Lebanon - Are you as impatient as I?
Since October 10th 2013: 143 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
The earth may be flat
We have already passed 40 days and 40 nights here in Lebanon. It kind of sounds mystical and romantic, however I’d much rather have a visa for Syria in my passport right now.
Not because I’m tired of Lebanon. Lebanon is absolutely wonderful and so are its people, diversity, history, nature and culture. Sal Lavallo is an US American who has made it to every country in the world. Congrats Sal! That’s an achievement!! It is a really small club. Far more people have been to space. I don’t know Sal and I figure he hasn’t got the slightest idea who I am. However my friend Araz sent me an article where Sal states that Lebanon is the best party country in the world. A lot of people who have been to every country become “authorities” on every nation. He may be right? I don’t know. I’m not a party person. I like a good whiskey, a glass of red wine now and again and the occasional beer. I’m not fond of loud music, dancing and I already have a wonderful woman in my life. So partying and drinking isn’t much for me. In fact it never really was but it used to be a great way to hang out with friends and meet women. These days people meet online which wasn’t that common when I was young (younger). One of my best friends met his wife through online dating. 20 years ago it was a little embarrassing but today it’s flat out normal. Things change. Is Lebanon the best country in the world? It is to me as long as I’m here. That’s one of my philosophies: whichever country you're in is the best country in the world and it’s up to you to prove it. The current USA president seems to be onboard with that as long as he’s in the USA.
Jad is a friend from Maersk. I was invited to join him and his colleagues for happy hour last Friday :)
Ancient cities, snow covered mountains, ski resorts, sushi restaurants, millennia old trees, casinos, food, sports, music, families, homes, fancy cars, migrants, artists, minerals, currency, temples, castles, churches, mosques, coastline, wineries, produce...this is the 7th blog I wrote for you here in Lebanon. What more is there to promote? Lots I’m sure but this blog will be a little different.
More cookies!! Seago Line is a subsidiary shipping line of Maersk which serves ports with the Mediterranean: www.seagoline.com
Amos is from Graz in Austria and has been following the Saga for a few years. He’s read all the blogs, works as a translater, and enjoys traveling. He will soon reach his goal of visiting every country in Europe. There are 50 of them. The Saga is followed by roughly 35,000 people across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and the blog. Obviously I don’t know all of you although I recognize a lot of your names when they pop up in questions, comments, shares and likes. Nonetheless Amos decided to visit Lebanon and coincidentally ran into me near the Souks of Beirut. He is a really nice guy and asked if he could take a picture with me. That rarely happens because all in all 35,000 people aren’t a lot in a world with 7,000,000,000. However it has happened a few times before. Afterwards he posted this to his Facebook account:
Great guy! You can learn more about Amos on his page www.grazandbeyond.com
MTV Lebanon is not a musical channel. It’s a major television station which reaches far here in the Middle East. Shereen from Front Page Communication set up an interview for me which I went to a few days ago. The station was among the most modern I’ve been to anywhere in the world. They produce a lot of content and although I had a nice interview with the very beautiful Rania Ziade Ashkar, which lasted 11 minutes, we didn’t get into much depth. I failed to tell people where they could find the Saga and Rania didn’t mention it either. It was set for 11:30am so perhaps there weren’t many viewers. It didn’t increase the Sagas social media at all.
Waiting for the interview to start. Everyone is on their smartphones ;)
They were very professional at the station, however it reminded me of a time I visited New Zealand. That’s another great country which we’ll reach within the Saga far from now. Back then I decided to do a bungee jump for the first time in my life. I expected I would be scared but I never had time for it. A lot of people were jumping and I felt a little like a cow being pushed forward. While I was waiting to be set up for my jump someone else was already ahead of me in the dentist-like chair where they tied us to the bungee cord. On my arm you could read my weight which had been noted down by someone else. A guy was standing on the platform ready to jump. After his jump the guy in the chair was directed to the platform and I was shown to the chair. Soon after I was on the platform and jumped. Before I knew it it was over and I received a cd with video footage of my experience. Wham bam thank you mam! It was almost over before I knew of it and I never had time to be scared. I don’t even remember my pulse going up. Money, money, money, moooooooney. For the bungee agency it was just a question of pushing as many people though per hour in a safe way. A production line. I was a cow waiting to be milked...or slaughtered ;)
TOP STORY / MTVAlive. See the full interview here: https://youtu.be/brIZQ1ezV_0
My experience at MTV wasn’t much different. I was asked to bring a usb with some photos. I handed that to Rana at the control room. Rana was really nice, busy and professional. Then I was sent up to the studio. Rania did all her preparation for the interview on an iPad three minutes before we went live. Afterwards we chatted for two minutes and I was sent back to the control room to collect my cd with the footage. It was almost like going on a rollercoaster ride and getting your photo afterwards. Then I was back on the street. How glamorous.
After the interview...back on the streets on our flat earth.
I got in touch with Front Page Communication (www.frontpage.co.com) because I’m still hunting for a PR company for the Saga. If this project was only set in Lebanon then Front Page would be my choice. They have been really kind and professional and they are a really good fit for promotion in Lebanon. Unfortunately they don’t have large international reach and if you do the math then Lebanon is just 0.5% of the worlds countries. Any country is. I decided not to go with Front Page because of that but they really like what we are doing with the Saga so they offered some pro bono work. Shereen is really lovely and I’m sure you will hear more about her before I leave Lebanon.
Traffic will get a lot worse before it gets better...
Valet parking is big a thing in Beirut. Some say it’s almost like mafia as certain companies control large areas and its said that some will even block parking spaces in order to gain your business. Traffic is an increasing problem almost all around the world and it’s really handy to have an effective valet service so you don’t need to spend hours looking for a free space. These valets are everywhere and ready to take your car keys. You just drive up to the restaurant, supermarket or whatever and they will take care of parking for you. Another interesting thing about Beirut are the plastic surgeries. It’s not for everyone of course but it’s certainly not uncommon. You can sit at a café and overhear a conversation between two women: “oh you’re so beautiful! But you know what would be really great for you? Hazim can fix your nose so it looks like mine. There’s a discount right now so blah, blah, blah...”. A common joke around here is that all the women end up looking the same :) It’s not completely untrue...
It's 13 degrees Celsius (56 F) in Beirut now. It rains a lot...winter has come...
Let’s namedrop for a moment. I’ve met some great internationally known travelers during the Saga: Graham Hughes (The Odyssey Expedition), Johnny Ward (OneStep4Ward), David De Clercq (World Adventurer), Gunnar Garfors (Garfors)...I’ve also met some lesser known ones who are doing equally amazing things but you won’t find much about them online. Jakob Øster is however quickly rising on social media due to his efforts of promoting his unique and high quality photos. There are travelers I’ve been in touch with, but haven’t met, such as Henrik Jeppesen (Henrik Travel), Cassie DePecol (Expedition 196), Charlie Uldahl Christensen (Waking for Water) and Megan Jerrard (Mapping Megan). I’m sure I’ll meet Megan (Australia), Charlie (Denmark) and Henrik (Denmark) some day. I’m not just namedropping for fun. While speaking with Amos (the guy from Austria) I came up with an idea to do a series of short videos about these travelers and post them online. The world definitely is a much more peaceful and interesting place than what it gets credit for in the news. While the above mentioned travelers and I agree on some things and disagree on others there is one thing we all seem to have discovered: the world is not what we have been told all our lives. It would do people’s perception of various countries a lot of good to follow these people. So how about I promote them one by one on my relatively small platform? What do you think? This doesn’t need to be a monologue. It could easily be a dialogue between you and I and you can leave a guest comment below if you feel like it :)
Suits season finale (season 4).
Time flies - I don’t. I’ve achieved a lot here in Lebanon but now I’m kind of just looking at the calendar. I want to go to Syria soon, however who knows how long it will take for me to get that visa? My contact at the embassy just says “soon”. That’s a really relative answer. Obviously I have a backup plan but if I initiate it it could mean starting the visa process from the beginning. That could mean another month or just two days. Soon? So what to do? Pull out now and start over or wait and see if soon is tomorrow? Logistics, logistics, logistics. I work about four hours a day as the situation is now. I’m aware that it is situational and very temporary. However for now that leaves me with a lot of time on my hands. Enough time for me to have binge watched the first four seasons of Suits. That has put me on to a Swedish group called Junip. What is it with Swedes and music? :) Also enough time to look into Modern Flat Earth Societies. What a thing? It’s estimated that there are around 200,000 of them in various degrees of sincerity. Some believe it as much as some people believe that our planet is only 6,000 years old. People are just people. What is going on? Distrust in vaccines, neck problems due to Facebook and now Flat-earthers? Science has been moving forward faster than any of us could possibly understand during the past few hundred years. If you don’t care to dig deep then it’s easy to start believing that our planet is flat. After all that’s what you can observe with the naked eye. There are a lot of videos on Youtube and to be honest there are some compelling arguments among the conspiracy theories. Especially if you’re not willing to scratch the surface and use reason. A lot of us are not reasonable when we share stuff on social media. If we see something interesting online then we readily share and move on. Media does the same. Clickbait has become an everyday thing even at the most serious media houses as it’s all about “getting there first”. Content, content, content. Post it online and move on. No time for research. Okay now, back to the Flat-earthers. They generally believe that earth is not round but instead a flat disc somewhat like a compact disc. They believe that its edges are surrounded by a great ice wall, which prevents the water from spilling over the edge. They believe that it is constantly moving upwards at a pace which mimics what we wrongfully believe is gravity. They believe that the United Nations is safeguarding the ice wall so that we will never reach it and discover the truth. They believe that the sun and the moon are the same size and not as far away as we are lead to believe. They believe that there is a great dome above us and that we can’t really send rockets into space because we would hit it. They believe that all of this has been constructed as a place for us to live.
The sun sets over Beirut on our flat earth.
Now what do you think? Do you believe that the truth is hidden from us in some great conspiracy? For crying out loud!! Get a telescope and go and observe a ship disappearing in the horizon. You’ll observe that the bottom of the ship disappears first. If Earth was flat you should be able to observe the ship in its full size as long as your telescope is good enough. And what about sunsets? They believe that the sun is just spinning around us on our flat compact disc creating day and night based on which side of the disc it’s located. Does light really have limitations? Does light travel only so far and then suddenly stop? On a flat planet with the sun constantly above us you should be able to see it at all times. I know I can’t prove everything that I believe in as some experiments simply get too complicated for my limited knowledge. As such I chose to believe in some things and not in others. However as long as I can use common logic and disprove a flat earth I don’t see why I should get too intrigued with that idea? Most interesting I find that the Flat-earthers are using devices and social media platforms developed based on science they are trying to disprove. Stupidity killed the cat. It might just be the end of us too...Flat-earthers are certainly not the dumbest thing I see online or in the news for that matter ;)
A little girl came and handed me this. Around two million Syrians are currently in Lebanon. It's estimated that 20% brought their cars. That's 400,000 vehicles. Did the news tell you that?
Be patient, smile and wave boys, keep on keeping on...the Saga will continue. The show must go on. Forgive me if I’m a little impatient...
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Going to Syria...soon...
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga