Life is a tempest, and it’s raining outside…

_Working on the book in ‘Talis man’ restaurant…coolest place in Nairobi!!_

Days fly by, it’s raining cats and dogs, even here in Kenya…
I’ve locked myself inside to write my book, the deadline closing in.
I still haven’t been able to make contact with Wangari Maathai, she’s a busy woman. I tried everything, I drove to her office on the tractor. The women working there totally loved the green tractor, touching their cheeks and shaking their heads, laughing.
‘Tell me more, where do you sleep? Ã?n there?’. I told them that i’m very impressed with the efforts of the ‘Green Belt Movement’, and it’s true*!

They urged me to keep calling, keep writing, keep emailing.
They gave me the email-adress of Wangari’s daughter, but up till now, both women appear to have vanished from Earth.
Right here, right now, something weird is going on. The taxi I just used, driven by a guy I gradually befriended and whose father works for Wangari Maathai, ‘coincidentally’, was just summoned by the daughter, Wanjira Maathai.
I told him, she’s one of your regular fares, so I’ll wait in this bar, need to do some writing anyway. So here I am, typing a daft story, while my cab driver is speeding away ‘the daughter of’…
(shushh, at least i have her number now)

Oooh, there he comes again, I’ll continue later
(Tomorrow there’ll be a tug-of-war contest featuring the tractor versus all the students of a school!!! for charity…)

Over the past week, the ‘East African Canvas Company’ built me a new tent!
The old tent was falling apart, weathered to bits by sun and rain. Furthermore, it was hardly ‘wildlife-proof’. That has now been fixed by Rob’s company, Rob being Lindsey’s (the fashion show woman) husband.

Normally, the company fabricates safari tents, very nice, shique items, straight from the past century, making use of wooden poles and beautiful interiors. My hope is that they’ll start exports to Europe, as most tents used there for parties and weddings are ugly, white, plastic monstrosities.(sorry, catering experiences taking over)
They made me a new tent, so now I’ll be advertising for them.
HA, this tent is SUPER!
There’s only one tiny issue (which will be solved next week):
I requested ‘windows’ which would open from the inside, so I’ll be able to see anything approaching when camping in the bush.
But I kinda didn’t think of the fact that with all this rain, water is pouring in through the mesh windows. My new plastic tent flooring has been made with the edges going up, so recently I’ve been waking up in a swimming puddle. The campsite where I’m camping now, serves coffee in the morning, so last the three days I’ve been sitting under their roof, sleepy-headed, admiring my swimming pool. That’s not the way it should be, so adjustments will be made. Heehee, Ã?fter I throw a swimming pool party this weekend. And the sun is coming out again, finally.

At my tractor sponsor’s, Sametract (the last tractor maintenance sponsor I’ll encounter before I reach South Africa, in a year…), the vehicle has been serviced for the last time. They also helped me out designing/constructing a system with which I can film people on my way, without me having to hold the camera. And with which I can film myself, while I’m bouncing through the wastelands either smiling or weeping.
Nairobi seems intent on keeping me here. This morning I discovered that my front left tire has a puncture! How did you manage to do that, in the big city?

_designed a system to keep filming whilst driving_
_The team of eight that worked on my tractor_

*In the past 25 years, the ‘Green Belt Movement’ has been planting over three million trees throughout Kenya and it’s neighbours. This way, they’re fighting the ever insistent march of erosion and desert, create employment for women in rural areas, fertolize the soil and create firewood in a responsible manner.

My book will be published in may, by the publisher “De Geus”.
So many things have happened, in one and a half years, that the decision was made to publish it in two parts. I’m totally occupied writing it, using the diary notes I made during the whole period.
My aim is to finish part one before january the 1st, so I can start the next leg of the journey on a clean slate. It’s tons of fun, looking back at all the struggles before setting off and the journey that followed. I’m only halfway, and yet so many things have happened!

_Just popping outside to feed a giraffe._

originally published November 23, 2006

Made for Africa

Yesterday, I spent four hours in Nairobi’s Karen Hospital. I didn’t feel well, and it seemed like a bright idea to get myself checked out before taking off again…
Well, the final result of the tests and hours of waiting was that I appear not to have typhoid, no malaria, no bilharzia nor amoeabas. ‘I must have been made for africa’, I stated. ‘Nonetheless, I’m dead tired’. They did find some bacteria down my stomach. I remember thinking:’Aren’t those supposed to be there?’. But maybe they are the cause, of me feeling bloated and touchy. So they gave me antibiotics.

Today I collected the tractor at the workshop, it has been hauled over by 6 mechanics. I feel like Samson, after having had his hair restored in some unlikely miraculous fashion. Though it might be exhausting, all the smiling and waving all day, it’s also an increeeeeeeeeedibly lot of fun, having all this contact.

Wangari Maathai has returned from the USA to attend a conference. Now I’m faced with the apparently impossible task of fetching her away for a cup of coffee. Fortunately, at least I bow have all her telphone numbers and all I have to do is get myself to do it…

_What is she up to?_

originally published November 7, 2006

Miss Kenya..

I’m back in Nairobi, on my own again.
Destitute too, the tractor is at Sametract (sponsor tractor company). It’s being revised for the coming year. Until I reach South Africa, a whole year of driving away, there are no tractor companies to help me out. It took 3 days to get the roof reinforced, and I feel like I’ll never be able to get going.

Tragically, I can’t stay put, unless that serves a purpose.
Must sound weird, coming from someone who drags along through africa at 20 kilometers/hour.

My arrival in Nairobi did not go unnoticed. It’s independance day and the streets are packed with people. Families walking holding hands, fathers with kids on the shoulders. They’ve just attended a speech of president Kibaki at the national stadium.

TN Travel News magazine

From Kenya tot South Africa..October 2006

The woman who organized ‘Fashion and Woman against Violence’ has written a wonderful piece on me for the magazine ‘Travel News’. Now I’m regularly being phoned for short radio interviews, reaching up to South Africa.
Holland is very quiet, and before I go to sleep, I whisper ‘I miss you’… Being on the road for a whole year longer, on your own, that’s really something.

FORD ‘Super Model of the World’ Kenya search.

I’ve been asked to collect dreams during this show. The girl that wins becomes top model of Kenya and is a contestant for the ‘FORD Super model of the World’ show in New York.
Honourable MP Njoke Ndungu, the woman that pushed through the government bill against sexual abuse (yeehaa! she’s done it!), is guest of honour.
And just like she did on the fashion show last April, she introduces me to the public, and this time I take over from her and start collecting dreams from the people, written on tiny pieces of paper.

When I collect the dreams in a big blue glass bowl, it’s totally quiet, except for the song of a marvelous opera singer behind me. Every time I pick up one of the dreams, I grow silent inside… how splendid it is to carry away such personal, fragile items… I will not read them, just carry them on the back of the tractor, and Kosovo, my dog, will guard them. All the way to antarctica, where I will build a snowman, with the ‘dreams of the world’ in its belly. Hopefully, frozen forever. As a witness to this era.

Standard Newspaper

A full page in the biggest newspaper of Kenya

Nairobi knows I’m here allright. Soon after my arrival I’m being interviewed for the biggest paper in the country. KTN, the national television broadcast company, pops by to do a shoot.
‘The Queen of Adventure’, wooohooo I’ve never been called that before! (giggle) And they even mention my ‘modest’ clothing, the long decent skirt and the blouse, made by Paulien’s mum.

So now I’m on my own again, and that’s quite a thing to get used to. The Kenyan Women MP’s are moving the ‘tea’ forward every week, but I’m not gonna sit around here forever. Tractor needs to be upgraded, the Tent is going to be upgraded and after that… after that I’m out of here. On my way to the coming year.

Back on the road

Have started travelling again so swiftly, need to get my stuff back in order ‘in the bush’.

Quickly, quickly
Arrived in Nairobi on thursday, and on friday I got my tractor again. On saturday the dog returned, and on sunday I wrote about Paris. On monday Joost and I took off for Mombasa, and we still hadn’t got there on thursday. On friday I felt this strange sensation that on our arrival (the next monday), we might have only one day before getting back. So we decided to turn back

Joost (one of the designers of this website and other stuff) will travel with me for a few weeks. To take pictures and shoot video, which is pretty darn hard when you’re on your own.
I would have liked to offer him some holiday time off, along with all the hours of sitting on the tractor, hence the scheme to find a beach. Alas…

But sometimes making a choice that feels right, even though it’s weird to turn back, is the best option

An unexpected encounter
On our arrival in Voi, we discovered a campsite called ‘East Gate Royal Resort’. We were allowed to camp in the garden, between lots of flowers. Since we were the only guests, they were quite pleased to see us.
At night a guy in the bar tried to pick me up. I had introduced myself because I presumed him to be the manager of the resort. Not so. He introduced himself as the driver of one of the Women MP’s of Kenya. ‘That’s the one I got to get hold of’ I said, thereby ending the flirt.
Next morning I was totally utterly nervous. It was a sunday and I had wanted to sleep late. But the tought of this minister, the honourable MP Naomi Shaban, having breakfast just around the corner, made me get up at eight and made me dash for the ladies’ room.
One hour later, we conversed. A sturdy lady in overwhelming bright pink african garments. A big pink cloth wrapped around her head to complete the picture. She had been wondering what that young lady was doing in the garden, with a tractor…
After having heard my story, she suggested organizing a ‘tea’ with all women MP’s of Kenya. ‘we’re all strong women with a story’. I replied: ‘I heard about that, and now I can see it’s true!’
It looks as if, not only will I be drinking a cup of coffee with Wangari Maathai (the first African woman to receive the Nobel peace prize), I’ll also have tea with all female ministers! wow.

Joost: Everything moves so fast, except us

Joost is having a tough time on the tractor, his arms are getting sunburnt, his muscles stiffen, but he’s holding out bravely.
The people that lighten our day are mostly those by the side of the road in little villages. And the truck drivers on their way to mombasa, of course, getting more enthousiastic every time they pass us. When going uphill, we pass a lot of them, and a contest is born. Whenever I pass them, I make gestures like ‘I’m cool-I’m cool’ or, ‘I can do this!-I can do this!-I can do this!’. And when they overtake me, five minutes later, going downhill: ‘nooooooooooooo’. These games are very entertaining. Later in the day they signal us: ‘will you be having lunch in the next village, like us?’ ‘yup!’
Delicious, I was starting to miss the beans, the ugalu and the cabbage!

On one of the campsites we encounter the night guard. It’s a Masai boy from the village down the road. We did a great photo shoot. On my arrival in Nairobi, I’ll send him the pics. As a thank you-gesture for the fun day Leanne, as he’s called, offers me a necklace. ‘We’re friends now’. It’s a necklace of black beads and a zebra-striped leaf.

Two days later, we’re camping amongst monkeys. Kosovo goes apeshit on his leash, for this is definitely the place to play around. Unfortunately, it’s also a wildlife reserve, and dogs aren’t allowed off the leash. Since my return to Kenya, Kosovo has become a really sweet dog. Where he was obstinate and obnoxious in the year before, he now walks beside me, whereever it is that I’m going. Only the lavatory is off limits to him (if there ARE any, of course).
The days spent with Joost are filled with creative brainstorms about video, pictures and the book I’m writing. Often, we halt by the side of the road to capture some video. These weeks may not be very interesting for outsiders, but I’m very happy to be
able to recharge my creativity for the coming year. I now also have a lot more film footage for the documentary I plan to make after I finished the journey. I can picture it again, it’s going to be one great story i’d like to share with you all!

Thanks to: Paulien’s mother, dad and de wereldomroep!
Left: the bag for my cooker with handy pocket for lighters
Right: the bag for my pans and the thermo-mug the Wereldomroep gave me.

After a year of gathering experience and some practical thinking, I’ll be hitting the road again in slightly better comfort:
The wereldomroep donated a thermo-mug! Which makes it possible to have coffee in the morning, on the tractor, without losing it after encountering the first pothole of the day, and spilling it all over myself.

Paulien’s mother made me a skirt and an apron out of orange canvas. (Orange being the colour of the wild waters in which I wash my clothes, due to all the red sand) And since almost every woman here wears skirts (except in the cities), I don’t want to go without one. But because I get dirty all the time, there’s also the apron. The bush has taught me appreciation for ancient clothing traditions, including braided hair, because of the wind. If I get invited into peoples homes now, I won’t look as outrageously filthy: I’ll just take off the apron!
It totally puzzles me how they manage to keep their clothes clean, in these rural parts. Torn or worn they may be, but everybody looks so clean!
Paulien’s mum also made me some very practical bags, with a string, so I can manage my stuff in a more orderly, safe and hygienic way.

And my dad gave me a set of travel pans. Those are going to be the luxury items of the year. I’ll save liters of water not having to scrub the crusts off every day!