Rumble: Deserted Islands. The Un-Romantic Bit...

Deserted islands in the Pacific... Rings a romantic bell? Well, think again. A new short story describes our first night on a forgotten Pacific island. An snapshot:

Clipperton, a deserted island in the Pacific, one thousand miles off the coast of Mexico. We traveled for weeks to reach this forgotten piece of land. I don’t see much of it, in the darkness. The ground is covered with a thick layer of grinded light coloured coral. I can see the shades of the palm trees a few hundred meters from where we pitched our tent. I can see a few stars in the moist sky. Clouds are passing by regularly. In a distance, I hear the waves braking.
This scenery could have been from anywhere. Somewhere in Africa, the Caribbean, or Mediterranean. But this is much more exotic. This is the Pacific. We are the first people to set foot on this islands since months. Years probably. And that makes it special, exotic, exciting. A deserted island called Clipperton. (Full story)

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Rumble: A New Caribbean Story

Loads of inspiration this month. An extract from a new short story I wrote about "Doing good to others".

We reef the sails, as we see the clouds gathering. While we are still sailing in the sun, the darkness packs at the horizon. That is how it goes in the Caribbean this time of the year: sunshine one moment, rain the next. Under the threatening clouds hurrying towards us, we see the white foam on the waves. The wind will pick up soon. We are sailing to Petit St Vincent in the Grenadines. Everyone calls it “PSV”, for short. An island barely one mile in diameter, covered with palm trees and bush. It is not far anymore, maybe another half an hour of sailing. But we don’t not make it in time. The rain catches up with us, and before we know it, we are engulfed in a dense curtain of water gushing down. (Full story)

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Rumble: Waking Up in a Freezer

The sleeping tentHere is an extract from a new Antarctic shortstory I wrote for the eBook:

The storm started yesterday evening, and is still blowing in full force. It pushes and pulls violently on the sides of our Weatherhaven tents as if it is trying to get rid of it. The thick nylon cargo lashes we pulled over the tents vibrate in the wind as if they were huge strings. The storm howls and roars as if it were nature’s way to say “you guys don’t belong here”. It is true, we don’t belong here. It has only been 60 years since the first people set foot on this godforsaken island near the Southpole. There have been more people on the moon than here, on Peter I island. People should not be here. Living creatures don’t belong here. This is a land of ice, an Antarctic desert. (full story)

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Rumble: Updates, New Ebook Stories, and Other Stuff...

While this blog started as a channel to publish my eBook short stories, one day I decided to also blog about stuff happening around me. This is how the 'rumble posts' started, still mostly focused on 'travel' and 'adventure' subjects. As most of my travel is for work, and because the humanitarian cause makes a large part of my drive, I decided a while ago to also publish news items, or digests of news items ("News Round-ups") which come close to my heart.
So if you land at this blog for the first time, you must be confused. "This guy switches from an island in the Pacific, to fundraising in Dubai, to food convoys day by day", you might think. And this is correct. I do. It all makes part of my daily life, my memories.

Pete, whom you know from my transatlantic sailing stories, reminded me the other day, that my blog entries have become so 'serious'.. He was right. Time to also bring out the lunatic part of me. Again! Yuuuhuuu! So a couple of evenings ago, I decided to convert some light-hearted rumble posts into short stories like the one on Italian food translations, and the affair with my GPS lady.
While doing so, I got inspiration, and wrote some new short stories for the eBook. I published one yesterday, about the Pacific. There are a couple more coming about one of my Antarctic expeditions (in addition the the eBook story about the landing on Peter I, which I published earlier)... Oh, I have also a new short-story ready about a day in the Caribbean, to complement the "One Love" story. So... stay tuned... ;-)

In the mean time as we can not loose track of the humanitarian aspect in "The Road to the Horizon", I suggest you have a look at the excellent photo story which Peter (from the Worldman blog) posted straight from Darfur, Sudan. His pictures show a food distribution in one of the Darfur refugee camps. It is people like him who make a difference.

PS: You might also have noticed that in the right column, I updated the blogs I follow. Check them out... If you know of other unlisted blogs of interest, let me know!

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News: Dubai Raises US$1 billion During a Public Fund Raiser

"Dubai Cares", a public fund raising rally collected close to $500 million USD from the public in just eight weeks. Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum matched that an equal donation. That makes close to $1 billion USD.
Based on a long-term strategy of investing in community-based, education programmes, "Dubai Cares" will use the donations to build and renovate schools, train teachers, promote gender equality in education, provide teaching materials, offer scholarships, organize school feeding programmes and establish annual medical check- ups for students in some of the poorest countries in the world.
“I now ask the United Nations to follow Dubai's model of charity work. We are leading the march for human welfare,” said Sheikh Mohammed, who had launched the fundraising drive on September 19 with the aim of helping the United Nations reach its goal of providing primary education to every child by 2015. (full article)

Picture courtesy 7days. Thanks to E. for the link
For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News

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News: Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh

Cyclone Sidr ripped through southern and central Bangladesh on Nov 15. It left a trail of destruction across 17 Bangladeshi districts. Official figures confirmed over 3,000 people died.
The humanitarian relief operation started shortly after the cyclone passed.
It could have been worse. Over the past decade, the country's early warning and preparedness systems have improved considerably. Officials evacuated some 3.2 million people who lived along the coastline in the days before Sidr hit, and stockpiled relief supplies and rescue equipment.
Pictures courtesy WFP, Sajid Hossain and Jibon Amir
For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News

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Rumble: Travelling

I love travelling. That must be pretty obvious from this blog...
Even just this short trip to Canada was a breath of fresh air... I love to sit at an airport and watch the people around me. Those travelling for business, people in search of a new step in their life, coming back from their search. People looking forward to see loved ones, coming back from their loved ones. People saying goodbye and people hugging in a warmth of a loving welcome.

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Rumble: In Canada

I am in Quebec, Canada for a few days.
Did I ever tell you that I was almost Canadian? During the Great Depression days, many people from our part of the country left for Quebec. My grand parents came "this close", and afterwards always regretted not having "made the jump".
Makes me think how many things I might have "not done" by choice, living to regret it... I'd say: "Very few. If any...". That makes me happy. I am privileged!

And you? Are you making the choices you need to make?

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News: Tropical Storm Noel

Rain caused by tropical storm Noel hit Haiti and the Dominican Republic pretty hard at the end of October.
While the press did not pay too much attention to the human emergency caused by Noel's aftermath, the humanitarian organisations did...
Here are some pictures we received from our staff in the area:

A flooded village in Barradères Haiti.

This is how Petit Trou de Nippes in Haiti looks like after the storm.

The remains of a banana plantation in the Dominican Republic.

Pictures courtesy Alejandro Chicheri and WFP
For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News

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Rumble: As an Aidworker, What Right Do We Have to Be Privileged?

In quite a few of the short stories I published, and in those written by Enrico or Cyprien, we tried to draw a picture of how it is to live in the 'bush'. In what we call 'the deep field'. In the remote places of Africa or Asia.

Frida, working for a human rights organisation in Ghor, 'the deep field' of Afghanistan, struggles in a recent post trying to find a balance between finding healthy food, without depleting the scarce resources on the local market or flying in food, and trying to keep body and mind healthy. Or should we really eat what those we serve eat...

Comes with the ethical question 'what make us, the aid workers, different from those we are trying to help?' What right do we have to be more privileged? A feeling and a struggle - I must admit - has been pushed more and more on the background of my mind since I started to work from our Headquarters in Rome, even though I wrote about it at the end of my short story about working with the refugees in Goma.

I guess, the answer is: we are more privileged than those we serve. And as long as we realize that fact, and that we continue to be grateful for this privilege, the only thing we can do is to try serving those we help even better.

PS: Frida also has a photo blog with absolutely astonishing pictures of Afghanistan. Have look!

Picture courtesy Debbi Morello

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Rumble: Are You a Blogger? Make a Difference!

Are you a blogger? Do you want to make a difference in this world? Why not post some icons referring to places where your readers can make a difference?
You might have seen the icons in my right column referring to "sites with a difference". In this post you can find the HTML code I use. Why not copy it onto your blog?

Did you also know I have some hidden Tips and Tricks for bloggers on "The Road to the Horizon?". Check it out...

Picture courtesy Michael Huggins

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Rumble: One Billion Grains of Rice. Contribute by Playing...

Click to playFreeRice is a simple web-computer game with a humanitarian soul. The computer game tests your vocabulary. For every word you get right 10 grains of rice are donated to hungry people through the United Nations.
The game began on October 7, 2007. Thus far over one billion grains of rice have been donated.

FreeRice is sponsored by Macy's Department Stores, Apple Computer, Office Depot, TimeLife, Inc., Fujitsu, Readers Digest and a number of other companies. The companies advertise on the FreeRice website, their small logos appearing on the site at the bottom of the screen as you play the game. The sponsors pay for all the rice donated by players playing the vocabulary game.

Click here to play FreeRice.

For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News

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News: Today's News Headlines? Do We Still Care? Do We Really?

Sri Lanka: Fighting intensified in the war-wracked north as the government asked Parliament for a 20 percent increase in military spending. There were conflicting accounts of casualties by the government and the rebel Tamil Tigers. Government officials have said that they plan to open a major offensive soon against the Tigers’ northern mini-state in an effort to destroy the group.

Somalia: Insurgents dragged the bodies of dead Ethiopian soldiers through the streets of the capital Mogadishu after another flare-up of fighting that killed at least 21 people and sent thousands fleeing the volatile city.

Ethiopia/Eritrea: The continuing tensions between the two countries, the failure to resolve their longstanding boundary dispute and the military build-up along their common border are causes for serious concern.

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

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Rumble: Uganda Flooding

In a previous post I reported on the airlifts of relief goods to North Uganda assisting with the flood emergency.

I just got some pictures in from Uganda. Check here for more pictures.

Pictures courtesy Hugo van Vuuren
For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News

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News: Oil, Biofuel, World Hunger and Crimes Against Humanity.

The world has 800 million people suffering from hunger. About 100-150 million of those receive regular food aid. Up to now, we could say "the world is producing enough food to feed everyone, so it is just a matter of re-dividing the food!". This might no longer be true.

Click for full resolutionIn less than 10 years, the price for a barrel of crude oil went from less than US$20 to almost US$100. Soaring fossil fuel prices, and the push for non-fossil fuel -either out of environmental concerns, or to create less dependency on foreign oil- had many governments stimulate farmers to switch from food crops to biofuel crops. As if they really had to stimulate farmers: the growing demand made biofuel a real profitable cash crop.
So, more farmers growing biofuel, means less farmers growing food crops. More land in use for biofuel, less land for food crops.
The dilemma shows even more drastically in developing countries. As an example, the government of Swaziland announced this week that it would be allocating thousands of hectares to a private company to cultivate cassava for biofuel. Swaziland is a country where about 40 percent of the country's one million people are facing acute food and water shortages. By placing the cassava project in drought-affected Lavumisa, in southeastern Shiselweni, where agriculture has been limping along for years, government is attracting criticism that it favours exports over food security at home. (read the full post).

While we are not at a stage where we declare a full fledged worldwide food shortage, we might not be far off. According to a report, co-written by the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD), even without demand for the "green" fuel, recent falls in output - due to drought and low stocks - will keep food prices high. The study predicts prices will rise by between 20% and 50% by 2016. (Full post). Good enough to have the Executive Director from the UN World Food Programme state: "(... food) price increases bring some benefits for farmers, but for the world’s most vulnerable, food is simply being priced our of their reach. And for WFP, it means that we
can procure far less food for the same amount of funding than just a few months ago.

The possible rampage caused by biofuels had Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on The Right to Food, state: "It is a crime against humanity to convert agriculturally productive soil into soil which produces foodstuffs that will be burned into [as] biofuel." He called for a five-year moratorium on biofuel production because the conversion of maize, wheat and sugar into fuels was driving up the prices of food, land and water. (Full post)

For more reading, have a look at: "An Agricultural Crime Against Humanity"

For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News
Crop picture courtesy SuperStock UK

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Rumble: What A Family Eats In a Week Across the Globe.

Time published a summary of the photo essays titled "What the World eats". Each picture shows a family in their house, surrounded by the food they typically consume in a week.
The pictures are interesting in their contrast. Not only does it show the difference in "staple food" across the globe, cultures and classes, but it also shows the differences in variety, cost, quantity, and of course packaging !...

Some examples:

Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53
Family recipe: Okra and mutton

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week: $341.98
Favorite foods: spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp.
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23.
Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat

The Time photo essay is an excerpt from the book "Hungry Planet" by Peter Menzel.

For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News
Pictures courtesy Peter Menzel.

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Rumble: A Lazy Saturday in Rome

Tine and the girls were here last week. The first days, the weather sucked. Rain, dark, depressive. On Friday everything opened up, and Saturday was as glorious a day as it could be.

Here is a menu to spend a Saturday in Rome:

1/ Late morning, you drive to Fiumicino, at the sea:

2/ You pick your usual Cafe, with a terrace, and have a breakfast consisting of a Cafe Latte and one or two cornetti (croissants). During breakfast, you admire your two girls and how much they have grown in the past month.

3/ Take a walk alongside the port of Fiumicino. Stand still by the small things. People sitting in the sunshine, chatting. Fishermen mending the nets or preparing the boats for next week's trip.

4/ Then, in all laziness, drive off to town and scout the Campo di Fiori market. Suck up all the odours of flowers, spices, fish, meat on the roast, vegetables and fruits. Indulge into the crowds around the market stands. Enjoy the laughter and to-and-fro shouting of the vendors.

5/ End up at a restaurant, and have a late brunch, as the sun is already starting to set. Enjoy the busy-ness of the whole, the buzzing noise of hundreds of people around you, the street musicians, kids, the tingling of glasses as food is being served.

Rome is a city like no other.

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Shit No Go, We No Go!

Our camp on Peter IIt has been three days now. For three days we are huddled with seven people in the last of two tents we still have up. Two of us sleep on the kitchen table, the rest of either in a chair or on pieces of luggage which we stacked in the corner of what once was our kitchen tent. The other tent is full with our personal gear. All the rest of our equipment is crated and lined up near the helicopter landing site.

When the Akademik Fedorov, our Russian pick-up vessel (the largest in the Antarctic by the way!) arrived at the island three days ago, the sky was covered. After they landed their big Mil-8 helicopter near our expedition camp, we loaded it up as much as we could, but the mist came in from above the sea and in minutes. The visibility turned real bad. So bad that the pilot had to fly on radar trying to find the ship back. The evacuation was aborted then. Three days we are now waiting to get off the Antarctic. On the ship, a few miles off shore, hot showers and proper meals are waiting for us. But it could just as well have been thousands of miles away, so un-obtainable it seems to us.

Sleeping crampled in the kitchen tent. Ralph found the best spot: the kitchen table!And each day we wake up, we hope for the fog to clear up, but it does not. Luckily it does not storm anymore. For weeks on end, we have been fighting against the storm, the snow, the cold, and now, everything seems quiet outside. Dead quiet. Since we landed here, the only sign of life we have seen is a few birds which seem to nest at the bottom of the glacier, hundreds of meters below our camp. The only connection to the ‘other side’ of the world, the ship, we have, is our radio.

Willy’s voice comes crackling through the speaker. “Peter I, this is Fedorov, over”. Ralph takes the microphone, and answers the call. “Sorry, still no chance for helicopter flights”, says Willy.. Martin and him are the only two from our crew of nine who got onto the one and only flight we Two remaining sheltershad to the ship. Three days ago. Three days. We are bored. After the excitement of landing on the island, building up the camp, setting up the radio stations, and in two weeks, breaking the world record – we made 62,000 radio contacts from this island, 10,000 more than the previous record- and the excitement of the first sight of the Fedorov, our pickup vessel, we have nothing to do anymore, but to wait. Wait for the weather to clear up. Reading a bit, making coffee, eating some of our survival rations, sleeping, reading, eating,… We can not do much else. But to look at the grey sky of course.

The Mil-8 helicopter from the Akademik Federov is landing. See the orange smoke?In the afternoon, as by miracle, we start to see a faint sun through the clouds. The cloud cover becomes patchy. Would there be a chance? Willy calls us on the radio saying they will give it a go. As if we were bitten by a snake, everyone jumps up, and gets dressed. Indeed the clouds are breaking up. At times we can even see the sea. Somewhere the ship is there.
Half an hour later, we hear the roaring noise from the big helicopter. We fire up a smoke signal, and turning the low hanging clouds into orange. The pilot spots the signal and very slowly descends, touching down onto the snow. As by magic, the clouds disappear. While the pilot keeps the turbine generators running, the back doors open up, and the heli crew jumps out. They make signs we have to hurry. We drag boxes, crates, bags towards the helicopter, and stuff as much gear as we can into the haul. Half an hour later, they lift off.

We take a break, hoping the weather stays clear. And it does. In no time, the gray-orange helicopter hovers above our camp again, approaching our landing site. Again we drag all we can, The Mil-8. But you also see how foggy it is!as fast as we can to the helicopter. Some stuff is too heavy to carry, so we drag it over the snow, pushing and pulling with all the weight we have, with all the force we can handle. If we don’t make use of this break in the weather, god knows when the next opening would come.

Digging out cratesAnd we have plenty of gear. Tons of it. Masts, tents, antennas, boxes of radio equipment, personal stuff, left-over food rations, heaters, fuel barrels, gas bottles, generators, tools. All of it is carried, dragged, to the helicopter.
Three hours and several flights later, there is nothing left, but two tents and a survival kit. Now is the critical moment. If we take down our last two tents, we have no more shelter. If a storm comes up, we will have real difficulties to set it up in the wind. Would almost be impossible to put Loading up the cargo haul of the helicopterthe huge heavy-insulated covers over the metal frames. Ralph, our expedition leader, looks at the sky. “Let’s do it. Let’s break it up”, he shouts. Like animals we ‘attack’ the shelters. In no time, the covers, frames, wooden floors are all dismantled and stacked up, bagged and tied.

The last helicopter flight comes in. We stack all material in it. The last things to go are the white trash bags, with our human waste. We promised the Norwegian authorities who gave us the landing permit for this isolated island, we would take everything off. And everything has to go. Even the human waste. The pilot looks at the bags we carry. He opens one of them and looks inside.. With a disgusted face, he says “Njet”, making signs as if we are crazy. We start a discussion. In the end, I shout, trying to lift my voice above the noise of the engine turbines, in my most simple English: “Shit no go, we no go!”.. The pilot smiles, and gives in. We dump the bags of frozen waste into the helicopter, and get on board. The engines rev up and the huge propellers start turning, chopping into the air. With a deafening sound, the huge thing lifts up, and before we know it, we hover several meters above the ground.

Through the small windows, we gaze at our camp site below. There is nothing left to witness our presence on the island. Nothing but our footprints and two square imprints of where our last two shelters stood, soon to be wiped away with the fresh snow. Soon our presence will be covered, erased from this island’s memory.

Is this symbolic to our presence in the world? Is all of it just temporarily setting our footprints on the earth’s surface, and the moment we go, the moment we leave this existence, those prints are wiped away, to be forgotten? We come, think we can conquer it all, but still, all is temporarily… As I look at the pensive faces of my companions, I smile… At least on this ride, we also took our shit with us! Hopefully they will not ask that from us when we go to heaven. And if so, would St.Peter at heaven’s gate have the same look on his face as the pilot? And would we answer the same to him too: “Shit no go, we no go?”

Group picture from the 1994 Peter I expedition. All a memory now.

Continue reading The Road to the Horizon's Ebook, jump to the Reader's Digest of The Road.

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Ham Radio, Anyone?

November 2001. Somewhere on the road between Bagram and Kabul.

Bombed bridge and a tank stuck in the river on the road from Bagram to KabulI am not a happy camper. And that is an understatement. Before we left, I emphasized them to keep a watch for us on our monitor frequency. And now, I call them, and … nothing, nada, ziltch. The sun is already set behind the mountain tops. Even though the sky still has a hint of a dark-blue afterglow, it is already dark. And when I say dark, I mean pitch dark. There is not a single light. The headlights of the trucks in our convoy beam into a void as they negotiate twists and turns of this bombed road. They light up nothing but emptiness. And bomb craters. And little flags marked ‘Mines’. But for the rest, I can not describe it in any other way but “Void-ness”. Absolute empty-ness. There is nothing in this part of the world. There is nothing that grows. There are no houses. No-one lives here. There is only light brown dirt. Dirt and bits and pieces of mangled war-toys. A rusted tank, half buried in the sand. Or a rotor blade from a helicopter sticking from a pile of rubble. But for the rest, dirt. I can not believe this part of the world has been a battleground for the past twenty years. The last fierce battle was only four days ago. The Northern Alliance meets the Taliban. One-nil. Taliban lost and evacuated Kabul. And we moved in with the relief convoy.

Offloading the C130 earlier that day.I curse, check another frequency they sometimes use, but still nothing. The radio room is not answering. It is Ramadan, and this time of the day, the radio operators in Kabul, twenty kilometers away, are probably gone praying, or are already at the Iftar, breaking their fast. We just flew in a C130 cargo plane full of food, and I went with a convoy to pick it up from Bagram airport, few hours truck-drive from Kabul. We can’t use Kabul airport yet, as a one ton unexploded bomb sticks out of its runway. And we don’t have any deminers in yet. Nobody is allowed to come into Kabul, except twenty expatriate aid workers. I am one of them. And the only one on this road. The only one outside the Kabul safe haven. I must be crazy to do this. At any time, I expect to see the flare of an RPG coming straight at us, as rumours say there are still rogue Taliban roaming in this area. We desperately need to get hold of "someone" in Kabul to inform them this convoy is on the move, and that "someone" needs to monitor us, just in case something would go wrong.

“What to do? What to do? How on earth can I get hold of Kabul.. Hmm let’s see.” I dial another frequency on the HF radio in the car. No UN frequency, but a ham radio call frequency this time. One push on the auto-tune button and in a few seconds, the radio beeps and displays: “14.195.0 – Antenna Tuned”.
I push the button on the microphone and ask “Frequency in use?” Not a beep. I wonder if this radio is receiving or transmitting at all. Maybe that is why the radio room did not copy me. Even though all worked well before we left.
- “Frequency in use?”. Nothing again. Hmm.. Ok, well… let’s try.
- “CQ 20, CQ 20, YA5T/m YA5T/m YA5T/m , CQ 20 and by.”, I launch my call. "YA5T is my callsign in Afghanistan. With the prefix "YA", the hams will know what country I am transmitting from.
And the world explodes on this tiny radio. Dozens of hams answer my call. From Europe, North America, Asia. Shivers run down my spine. I can not believe this. Here I am sitting in a car, driving on what once was a road, with probably dozens of Taliban waiting to take a shot at me, in the middle of bloody nowhere. And still, with this small piece of hardware, I have the world talking to me… You have no idea how this feels. YOU HAVE NO IDEA…!

It takes me one minute to get ‘ON4WW’-Mark, my friend in crime on frequency. He is at home in Belgium, I am in a car in Afghanistan, but his radio signal booms in. I pass him the satellite phone number of the control centre in Kabul –just in case something would happen- and he remains on standby for the next two hours until we safely reach Kabul.

Even though in the middle of nowhere, we were not alone. I had hundreds listening in. From all over the world. Weird stuff, hey, ham radio? How do you explain that to outsiders? How do you explain not only what ham radio is, but also what it meant to you, in your life? How it changed the course of my life in many ways? Last year, I started to write down some of these stories in my eBook.

Ham radio. A sharp bend on the road of my life.

ON6TT at AH1A - Howland Island 1993 expeditionAs I wrote down these stories, I started to realize - it does sound rather melodramatic, but it is true to state - that “ham radio has changed my life”. If no ham radio, I would not have done the Clipperton expedition in 1992, I would not have experienced the adrenaline kick that operating from a remote Pacific island gave me. I would not have done the expedition to Howland the year after. Then I would not have met Paul, F6EXV. Paul as co-operator then, and as one of my ham contest partners at John-ON4UN’s home. He would not have received the telephone call –during that contest- offering him a job at the UN in Congo. He would not have explained me what that work was all about, which raised my interest.

Less than year and one expedition (Peter I island in the Antarctic) later, I flew to Angola, for the Red Cross, on my first humanitarian mission. My job had nothing related to my education – I am a graphical engineer – nor with my professional experience – I was an IT manager in my last ‘normal’ job-, but I was to install radios. I did work which was solely based on my experience as ham operator. In the end, there is no difference between going on an expedition, fiddling around with generators, debugging antennas and raising masts, if it was on Peter I island, or in the middle of Africa. Well, true, they did not shoot at us on Peter I… But for the rest, there was no difference.
Angola, where I operated as ham with the calls D2TT and D3T later on, was my first mission in the humanitarian world, to be followed by hundreds of missions, to over a hundred countries. Never kept count how many. I did keep track how many countries I operated from. 85 so far…

ON6TT as 5X1T in Uganda 1996-1999Over the past 14 years, there were many exciting and memorable moments. Many are explained in stories on my website, and often have a mix of an exotic location, work and ham radio. Being the first to transmit ham TV signals from Zaire (now DRC), during the midst of the Kisangani refugee crisis. And a few months later to be the first on ham TV from the Vatican City. Or the 60,000 radio contacts I logged from our home in Kampala as "5X1T", in between power cuts, baby sitting, bombings and evacuations. All the friends I made when on mission, and hooking up with people I have spoken with hundreds of times, but never met. I met them while on mission, and they welcomed me in their homes. Be it in El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa, Tajikistan or dozens more)… And even more so, they often gave me a head start for my work, providing me with much needed connections to the local PTT officials or trustworthy local telecom repair shops where I could find that long-sought-for cavity filter…

There is not one single memory that stands out. They are all different in their own way. But if there was one time where I felt *really* lucky I was a ham radio operator, it was that one night, in the midst of nowhere, in Afghanistan, just a few weeks after 9/11 !

Peter, ON6TT

This is an edit from an article I wrote for the 2007 yearbook of the Northern Californian DX Foundation (NCDXF). Check out more ham radio related stories in my eBook.

Continue reading The Road to the Horizon's Ebook, jump to the Reader's Digest of The Road.

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