Rumble: Will Ferrell does Bush

The Commander in Chief, by Will Ferrell.

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Rumble: My Life in Four Bags. The Finale.

In nine episodes, I run across what I normally travel with. Not the clothing, the toothpaste and the soap. But what really makes a difference. Today is the last part:

Part #9: The Finale.. The last bags...

More bags anyone?
Apart from my big bags, I also carry some small bags with goodies. Mostly stuff only to be used in emergencies. One small bags with sterile syringes and plastic tubes, in case one needs a blood transfusion in not so hygienic circumstances. One with my spare glasses and sunglasses, a compass, a mirror (a mirror is a great way to attract attention when u are stuck somewhere and want to signal a passing car or plane), a small roll of strong nylon thread (to hang up a mosquito net in a hotel, or to block the door of your hotel, - yeah, I know what you are thinking, it works though!-). Another bag with matches, a small toothbrush, toothpaste, spare ear plugs, bandages. And the last small bag has some medical supplies.

In the computer bag…
You think I am weird? Probably I am.. Wait until I tell you what secrets I have hidden in my computer bag. A permanent marker, pens, spare AA and AAA batteries, tie wraps (to secure bags for all too curious luggage handlers at Kenyata airport in Nairobi for instance), diplomatic cargo stickers to put on my luggage (for those nosy customs people at Kigali airport for instance), an air sickness bag full of funny money, left-over banknotes from my previous field trips (and in case I encounter anyone who collects funny money), my digital pin pass to make electronic bank transactions, a small notepad, all my power supplies, connecting cables. And some small pins I can use as a token present for people who do me a favour, in places where pins are rare..

Now that I summed up most of the goodies I travel with, I have two thoughts:
- how did I ever fit all of that into thirty -only- kilos of luggage and hauled it so many times around the globe?
- from the whistle in my safari jacket to a pair of test wires in my computer bag and funny money in a air sickness bag.. I seem to be very rigidly emotionally attached to the weirdest things.

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Rumble: NOT faked, and Even More Funny!

Here is the Commander in Chief again. This time, the video is not faked. It is even more funny than the faked one from a few days ago...
Where did they find this guy again?

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Rumble: My Life in Four Bags#8: The Jacket...

Pfft.. it seems there is an endless list of small stuff I always take with me, whenever I travel. But hold on. We're almost there. This one is an important one though.. Indispensable.

Part#8: The jacket… ahhh.. the jacket!
This is my trusted companion. My safari jacket. It is a custom made model with our organisation’s logo on the front and the back. It has 13 pockets.
Most of my valuables are in it. Money (protected in an air sickness bag from, lemme see, Virgin Express, so it can not get wet). Plane tickets, business cards, my Palm Pilot, passports, ID card, yellow fever vaccination card, an envelope with pass photos, sunglasses, peppermints, a lighter and cigarettes, the keys to the mini padlocks on my luggage, access badges, pens, a small notebook, a set of earplugs and a little cord to fix my glasses around my neck.

That is all still pretty normal stuff. But then we have the weird stuff: a whistle on a cord. Not only to be used to annoy traffic cops when drunk (see
this story), but also an excellent tool in case you get into trouble anywhere. And a small mini flash Maglite. Always handy when the power is cut in your guesthouse. Plus a small piece of rope. Dunno why. Had it in there for years. Mats used it for a while when we went sailing when he forgot the safety cord for his glasses (again ;-) )

Yep, when traveling, I wear the safari jacket ALL the time. And I have such a hard time separating from it. Once I had a jacket that got repaired so many times, stitched up to the max, cleaned until the linen almost became transparent with small holes from battery acid, and stains from engine oil -or was it that mean ketchup they used to serve in Macedonia?-. It almost became a rag, that jacket. And as such, it became an icon. Guys in the office used to make fun of it, but I kept it until I found a suitable replacement. It is not easy to find a jacket with 13 pockets, you know...

When I finally found one, I dumped the old jacket. My guys secretly retrieved it from my waste basket, framed it, and hung it on the wall in the office… (see the picture on the right. If you look well, you can see all the stitches too!).

I guess that jacket went through more countries in three years than any normal person would do in three life times.. And somewhere, it does deserve a spot on the wall. It stood as a symbol for our life as an aid worker. Worn to the bone. Stitched up and repaired to keep going. A soul stained with memories. A huge memory stick filled with stories. Funny and sad ones. A companion on my Road to the Horizon..

(with thanks to Anisa and Bill for the picture!)

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Rumble: My Life in Four Bags #7: Stone Age Technology

What else don't I ever leave home? Part#7: My Palm Pilot III

You won't believe this. I bought my PDA back in 1997. Yep, my Palm Pilot III is 10 years old this year... And I still could not live without it.
It stores ALL data for my personal and business contacts. I don't keep business cards.. Just enter the relevant data and throw the card away. I think there are 2,000 contacts in there. It is the ONLY calender tool I use.

In 10 years, it never hicked up once. I always keep it in one of the breast pockets of my safari jacket (see tomorrow's post). So it has been handled rough. Several times it fell on the ground, its cover unlatching, flying all over the ground. I lost the stylus three times, so wrote on it with the back of a ball point for a while. And it kept on working.

Does anyone else still use this Stone Age Technology? I would not be able to do without it.

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News: Dubai is The Biggest. Even in Charity!

The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is giving US$10bn (ten billion US dollars...) to set up an educational foundation in the Middle East.
The money is meant to improve the standard of education and research in the region, and aims to stimulate job creation.
It is thought to be one of the largest charitable donations in history. (Full article)

And don't give me any crap about oil revenue etc... Oil is only 10% of Dubai's income. Commerce and tourism count for about 80% of the BNP. Talk about vision instead !

(Link sent to me by Peter Scott-Bowden. Tnx Peter! )
For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News

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Rumble: How Lucky We Are.

Take 1: Sometimes in a flash of a second, you know the person you just crossed eyes with, will be a dear friend for many years. A flash of recognition. A connection of souls. E. has been one of those friends for me.

Take 2: Sometimes in the middle of the daily routines, a small wonder happens. One little thing, one experience, a short event. But it gives you insights. Lifts you to a different level.

Take 3: E. is on mission in Khartoum (Sudan) at this moment. She just sent me an email, about one of those extra-ordinary insights life can offer us. It touched me, and I want to share it with you.

This man.

My trip this time is marked with one *amazing* experience. Have to spill it right now: I went for lunch today with a friend from UNICEF. I had a nice hour - easy lunch. Stepped out of the UNICEF office and started walking towards the street in the heat, trying to figure out in my little comfy world "How long would I have to walk before I find a tuktuk or a cab?". I looked at one of the cooking ladies on the street, and greeted her. As I turned there was a nice yellow cab coming my way..

He slows down - and then, I bend to stick my head at the window and ask him in Arabic: "Street 33, how much?".. He replies "5".. I figure I won't haggle or look for the tuktuk. So I say "ok" and get into the front seat, as per usual. He drives off and asks which direction I'd like to go in and I tell him.

Then, we're both quiet - I'm reflecting a little on the heat and the rest of my working day at the office, looking out the window - also, secretly hoping he won't want to chitchat..

After a while, he says to me: "My daughter,..." (It is always a relief as the use of that word to address a younger woman, in Arabic, is a sign of decency). "My daughter,... I'm disabled."
I turn towards him and look from up to down. He has no legs - cut at a little below the waist. Can you imagine my reaction - my heart leaped out of my chest. My eyes bulged and I looked back up at him and then, figure very quickly that he's got a cab equipped with a basic, Sudanese-style mechanical addition so he can drive. And work.

Now, I want to chitchat. But don't even dare push him in that direction. He says "I'm disabled but it doesn't stop me from living and having lived my life.."

All that spurts out of my mouth is: "Mashallah (God Bless)". And then, "May God assist you".. The usual Arabic expressions of admiration and support - always with the tinge of religious connotation.
He turns again and says "I have lived my life. I have daughters your age..."

By then, my feelings are reeling - I'm thinking "Look at this - what a shake out of your world, E.! Look at this - it's a person who's truly courageous and just amazingly happy with his part in life. The rest of us - in our spoilt, disturbingly easy lives cannot hold a light to *that* strength!"..

He continues "I've been disabled since 13 and I'm over 50 now - I have lived. I have lived with what I could"..

My tongue and voice return - I say "Since 13, Mashallah! This is really impressive. May God Bless and Assist you" . "You have children? You...". He cuts me off with "Yes, my daughter - I have daughters like you in age and they have children too.. And I have lived."

By that time, we were nearing the office and he started asking about the specific location - I gave directions until we got there. We stopped I handed him whatever I had. He looked at his hand and shook his head: "It's too much" and I said "Of course it's not", thanking him and started making my way out of the cab. For my ownself, I didn't look back.

I quickly starting digging into my aching heart and my spirit - we crossed each other's paths for a reason. I realized as I started writing this email that the reason for me was a sentence he kept on saying "I have lived!" Oh yes, he had - he was an example to me. That living it with every inch of you - regardless of the 'outcome' is the way..

I have every intention of living my life - sucking it dry without guaranteeing the outcome! And now to you, I say: "Live so you can say as he did 'I have lived' and truly mean it..!"

Picture Khartoum taxis, courtesy of Phillip Russell

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Rumble: Faked, but Funny

Ok, this video is faked. But it is funny.

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Rumble: My Life in Four Bags #6: Converting

More goodies I travel with?

Part#6: My power converter plug

Most of my power supplies and accessories have European power plugs. Let me correct that. There is no European power plug standard. My plugs are simple two pins.

This little gimmick converts that power plug to one which fits 95% of the power plugs in the world. Just plug the European plug in the middle, turn the dial to the input you want and plug it into the wall. The plugs which are not used, are not life, so no chance to get electrocuted.

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Rumble: My Life in Four Bags #5: A Cable with a Twist

So what more is in this bag of tricks from a globetrotter?

Part #5: A modem cable with a twist – eh with a spring- …

One cable I would not want to loose is a small retractable modem cable. I used to have a normal modem cable, but the plastic clips of the connectors always got hooked onto another cable as I pulled it out my computer bag compartment reserved for computer power supplies and cables.
Did you curse those small RJ jacks too? And once those plastic clips break, you can never make a reliable modem connection anymore. The connector would always make a false contact, or just drop out of the wall plug. Argh.

Until I found this small gimmick from Targus, which rolls itself up onto the central coil, up to the point where the connectors slide into their small holders. Well protected.

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Rumble: Refugees...

Sometimes there are strange coincidences. Or do they happen all the time, but we don't always keep an open eye for them?

The coincidence of today:
some blogs I am following, all write about the same thing: Being a refugee. What it means having to leave home. By force, by necessity. The fortune those of us have if who can come and go as we feel, as we choose. What if all of a sudden this choice is no longer there? And our lives are ruled by external events over which we have no control. In which we have no say...

Pernille counts her blessings about the freedom, the liberty to go home on a holiday. While others need to move involuntarily. The feelings she expressed reminded me of those coming back from the refugee camps in Goma.

Pumuckl writes about refugees, and the background, pointing to an excellent post of :

The Riverbend... who writes about her decision to flee the violence of Baghdad together with her family. A touching story of what it means to leave a home behind. To leave friends behind. To leave a life behind.. To.. be a refugee.

Picture Dadaab refugees (Kenya) courtesy of Irin/Siegfried Modola.

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Rumble: My Life in Four Bags #4: Cables

There is some stuff each globetrotter would like to leave home:

Part #4: Power supplies and connecting cables.

They take up most of the space in my computer bag. Why does each device come with its own power supply, each having its own voltage, and connector? I have one for my laptop, my GPS, my iPod, my digital camera, my digital video camera and my mobile phone.
Plus a computer connector cable for each too. Except for the video camera. Which comes with three cables. Plus one cable for my Palmpilot. Oh, and of course 12 volt cigarette lighter adapter cables for my mobile phone, iPod and GPS too. Pfft.
It is time for a digital revolution favouring the frequent traveler: one adapter cable and one power supply for all.


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News: How Bad is Somalia ?

Sixteen years after the established government fell in Somalia, the East African nation just lurches from one disaster to another, some man-made, some natural, each one deepening the humanitarian crisis.

Last year marked more than six years of a record-breaking drought, followed by renewed fighting as the Islamic Courts Union sought to oust feuding clan warlords, which they did, establishing a semblance of order in the unruly capital and most of the country for the first time in a decade and a half. Then the drought ended—only to be replaced by devastating floods, cutting off much of the population from aid deliveries.

And by the end of 2006, warfare resumed, with Ethiopia, encouraged by the United States, invading Somalia to oust the Islamic Courts, which were a little too pro-Al Qaeda for U.S. tastes, and prop up the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), an amalgamation of former warlords with little popular support in Somalia. (full article)

Picture courtesy . For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News.

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Rumble: My Life in Four Bags #3: Crocodile Clamps

What more is in those four bags I always travel with, making the life of an aid worker, a “globetrotter by necessity”, sustainable? Well.. Crocodile clamps !

Going from hi-tech to low-tech. I always carry a set of wires with crocodile clamps. Easy to make connections between incompatible cables or to bridge video/audio/telephone connections, or to test any connection. Last time I used them extensively was on the boat trip we made from the UK to the Canaries. When lightning took out most of the electronics. I used the crocodile clamp wires to test the shortwave transmitter, the radio fax receiving software, and the boat’s antenna tuner.

Don’t leave home without it.

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News: The Last Days of the Wolf

There was a lot of controversy about the appointment of Wolfowitz as the president of the Worldbank. He is seen as a Bush puppet and one of the architects of the Iraq war. The nomination did not get a lot of support from the UN member states, and certainly not from the general public. Personally, I felt ashamed to be a UN staff member when he became one.

Wolfowitz recently became involved in a scandal as he personally intervened in the handling of a high-paying promotion for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza. European countries led by France, Germany and the Netherlands, jumped on the opportunity and have said Wolfowitz should step down to salvage the bank's credibility.

A Worldbank board panel now found Wolfowitz broke bank rules and represented a conflict of interest.

Read the full story
here. It seems his last days in the Worldbank are numbered. It was just a matter of time...

Flash update: Wolfowitz resigns from the Worldbank. Full story here.

Picture courtesy Reuters. I found this news item via The Other World News

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Rumble: My Life in Four Bags #2: Music

Let's have a look in those four bags I always travel with. What are my secret supplies? The things that make the life of an aid worker, a “globetrotter by necessity”, sustainable?

Part #2: Music – my iPod and Bose headset.

Music soothes my spirit. It lifts me up when I feel down. Pumps me up when I am low on energy. Calms me down before going to bed. Or lifts me up when taking a shower. Most of my memories in life is connected to music. To songs, to artists, to tunes. And my iPod is the core of my musical existence. Some of my favourates, I collected on
this page.

All the music I have, is on this iPod (plus the full backup of the most critical data on my laptop!). It is a 60 Gbyte iPod which I bought in Dubai some years ago. It has 4,000 songs on it. From hardcore dance music to classical. From rare ambient music, to pop music. Reggae, R&B, soul, oldies and newbie’s. I dig it all. I have not many accessories for it. Just the power supply and USB cable. And a plug-on gimmick that has the iPod broadcast music on the FM band, so I can pick it up on a car stereo or a portable radio (I don’t carry speakers with me, so sometimes need a bit of volume through an FM radio), a car charger for those long road trips, and that is it. Oh, and i protect it in a small leather case which also goes over the display, to protect it from scratches.

Plus my secret weapon, a must for each serious iPod fan: My Bose headset (, the QuietComfort 2. It is an expensive piece of kit, but worth it. Works on batteries. If you don’t play music, and just switch it on, it kills all the ambient noise. Practical on a plane or anywhere where the surrounding noise annoys you.
It sits really comfortable with soft air pads. The Bose headset has a set of adapters fitting almost any audio plug and a switch-able high and low capacity input, so you can use it with almost any audio device. Plus last but not least, the audio is really high quality.

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News: The Hall of Shame. And the Nominees are....

Human Rights Watch has nominated the following people to its Hall of Shame during the International Day Against Homophobia:

  • Pope Benedict XVI
  • US President George W. Bush
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
  • Polish Minister of Education Roman Giertych
  • Bienvenido Abante, Chair of the Philippine House Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights.
To get your picture on the Hall of Shame, you have to do a serious effort to undermine human rights by actively promoting prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. (full article)

For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News

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Rumble: My Life in Four Bags #1

Just before leaving home, I wrote a short story about my life in bags.. I will publish it in bits over the coming days.

My home is a set of bags. Four bags to be exact. Packed after one year of sabbatical. The full inventory of my life for the new start of my professional life can be summarized on two sheets of paper…

One computer bag, one small backpack. Both carry-on luggage. One duffel bag and a backpack with my clothes, toiletry and some basic medical supplies. All together maybe 30 kg. My life compacted to 30 kg…

Here is the deal: after my sabbatical, I am starting my professional life as if it were a white sheet of paper. You can look at the white sheet of paper in a negative, or in a positive way. You can say ‘empty’, ‘no information’, so.. ‘worthless’? ‘Lacking something’?

Or you could say ‘virgin territory’, ‘potential’, ‘opportunity’.. After all a white sheet of paper could become an item of high value if Picasso drew something on it. Or if Monet painted one of his summer landscapes on it . Or if Tolkien had written the introduction to ‘Lord of the Rings’ on it.. Or it could just become a worthless piece of scribbled notes. Folded a certain way, it could fly. Or propped to a ball, it could be kicked into a wastebasket.

I look at the new start of work in the ‘potential’ way. I start afresh. When I left home, I had no clue yet as to what job they would ask me to do. Nor where. Could have been anything, and literally anywhere in the world. Only one thing I knew: I will come home early July to go on holiday with the family. Between now and then, the space is filled with blanks. Blank pages. Blank sheets of paper. Could be I was off to Darfur in a week. Or Colombia. Or Cambodia, Afghanistan, Azerbaidjan, Timor or Nicaragua. Or I could be asked to stay in our HQ, in Rome for two months.

So how do you pack for something like that? What did I pack? Pfft... the normal stuff I usually pack. My personal secret supplies, and multi-purpose clothing. Plus one pair of sandals, one pair of shoes, one sweater, a rain jacket, and oh, I packed my sailing gloves too. You never know…

All in four bags. My life. Packed in two hours. I did not loose the habit, the touch to pack fast, even though stuff was spread over all the closets in the house this time. Different from the previous times I was at home, in my “two months work, one month break” regime. Then I did not bother to unpack when I arrived home, as each time I was only in Belgium for a few days before going on holiday with Tine and the kids. So I literally lived out of these bags for.. how long now? Since Kosovo, 1999.

I know the contents by heart. I packed these bags hundreds of times already. On the move all the time. During certain trips never staying anywhere for more than a couple of days. Phnom Penh one day, Vietnamese border town the next, transiting in Bangkok two days later, Vientiane after that, and then Jakarta. Hotel in, guesthouse out. These bags have been hauled into cargo planes, trucks, 4x4s, boats, and long distance commercial passenger planes. They have been checked in, lost in transit, thrown off trucks, attacked by mad monkeys and pulled out of my hands by bell boys in the New York hotels.

As I packed this time, I took the trouble of going through the contents… I amazed myself by the ‘small habits’ I have grown to have. Small things I counted on, to have with me, and who have saved the day so many times already. These are my ‘secret supplies’. The things I assembled along the way during tens of thousands of miles, hundreds of trips. And so many countries, I do not care to count anymore…

So what are my secret supplies? The things that make the life of an aid worker, a “globetrotter by necessity”, sustainable? Tomorrow, we'll take a look in the bag!

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Rumble: Moved Again...

I packed my bags and moved again. My home in Rome, version 3. Moved in with Robert who has this lovely house in Fiumicino on the coast, about 15 km from work. (And, yeah mum, I even did my laundry! Did not get to the ironing yet..)

It feels a bit like history repeats itself. You might remember Robert from
this short story. We used to work together since the Islamabad times. When we moved the team to Dubai, we both shared an apartment with Alex and Ghis for a while...

We are connected by many stories stories. One of them is how Robert and I met:
We're both
radio amateurs. Robert was part of the organising committee for the 'Olympics for radio amateurs', the World Radio Team Championship in Slovenia back in 2000. Over 50 teams gathered from all over the world to compete for 24 hours, using their technical experience and radio operator skills. Mark and I formed the Belgian team and we won one of the championship's categories. We were so tired after the competition we actually overslept and missed part of the award ceremony. "And the winner of the Phone section of the championship is .... Team Belgium.. [applause]. Team Belgium? [applause]... Eh, anyone seen Team Belgium?". Team Belgium was still in bed. :-) Anyways, we got there an hour late, and they redid part of the awards ceremony for us. haha.

Back to my story with Robert: at the end of the award festivities, there were fireworks on the shore of a lake. Robert was sitting next to me, and we were talking about work, travelling... He was interested in joining our team. And I was interested in hiring him. It only took a few months before Robert started working with us in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So the rumour goes that "Robert proposed to Peter, on a summer night, while looking at fire works..". How romantic, hahaha.

Picture WRTC 2000 courtesy John Devoldere.

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Rumble: Yuuhuu, We Walked the World !

Yuhuu, apparently the Walk was a great success all over the world... While we were waiting to start in Rome, one of the coordinators got a phone call saying that in China, the park they were walking in could only hold 5,000 people. They had to stop people at the entrance gates after 30,000 entered !

The website is bringing updates from walks all over the world, so check it out. Once the total numbers are published, I will let you know.

With some friends, we participated in the Rome walk. About 1,000 people gathered in the historic center on the Fori Imperiali and Piazza Venezia. Here are some pictures and the video I shot during the walk. Glorious weather, stunning historic backdrop, and a great cause... What more is needed on a Sunday?

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Rumble: So... Where Did I End Up?

I have been working as an aid worker since 1994. I have been based in Angola, Malawi, Ivory Coast, DRC, Uganda, Kosovo, Pakistan and my last assignment was as the director of our office in Dubai.
I worked in and travelled through more than one hundred countries. I've seen the best and the worst. Wars, floodings, earth quakes. Have been shot at, and been surprised by beautiful sunsets. I enjoyed the good company of close friends, and have lost some in shootings and slaughters... I built a city, negotiated with presidents, ministers and drunk police men. Managed projects of US$30 million, and at other times, struggled for a budget to buy two screw drivers...

I got so addicted to the excitement of the job, got used to the adrenaline kick, that few things at work make my heart tick faster anymore.... I have become a junkie, I admit. An adrenaline junkie...

When leaving on my sabbatical, I told management: "When I come back, don't give me a standard job. Give me something difficult, complex. Boredom will kill me. Challenge me."

Thirteen months later, now two weeks ago, I got my marching orders: "Fly to our headquarters in Rome and we will inform you of your job once you arrive." As I described in
an earlier post, I had no clue where they were going to send me. Timor? Darfur? Chad? Colombia? Bhutan? Chechnya? Haiti? I packed, kissed my three girls good-bye, left home and jumped in a void.

So where did I end up? Well.. They gave me the biggest challenge so far: I was asked to work at our headquarters for a while.
Why a challenge? The further from field operations and the bigger the office, the more difficult to do your work fast and effectively. Fact of life. Even in an organisation like ours, which I am proud to report, to be one of the most effective humanitarian organisations... So, now I can prove that the stuff I have been able to do in the field, I can also do at our headquarters... Talking about a challenge...

Luckily logistically, living in Rome is not like living in Rumbek-Southern Sudan... But even that part, I can make an adventure! So far I have stayed in two different places. Moving to my third (and hopefully final place), within two days. And I got wheels too! The right kind of car for the crazy traffic in Rome!

My first home: Sheraton Golf Parco de' Medici. Three nights.
Poor me.. Ah, poor me...

My second home: Residence Parco de' Medici. Five nights..
Not bad neither.. Walking distance from work.

My wheels! They did not have a 4x4 version!

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Rumble: The Mpulungu Story

Yuuhuu! I was finally able to finish and publish the Mpulungu short story!! According to the survey at the bottom of the story, you guys seem to like it.. :-)
About flying with a Belgian Air Force C130 to Zambia, how to find your hotel in an African town when you don't have the address, getting stuck in a swamp, repairing car axles with a computer bag, and still ending up landing next to Bill Clinton's AirForce One.
Read all about it here.

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Rumble: One Sort of Boobs Nobody Likes: "Ha-boobs"!

Mageed, a friend and colleague now working in Afghanistan, sent me these pictures taken in Khartoum (Sudan)...

Nope, it is not the fall-out from a nuclear bomb. It is a
haboob, an intense sand storm, regularly observed in the Sahara desert, Sudan, the Arabian Peninsula all the way up to Iraq.

Haboobs are frequently created when a thunderstorm collapses and begins to release precipitation. Strong winds will blow down in the storm centre, and then stream outwards, away from the storm, generally gusting the strongest in the direction of the storm's travel.
When this downdraft reaches the ground, dry, loose sand from the desert settings is blown up creating a wall of sediment preceding the storm cloud. And a haboob is born...

This wall of sand can be up to 100 km wide and several kilometers in elevation. At their strongest, haboob winds can travel at 35-50 km/hr, and may approach with little to no warning.
Often no rain is seen at the ground level as it evaporates in the hot, dry air. When the rain *does* persist, it contains a considerable quantity of dust. This will change the sand storm into a mud storm.

The haboobs in Sudan are famous. So famous actually that even Jan Pronk, the ex-UN Special Representative to Sudan, featured
some pictures of haboobs in his -otherwise mainly serious- political blog. In the pictures above (a full resolution version, you can find on my Flickr set), you can clearly see the size of this thing, as it approaches Khartoum over the Nile.

Once the haboob hits town, everything will turn dark yellowish grey, like a bad case of smog. Visibility is often reduced to almost 'nil'. And the dust creeps into everything. It blocks air filters, and sabotages all kinds of mechanical stuff. It gets into the house even through the smallest cracks in the walls or woodwork.

The dust is a phenomena by itself. When sailing
in the Caribbean last summer, we once woke up with a fine yellow layer all over our boat. The news told us this was Sahara dust, blown up by a storm, thousands of miles away. The dust is lifted up to an altitude of 15,000 feet (5 kilometers), and comes down as far as Florida, or North-West Europe.

We had regular haboobs in Dubai, too. No surprise, as we were sitting in the midst of the desert. Once a sandstorm hit us, we could clean as much as we wanted, there was no way to keep the dust and the mud out of the office.
One evening, a few years ago, we were all working late, and decided to go and have dinner at the Irish Village, near the airport in Dubai. The "Village" is a nice outside place, where we could enjoy the last evenings of 'bare-able heat' before summer would have everyone lock themselves up in AC'd houses for four months.

As we left the office, the skies got dark, and the wind started to blow a bit, so we agreed to stay in touch via the cell phones as we all drove in separate cars to the restaurant. Not more than ten minutes later, we were all stuck in a massive traffic jam, as a haboob had hit Dubai.

Inches of sand started to build up on the highways, and the dense foggy air reduced the visibility to just a hundred meters. As we all continued driving, we changed our plans several times, still generally heading towards the Dubai airport. By the time we got there, the storm got that strong that lamp posts were blown over the streets, corrugated iron sheets were lifted a hundred feet up as if they were corn flakes and came swirling down. Debris from the construction - Dubai is one big construction zone - was blown off the multi-storey buildings. Traffic lights collapsed over the cross roads, and cars got hit by just about everything possible. On top of that, it started raining like there was no tomorrow.

When we finally got to the airport area, we decided to take shelter in an underground garage of one of the hotels. Bad decision, as the garage was flooded by ten inches of water in no time, so we had to wade our way up.
Anyway, we had a good dinner at the Al Bostan Rotana, had excellent company, so a bit of haboob-ing could not destroy the atmosphere...

Pictures courtesy: Erich Ball (2007)

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Rumble: Walk the World!

Two more days to go before we Walk the World! The presidents of El Salvador and Uganda will join us, and the king of Swaziland too!.
Below, I listed all the planned walks, per country. Each city links to the webpage giving the details for that particular walk. If you can not join us for a physical walk, join us on Second Life!

So here is the list, pick your choice and join us in the Walk Against Hunger!
Buenos Aires
Brisbane, Geelong
Lucky Strike Village, Belmopan
Ribeirao Preto
Burkina Faso
Montreal, Brampton, Aylmer, Ottawa, Kitchener, Vancouver, Calgary, Castlegar, Toronto, Hamilton #1, Hamilton #2, Brampton
Hong Kong, Beijing
Czech Republic
Copenhagen, Aarhus, Kolding, Maribo, Slagelse, Vejle
El Salvador
San salvador
Gambia, The
Serrekunda, Banjul
Cologne, St. Ingbert, Essen, Neuss, Wurzburg, Dresden, Berlin, Munchen, Leverkusen, Dortmund, Hamburg, Magdeburg, Siegen, Hermsdorf, Dietzenbach, Ulm, Korntal-Munchingen, Hannover, Hamminkeln, Villingen, Augsburg, Straubing, Bremen, Freiburg, Ladenburg #1, Ladenburg #2
Somanya, Accra #1, Accra #2
Athens, Ancient Olympia
San Pedro Sula
Debrecen, Budapest
Farrukhabad, Kolkata, visakhapatnam
Jakarta, Lombok
Lari, Livorno, San Gimignano, Roma, Perignano, Parco de Medici - Roma
Yokohama, Nara
Eldoret, Nairobi
Kuwait City
Monrovia, Zwedru, Voinjama, Harper, Tubmanburg, Saclepea Sub-office, Gbarnga
Shah Alam, Kuala Lumpur #1, Kuala Lumpur #2
Lagos #1, Port Harcourt, Lagos #2, Egi Ogba, Abuja
Bergen, Oslo, Lillestrom
Mansehra, Karachi
Lisboa Belem, Porto (Cais de Gaia), Azores (Angra do Heroa­smo), Coimbra (Prahia D. Dinis)
Moscow, Samara
Sierra Leone
Ljubljana, Maribor
South Africa
South Korea
Madrid, Castelldefels
Stockholm, In many cities all over Sweden, Jonkoping, Falun, Ystad-a–sterlen, Siljansbygden, Vargarda, Borlange, Kalix, Skovde, Karlskoga, Monsteras, Lerum, Halmstad, Norra Halsinglands, Vasterbergslagen, Malmo, Kungshamn, Solleftea, Ambjornarp, Goteborg
Isaka - Kahama, Kasulu, Dar es Salaam
Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Chon Buri, Phitsanulok, Lampang, Muang, Khon Kaen, Surat Thani, Hat Yai, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima
Trinidad and Tobago
Sangre-Grande, Rio Claro
Kasese, Kampala, Kampala, Pader, Pakelle, Moroto
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
London, Canterbury
USA Jersey, Atlanta, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Alexandria, San Francisco, Phoenix, Auburn, St. Louis, Riverside, Pullman, Oklahoma city, Phoenix, Dallas, Des Moines, Redondo Beach, Honolulu, Santa Monica, Houston, Fountain Valley, New York, Boston, Miami, Columbia, Arcata, Philadelphia
Ho Chi Minh City

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Rumble: Come and walk with us!

Hey, come and join us on May 13th, the day the "World Walks" against child hunger.

"Walk the World" is an annual global event mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people on one day, in all 24 times zones, with one purpose: to call for an end to child hunger forever. You doubt the size of the hunger problem in the world? Look at this interactive hunger map!

There are hundreds of simultaneous walks all over the world, from New Zealand to Hawaii. Check out the Fighthunger webpage. Find a walk near to where you live. Copy one of their logos onto your website, or donate online.

In 2006, 760,000 people "walked the world" at 420 locations, in 118 countries! Read last year's highlights! Let's make it even bigger this year, and join us on 13 May 2007.

Excuses will NOT be excepted. I am walking in Rome. Where are you walking?

The 2006 CNN coverage of the Walk

Pictures and video courtesy of

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News: Who Wins the War in Iraq?

Who wins? Bah, read the Commander in Chief's version, in this article.

The full transcript of the talk of the Commander in Chief, you find
here. Real intelligent stuff. I mean deep stuff.
He opens his speech with a real winner: "What I thought I would do is talk a little bit, share my mind with you, and then answer questions for a while. We're on the record until I tell you we're not on the record."
"My responsibility is to speak as often as I can to the American people.", he adds.

Maybe he should not and leave the Republican candidate at least 'some' chance in the next election ! Maybe one that knows how to sing better than McCain? At least a different tune please! We're so tired of war songs!


Picture courtesy - For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News

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