Bahir Dar.

An hour and a half of trying behind a local computer and I still can’t get into my **88&&! inbox. I have important things to do. I WANT TO COMMUNICATE! Happily I do get onto my website, so I just write it all out of my system.
The travelling laptop has broken down. I can’t use that. And here the electricity keeps being interrupted. Three big kisses to the person who’s sending me a replacement laptop to Addis Abeba…Nic, catch!!

Bahir Dar, tractorcamp at Lake Tana. 560km to the northwest of Addis Abeba. I’m having a so-called day ‘off’. The team is on a boat on their way to see a famous monastry. I didn’t join them because I feel I’m already in the starting position for my upcoming journey on my own. We made a great design for my tractortent. The tent poles from a canopy we had with us were ideal for the job. As if they were made for it. I’m going to turn the old 70ties tent we also have with us into a roof for the new tent. Skyblue.

I stare at my tractorbox with a cup of coffee in my hand. At my feet is the list of things I want, and need to take. How can I do this efficiently? What is most practical?
Travelling through Africa is totally different from travelling through Europe. Here I have to save water and there is no garantee for a camping every night. (Come to think of it neither is this the case in Europe) Or a village.
In the eight days from Khartoum to Gondar I found out, before washing up, I should first rinse my pan and plate with water and no soap. This way I had more water for my dog.
My hands are permanently dirty from these dusty roads. My clothes, my hair, my face are in dire need of restoration. And at every large stop the shower is more of a blessing. Altough afterwards I never seem as tanned as I thought I was.
Back to preparing. How many plactic containers do I take, what goes best in which box?
‘Think practical Manon, image it: How will I cook, where do I keep the perishable vegetables” Best not with the cans, and in plastic bags. They’ll probably start sweating.’ Better to wrap them in paper, but where do I get ‘fresh’ paper all the time?’ ‘I can’t wrap it in my shirt’ it’ll end up stained.’
‘You know what, admit it, you’re a long way from being a hero at this’
‘And practical cooking certainly is not your piece of cake’ …..I think I have a new dream: devising brilliant recipes on the way. ‘Or maybe that is also an Illusion’
Not often have I found myself more technical than creative, but today I understand a lot better, how and where to stash my computer. Now for those mango’s and bananas..

Gondar, thanks to Marieke

Wow, now. Done a lot the past week here in Gondar. Thanks to Marieke Boersma, who invited me here, I was able to visit a lot of projects. Marieke herself is like a fish in the water with all these projects. With her I visited the vilage Aykel where people come from far away with their handicaps in the hope to find help. Prostheses, a wheelchair or a chance of an operation in the University Hospital in Gondar. The most important part of Marieke’s job and team though (all Ethiopians) is rehabilitation. To teach people to deal with their handicaps. The people in the team all know sign language, braille, and the basics of fysiotherapy. Also their task is to improve the general opinion towards people with a handicap, and try to give people with a handicap a chance to be more independent, and to be able to do their part in the community. And even to generate their own income.
The visit made a deep impression on me. Mostly because the approach and atmosphere was so down to earth and practical and because you could feel there was a lot of respect and trust between the team and the villagers.

I also told the story of the cow and collected dreams at a little school in Aykel

After the performance I joined Marieke and her team for the rest of their working day there. Below you can see her talking to a man to see if there is anything they can do to help him with his handicap. His left leg is much shorter than the right and his foot is turned outwards. It is much too late though too change anything. Why didn’t he come any sooner? Marieke and her team member Ashenafi look at the possibility to get the man a prosthesis. Then he wouldn’t have to walk with a stick anymore. It looks good; he has a lot of strength in his thighs.
Marieke tells me that some children simply can’t go to school because their eyesight is poor. They simply can’t see the blackboard. Glasses are expensive, and more often even harder to organise than an expensive eye-operation. (Though paid for by the government) She tells me about a pair of amazing glasses designed by a Dutch university. They can be set to different strenghts, and only cost 2 euros. This way even the poorest can afford a pair of glasses. And the family can share! Grandpa can read the newspaper and the grandchild can wear them to school. Unfortunately the spectacles will by marketed in India first and it will probably take a while before Marieke can order them.

Marieke at work with Ashenafi. Ngisti and her street children.

Back in Gondar I visited Ngisti and her street children. Six years ago she decided to start taking care of streetchildren. Her father thought the whole idea rediculous and said: ‘if you do that, you won’t be my daughter anymore. You have to study and marry a respectable husband.’ The streetchildren she talked to said: ‘what do you want? Give us bread, give us money.’ ‘ If you don’t have that then how are you going to help us?’ How she did it I don’t really know but the money came, bit by bit. Someone gave her the use of a house (in a dusty street, with a corrogated roof) It is now the home of sixteen streetchildren. For some she organised a family to stay with. The prison in Gondar shares the food with them, when there is enough. And all children go to school.
I ask them about their dreams. One wants to be a marathon runner, he has already won prizes. The other wants to be minister-president. They all have big dreams. But they also tell me honestly this was not the case a few years ago. Ngisti still has hardly any money for her caretaking. She herself lives from the gifts of her family. (That now does support her decision) I am strong she says when asked about this. And I am respected for this now, even by my father. Because of her contacts with Marieke her children can have check-ups at the hospital when something is wrong.

Slowly it becomes clear to me that Marieke is a hero here next to other heroes. What she does (and this I have not seen in this way with any other organisation I saw or visited) is bring people in contact with each other. And get them to work together. She thinks pragmatically and takes one step at a time. In this way she has created a network of people in Gondar with different qualities that all know each other. And they make a safety net for a lot of others.

The day before yesterday I played my performance on a primary school in Gondar. It seems all the 3000 children that attend the school came to watch. And there were some children from the CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) programme. Ashenafi, who is actually a doctor, was my translator. And he was very good.

I don’t think I’ve played for so many children before.

Yesterday I played on a big square next to the famous castle from emperor Fasili, in the middle of Gondar. It was a public performance for anybody who wanted to come. And a lot of people came. After the performance I asked Ngisti and Marieke if they would like to join me on the tractor. I think they are the real heroes here. They help to make a lot of dreams come true. Respect.
Afterwards we all went to dinner together. I have the feeling I made a lot of friends this week. And it was a lot of fun. Ashenafi wants to start a drama club with his colleagues. I told him he would probably do well as a story-telling doctor. I can see it now, party in the hospital.

Today I say goodbye, and tomorrow I’ll hit the road again with my tractor. Direction Addis Abeba. The last few days a lot of thought has gone into how I will travel on my own. My tractor will get a little tractortent. So I can cook and sleep of the ground in the rainy season. Now it is time to spend some last days with my incredible tractorteam. Sarah, Geert and Colin. Colin will stay behind in Addis Abeba and will help fix everything to the tractor, give me technical instructions, and do the logistics from a distance. He’s a true hero-hero!
I am very curious as to what will happen next. I’ll keep you posted. ;-)

10.000 kilometres, how did I do that?

Hello there, I have arrived in Ethiopia with my tractor

Almost two weeks ago I left Khartoum, on my tractor, with the dog next to me in a basket on the fender. After almost five weeks in Khartoum the time had come to move on. Khartoum was tiring, intense and impressive. Tiring because I was already exhausted from all the impressions of all those months of travelling. And intense and impressive because of all the special things we encountered here.
I’d love to tell you all about the offer from the UN counselling department to visit them in Darfur. This in the end was not possible because of a tragic helicopter accident and more unrest in the area. About the offer to travel through South Sudan under SPLA guard to Uganda. The enormous media-attention generated around my performance. I played by invitation from the National Artists Union! But most of all I’d like to tell you all the stories of the people who attended my performance and the ensuing evening of question and answer. I’d like to tell you about the famous comedy actor (smiling on the picture below)

who translated the performance, or the army man from the UN who came to me after the performance; He had seen my performance a week earlier and given me his dream. In between the two performances he was on a flight to Nairobi that almost crashed. Halfway the panicked minutes he thought to himself: ‘No I don’t think I can die now. I’ve only just given her my dream, she still has to get to the South Pole and I still have to make my dream come true.’ With gleaming eyes he came to tell me this.
I’d like to tell you about how my telephone was tapped and how one evening I got a police escort home. Me on the tractor, they in their police car. And a casual but very obvious questioning! Bit by bit my stay in Sudan became more and more politically charged. Everybody I interviewed, all the dreams I was given or told, they all spoke of the wish for peace. Even the students from the theatre school whom I gave one lesson of ‘Dutch’ mime. As part of their curriculum they give lessons to thousands of schoolchildren who later will be the future of this country. They see a task for themselves to work with this new generation towards acceptance of all the different cultures and tribes of Sudan. I myself thought of another dream after this trip. All my stories will have to be published in a book, there is too many for now..

I drove out of Khartoum with my 20 km per hour. The wind in my hair, the dog panting next to me. For the first time in my history I’m travelling through Africa by myself. Unsupported and unguided. The coming eight days are for the dog and me. And we love it together. The team and I decIded that if one country was safe enough for a trial run of travelling on my own, it was Sudan. To a bystander this might seem odd but the people here are so heartwarming and they want so very much fort people to know this. And apart from this, Sudan is almost as big as the whole of Western Europe and most of the country is poor but by no means in war.
Up until the border of Ethiopia, six days further, I was still being recognised by people who had seen something about me in the newspaper or on TV (The camera crew must have had invisible cameras because I didn’t see any!).
The travelling was fun, and for the first time in months I calmed down. Even though it was sometimes hard to travel alone, finding a campsite… I only met nice people. (Stories, stories)
And I took a big decision. From Addis Abeba onwards I will travel alone with my tractor and my dog.
The way we had been travelling together was not working for all of us. I chose inspiring people to join me for a piece of my trip and find their own dream to fulfill, and not a coffeemaking support team at the roadside. It tires me out and them too. This story now is too long and complicated but I will come back to it. I thought it over very well and when I arrived in Gondar all the team seemed to agree with the proposed change. It’s reality really that just has to be dealt with. I do hope to be able to take someone along with me on the tractor sometimes. This is the place from where this trip is best experienced!
So now I’m in Gondar, Ethiopia and straight away I’m introduced to a lot of different projects by Marieke (yes a Dutch girl!). Tomorrow we are off for a trip in the mountains and Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll play, maybe for the last time, my performance. Enjoy your weekend.

Child solidier impressed by your heartfelt message in sudan

Aanstaande zaterdag speel ik een bijzondere voorstelling in Khartoum, met veel media en artiesten erbij. Maar hier een reactie op mijn vorige voorstelling..

Dear Madam Manon
Compliments for your heartfelt vist to my country and your uplifting spirit for heartbroken kids like me to achieve our dream, to be frank here in my country nothing you can see is bad as you said. But deeply people are wounded, take example I lost my dad and mum plus my elder brother when I was five years old and their death was tragic to me as I saw them being slaughtered by solidier, and when I reached nine years of age, I join the movement that is SPLA/M in south to fight for my own freedom, Nevertheless, things change slowly for me, after five years I was wounded in battle and transfer to Uganda for my treatment, after my recovery I join the military school academic where I manage to pass with high mark and admitted to scondary school under the scholarship of JRS { jesuit refugee service} it seems to to me as the beginning to realise that war will bring no solution or revenge will not let you achieve your dream as you said, well after my scondary school I was not having chance to university in Uganda since I have got no backing up hand because only four years JRS paid for my school, I decided to come to Ethiopia where headquater of African Union is. To tell you the truth the sponsored me to University on condition to paid my acomodation and rented fees, just as I stated above having no parents to support me, I drop out, and apply for the asylum in out side Africa countries, but never succeed, lastly but not the least I return home that Sudan to further me study, I apply to ministry of Education here In Khartoum and I was Admitted to Juba Unversity which is the only English partten because I don’t speak or write Arabic only English and I should learn free without paying anythings but here comes other obstcale, the school is not boarding school and I have got no one to care for my transportation fees and food, on other hand I stayed in some one home who only knew my father before,
I am confuse really madam your inspiration message made me to asked myself several questions how to achieve my dreams, before that, I decided to join the military since I have’nt any ID card that is the only option. I was having that in mind but you said we can come out of impossibility if we work for it. I try and try but come other head, what I can I do really

Heeft iemand een antwoord voor deze jongen?
‘Keep believing, hope you have friends, all is possible, you can do it. Don’t give up, you’re halfway there..’ Maar is dat waar? Een jongen als deze, die zo’n brief schrijft is op een bepaalde manier stuk, kapot gemaakt door het leven. Tegelijkertijd leeft ie nog, is zelfs al jaren verder in zijn leven. Dat moet ver-schrik-ke-lijk zijn! Maar het toont ook zijn kracht, die moet enorm zijn. De enige vraag is: zet ie ‘m in om zichzelf te vernietigen of gaat hij door met het misschien wel onmogelijke gevecht van het blijven geloven?
Als je het opgeeft, weet je zeker wat het antwoord is..

Dit is een reden waarom ik met mijn reis projecten onderweg steun. Zij kunnen echt een verschil maken voor een flink aantal mensen.

Gister reed ik in het donker door de straten van Khartoum, op mijn trekker. Het was heerlijk rustig en ineens zag ik voor me op de weg 30 nee 40 Soedanezen in oranje overalls met grote nieuwe bezems in de hand. Ik reed tussen ze door, en het was alsof ik een videoclip binenreed met allemaal coole rappers.
‘Yo sister’
‘Yo, brother!’ Het mooist aan hun verschijning, naast die geweldige glimlach? Het embleem op hun rug. mintgroene afbeelding van zo’n mannetje met n prop papier in de hand naast een prullemand, Maar dan ipv zo’n harkpoppetje, een mannetje met een lange jurk aan, een djallabiah. Dat dragen ze hier veel.
Heel erg grappig om te zien, zoiets als verkeersbord: kijk uit overstekende eendjes!
Ik hou van mannen in jurken!
(en in oranje overalls ;)