Haraka haraka haina Baraka

Hurry hurry has no blessing.
Swahili saying.

I’ve made a tough choice..

May 2006. Rusty Nail, performance in Nairobi, Kenya. The money I raised with this performance went to the Nyumbani Orphanage and to the Sexual Violence Recovery Centre. ($200,- for each.)

Everything has a purpose..

Do you know that feeling, that everything that didn’t make sense, all fell into place and in hindsight seemed all to have been happening for a reason? I have that feeling right now..

After two weeks of chaos, seeing a lot of things but also a lot of questions and irritation with the situation here. After days of boredom, sitting in an empty house, waiting, writing. Not writing because I was thinking: What now? Then all of a sudden I am where I had to be at this moment. The last months I have asked myself a lot. Where to go with this incredible journey? (Apart from the obvious exciting adventure)

What to do with all the filming I have done? I felt some kind of de cul de sac creatively speaking. (Not triggered until my arrival here with War Child in North Uganda)

Today I interviewed Viola, the project coordinator for War Child Gulu. I interviewed her about her life and her dreams. At the onset I had one story in my mind that I wanted to hear from her. (I have recorded so many dreams, is there still a common line here or is it going to amount to bulk information) Something she had said when I spoke to her after playing my performance last week. This powerful woman spoke to me about her admiration for her neighbour from her youth. A common woman who walks up the hill everyday in her faded clothes to go and work the fields. Who comes home at the end of the day and cooks for her children. Takes care of them. How that woman always has a smile on her face as if the baby unburdened her on her back or the gatherings of firewood. How that same woman, whose husband has in the meantime taken a second wife, goes to church every week. Her hair done, her body looked after, and dressed in her best. How she then beams, walks radiantly and proud like a queen. How she is a beacon for the youth, that come to her to talk to her about their problems, their fears their wishes. And how she is always there, for everybody, with a smile.
‘Why can’t I be as her?” was Viola’s question. Also answering that question she says I was born to do something else with my life. Because she had always been ‘different’. At a young age she felt that a life like that was not for her. However much she would like it. She would not be able to give it shape. And that is not only admirable, that is also sad.
What touched me during our conversation was that she finally gave me the ode to the common woman I had been looking for. The women that in many respects have more power and courage than the women with the big worldly accomplishments. I had already met so many of them and it had felt unbefitting not filming any of them. It is not only about bigger, better, crazier. The true value of people lies in their heart and how in their daily life they deal with the people around them. (getting too philosophical, I have to be still for a moment before I continue) I had wanted these women in the picture for a long time, because I am fascinated by them. I love all these strong women who I see walking at the side of the road, see working the land, see doing the laundry, see with their children. Who’s smile, if they direct it at me flies straight into my heart and warms me on the inside. The real earth mothers with burdens of sorrow and misery on their shoulders but the warmest smile of the world.
I understand how valuable it is to hear a woman like Viola talk about these women, now I only have to film the examples of their magnificence and lives. (Because it always seems as if one chooses a more ambitious, worldly life and denounces a more ‘common’ life at the same time, but that is not necessarily true) (A real diary entry)

Northern Uganda, a man walks with his bicycle to the market.
Such a deed can cost him his leg.

The LRA (Army of the Lord) who is terrorising this area and who are abducting children, has put a sentence on riding bikes: Every biker who runs into the army has great chance to lose his leg.
And still, I see many people in the streets, between the villages, smiling. Because life goes on. Because they need bread on the table.
I lose words when I think about it.

My visit here was good for something..it went somewhere. I actually saw a lot, met wonderful people (A lot). Was allowed it be part of the filming days with Marco (Borsato, a famous dutch singer) (translators note) and his crew. Drink beer together, eat, and laugh, an arm around me. I saw a lot of things, collected hundreds of dreams, slept in and thought about things. The school with it’s 6.000 students from the poorest villages. A woman who made it bloom through 17 years of hard work. An AIDS hospice connected to the school so children can go to school knowing that their sick parents are taken care of.

What some paint can do. Irene Gleeson works since 17 years in Northern Uganda. The school she ones started received it’s 6.000th student this week. Everywhere on the schoolground you can see red t-shirts. A big dusty expance with a some big, old trees.
Only the Aidshospice is beautifully painted. Seems like you’re allready in heaven!
In the morning I tell my stories (no performance without the tractor) and it’s so much fun. The man who translates my words sure know how to double the houmor. At one moment I find myself picking tears from my eyes. ‘Madam are you crying?

The nightshelters where hundreds of children (per shelter) spend their nights because it’s to dangerous in the villages.
War Child and other organisations join hands together to support and entertain these children.
The protection that is needed, always.

Nightcommutors’, children who can’t sleep with their parents because the risk of abduction is to big. The circumstances are poor. Many children sleep outside under a little roof. Close together on simple dirty mats. Their clothes are torn but the atmosphere is playfull. I could spend many night reading bedtimestories in this place!

I am almost ready for the last leg of my African journey. I am not sure yet how it will go because there is a lot to work out still And there is a lot to organise for the South Pole expedition and that is having it’s disconcerting effect on me. But I can’t go looking for sponsors and experience what I am experiencing now at the same time. I can’t just miss out on what I am in now. But what if my journey takes a year longer to complete just because I don’t have the money on time..
Would I then organise myself in South Africa, plan, write my book? When will I return to my other life, my work in the theatre, and mostly my friends? Maybe things will not go as smoothly as predicted so far. Maybe I am worrying prematurely.
I write it down. Then at least the weight of all these questions seems less. That I am not the only one that knows about them. It is a relief I must say. No secrets for my audience, no secrets for myself. A difficult and scary situation out in the open.

Here we go again, back to Kampala, in a landrover. Though the fields of North Uganda. A place where you wonder if behind every tree there might be a gun toting ‘rebel’. It’s seems bizarre sometimes, the world we live in. So many contradictions So many beautiful things, even in terrorized Northern Uganda.
(Open ending)
Big kiss Manon

A little movie

Watch manon and Kosovo drive through Uganda to the War Child projects.


See the videoclip from the performance on the Oerol festival last year.


Watch how Manon rolled into Paris in 2002.

A week with War Child..

Leaving Kampala for the North, without the tractor, its too dangerous.
Archer’s rock, camp in the Lira district

Northern Uganda is quiet at the moment.
But quiet here means that there is only 1 or 2 incidents a day. There are still children being kidnapped. They then have to fight in the ‘army of the lord’. That army seems to me the most horrendous thing on the planet.

That is also what goes through my mind when I lie in my bed the first night here. If something goes wrong here it could be the real thing..

The fun-day I am invited to the next day is great! We all go to a camp. The War Child van is filled to the brim with Ugandese War Child team members. The atmosphere is very up from moment one!!

The children have done some filming themselves the past week

War Child finances a school for children that have, because of war, abduction, early motherhood, or anything else, missed out on education.
With a ‘creche’ for kids.

How nice to come home..

Oh well Ok then I’ll say it. I was very sad the past week. (I probably passed another milestone) Apparently I was more in need of a comforting arm around me than I had foreseen myself.
The War Child projects are like some kind of achorpoints in my journey, places where I can come home to for a bit. But it was rather busy the past week and not everybody knew me and…I thought I was being silly that it was making me sad. But I really could’t help it, I really wanted to let my hair down with someone I knew. Marco’s arm was a miracle, but he’s been following and supporting me for so long!
This is the last War Child project on my journey….Sniff

..Looking for broad shoulder (to cry on) so I don’t have to be tough myself for a little while..

North Uganda

Hello everybody

Lots and lots of greetings from North Uganda. From me and Marco (Borsato) and all the great, sweet, and happy people here from the War Child Holland team

I’m going to prepare my update soon. I have to say goodbye to Marco and the crew first. It was very nice to ‘come home’ here. I’ve been travelling for almost a year. Oerol (theatrefestival from where Manon started her trip (translators note)) is coming up again. I would so much like to come tell about all the adventures of the tractorgirl from the past months. To all Oerol visitors: Enjoy! (..and give my regards to the island!) Good luck with everything and good weather too, see you soon, Mnonnie!