Newsletter September/October

To the South Pole
sometimes you just have to do things.

An impressive month at the Balkans.
Visits to Warchild projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo and DOE! performed at special locations
Tractor and truck on the boat to Egypt. We travel by plane later. The journey has started. The Africa team is ready..

On my birthday, the 9th of September, we make the transit from Ancona to Split by boat. I feel thrown back in time. It is a beautiful country. A country with mountains that rise from the sea, with deep blue water, with the kindest of people.

The whole road to Mostar I drive in wonder. What happened here,and what here? Many houses are being rebuilt, many floors stand empty. Only closer to Mostar I understand why everything looks so shiny. Houses without new layers of plaster are devastated by thousands of grenade and bullet holes. People react strongly to my tractor, many people use their horn. First I am afraid that they make fun of me, their claxons are loud in my ears. But when I look around me I see people grin and stick up their thumbs, as if they are happy to see something as funny as me. I also see a lot of children under ten. Are these children of hope? War stopped ten years ago.

Mostar is a beautiful medieval city, with in the heart of the city the Stari Most (old bridge). This bridge is the symbol for the unity of the city with inhabitants of different ethnicities. In the war the bridge was ruined, but now it has been rebuilt, metaphorically like the unity of the city itself. The first evening of my visit to Mostar I have an interview with a Dutch radio program while I am standing in the middle of this bridge. I am so impressed with everything I have seen that I can hardly can stop talking. In six days time I perform on five different schools, in all corners of the city.

I pick up Saar from the bus station (Saar will also travel with us through Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia). Together we ride on the tractor through the half-ruined city, there is a soft Indian summer sun shining. That evening we talk ins and outs about everything that is going to happen.

The next day Geert arrives, the photographer, with his girlfriend Drthe. He will travel with us from Sudan until Ethiopia but also visits us in the Balkan and Egypt.
Saar and Geert will make cover stories during this journey. Those articles will hopefully result in a book with interviews and portraits of grandparents and grandchildren that we will meet on the road: a book about old and young dreams.
It is wonderful to start working together like this. In a short time we get to know a lot about the city and its inhabitants, every one of us meets other people and stories. The people of Warchild/Educon help me to translate my performance in the Bosnian language.

The most special performance that I play in Mostar, thanks to Saar, is on the famous Mostar Gymnasium. In the week of my arrival the government of the Mostar Kanton wanted to silently introduce a new law. This law would institutionalize the division between ethnic Croatian schools and ethnic Bosnian (Muslim) schools. The summer holiday was extended with a week, to pass the law in time. The children heard about this extension by radio. The gymnasium of Mostar is one of the few or even the only mixed school in the region. Kids of different ethnicity are not in the same classroom, but they can meet each other on the stairs and on the schoolyard. The law comes too late to prevent that. My performance, performed at the schoolyard, became a small rebellion against the governmental decisions, the idea came from the OSCE office in Mostar. I perform in front of a mixed group of students and it is a treat to all of us.

Journey to Pristina
It drive six days to get from Mostar to Pristina. Fall is arriving and everywhere on the road I see people chopping and collecting wood for the winter. I drive through Bosnia and Montenegro to Kosovopeople have warned me for Kosovo and I am a little nervous. Nearly everyone I meet warns me for fake-police, for the certain theft of my tractor, and for revengeful Muslims. But I meet none, although I am prepared for the worst. Already at the first border I am invited for a coke instead of being bullied or robbed. We stand on top of a mountain in a deserted landscape, everything is silent and it rains lightly. We make jokes about the flees on the boat from Ancona to Splitthey laugh about a girl on a tractor in the middle of nowhere.
These 600 kilometres to Kosovo are unremarkable kilometres, but they are the heaviest until is getting winter in the Balkans and I am cold!

Documentary film
Marco and Joris arrive, they are making a documentary movie of the whole project. On the road we film the road-movie part and Marco and Joris make special reports. They make beautiful shots.

Pristina is a totally differed city than Mostar. I wouldnt send people here for a holiday. I dont feel unsafe, but the city makes an impact. Its a city with a Bill Clinton Avenue and a lot of white UN cars. At the same time you see the citizens who are not so well off. The people here are introvert, like the Groningers in Holland, and I can feel they are still trying to digest he past. Only 6 years ago it was war here…
The UN will leave somewhere in December, and it makes the people restless. The rehabilitation is not complete, at least 3 times a day there is a power cut, and there is no uninterrupted water supply. What did the UN do here? I hear stories about an African UN employee who is responsible to prepare the city for the winter, I hear about a man from Pakistan who is responsible for gender issues. They might be very competent people, but it sounds funny when you hear about it for the first time. And I see lots of tractors in the middle of the city, they pull carts full of fire wood.

I do a performance in a school for normal- , special needs-, and disabled children. It is funny to talk with 3 deaf boys. Its more easy to talk to them with hands and feed, then to talk to normal children.

Prison and karaoke
I perform as well in a juvenile prison near Pristina. This performance is changed a bit due to the bad weather. Its very special. I play for prisoners ( boys and girls of my age) and wardens. Never before I saw the dreams being planted in the soil with so much care. It was touching.
That evening we sing in a Japanese karaoke bar, together with a few women who work for the UN, and the same prison. (Very special women in a tough city.) We have interesting discussions, followed up by lots of singing. Marco and Joris who are here to make a documentary of my journey participate as well. Full blast

A hairy souvenir from Kosovo
At the border, on our way back to Bosnia, the team gets an additional member..

On our way to Italy
Driving back to Italy, something goes wrong and I have to spend the night in Mostar like a homeless person. But I spend it in the most luxurious place a homeless could wish for.

The tractor is put on a trailer and so I return to Italy. To speed up the formalities at the border I stay with the tractor and the bulgarian truck driver.
This super fast (compared with the speed of the tractor when I drive myself) trailer was provided by Deutz. In this way I had more time to stay at the projects of War child.

Back in Italy, in a place called Treviglio ( close to Milan) I have my first, real press conference.
I pose for at least 25 photographers. ( No not yet a pop star. Hi hi )
It was very funny: I felt connected with 2 different parties: the sponsor and the demonstrators who were around the corner.

Carnet de Passage, sunroof, isolation, shipping delay, preparation for Egypt.
All the paperwork is serious business, especially those papers that do not come. Since France I was worried about them, and only now, in Treviglio this problem is being addressed. ( yes that made me mad) But it all worked out, and after a long long week we finally had a carnet de passage in our hand.
In the mean time, at Rozzonis, the tractor gets a sunroof, and I have to choose a colour. .. Light pink ?? No thanks I go for the material which claims to have the 100% UV block. It feels a bit stupid such a roof, but I m sure I ll need it. On the other hand it looks cozy. It was designed so it can stand some beating. Camera mountings are being made so I can film while driving: the landscapes from my viewpoint, people I meet..
Colin and KJ isolate the roof of the truck against the heat, they change the oil, get new tires, make secret hiding places end are very grateful for all the help SDF is giving them

The transport of our vehicles to Egypt is taken care of by mister Tufariello from the Bracchi, transportcompany together with Same Deutz-Fahr. This is super!! We are busy for two days to prepare the tractor and truck. He sponsors us because he likes the concept of the journey. It s a pity he boat has a delay of almost a week.

RBgan satellite laptop: Satfa /Xantic
Satfa in Rotterdam provides us with a satellite laptop. So from now on I can update my website in the middle of nowhere. For example at the pyramids.
Really great, and Xantic gives us a nice discount on the transmitted data.

Pharmacy t Rikkelder, we get medicines
It s starting to look like a sponsor promotion, But I have to say that this journey is only possible with the help of all the fabulous sponsors. Pharmacy t Rikkelder in Ruurlo is one of them. Mister Vincent Bohnenn, provided us with all the medicines, brought to us by the mother of support-truck-Colin. For the people who visit his pharmacy there is a picture on the wall of our team, and thanks to my mother, an update of our trip to look at.

Volunteers, without the help of the team in Holland, this trip would have been impossible. With the support of my tractor team on the road this trip gains a lot of extra meaning and depth.
The team at home help us with a financial overview on our sparse budget ( although I feel richer than a king), they sell tractor t-shirts ( 5 euro goes to warchild), translate the web-site, send out this news letter, find sponsors, and inform the press.
I have been busy for 4 years to prepare this trip, collected information, contacted embassies and aid-organizations. Without the help of these volunteers I would have achieved nothing. Three thousand times thanks and a big applaud for all the people who helped to materialize this dream. I ll try to do everything to make this trip more than special.

Publisher De Geus
There is a book to come out about this trip. Hoei!
Last week I signed the contract with the Publisher De Geus. I kept a diary since I left Holland, this week I will finish the part about Europe and send it tot hem. I hope they will like it

Week rest to write the book, passport dog, sister and Pascal.
One week rest, but still a lot of things to do, my sister and her husband come to visit me, we stay in a very cozy house and get a passport for doggy Kosovo

Visa Sudan
They are beautiful green, with a red stamp on it. They were very relaxed and nice. I am totally happy. its raining, big kisses This was a sms sent by Saar to us. She applied for our visa for Sudan. No problems! (people did tell us it would be extremely difficult. So difficult I almost did not dare to try it in Holland).The people were very nice and helpful in the embassy and they forecasted us a nice stay in Sudan. So the journey, I so very much want to make is going to happen

News letter
I am writing this on the evening before I leave for Egypt
I m sorry for the delay, There was so much to do ( see the site as well ). I ll do my best to send this newsletter every month, helped by KJ and Saar and Colin in the support truck.
I will soon drive on my tractor in a strange, unknown continent and I dont know how the people will react on me. I m looking forward to it and can hardly believe tomorrow I will be there

Support truck diary / Volgwagendagboek
Soon you will be able to read about the adventures of the support truck. The link to that site is situated at the top of my Zuidpool page.

Marco Borsato
Marco Borsato reports on me on his website and we keep in contact through sms messages It is really good to talk about this journey in depth. This contact is very special for me. He dares to say things I dont dare. That inspires me: Boys, believe in peace, It starts at every little step, at your front door, and you dont have to be like a butterfly straight away. ( This is a title of one of his songs)
So and now on our way to Africa!!!
Many greetings from Manon, tractor and tractor team.

For a more detailed story (dairy and pictures )go to my site
Translation of the site is an ongoing process.