to bypass the Ivory Coast to Ghana. From Ghana I could easily have entered the Ivory Coast as that border was open. Perhaps even faster. Problem solved?
A part of my extended family :)
Another thing which has come up is my knowledge about the Red Cross Red Crescent. What do I really know about the organization? Well first of all I know it doesn't want to be called an organization. It's a "movement" ;) Furthermore I obviously know far more about the Red Cross in the individual countries than what I put into my "happy go lucky" stories. After all I can't fit everything into a story and also not all I know is fit to be mentioned. I think I'm in one of those situations where I can smugly say: "Listen son: I've forgotten more about the Red Cross than you will ever know" ;)
Just added this to remind you all that there was this top modern and quite huge supermarket just a short drive from the villagers in the pictures above. Diversity at large ;)
It's an odd situation to be in? Almost all the Sagas social media is reserved for the journey it self, the countries, the people, the food, the culture, the history etc. And yet I'm accumulating all this organizational knowledge along with a massive network which I can't seem to place anywhere? I'm the black sheep of the Red Cross. Baaaah :)
Mongul town center really reminds me of a movie set. I figure they covered everything in asphalt to avoid the sand blowing about. Smart move!
Okay now, enough about that. But I hope you enjoyed that journey through an odd little situation. The big news this time is the one of my 2 amazing sisters is coming to visit!! Yeah baby!! She will touchdown in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) on June 2nd so that's pretty sweet! Haven't seen her since 2013 when she drove to Luxembourg to meet me there (country number 5). We will have more than a week together and I plan on having some quality time with her while I search for a ship to Madagascar. Also we want to have a look at Zanzibar since everyone is talking about it.
I have a bus ticket in my pocket which is for this Sunday from Zambia to Malawi. I have a feeling that's going to be a loooong drive since it starts at 04:00am. Meanwhile I'm in Bongu which is 8 hours in the opposite direction of Zambia. I'm in the western province and Maliki is east. But I'm here in connection to a joint Netherlands/Zambian Red Cross project. See what I mean ;)
It comes with its perks though. I got to see more of Zambia and meet more of its people. Zambia: You do not disappoint! Well done Zambia, well done indeed.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - the black sheep.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga