Beep – beep – beep! Beating the impossible (Dubai, UAE)
Day 1,772 since October 10th 2013: 154 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
I’ve planned out the upcoming 13 countries. It seems futile.
Did you like last week’s entry? It was a whopper of a write up but quite a story! And a huge break to the Saga. With Saudi Arabia in the clear what can possibly stop the Saga now? Apparently everything…
To be honest the past seven days have mostly been administrative. There is no end to the amount of work it takes to pull of this project and it appears that I cannot cut anything out of it? The social media is very demanding but without it I would not have many of my connections, solutions and it also serves as a primary platform to share the values of this project along with advocating that the world is a lot more different than what media makes it seem. The work that I do within the Red Cross Red Crescent (RC) is likewise demanding. With 191 National Societies around the world I estimate I spend about two days on each which would amount to more than a year of this project. The Saga is essentially the greatest ever attempt to unify the entire movement in a single journey. That is at this point undisputable. Should I chose to cut that element out of the Saga then I would free up a lot of time but it would disappoint many and overall devalue the project. The logistics is a given within the Saga. Without the phone calls, emails, messages, meetings, handshakes, research, transport, agreements and bookings the Saga would not move forward at all. So there you have it: the past seven days I’ve been managing social media, meeting and promoting the RC, conducting research, planning ahead and making arrangements. Oh how amazing it is to be free and travel the world?
So, here you see Maria Hollænder from the Danish radio interview. Unfortunately I couldn't get a soundbite for you.
I had a brief radio interview with a Danish station yesterday. I spoke with the host Maria and it added up to about four minutes of her one hour show called “Klik” (click) on DR P4. She asked me about why I’m not flying, what I miss from home, why I’m doing this, why I don’t give up and more stuff like that. We probably talked for about 7-10 minutes and Maria then edited it down to fit the program. After her questions and “off the air” I touched upon how you can’t complain, at least not too much, when you are doing something like this. People’s perception is that I’m lucky, that I’m privileged and that I am free. If I distort that imagine by shedding light on the workload (50-100 hrs/week), all the rejection, all that fails, the inconsistent sleep pattern, the stress, the online attacks, the frequent patronizing responses and all of that stuff…then people would leave the Saga. I’m certain of it. So basically I get to vent a bit once in a while and contribute a few lines like these to the blog…but overall I need to mute most of it out. I don’t think people want to hear anyone complain…and certainly not as long as they perceive that the life which I complain about is “amazing”. Maria from “Klik” was very kind and did a great job. In the editing process she had to lose some stuff so she cut out everything I said about motivation and inspiration, she cut out all I mentioned about the RC and most importantly she cut out the part where I mentioned that I miss my fiancée, while leaving in that I miss Danish milk, speaking Danish and going for a run. Two minutes after the interview aired I received a message from my fiancée: “do you really miss speaking Danish, drinking milk and going for a run more than you miss me?!?” My fiancée has humor and it was followed by a smiley ;)
I guess this is the Saga's first article in Malayalam which is the language spoken in Kerala, India. That state is home to about 35 million people.
This is funny: I get more than the occasional spam email! In fact I have never received as much spam and junk mail as I do now. It started out with a few email messages which I could easily just move to the junk folder. I generally spend a lot of time on Wikipedia, Wikitravel, E-visa websites, RC websites, searching country facts, researching modes of transport, reading news, fact checking, reading about history and a lot of stuff in that capacity. Nothing which would make me assume that I would afterwards get a lot of emails from “women” offering swift and exiting nightly activities? However suddenly I was getting a lot of such emails! On and off with profanities attached. For a while it has not been unusual for me to receive 10-15 such emails a day, which I immediately directed to my junk mail folder while wondering why that doesn’t help to stop it?! So it turns out that the email spamming industry has a sense of humor. Because after several weeks and even months of receiving a high amount of spam emails each day it suddenly stopped…or should I say it switched character. I no longer receive hundreds of emails from young promiscuous women!! No, the internet must have wondered why I never clicked on any of those links before the internet came to its conclusion! I now receive hundreds of emails of a different sort. So these days I spend a few minutes each day removing emails offering Viagra (!) and directing them to the junk folder. Don’t tell me the internet of spam doesn’t have humor! :) I wonder what the next wave of spam will be? :)
While this is now the third time since July that I’m in the UAE, I have not had any fortune in setting up a meeting with the Emirates Red Crescent until recently. With some support from the Qatar Red Crescent and the Bahrain Red Crescent I was put in touch with Mrs Fatima Gailani, who is the head of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Cluster on behalf of the IFRC (International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent). Mrs Fatima is from Afghanistan, where she also held the position as President of the Afghanistan Red Crescent for twelve years. Had I ever heard about Mrs Fatima Gailani before? No I don’t think so? Will I ever forget her again? Absolutely no chance!! And you might want to seek some inspiration from her life too. Mrs Fatima is the daughter of Pir (leader) Sayyid Ahmed Gailani. He was the leader of the Qadiriyyah Sufi order in Afghanistan as well as the founder of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan (NIFA), a party that was associated with the Mujahedeen who led the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. If you do not know anything about Sufi orders, NIFA or the Mujahedeen then chances are that your mind will be blown away by investigating it!! Suffice to say that Mrs Fatima’s father was a BIG DEAL and even has a direct lineage as a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. To top it all off Pir Sayyid Ahmed Gailani furthermore married into Afghan royalty! And his daughter, Mrs Fatima, is very impressive on her own! At the age of only 26 she was based in London as the spokesperson for the Mujahedeen during the Soviet war of the 80s! Mrs Fatima was later on present at the 2001 Bonn conference (International Conference on Afghanistan) as an observer, and in 2002 she was a delegate at the Emergency ‘Loya Jirga’ (grand assembly to elect a transitional administration in Afghanistan). In 2003 Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai appointed her as a constitution drafting and ratifying commissioner. That was later on followed up as she took the position as President of the Afghanistan Red Crescent, a movement which she has been a part of since she was a young girl. Now she is the head of the GCC Cluster on behalf of the IFRC and you might just wonder how does a woman do all of that within a single lifetime? Don’t even get me started on all her education, her stories about Jude Law showing up in her office, Hillary Clinton and so on. Mrs Fatima is massively impressive and a BIG DEAL.
Dressed up in my RC uniform to meet with the very impressive Mrs Fatima Gailani.
You wouldn’t know it though just from meeting her. Mrs Fatima has class but she is very humble. In fact she picked me up in the morning a few days ago and drove me out to see the International Humanitarian City (IHC) in Dubai. We casually spoke durring the 40 minute drive to get there. Then she introduced me to the RC team on site and I was guided around amongst the warehouses of a gigantic complex. You know how you sometimes loose hope and feel like everything is getting worse? Well in reality most things are getting better and I could go into that subject at great length but let’s just stick to the IHC for now because that will certainly suffice. IHC was founded in 2003 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Ruler of Dubai) through the merger of Dubai Aid City (DAC) and Dubai Humanitarian City (DHC). It is the one and only non-profit, independent, humanitarian free-zone authority hosting a community of members comprised of UN organizations, international NGO’s, intergovernmental organizations, and commercial companies. IHC is the largest humanitarian hub in the world with the most diverse members and it plays a significant role in facilitating first responses to crises at a global level. So how about that? Some of the world’s greatest humanitarian organizations teamed up to do even more good and benefit from the synergy of having everyone’s warehouses together. How great is that? :)
This model shows what the World Expo 2020 city will look like in two years. Most of it is desert today apart from the IHC. And I bet it will be ready on time.
A street within the IHC complex which is HUGE!
But Thor, does it work? Yes it does! I’m a logistics professional with twelve years’ experience and I was skeptic when I first took a look at it but after speaking to Abdulla, the senior store keeper for the Emirates Red Crescent and indeed with Agali Salac who’s the global fleet coordinator for the IFRC (and after doing some research on my own) I’m convinced! It’s a massive success and I’m surprised this doesn’t get more attention across the world? Oh yeah, wait…clickbait, presidential tweets, selfie sticks, binge watching series…who has time to learn about global initiatives…
It was a good day for me. I need to have my motivation and inspiration boosted every now and again and generally within the RC I don’t get it from the DRC (Danish Red Cross), the IFRC or the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross). Most of my motivation is drawn from seeing the National Societies in action all over the world. Among recent countries I have been inspired by RC activities in Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Qatar and Bahrain. During my day with Mrs Fatima I met some outstanding people at the IHC and that will certainly help me “carry the torch” a bit further. So thank you for that. And on a fun note Agali Salac recognized me! Apparently we met in Sierra Leone back in 2015 when he was there during the Ebola epidemic. Agali’s memory proved better than mine but in my defense that is a long time and many new faces ago. Funny that we should meet again. The distance between Freetown in Sierra Leone and Dubai in the UAE is 7,311 km (4,542 mi). Not that the distance matters. Just an additional though.
Thanks for everything!! You guys are brilliant!! :)
Juanita and Iain Rowe have left me the “Rowetel”. I got up at 05:00am yesterday to say farewell to them as they left for vacation in Malta. That makes 71 countries for Juanita and 79 for Iain. I’m still in their apartment which Iain has stocked up with meat for me in fear that I would starve in an attempt to live off bouillon cubes and pasta. Probably a good call. I have already planned out the many next countries and I feel relieved to say that there are only 49 left! That doesn’t sound like too much in the scheme of things. With Saudi Arabia behind us it kind of feels like a home run. Turkmenistan might bite back a bit in terms of a visa or at the bare minimum it will be very costly though a private tour. The Pacific Ocean is bound to generate some logistical challenges. Winter is coming and that may become a delaying factor as I now take us from the Middle East (which we have basically completed) to the Caspian Region and across “the Stans”. So what are the pending issues right now? Well, I was hoping to board a vessel from Salalah in Oman next week but I could not get onboard due to cabin issues. That fumbled up my plans to meet my fiancée in Egypt by the end of this month (on my way back to Jordan). Furthermore, Afghanistan used to offer visas on a simple 1 day basis. Until recently you just showed up at the embassy and left the same day with a visa. However now you need an invitation letter and approval from Kabul (Afghanistan’s capital). I also need to cross Iran again in order to reach Afghanistan and I have applied for the visa online (again) and once again it is taking more than the few days other people tell me it takes for them. And then the Eid al Adha will close down most activity for next week. Muslims celebrate two eid’s a year (but there’s only one Ramadan). This eid shares a story with Christianity as God commanded Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son but produced a goat at the last moment as a sacrifice instead. We now celebrate that by eating goats. For me the celebration especially means that most embassies will be closed. So whoop-de-doo for administrative progress!!
Dan from New Zealand reached out to hear if I was up for lunch. His wife Rianda, from South Africa, joined us and we had a great time together over a delicious Lebanese meal near the Dubai Mall. Then afterwards they dropped me off and gifted me some New Zealand chocolate. Good stuff! Later on I found out they also enclosed an envelope with a very generous contribution to the Saga!! YOU GUYS!!! :) And Dan is a talented photographer!! Check him out HERE! ;)
Nah, it’s not as bad as it initially seemed. My wonderful fiancée (who’s doing an IRONMAN (!!) on Sunday) is flexible and we will meet up in Oman next week instead of our original plan. Do you remember Mrs Fatima (amazing power woman from Afghanistan)? Well that sorted out everything relating to Afghanistan in a matter of a few phone calls. And there’s a ship which will likely take me from Salalah (Oman) to Port Said (Egypt) on August 31st. In Egypt I get to see my friend Hatem again! Then I’ll do another crossing of Sinai in order to reach Jordan again…much like in this video I made the first time I did it. From Jordan I can enter Israel and reach Palestine. Then I will return to Israel from where I can board a ferry to Cyprus and meet my friend Natalie again! Shortly after that I can cross to the north of Cyprus once more, board the ferry to Turkey once more and head to Georgia, then Azerbaijan, return to Georgia, enter Armenia, reenter Iran, reach Afghanistan, cross Turkmenistan and the beat goes on, and on ,and on, and on, and on, and on…
If you wonder how often I ask myself if I should just quit and go home then the answer is daily! However I don’t think I will fold and go home. I think I will host the Saga until we reach the very last country in the world. Hopefully around January 22nd 2020 as calculated. I have many fond memories to look back at. I have many new friends because of this project. I’m in many ways a richer man but I do really doubt that the output matches the input on a personal level…so I hope the Saga benefits you. It’s bound to get easier – right?
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - beep - beep - beep!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga