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From hot sun to frozen snow

Lately I’ve mostly been to places with good weather and strong sun. It’s actually a very nice feeling to cool down by swimming in a lake or in the ocean or by taking a cold shower. It’s uplifting to see the sky always blue.

I’m now back to my homeland during winter time. Gosh, it’s cold! It’s as if I don’t know how to handle cold weather anymore. As if I have to learn everything all over again.

And to take everything to the extremes as I usually do, I’ve decided to subscribe to a competition in Norway that involves going on a 300 km trip on snow on a sledge with dogs. This should re-educate me and remind me how to keep warm in cold weather.

I received the link from Kathy, my good friend from the States. She said I simply have to apply, that it’s for me. I started reading about it and I got enthusiastic. It sounds so good! Amazing! Sledge! Dogs! Snow! 300 km! She knew very well what she was sending to me.

I started to make a video, to choose some pictures, to answer some questions and…ready to go!

Ready to go…kind of…apparently people are chosen based on the number of votes they receive. Damn it. I was never fond of popularity contests.

I never took part to any competition that involved people voting for me. And now I’m spamming everyone to give me a tiny little vote. 😀 How things change! My principles went down the drain.

How the hack did some of the applicants manage to get 20,000 votes???!!! For the 1,000 I have now, I feel like I’ve already asked everyone: friends, friends of friends, former high school classmates, former work colleagues, former hosts through couchsurfing, former guests through couchsurfing, former colleagues in the NGOs I was part of, relatives, people from my hometown, former teachers, former university colleagues, scouts…I’m even surprised that it’s 1,000 all in all!

True…I’m not an expert with Facebook and the voting takes place through the platform…for more than 3 years I’ve really enjoyed my Facebookless life and I spoke very badly about this platform whenever given the chance: manipulation, brainwashing, profit-oriented, ignoring privacy, too many commercials, too much time lost.

I went back to Facebook to tell people about my blog and to find free accommodation in Maun, Botswana, by becoming a house-sitter.

Now, I’m witnessing first hand the power of Facebook. My friends who don’t have a Facebook profile can’t even vote, the hack with this popularity contest.

Either way, the competition in itself from Norway seems like a wonderful experience to me. Anyone can apply and it takes place every year. It is, for sure, a way to get over our self-imposed mental and physical limits, many times without realizing that we set limits for ourselves. And, there is still the possibility of being chosen by the jury, even if you don’t win the popularity contest.

There are many impressive applications, many people with much better videos than mine, with deeper answers than mine, with more experience in a lot of domains.

Even just applying, being there, among all these applicants who wish to take part to such a competition, it’s something.

Obviously, I’ll tell you too: if it happens that you want to give me a tiny vote, here’s the link. It only takes a few seconds. You have to login to Facebook. Of course that, should you wish to, you can also tell your friends! 😀

http://polar.fjallraven.com/contestant/?id=3778&backpage=1&order=popular&region=6

Meanwhile, enjoy the frozen snow or the hot sun, depending on where you are in the world. Enjoy life, the way it is, with good things and bad things.

Hugs and kisses!

Being cheated on and lied to come with a horrible feeling, no matter who or what you are

No one wants to be cheated on and lied to. It makes one feel very stupid and worthless. An object used for someone’s entertainment. One blames their selves for being naïve, for having trusted, for having fallen in love, for not having analyzed the situation enough, for not having been able to prevent it, for having put someone else’s needs before their own etc etc.

One wants to find someone to blame. One wants to know the rationale of the irrational. One wonders why. One wants to know, simply know where, how, when it all turned that way. One wants to know why were there so many unnecessary lies told along the way when all one asked for was honesty.

One wants to find a way to get all that anger out. One starts to doubt everyone around. One gets paranoid. One starts crying. And when the tears stop, one wants revenge. One wants to fight for a cause. To speak up. To raise above it all. One looks for something or someone else to believe in.

All shades of grey disappear. There is just black and white, nothing else. Fair and unfair. Truth and lies. All or nothing. There’s no middle way. No more compromises. “My way or the high way” kind of attitude.

But this is not a story about relationships. It’s not about my life and my feelings right now.

This is a story about Kenya, a beautiful country with beautiful people with whom I’ve started to sympathize much more since I got out of the safe environment in Nairobi.

So let’s talk openly about the elephant in the room.

Kenya’s drama is as simple as that: people don’t want to be cheated on and lied to. Not again. They know for sure they’ve been cheated on and lied to before.

They have proof it happened on the past elections earlier this year (8th of August). They suspect it happened also 4 years ago during the previous elections.

But now it’s clear and obvious, you don’t even have to be a lawyer to figure it out. And they’ve decided they had enough. They just want to break up.

But you see…even if the shades of grey disappear, there are still mixed feelings even when you’re an individual and not a country. Breaking up doesn’t always come easy. Breaking up sometimes takes more time than necessary because part of you is in denial.

Part of you wants to find excuses. Part of you still wishes hard for it not to be true even when you know for sure it is true. Part of you wants to deny the facts.

Part of you prefers to declare you insane and paranoid just to protect you from the disappointment of having been cheated on and lied to. Part of you stops questioning for fear of what it might find out.

Part of you starts thinking about all the things you have in common, all the happy moments. Part of you refuses to put the labels “liar”, “bastard”, “the one who took advantage of me” to someone you trusted and loved.

Part of you wants to believe that it’s impossible for it all to have been just a lie, even when you KNOW that it was all just a lie.

Part of you pushes for a second chance. The masochistic part of you.

My time in Kenya is still very far from the tear gas being shown in international press, far from the street fights and the clashes between the police and some of the citizens, far from the rubber bullets.

I’m now even isolated on Mfangano Island on Lake Victoria, I’m more than one hour boat ride away from the mainland.

Angry protesters blocking the road on Mfangano Island, Kenya

Yet, everyone I come in contact with here is very politically aware of what’s going on. They’re constantly watching the news and so am I since I’ve been here. They know at any given time what’s going on and what’s the latest update.

People here are the ones who have decided they had enough. They are the ones who want a change. They are the ones who want the break-up. They know a second chance would be pointless. They are the ones who don’t see any shade of grey. They are the ones who want to fight for a cause, no matter what.

Yet, as a whole, Kenya still has mixed feelings. She’s aware of everything, yet she can’t make the leap; she can’t break herself from what’s hurting her. She can’t let go. She still believes in second chances.

Kenya is still not ready to break-up, even if everything is clear and right into her face.

So then…how far can this go when the population is segregated to this degree? How far can the people who want the break-up take the entire story?

Since they can’t talk reason into the other part of Kenya, should they force their way and their view, no matter on the impact of their actions? What would forcing their way actually mean anyway?

When you’re an individual, you usually oscillate before making a decision. Although we want to believe that most of our decisions are rational ones, actually most of them are as irrational as it can get.

I want to believe that my decision process is some kind of democracy, a fair electoral process that goes on inside my brain after which I choose whatever is best for me.

But is it really? Sometimes a small detail ends up counting much more than a million other reasons. Sometimes I “follow my heart” and ignore my reason.

Sometimes I chose to put myself through unnecessary danger. Sometimes I ignore my intuition in key moments.

Sometimes I ignore the signs because I don’t want to be disappointed. Sometimes it takes me very long to realize and to admit that I was completely wrong.

I continue making the wrong decisions until I am ready, as a whole to make the right decision, until reason prevails and I am fully convinced.

I then take the leap, learn my lesson and never look back.

Kenya’s current drama, although very simple, it doesn’t have a clear solution. The wounds are already very deep; it will, for sure, take a long time and hard work for them to heal.

Force, aggressiveness, violence, open fights are never the right answer. Force, aggressiveness, violence, open fights never help with the healing process, but rather make wounds deeper and deeper and deeper until nothing’s left, until nothing can be saved anymore.

13 random facts from Southern African bubble gum

Did you know that in Southern part of Africa (South Africa, Namibia and Botswana) there’s a bubble gum brand which has a few random “Did you know” facts on its paper cover?

While I was in Namibia and Botswana, I ended up collecting the small papers. I found it fun somehow.

So here it is, a part of my collection.

  1. Dinosaurs are ancestors of chicken.
  2. Earth’s molten metal outer core is about 3000 km below the surface.
  3. Even if 75% of the human liver is removed, it can grow back to its original size.
  4. Every year in Sweden a hotel is built out of ice and occupied until it melts (apparently, even in Romania there’s one, at Bâlea Lake).
  5. Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
  6. A chameleon can move its eyes in two different directions at the same time. 
  7. It only takes 8 minutes for sunlight to travel from the sun to the earth.
  8. Leonardo da Vinci never signed or dated his most famous painting.
  9. The word “karate” means empty hand.
  10. Istanbul, Turkey is the only city in the world located on two continents.
  11. It takes more than 80 muscles to say one word.
  12. Jellyfish consists of 95% water.
  13. Kangaroos cannot walk backwards. 

How many did you already know?

The truth is you’re on your own. Only dogs are always honest and loyal.

There are times when you think you’ve found honest and kind people. There are times when you’re amazed and glad that someone offers to help you, even without you asking. There are times when you think you’ve found your person. There are times when you get enthusiastic about potential future common projects.

There are times when you trust people around you. There are times when you compromise to include another person in your life. Or you compromise for the sake of a good idea/project. There are times when you want to feel that you belong and you think you do. There are times when you’re ready to commit.

There are times when you’re zen and the first assumption you make is that everyone is honest.

There are times when you lower your guard.

But there are also times when you get fucked over.

Sometimes it’s crystal clear that you were cheated. Like when your ride to the airport to pick up your “friend” transforms into you being robbed, beaten, threatened to be killed, threatened to be raped, threatened to be infected with HIV, sprayed with pepper spray and finally dumped on a lonely street of the busy city.

You have the important things from your bag: credit cards and passport. You don’t have any more the 100 euros in cash in local currency, the new old Huawei phone that you had got 2 days before and the sunglasses.

Your body is a bit bruised, your ego is suffering intensely, but you were dropped off way before any of the threats got to happen. In the middle of the afternoon, after about an hour and a half of adrenaline rush.

Experienced traveler my ass.

Of course that when it becomes clear that you trusted the wrong people, that not everyone is honest, that you had lowered your guard too much, that you’re being fucked over, you try to fight back – the yellow belt in hapkido from Berlin and the kungfu lessons with Benjamin in China don’t seem to help too much, but good old biting works a little.

You quickly remember the biting strategy from the childhood fights with your older sister.

You try, but fail to break the window of the car with your head. You imagine yourself being able to strangle the driver like in Jackie Chan movies, but you are easily held back before even getting to touch the fucking driver.

You clearly watched too many action movies with your dad growing up.

You quickly change the tactics…you start bluffing: that you were smart enough to take a picture of the car before getting on, that you had already sent the picture and phone number you were called from to other local friends, that you are writing travel articles for the tourism department of Tanzania and are well connected in the country, that if you’re not online for more than 6 hours in a row, people start freaking out and police will be on their tail since the receptionist from your hotel had seen their faces, that if they fuck you over, they fuck themselves.

All of these because you are stubborn enough not to tell the motherfuckers the pin of your credit cards which are, of course, in your bag.

Experienced traveler my ass.

Heart racing in your chest worse than the time you were on a rollercoaster in Vienna, you yell “Kill me now! I’ve lived my life! You’re wasting your fucking time! ”.

They smack you once again and tell you to stop yelling and cooperate. You lie you would cooperate.

You wish that at least part of the bluffing was actually true. And when the story plays over and over and over again in your mind after it all happened, of course that you always take a picture of the car and send their phone number to one of the many local friends you got during your two months stay in the country.

Like any experienced traveler would do.

But hey, you know you’re stupidly lucky. You got out of the situation much better than you expected. It might be thanks to your mom’s weekly prayers that you always make fun of.

But it’s not always so crystal clear that you were cheated. Other stories play themselves a bit different. Like the time when you find yourself starting to think for two and making potential future plans in your head. You get too involved too fast. You start compromising, you sometimes leave aside your principles, you offer support, you share the little that you have, you ignore all the negatives and focus on the positives.

You make yourself always available.

You give not because you expect something in return, yet some support and reciprocity would be nice. Sharing is caring? A little consideration and understanding of a given situation? Choices that would include you and your comfort? Thinking about your preferences as well?

You question (sometimes aloud, sometimes in your head), you analyze, you wonder, you try to understand…you decide to express some of your concerns and have the impression that it was a fruitful discussion, but nothing really changes. “Sorry” becomes just another word.

You start realizing that there’s no reciprocity, that things are obviously hidden from you on purpose. And now you know for sure you’re being lied to because you get a different answer to a question you’ve asked before some months back. Bad memory, anyone?

You end up reading between the lines. You conclude that you’ve been cheated once again. You back off. You let go. You detach. You move on. You don’t look back.

No hard feelings. No point to blame. No need for more drama.

There are times when you’re paranoid. There are times when you think that everyone around you wants to fuck you over. There are times when you question the hidden reason of the person who just smiled to you. There are times when you’d rather be invisible.

And then, all of a sudden, you wake up. It was all just a bad dream.

You’re on your own. You’re safe. There’s no one around. Your guard is up.

Nothing ever happened. It’s all the script for a cheesy American movie. Fiction.

And, eventually, it all transforms into a happy end somehow.

Pam-pam. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

 

Greetings from Nairobi, Africa’s Silicon Valley

Nairobi is one of a kind. It’s not accidental that it’s nicknamed Africa’s Silicon Valley. Here everyone seems connected, there are more fancy and tall office buildings than in any other capital cities I’ve visited so far on the continent. Everyone has a website, loads of things happening online, I can even book my bus to Mbita online.

Yet, if you search online for Kenya and for Nairobi, these days Africa’s Silicon Valley seems to look like this:

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/news/gallery/2017/oct/06/fridays-top-pics-a-light-festival-and-lotus-seeds#img-6

And this:

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/12/kenya-bans-opposition-protests-as-election-crisis-deepens

And this:

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Nasa-cancels-Tuesday-anti-IEBC-demos/1056-4142716-6p8aoqz/index.html

Street protests, angry people, bad politics. Dangerous place at the moment, they say.

Yet my Nairobi for the past few days has been this:

And this:

And this:

It’s an interesting feeling to be in a place that is covered intensely by international press at the moment because of the unstable political situation, yet be so disconnected from the whole story.

The part of the city I stay in could as well be on a different continent in terms of access to first hand news. If you don’t read the international press, you have no idea what’s happening downtown, even though it’s all less than 10 km away.

So close, yet so far

This is a very residential part of the town, populated mainly by expats who have been living in Nairobi for a long time while working for international organizations. The main headquarters of UN is just around the corner.

Some of the properties are huge, with big gardens and high electric fences. It’s a safe area, every property has a security guard.

People don’t really walk here, having a car seems to be a must. You usually drive to get to a place where you can walk your dog. Cars often speed.

Media coverage and realities

The truth is, life goes on with or without protests. Most people still go to work like any other day, uber taxi drivers are still available, most people are still focused on making a living, matatus (local mini-buses) still take people from place to place, shops are still open, offices still have the same schedule.

Yes, corruption is bad. Yes, governments should have the interest of people in mind. Yes, elections should be fair.

Except that in many places in the world that’s not the case. And if you think about it, most people’s lives will not be impacted so much no matter on the government.

In the long run, we are all dead. In the short run, we are all concerned most about our own well-being. At the end of the day, our actions are based on our preferences.

Besides, we all know it often happens that our partners (often people with whom we’ve shared our deepest thoughts for years) are cheating on us, not being honest and hiding things from us. So then what’s the probability for a guy whom we never met in person to be completely selfless and only interested in our well-being?

How do you know that the alternative is a much better option?

I’m reading a good book at the moment that covers the history of China, from the times it was an empire to more or less the current modern setting. It’s called “Wild swans: Three daughters of China” by Jung Chang.

Back in 1948, youth was protesting against the old system, there was the guerrilla war that lead to communists coming to power. People were enthusiastic about the new communist system and order where farmers would have a say, where inequality would be stopped, where humbleness would be the norm.

Everyone was hoping for a more fair system and honest leaders.

Back then, it seemed that China was saved. Many intellectuals and farmers alike saw it like a change for the better. Many people were fighting for the revolution, encouraged the change.

Yet the same system some 20 years afterwards created the worst famine in the world that ended with tens of millions of people dying of starvation.

The same system some 40 years afterwards led to the Tianmen square event – youth protesting against the government, aggression, crime, many people who got killed.

So then…what’s the point? Why struggle? Why fight? Why be aggressive? Systems will change when they’re ready to change. And even when they do change, chances are high that inequality, poverty, oppression of certain people, racism, extreme nationalism would still not be solved.

Fairness is a relative term. Even truth is a relative term.

Illusions created with the main purpose of manipulating people.

In the end it’s all a game for power in which the simple, normal, honest citizen who’s simply trying to make a living for himself and his family can never win.

Your first Swahili lesson – small talk

“Muzungu! Jumbo.” (White! Hello)

“Jumbo.” (Hello)

“Mambo?” (How are you?)

“Poa. Habari?” (Good. How are you?)

“Sallaama. Karibu Tanzania!” (Good. Welcome to Tanzania!)

“Asante sana!” (Thank you very much!)

Are you struggling to learn some Swahili?

This is your first Swahili lesson that you’ll master for sure after just a few days of Tanzania (I’m not very sure on the spelling, though). The method for mastering this lesson is, of course, repetition. You’ll have to go through this dialogue at least 10 times per day, maybe 20 times is a more realistic number.

People are smiling at you and greeting you all the time. People you don’t know. Sometimes they just stare and then you feel obliged to greet or say something.  Or at least wave. Even if you’re riding a bike on a sandy and bumpy road.

To be honest or not to be honest

I didn’t understand small talk very well back when I was living in UK. It seemed like a very shallow interaction that doesn’t mean anything. I still don’t really get it. But it is, in the end, a simple way to acknowledge the people around you, a way to give a smile and be nice with whoever happens to cross your path.

It’s fun when you’re in a good mood. It’s a very simple process, you smile and wave and smile and wave and smile and wave and go through the same small dialogue and routine over and over again. It comes easy, even if you’re not the small talk kind of person.

But it’s terrible when the honest answer to “Mambo?” is not “Poa.” or when you just want to be by yourself and have some space. Then you have to fake the smile, you have to say the dishonest “poa” (unless you feel like telling all your problems to all the strangers you meet), you have to put effort into being nice.

Smile. Right now.

Maybe the power of small talk is to force you to smile even when you don’t feel like. It is, in the end, a good exercise. And I do usually get amused at this routine, even when I’m not in the best mood.

Maybe if you do this small talk routine at least 10 times every day for years, you get to learn how to control your feelings better. You don’t show so easily when you’re angry or unhappy or excited or enthusiastic. It’s more stable. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure.

Yes, this IS the culture where conflicts are not openly discussed. People get annoyed with you, but they don’t really show it. They have a different view than you, but they don’t really tell you. They are angry, but they’re still smiling. They’re hurt, but you can’t tell. Whereas I’m like an open book, I’m incapable of hiding it when I get annoyed, even when I try.

Muzungu! Muzungu!

Going back to your first Swahili lesson: The other funny thing is hearing the word “muzungu” (white) everywhere you go. This is actually not just about Swahili. It’s “mukua” in the north of Namibia and Zambia, “makua” in Botswana. “Oshilumbu” in Owambo.

It’s mostly kids running and waving at you, but sometimes also adults. Robbie had a good point: how would it be perceived if a Tanzanian/black African walked in an European country and everyone would call him or her: “Black! Hello!”? How conscious does one get about the colour of their skin because of this simple act considered normal here?

One Tanzanian, passer-by as well, told me I should reply with “nyeusi” (black) to kids/people calling me “muzungu”. I did that. Some people got surprised and frowned a little.

Either way, it’s just part of daily life.

Na wewe? Mambo?

How I ended up helping with the setting up of a bar in a mostly Muslim village in Tanzania, on the coast of the Indian Ocean

My life is a stochastic process. Randomness. A visa rejection, a visit to a Romanian friend I haven’t seen in a long time, a dinner in a Chinese restaurant in Lusaka, a bit of chatting about my messy lifestyle and there I was committing to a month in this small place called Kaole – a mostly Muslim village located on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Village life

I’m helping out with the setup of a small bar/place that comes with an amazing view and village life. Of course there’s no warm water (but then again, it’s too hot in this country to really feel the need of a hot shower). Of course that shower means grabbing a bucket of water and a jug. Of course that we keep a cat mostly to chase the rats away – although Tausi is in general cute and nice to cuddle with. The funny part is that the bar is in a mobile network black hole. So the internet office has to be the beach, which is not a bad internet office at all, especially since it’s a quiet corner.

The highlight of last week is that we got running water in the kitchen! Exciting news. Heading slowly (pole, pole, as people say here) towards the good direction where we can actually offer some food to our customers.

When you live the village life, you realize how much longer usual daily things take: hand washing your clothes, swiping (the wind brings the sand everywhere), shower (need to fill in buckets and warm up water if you’re not up for a cold shower), cooking (buckets of water carried from the water source to the kitchen – that was before our kitchen sink), washing the dishes (wash the basins, put one basin with soap, another one for rinsing, throw away the water when done – also before the kitchen sink), hiding food in closed compartments during night (rats), taking food out from closed compartments during day (too hot, it goes bad), carry buckets of water to the small garden so that your plants won’t die in the heat…

Keep calm and pole, pole

I’ve been here 4 weeks and three days so far. It feels much longer. But even so, I’ve decided to stay a bit longer than the one month I’ve committed to initially. Things do move slowly in this part of the world. It’s often very frustrating to be in a hurry. Pole, pole…pole, pole…slowly, slowly is the favourite phrase of Tanzanians. So you take a deep breath or you scream in a bag and you just pole, pole yourself. When in Rome, do what the Romans do.

Mboga saba (luxurious) life – good food and Bagamoyo wine

Pole, pole is not always bad. It sometimes gives a better balance between work and usual life, especially when it’s all so combined and you live at your work place. Living at your work place is for sure not ideal because you don’t really have any free time. There’s always something to do, someone who needs help, something to clean, something to be cooked…you move around like a crazy rasta.

How do you set up a bar and a restaurant in a place where most people cook at home and don’t drink?

Big challenge. Truth is, I don’t know. I guess you rely mostly on tourists and the small community that does like to go out every now and then. I’m just trying my best to help out for the fun of it, the challenge and see if/what works. If you give people what they want, they’ll come back. Maybe I will end up making a similar small investment for myself at some point. Although I’d like it to be more of a social enterprise where the local community benefits out of it.

Things here are basic and when I’ve arrived nothing was here. Considering it’s only been a month, we did accomplish something: we have cooking equipment, a wide range of stock, we have a garden (thank you, Vicky), we have a few clients, we managed to get one loyal customers who’s been helping us to bring more people this side (thank you, Allen), we started to serve also some food, we were able to cater for 10 unexpected customers, we had a burger night (thank you, Teddy), we had a squid pasta night and a curry squid and rice night (thank you, Robbie). But there’re still many things missing and loads of things that still need to be done, starting with the redesign and ending with basic kitchen equipment.

Either way, there’s something homey and relaxing about this place…probably the view and the fact that it’s so close to the ocean.

It’s been for sure an interesting experience so far. I’ve learned a few things – including that keeping track of the beers you hand to people is not as easy as it seems. I’ve realized yet again that working with people comes with challenges, especially when there are different speeds, different views of a place, different cultures, different backgrounds and no boss around. But any disagreement can be resolved.

I’m not yet sure how much longer I’ll be here. Same dilemma like always – you get used to a place, you put effort to make things move, you get closer to people, you get a certain routine and then it’s time to move on. And Robbie left.

Anyway…it is what it is.

Namibia, be humble

The Namibian visa story drained a lot of my energy and there are still a lot of things that I don’t understand:

  1. Why would the policy of a country not welcome people who are willing to work for free for non-profit organizations that end up creating work places for local people?
  2. Why would it take 4 months to make a decision about a visa application?
  3. Why would you call to announce that the visa was approved and the permit can be picked up when in fact the application was rejected, and the permit transforms into a letter of rejection?
  4. Why do so many people working for the government abuse their positions?
  5. Did they even read the application before making a decision or are all the applications for which no bribes were paid just rejected by default?

I would be very grateful if anyone could explain at least some of these things to me.

Short version of this long story: since mid March, we (BEN Namibia and I) are trying to apply for a one year volunteer permit for myself. Namibia doesn’t understand the concept of “volunteers”, so it has to go through a working visa application. 26th of June the visa was rejected. 8th of July home affairs called to say that it was approved, it only needs to be picked up. 17th of July home affairs hands in a rejection letter instead of the working permit.

I was getting really enthusiastic about my future work in Namibia, I was picturing bike trailers in many other places, not just Walvis Bay, I was imagining myself biking around Namibia, promoting this free and healthy way of transportation, I was starting to think of a “riding your bicycle month” fundraising campaign, I was thinking about ways to estimate the impact of an NGO on a given community. So many ideas, so much time waiting for a response, so much stress to obtain all sort of ridiculous documents, so many people trying to make it happen…and all for nothing. And that’s when the “something” was an unpaid job for an organization that has improved that lives of many Namibians so far.

Oh, well…for sure it’s not the first, nor the last time when ideas and good intentions go to waste because of bureaucracy, abuse of power and/or corruption.

Meanwhile, I’m featured in the national newspaper of the only country in the world which refused me a volunteer visa so far. Not for this story (yet), but for the best job I ever had: collecting garbage on the streets for recycling.

It was nice to get to know you, Namibia. You might think you’re special and maybe you actually are, but that doesn’t mean you have to be so damn arrogant. Being humble is generally a better strategy.

On the road again…Tanzania next week.

May I have a bit more of May?

May was the month of being in one place, of having a ”home”. Sweet freedom for my things that got to be on shelves for a whole month (5 weeks even, actually). It was a well-deserved break from the backpack for them.

I like to believe that I don’t have rituals, that my activities vary all the time from one day to the other. But when I have my own space for longer periods of time, I discover that I (re)acquiring rituals. Coffee with milk, but without sugar, oats porridge with bananas, raisins or peanuts for breakfast almost every day for breakfast. Sometimes omelet or scrambled eggs. Cooking pots of food that would last 2/3 days. Lunch is the main meal, mostly snacking for dinner. Grocery shopping for at least 5 days once –going shopping is not my thing. Reading mornings at coffee and evening before going to bed.

May was a month of having space and time for myself, of not feeling the pressure to be social, but rather just enjoy my own company.

”What do you do all day long?” many of my friends asked me. I played the piano again, I learnt how to solve the Rubik’s cube (almost), I read two and a half books, I wrote quite a bit – for the blog, for my “job”, for my personal journal – I went on morning walks with the neighbour, I did a bit of gardening, I even biked a little – the neighbours lent me a bike they haven’t used in about 4 years. They also gave me tools to play the mechanic while fixing the flat tire and adjusting the brakes. They also gave me oil for the chain and a pump. I also meditated and ran, but, truth be told, not as much as I had hoped, but hey, you can’t have it all.

The main reason why May was such a good month was that I was house-sitting again. I’m a lucky bastard. In Romania, when people are very lucky, we say that for sure they ate shit using a teaspoon when they were kids. I used a table spoon.

I ended up in a wonderful house with a piano, unlimited WiFi, a vegetable garden, a big yard and a nice cat to sleep at my feet. A house that blends very well with the nature around while still offering all the comfort needed. A house full of objects made from recycled materials. In Maun, Botswana.

Every day I would discover a new cool thing: glasses made out of beer bottles, fridge magnets made out of beer caps, shelves and bed tables made out of plastic beer crates, candle holders made out of metal cans. And loads of other small smart things like wine corks fitted on the lid pots and thread around the tea pot handle so that you don’t need a rag every time you move the lid of the pot or the tea pot.

The house is simple, yet elegant, comfortable, yet environmental-friendly, big, yet cozy, is isolated, yet with neighbours very close. It’s the perfect environment for combining working and living which is also what Lin (the owner of the house) does.

And the books, oh the books! I paused reading my book (Wild swans de…) and greedily choose a few books to read from Lin’s wonderful collection. “Love in Time of Cholera” fed the romantic me, “The Scavengers’ Manifesto” fed the economist in me, the collection of short stories written by Southern African female writers fed the “wanna-be” culturally and socially aware me. And there were so many other interesting reads there…

Even on the days that I didn’t go out of the yard at all, I didn’t feel as if I was inside the entire time. Because, truth be told, I wasn’t inside. The large green shady yard makes it the perfect place for writing or reading or admiring birds and squirrels or laughing at the cat trying to hunt squirrels. I’m pretty sure the squirrels were also laughing at the cat all the time.

I didn’t feel bad about not going out because there was no need to go out when there’s so much nature just in front of your house. I could walk around the yard, water the vegetable garden, inspect how much the egg-plant has grown since a few days back, “work” from the outside porch, stop clicking and start listening to the birds. I had no idea before that squirrels can be so noisy. Or just grab one of the books and read on the big chair in the shadow.

Unfortunately, beginning of June was the time to go and leave this wonderful house and its even more wonderful owner behind. But the encounter with them both (house and owner) was truly amazing and inspiring in loads of ways…We touched many subjects: house design ideas, life styles, ways of thinking, books, environmental problems and potential solutions, social problems and potential solutions, conservancy, research, life in academia, working for someone (selling your time) vs. freelancing vs. own business, to name just a few.

These past few weeks have definitely enriched me and left a long-lasting memory of my time in Botswana. It has been for sure a great inspiration.

June…? June was mostly about working in a backpackers in Livingstone, Zambia. More about that in a later post.

There’s no smoke without a fire, but sometimes the smoke thunders

Livingstone is a funny place. It’s probably the most touristic town in Zambia. That is mostly thanks to Victoria Waterfalls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

I passed Livingstone first time back in November last year with Luci and Adi. We were here for maybe around 3 days and got to see just the fall in the waterfall – we arrived at the end of the dry season. On the Zambian side, there was no water falling in the waterfall.

So, apart from the funny times with the bamboos, the visit to the falls was rather boring. Yeah, we could see the huge rocks, the dimension of the entire thing was impressive, but no need for a raincoat and no rainbow. Oh, well…next time, we thought.

Why renaming things that already have a name?

My next time has come two weeks ago. I’ve just recently found out that the actual name of Victoria Waterfall is Mosi-oa-Tunya which in the local language means “The smoke that thunders”.

But, of course, like many times before, when this guy called Livingstone arrived in this area, he thought that the huge waterfall has no name (why didn’t anyone tell him? I wonder if he even bothered asking). So I guess he took it upon himself to find a fitting name for this amazing thing – the name of the British queen. Hmmm…

The original name of the waterfall makes much more sense in my mind. Because of the mist, the waterfall looks like smoke from a distance. But it thunders, it’s very loud. So, “The smoke that thunders”. And it really does! You have to shout to be heard. And it rains!

Is it pouring just over my head?

It really does rain – fake heavy rain that makes the raincoat a really useful object. Wet object. It feels a bit like in cartoons, when a cloud appears over someone’s head and it starts raining “locally”. I almost killed my phone trying to take pictures. Luckily, Nokia has more lives than a cat and after an over-night rice spa, it started to work again (apart from the camera 🙁 ).

Copyright to Dintle, thank you.

Even so, the perfect double rainbow circle is only photographed in my mind. Unfortunately or fortunately? You’ll have to make the trip to see the beautiful rainbow yourself.

I was told before: walking in the fake rain is a cool feeling that’s very difficult to describe. It’s true. I can’t really describe it. The entire time I was enthusiastic.

And, although I’m used to discovering places by myself, I have to admit that it was fun to have someone with whom to share the enthusiasm this time. I might have not even noticed the perfect rainbow circle if I were by myself, as I sometimes walk with my head in the clouds.

So…yeah…super touristic place, but great fun. Seeing the Zimbabwean side is still on my list. I’m not sure yet when, but it will eventually happen. It will have to be coupled with a few weeks trip around Zimbabwe.