Chad - memories of my youth become reality

I would struggle to name the remaining countries in Africa. But I know exactly where I've been.
When do we first learn about other countries? Well, some countries in the world certainly have more fame than others? Like if you say "America" then most people will think: USA. But in reality America is not a country but a region of many countries. Russia is quite famous too but my country, Denmark, is not. And again it depends on who I speak to. But I've heard that Denmark is the capital of Sweden, I've heard that Denmark is the Netherlands (Danish/Dutch), I've heard that Denmark is a state in the USA and I've even heard that we have a national "naked day" where everyone walks around naked? ;)
In fact Denmark is a kingdom in the high north in Europe. There are only 5.3 million of us and we have a bridge, which is higher than the highest geographical point. There is no country in the world which does not have problems. But as far as problems go I would say that the Danes (people from Denmark) are fairly spared. We do however complain a lot and always aim towards improvement...almost always :)
Chad is spelt Tchad in French, which already would tell you something about its history. "Hate" in the Danish language is "had" and the first 2 initials of my name are TC. So around the age of 15 I noticed Tchad (TC hate) on the map. And I joked about this saying: "Look! There is an entire country in Africa which hates me!! Hah hah hah".
Nothing is further from the truth. But when I was 15 I was more ignorant (yes it's possible) and everything was a joke to me. I also never dreamt that I would ever go and see Chad with my own eyes. And here I am. And I was wrong! Hospitality runs within the blood of the Chadians! A Chadian will give you his bed and sleep on the floor. If a very poor Chadian has nothing left except a goat to supply some milk or perhaps provide some money some day...then you might just experience him slaughtering that goat so that you can have meat and he will have nothing. There are many cultures in the world that resemble that. But I want you to know that it is dominant in the culture here in this landlocked country.
It's a country which is lush and green in the south and has elephants, and giraffes, and butterflies, and snakes, and hippopotamus, and gazelles, and leopards and so much more. In the center you will find sand, dust, small bushes and plenty of wildlife but not like in the south. In the north you find yourself in the Sahara. Sahara is an article word and means "desert". So if you ever say "the Sahara desert" then you are saying "desert desert" (on that note Safari is Swahili and means trip). Chad is also mountainous towards the north and has a history of empires and kingdoms which can easily be recorded back to 500BCE. The has been a lot of war and today there is poverty and corruption and sometimes even terrorist attacks. But for 5 years now Chad has enjoyed relative peace and I have never felt unsafe.
Well, actually when I entered Chad I had a "what is happening?" Moment. I left Yaoundé in Cameroon on a train and reached Ngaoundéré after a long nights "sleeping" in the dining lounge across a table. The train was horrendously overbooked but very modern and far more modern than some European trains I've been on.
I could have had a proper bed on the train but I didn't want to pay the extra money (which really wasn't that much). So my night was at times painful and very uncomfortable. From Ngaoundéré I quickly found a sort of large overcrowded minibus which brought me near the border to Chad. From here the ones who were crossing the border could go by taxi at a fixed rate. Chad is much more expensive than Cameroon for many things!
I shared the taxi with a young doctor from Chad and someone else. The doctors name was Alex and he proved very helpful. Because as soon as we reached the first village we stopped for a brief moment to unload some rice. I flipped out my GPS to mark my route in the online map and a huge group of Chadians quickly rushed in to see. And then a civilian policeman on a bicycle pointed at me and got angry and said "Boko Haram" several times, which had me worried?!? But Alex was smiling and with his limited English and a mix of French he told me to hide the GPS away and relax. Around 20 people stood around our shared taxi and I tried smiling and saying hello which worked for some of them until we continued without problems. 
In Moundou (Chad) Alex and I boarded a very nice bus so that night could have been comfortable if we didn't get stopped by security checkpoints more than 10 times during the night. "Everyone out! Everyone in...".
You know, this project can be enormously stressful at times and really hard on my body and mind. But it is sprinkled with so many unique and sometimes wonderful experiences that I don't always know if I like this project...have grown tired of it...or love it!! It depends a lot on which day you ask me but I know with myself that I will never give up!!
@Astro_Andreas is now in space! Yeah! Andreas is the first Dane to become an astronaut and now he is in space!! A lot of people might degrade that by saying "well many people have gone to space before" and that is true. But Andreas has probably spent the last 15 years or more aiming for this, training for this, getting university degrees, passing tests and then finally getting on top of a huge rocket full of highly flammable liquids and then heading into space!! Space which is pretty much the most inhospitable environment a man can go to and if he doesn't follow exact procedures he can easily die in a second!! We put Andreas into space through international cooperation. Who would ever have thought that the Russians and the USA would be able to work together on a space program? During the Cold War it was certainly unthinkable!
Chad is aiming at becoming an emerging economy by 2030. That is only 15 years away from now. The country is rich in gold, oil, minerals and a workforce through a population of nearly 11 million people. Can you foresee if it will be an emerging economy in 15 years?
I'll tell you this. Chad has a poor population, a middle class and a rich population. And even though a large population cannot afford a bicycle then it seems to me, when I look around, that everyone has a smartphone? Perhaps a cheap secondhand Chinese production. But nonetheless.
Alex got me in front of the Red Cross headquarters, gave me his number and went home around 04:00am in the morning. I put up my hammock and prepared to spend my 3rd night in a row outside a proper bed. The Red Cross is doing a great job in Chad and there are so many issues to deal with. Apart for poverty there is a huge mix of refugees and returnees. Because of recent wars in Chad and neighboring countries many have fled Chad and are now returning while many are fleeing neighboring countries looking for safety in Chad. Because of the hospitality I mention earlier many of the people, and there are hundreds of thousands, are welcomed into local communities. Because in terms of hospitality you will never see a stranger hear the word: no.
This complicates the situation. The situation is similar to the north east of Nigeria, which I would like to remind you has a huge middle class and the worlds highest diversity within butterflies ;)
The Red Cross is supporting such local communities which are often very poor in resources and health. The refugee camps are better in terms of food, health, accommodation and much more...but you are then living in a refugee camp and do not belong to a "real" community. What would you choose?
Abdoulaye is a logistician with the Red Cross and is struggling to get non food items out of the port in Cameroon and on to a truck to Chad. Because of bureaucracy. Isn't that grotesque? Why are shipments not just released after inspection and swiftly delivered to those in need? That's a part of our world.
Abdoulaye however is an amazing guy and we have spent a lot of time together. We even arranged for a huge press conference to promote the Red Cross. That's not uncommon for this project. But the official languages are French and Arabic so when the cameras, newspapers and radio journalists showed up in true Hollywood fashion I was a little nervous not knowing what to expect. I was given an introduction, I then proceeded in English which was shortly after translated live into French and Arabic while I sat and smiled. I'm going to miss Abdoulaye. He's been a good friend. I hope we can stay in touch.
I have my visa now for the Central African Republic (CAR). To my surprise the Danish Red Cross was not willing to help me establish contact to the CAR although it is listed as the worlds most dangerous country? I find that to be a strange decision from the Danish Red Cross but I must accept it. So I liaisoned with my own contacts and finally got it done with a lot of help from a lot of people. Actually in the end, the CAR embassy was very happy to hear that I would go there to promote the country in a positive way. And here is something else I hope to pass on to you: There are no dangerous countries. No more than dangerous trees etc. There are dangerous people and they mix with all the more "ordinary people" who want nothing more than to carve out a small corner of the planet for themselves. And those are the people I have met in Chad. An extraordinary country which certainly deserves a visit. 
A chance meeting appeared when I was notified that world traveler Johnny Ward was in central Africa! Johnny has around 100,000 followers in the social media and is completely down to earth! His project, "One step 4ward", has now lasted since he finished school and left Ireland in 2006. When he flew in and met me in Chads capital N'Djamena, he arrived to his 161st country!! So our meeting absolutely refreshing and was amazing. He is promoting the world and human culture and traditions but is also promoting a different lifestyle, where he shows how you can travel and work online. He describes it all much better on his webpage:
Johnny is a huge inspiration and a kindred soul who understands how hard it can be traveling the world. But we both have a tendency to promote nice photos so often people think that we are on a long vacation going to every country in the world. I don't know if you can imagine how hard this stuff can be at times? But Johnny started smiling and we agreed on so many things with just a few words. He's a great guy and I urge you to check him out (especially the list of things he has done which is massively impressive).
He relates to why I'm not flying because he has been traveling by land a lot and also believes that no person in history has reached every country in the world without flying. But he doesn't quite understand why I can't go home and rest for a bit and then continue? He tells me that it would be a lot easier...and I agree :) 
But I see it like this: If you were on a mountain, like Mt. Everest, and you were aiming to reach the summit and return safely to base camp, and you were alerted by a message that you had to come down after reaching 2/3 already...and a helicopter carried you down...and then a few days, weeks or months later a helicopter brings you back to that point...and you reach the summit and return safely to the ground - did you then really summit the mountain without flying? 
Johnny and I visited the main mosque which wouldn't allow us inside the fence for security reasons. Which surprised us both as everyone we met everywhere had been so helpful and welcoming? But then we saw a group of Muslims who were also turned away? So we figured that anyone who is not a "regular" at the mosque might have been turned away. The Boko Haram attacks in N'Djamena are horrendous and disturbing! Boko Haram which I think claims to be an Islamic movement is targeting anyone and anything which is not Boko Haram. Even mosques and market places. Terror only works if you believe in it so you cannot stay away from N'Djamena and think that it will keep you safe. N'Djamena is largely safe and the citizens are in complete despair! Because though the county is familiar with war it has rarely before seen attacks on civilians? Civilians have always been protected so this is new.
But look at the map. Chad is enormous! It's the 21st largest country in the world. The population is around 11 million and these are largely strangers who are waiting to befriend you. I never felt unsafe in Chad. I still don't. I have been surrounded by kind openminded people the entire time.
Traveling to CAR is a different potato. CAR is reportedly unstable and full of bandits which attach vehicles and convoys. Is this true or specific only to a part of the country? According to the embassy of CAR I had nothing to worry about in the western part of the country. But I have been advised by almost anyone I've spoken to not to cross the border from Chad in the north of CAR and make my way south. So luckily I have a multi entry visa for Cameroon and can backtrack there. Then I will follow the Cameroonian/Central African border south (inside Cameroon) and make a safe crossing into CAR far lower south. I feel safe...or as safe as anyone can be anywhere ;) Don't forget what Helen Keller(1880-1968) once wrote: 
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing”.
Looking forward to seeing Cameroon again, and some day returning to Chad to see the Great Lake Chad and meet with more of the hundreds of ethnicities ;)
Best regards
Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - probably visiting Cameroon 3 least :)
Once Upon A Saga
Once Upon a Saga
Made by Kameli