France is just frog legs & Belgium is beer
Since October 10th 2013: 131 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
Stereotypes rule the world
It was a great sendoff from Spain. I had the honor of meeting Ole Pedersen from the Danish Travelers club, who has settled down in Madrid a long time ago. There is nothing to complain about regarding atmosphere and food in Spain so we were all set up for a good night. Besides; Ole has been to 137 countries ;) The following day I boarded a train to Paris.
Accommodation is expensive in Paris. I wasn't fortunate enough to have a host and booked myself into a slightly weird hostel were I shared my room with a big guy from the French Foreign Legion. He was nice enough and offered to help me if I one day would come by his country (Montenegro). People are just people.
Listen people, I'm really tired, stressed and in no mood to write a blog. So this is going to be minimalistic! I understand how many of you could question my fatigue as I'm "free as a bird" and "traveling the world". It's been a really long time since I left home. On average the Red Cross Red Crescent takes up 2 days of my time in each country. I'm working hard to make this project grow. I'm trying hard to keep up with the ever growing social media. I'm trying to understand a little bit of everything about every country I visit. I'm really not doing well financially. My health isn't great but it could be worse. I'm not sleeping well. I'm trying my best.
I figure most people see the top of the iceberg and not the 90% below it. I fully understand how escapism through a dream of visiting the entire world can look like an easy alternative to normal life. The beaches, the smiles, the culture, the history and the kind people are real. There's just a lot more to it than that.
Okay, the short blog for a lot of content:
France is amazing!!! It's among the oldest countries in Europe and it is the largest. France is the world's most popular tourist destination and not without reason. There is much to see and do and the country is beautiful. It was nice to see Paris again after all this time. I have seen my history with Paris. My fiancées and I had our last vacation together in Paris shortly before I left Denmark for completing the Saga. I hardly remember who I was back then? Anyway...I could write a small book about France but I'm definitely not going to. Because they would never thank me for it ;)
The French Red Cross is old, professional and powerful.
I had a chance to meet the Parisian volunteers at their first aid station for the final stage of the Tour de France.
Adrian is my kind of crazy :) He's been a Red Cross volunteer for 7 years and guided me around Paris.
Lotfi is Algerian but works and lives in Paris. He's been following the Saga and decided to show me some Algerian hospitality at a great restaurant!
After a few stressful days (in good company with many) it was time to reach Belgium again. Belgium was originally country number 4 in the beginning of the Saga (France was number 6).
I worked in Bangladesh as a logistics manager back in 2011. From my expatriate circles of those golden days I know Samira from Germany. Today she is married to Denis from Belgium and live in Brussels with their clever little boy Ari. Samira offered me to come and stay at their place for a few nights.
THIS WONDERFUL FAMILY will be missed! :)
Belgium is just good beer, right? Well if I were to paint a picture of the most Belgian thing I could think of right now, it would be Tintin sitting on a throne of diamonds and raw minced meat, eating french fries and waffles covered in mayonnaise and chocolate while talking about Smurfs and cheese dipped in sennep. However I guess it would be ignorant.
This raw meat tasted surprisingly well and is known as l' Americaine in Belgium.
Belgium is a great small country which has a long and interesting history, which has left a parade of amazing architecture behind. Castles, towers, cathedrals, warehouses, neighborhoods, city squares... it's great! Enjoy some of the famous mussels and wash it down with a world class beer. Belgium is a neat and bureaucratic country and the people sort of reflect that in a reserved, proud but friendly way. You will probably need to work a bit on breaking the ice with a lot of them but once it is done you have free access to all the kindness of the world. The world owes Belgium a great deal for various inventions, ideas and initiatives. All in all it's a fascinating country of 11 million people who always seem to find a way through a foundation of diversity. They used to be big players within textile and the automobile industry. Chocolate and diamonds go back as far as 1635 and 1447! The latter one respectively has Antwerp positioned as the world's diamond capital (eur 20 billion annually). Food's good, it's safe, it's clean, people are nice, there's lots to see and do and Belgians were responsible for the Big Bang Theory, the saxophone, the invention of plastic, the design of the euro coins, the Smurfs and eventually hosts of the battlefield where Napoleon met his demise. Just go and see for yourself.
The Belgic Red Cross is full of good people and strong initiatives! :)
The team in Flandern introduced me to their Centre for Evidence-Based Practice (CEBaP), their state of the art blood bank and their impressive library service for vulnerable citizens. It's rather mindblowing!
Kimberly introduces me to CEBaP is looking for evidence to support standardized practices. It turns out a few things we run around thinking is right really isn't based in any evidence. This way a new best practice is quickly becoming the official guideline across the entire humanitarian field.
The Red Cross has been impressive in both France and Belgium. And that's good to see. I'm thinking about doing a short video where I talk a little about it for this upcoming RC Sunday on FB. Maersk has been kind and professional so that is completely unchanged since my first meeting with them in Madagascar back in 2016.
The Maersk, Safmarine and Seago teams in Antwerp were quiet at first but quickly fired up!! Great people who work hard! :)
Maersk was kind enough to create this article about the Saga completing every country in Africa: http://www.maersk.com/en/people/2017/07/out-of-africa
I made it to Antwerp just in time for the mussel season.
Freelance journalist and friend, Florian, finally got his story about our meeting in Tunisia in the news. However this one is only for those who hold Danish among their superpowers: http://www.fyens.dk/modules/mobile/article?articleid=3169355
The Saga is on schedule and that matters to me. However I haven't had enough time to breathe lately. These days I'm on 2 nights/country and soon the schedule will adjust to 3 nights/country which I look forward to. Especially since I'm not just trying to cross them as fast as possible.
Samira and Denis made sure I didn't leave Belgium without tasting the beer. The beer is good! :)
That we keep on keeping on is still relevant and true. A stranger continues to be a friend you've never met before and people are just people. The main difference these days lies within my fatigue. However much like in a marathon my mind is stronger than my body and I still have my eyes on the ball. Perhaps I also feel slightly uneasy because Denmark is closer now than what it has been for years...
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - still Danish
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga