I am happy to be able to break this news today. Going forward I will be a writer for the Danish online media POV International. This is amazing. They have so many fantastic journalists and writers who publish on their platform. The writers don’t get paid, but the readers can donate directly to the writers.
will bring my travel stories. The articles are in Danish. The title of the
series is (roughly translated to English): In search for the worlds non-believers.
Cape Town almost feels like coming home. It’s extremely European and according
to locals very different from the rest of the country – which means I haven’t
really gotten the full experience of this country. I’ve spent two weeks here in
Cape Town and haven’t seen half of the sights. After travelling for two months
I needed to spend some time relaxing and processing all my experiences.
All of us
of course know one the greatest humanists Nelson Mandela. You can’t visit Cape
Town without visiting Robben Island where Mandela spent so many years as a
political prisoner. I clearly remember the apartheid regime from when I was young,
and it was a fantastic day when he was released.
Island is a desolate place, flat with not much vegetation. The guides on the
island is former political prisoners. Our guide spent 10 years here and he told
about torture, famine and the humiliating treatment by the apartheid regime. Since
the regime ended improvements have been made but there is still a long way to
difference between rich and poor are still huge, even more than I have seen in
other countries. The different governments have only managed to lift a fraction
of the poor out of poverty. And like under apartheid it is primarily black people
who are poor, lack education and are unemployed. Unemployment rate is approximately
sight Cape Town looks like a wealthy city, but then you begin to see all the
beggars. There are so many beggars, none of them are kids though like in some
of the other countries. I’m not sure why.
humanists I met are concentrated around Cape Town. They told me this country is
just as religious as the other African countries, but it is easier to be a
non-believer in South Africa. Or it depends on which parts of the country you
are in. In some areas, rural areas, you would never say out loud you don’t
believe. While in others it would not be an issue, like in urban areas.
diversity is extreme. One example I got from one of the humanists illustrates
this very well. South Africa has a secular progressive constitution and
homosexuals has equals rights, same sex marriages has been legal for many years.
But while kids can be raised by homosexual parents without facing any
challenges in their daily lives, just 20 kilometres away lesbians get mass
raped as punishment.
On top of
this there is infrastructure challenges. Everywhere you go there is posters asking
to save water. The power plants cannot deliver enough electricity during peaks
times, which means they will cut the power in designated areas for a couple of hours
at a time – this is called load shedding.
the challenges I like this city – just the daily view of the mountains, Table
Mountains, with the clouds makes me feel good. When you are used to only the
flat land in Denmark mountains are mesmerising. Even though I am afraid of
heights, well to put it another way I am afraid of heights when I’m around
cliffs and trees. I bungy jump and want to skydive but I will not climb a
used to have the ocean nearby I’ve been happy to be close to the water again. I
have enjoyed the waves which are like at Vesterhavet back home, the cliffs
which looks like Bornholm only a thousand times bigger. I’ve had my first encounter
with wild penguins and seals.
first time I’ve been this long in one place. On one hand it has been nice to be
able to empty the suitcase and hang my clothes in the closet. It’s been nice
getting to know my maid Jeanette and the people in the reception & the
restaurant. But on the other hand, I know I’ve missed out on so much. I could
have explored the country even more if I had spent maybe a week travelling up
like to come back one day – they have it all – the mountains, the savanna, the
desert, the ocean. I want to go whale watching & swimming with seals one
day, and searching for a leopard the next, diving with sharks on the third day.
be flying to Namibia and then there is only one week left before I’m back in Denmark,
planning the next steps.
The last few
days I’ve focused on being a tourist in Cape Town – no interviews, no writing,
no editing. I’ve been exhausted and extremely tired. I’ve had writers block –
not being able to write anything that made sense. So, I needed this break, relaxing,
watching Netflix and not thinking about the next steps.
This is the
most touristy place I have come across on my journey. Off course the safari
places in all the other countries are for tourists as well, but it doesn’t feel
like it in the same way. It’s not the same kind of tourism. When you chose a safari,
you are interested in the animals and proper accommodation. When choosing to be
a tourist you are interested in historic sites, entertainment, shopping,
beaches and animals in a mix.
My journey has
so far been a mix of going on safari and meeting humanists. It has been a good
mix – I wouldn’t have managed travelling and only doing one thing. I like the change
in focus. But I have forgotten to give myself a break occasionally. When I was
on Zanzibar the purpose was to relax for a few days, instead I worked, I edited
the podcast and wrote some texts.
I have met
so many people, seen so many countries, met so many different cultures,
basically my brain has been overloaded with impressions. So, whenever I was
thinking about writing a blog post or edit a new episode, I felt tired and
wanted to lay down and sleep. I finally listened and decided to go with it and
do absolutely nothing and if it required laying in bed watching Netflix all day
it would be ok.
needed to leave the hotel, I’ve followed the beaten path of any tourist in cape
Town. Jumping on the sightseeing bus to get to know the city better. So, I have
seen the sights from the top of a bus or walked the city thin.
tourist here you don’t have to interact with the population at all if you use
the sightseeing buses, hotel shuttles and only visits the tourist attractions.
You can keep to yourself and only interact with others if you choose by
yourself. So, I choose to keep to myself trying to process all the things I
have experienced the last two months.
I have visited
7 countries, interviewed 27 people, published 11 episodes of Babelfish and
wrote several blogposts. Which is quite an accomplishment thinking about it.
Off course I deserve to take a few days off doing absolutely nothing, watching
Netflix and getting room service.
Now I am
relaxed and ready to continue – in a few hours I’ll visit Robben Island where
Nelson Mandela spend so much time in prison. In a couple of days, I’ll visit
Cape Point and, in the weekend, I’ll meet a lot of humanists. No worries – I’m
back on track 😊
difficult to comprehend the amount of open spaces in Botswana – the country is
the size of France, but France has almost 30 times as many citizens. So much
The Khalihari Desert covers a large part of the country. Together with the Okavanga Delta and Chobe National Park it attracts a lot of tourists – but it is by far the most expensive country I have visited. The parks are covered with air strips where tourists are flown in to stay in luxury lodges. Some cost several thousands of dollars for one night (one night!). A bit out of my league.
life is amazing. Even with my budget I managed to se a lot of animals – even
some I haven’t met before, like the pack of wild dogs and the python I met in Moremei
Game Reserve. Botswana has thousands of elephants which causes a lot of tension
with the local farmers.
will take down trees, fences and crops on their way. The number of elephants is
so high it is a problem. If there is not enough food for them in the parks,
they will migrate and ruin farmland. Even though I love elephants I see the
problem – some places in the Moremei Game Reserve looked like a graveyard for
trees due to the elephants taking most of the trees down or eating the bark of
changes also has an impact in Botswana. The country is very dry, but I visited
during the rainy season and it hardly rained. Newman, my guide in the Okavanga
Delta told me the water level should be 2 meters higher at this time of year.
Like in the
other countries I have visited the population is growing despite the fact
Botswana has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world (estimated
25% of the adult population). More youngsters get an education. But unfortunately,
there isn’t enough jobs and unemployment is high even though Botswana is a
success story in Africa with high economic growth rates.
plays a vital role in Botswana. Most of the population is christian, but the
traditional beliefs still exist including witchcraft. Being a non-believer can
be challenging since they are considered to be devil worshippers and without
ethics and moral.
There is no
humanist organisation in Botswana – not yet. There is a small group of friends,
non-believers, who wants to create a humanist organisation.
I met a
couple of them while visiting and at this point, they are focusing on being
formally registered. Next steps are to make humanist more visible, basically
showing the public humanists are good people through charity work.
humanists in this part of the world their biggest challenge is the lack of
funding. I hope they succeed.
Today I lost one of my most valued travel gadgets. It doesn’t look like
much, it’s not expensive but besides my passport and my credit cards it is my
most valued gadget – it is a fan bought for 2$ in a Chinese shop in Copenhagen.
It has followed me for a long time. It is useful in the plane, the bus, in restaurants,
everywhere it might be to hot for you. Unfortunately, it died today. It will be
missed, and I need to buy a new one.
It made me think of what things I cannot live without while travelling. I wanted
to make a top 10 – or rather it ended up being a top 12 plus extras, since I
couldn’t limit it to only 10 things. These are the thing I always pack together
with some clothes.
Passport & yellow fewer card: pretty essential if you want to leave
your country experiencing the world.
Credit cards: instead of carrying loads of money for your whole trip. Make
sure to have different types of credit cards. Some places don’t accept visa
card, and some places doesn’t accept master card. It is also a good idea to
have a backup card, just in case. I actually travel with 4 credit cards, maybe
a bit over the top, but it doesn’t cost me any extra.
Travel insurance: just in case. I have never had the need for it, but I felt pretty good knowing I could get picked up by a helicopter in the middle of the Cambodian jungle and flown to the nearest hospital when I was travelling with my then 12-year old daughter.
I also feel pretty good knowing I can get help if I have an accident while diving with sharks or bungy jumping (still need to visit the 216 meter drop in at Bloukrans Bridge South Africa – take it easy mom – it will not be during this journey 😉).
Money: it’s always good to carry a few dollars. Just in case you experience
what I did in Rwanda, and your credit cards getting rejected by the ATM’s, then
you have some back up money. Else I will always rely on my mom to transfer
money through Western Union.
Sunglasses: no explanation needed
Malaria pills: no need to gamble. The pills are so cheap these days its
affordable for almost everybody. If you get malaria and you are not treated in
time you either die or will have the disease for the rest of your life. Just
get them and remember to take them.
Dehydration relief effervescent tablets: if I travel in countries with high
temperatures, I lose my appetite and forget to drink water. If you get
dehydrated, you’ll get extremely ill. I always bring the tablets together with
my miniature travel pharmacy. I’ve used them several times on this journey just
to be sure I was hydrated.
Mosquito repellent: another essential. You don’t want to have your whole
body covered in mosquito bites. Unfortunately, the repellent didn’t help
against the tsetse fly in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. I was bitten
from my knees down on both legs – so I had to dig into my travel phamarcy to
find the stop-the-itching-cream (which only helped a couple of hours at a
Sun screen: I must admit – I hate sunscreen. The greasy white stuff you must put on in a thick layer, using half a bottle every time, and it closes your pores which makes you sweat even more. For many years I have only used alcohol-based sun screen, which you only apply once a day. Down here I sometimes have applied twice a day though, the sun is relentless here.
I brought factor 50 and 20 and after 1½ month I still got a nice tan and no burns. Expect the one time I just wanted to get a bit tanned on my legs (they never tan, never, never) and sat outside on the ferry from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam for two hours – bad idea.
Lonely Planet books: Even though you can google everything wherever you
travel I like my travel books. And I prefer Lonely Planet – I always buy them.
I document my journeys, where I have been when, which route we have been taking,
which sites we have seen, where we have stayed. And I keep them in my bookshelf
at home. I like to look at them – it’s my travel diary.
Fan: the fan I have already told about – it is essential for me and I will
miss it very much.
What I have realised during my journey is how much religion and, in most
countries, also tribes influence everything. Which religion you belong to,
which tribe you are a part of influences you everyday life, what school you go
to, which job you get, who you can do business with, who you marry, who you
If you belong to the majority religion and/or tribe you will be better off
in many countries. This means it is not the best qualified who gets the job og
gets elected, it might not even be the best qualified within your tribe – it
all depends on connections and where you belong.
It is also well known that corruption is widespread. Some are trying to
fight it, but it is difficult to get rid of and changes are slow.
On top of this people are ready to give all their money to the churches
instead of paying for their children’s education, they are ready to pray
instead or in addition of relying on doctors to cure diseases. Many people are poor,
but they are still willing to give their last dime to their priest.
I’ve seen many beautiful buildings while travelling but it is churches,
schools and public buildings not peoples houses. Many houses are old, worn down
and especially rural areas huts. Think about the amount of money the churches
receive from people who could be spending them on improving their own lives.
Especially Pentecostal churches (in Danish ‘Pinsebevægelsen’) is growing in
numbers, receiving enormous amounts of money from their followers. So, the
priests get rich. Some of them have private jets, big mansions, expensive cars –
some of them are con artists and people still donate money to them. People are
convinced that god will take care of them if they keep praying and believe
Supported by christian missionaries some priests preach people should get
many children – even though they cannot support them or pay their education
(education is not free in most countries). The churches are also against
contraception and family planning – supported by donator countries like the US,
who has a policy of not supporting organisations where abortion is included as
a possibility when they are advising families.
This means HIV infected and the population is growing in number in
countries where contraception’s are not promoted. The infrastructure,
educational system and the labour market cannot keep up with the growth of the
population – many young people gets a college degree but there are no jobs for
them. Unemployment rates are high
amongst the youth, so many would of cause want to travel abroad to find a
proper job. And climate changes are not doing anything good either. It seems
like being so religious work against solving a lot of the problems here.
The African countries have not been christian for a
long time – only a few hundred years. I’m wondering if that’s the reason they
are so conservative and extremely religious. And maybe their belief will loosen
in the coming generations, I don’t know. The question is whether or not it will
be in time for them to be able to solve the challenges they face, and where
their belief stands in the way of the best solutions.
small country landlocked between Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. It somehow
seems to be forgotten by many – no major conflicts to keep the media interested.
Not a major tourist destination either even though I would recommend a visit –
people are friendly, the service is good, and the animals are plenty.
It is one
of the poorest countries in the world. Most of the country is rural with
farmland. They are heavily depending on financial support and projects from
foreign donors. The last 10 years the country have experienced famine several
times either due to floods in some years or droughts in other years. Driving
through the country there where areas overflooded with so much water that they
can’t even grow rice there.
humanists are few in Malawi. They have a small organisation but not many funds,
which off course means they are struggling, since they are not able to initiate
the projects they want. They would like to establish humanist schools like the
ones in Uganda. Not many non-believers have come out in Malawi. Humanists will
not face challenges coming out in public, but many are afraid of coming out to
family and friends. They are afraid of being shunned.
the other countries I have visited Malawi is very religious, and non-believers are
considered to be devil-worshippers, bad people without any moral and ethics. On
top if this many still believes in witchcraft (like in other countries) – a
belief which is fully integrated with the Christian faith, which makes it even
more difficult to debunk. The humanist organisation here ran a project some
years back to fight the belief in witchcraft, this included training the police
I met a guy
working with resettlement of UN refugees in Malawi – you know the kind of
refugees Danmark no longer will receive (‘kvoteflytninge’ in Danish). He told
about the cruelty towards albino babies and kids – they are being killed and
parts of their bodies sold. This happens because people think the body parts
are magical. It is difficult to comprehend that people believe this so much
they are willing to kill babies and kids, chopping them up in pieces and
selling them on a market. Unbearable.
And yes, we
talked about my embarrassment of Denmark’s change in policy. My country who has
always held a torch for the most vulnerable refugees – like the albino babies
and kids. My newfound friend tried to comfort me, telling about all the Danes
still working for the UN and the refugees – I’m still embarrassed.
Malawi has not been kind to me if we look at my digital challenges. First the poor internet connection at the first hotel, and then the subscription plugin on my webpage failed. And Friday evening my laptop crashed – or so I thought. Luckily the laptop worked perfectly when I arrived at my last hotel. The cosiest feeling-like-at-home hotel with the fastest internet. Happy days. And even more happy days for the first time I have experienced hotels with English channels on the tv. These little things can make me happy on this long journey.
And then there was the animals – all the beautiful animals I have seen. I was especially amazed to see all the hippos in Liwonde National Park. They have estimated 2000 (!) hippos in the park. You can sleep in the park while listening to them ‘talking’ to each other. Definitely worth a visit.
After struggling with slow performing internet connections I now have access. I am in a the MVUU camp in the middle of the Liwonde Nationalpark in Malavi and the internet connection is the fastest I have experienced in this country.
So today I have published another episode of my podcast. In this episode I talk to Max from HALEA Uganda. He tells how he tried out different religions before realising he don’t believe in a god. And we learn how ‘the Secret’ influenced him, how he has been shunned and lost friends, but also how he gives medical support through Rotary.
Find it in your favourite podcast app or on this website. Enjoy.
first time while travelling I faced some challenges – challenges not related to
transport, accommodation, food or money. Not at all – instead I was not able to
get online – I have never experienced an internet connection performing this
poorly. And this in a large hotel in the capitol of Malawi.
days I tried to upload new episodes of my podcast. Again, and again the upload
failed after a while. It has been so frustrating not being able to do anything
about it. When talking to the reception they promised to investigate it, unfortunately
they never gave me any feedback – I had to ask them again and again. I never
got any explanation, not even a ‘we are sorry for the inconvenience’, nothing.
I’ve stayed at much cheaper guest houses where the service was 10 times better.
matters worse I discovered the subscription feature on my blog had stopped
working. It was not possible for people to sign up. And I was not even able to
log in and check up on it – the pages wouldn’t load due to the poor internet
connection. I think I could have punched someone at this point, several times.
In the end
I gave up and went to bed.
next day I asked for help on LinkedIn – not that anyone could fix the
performance issues, but if someone could look at the issues with the
subscription feature, I would be very happy. A former colleague from CGI Maria
Ana from Sweden helped me and will help me in the future – I got myself a wingwoman
subscription feature is working again – or it’s partly working. If you have
already tried to sign up without any success it is not possible to sign up
again (we are working on solving the issue).
If you are
one of the unlucky ones… please send me an email and I will register you
manually – sorry for all the inconvenience.
post should have been about something completely different related to Africa
& humanists, but I have been too frustrated to write anything that made
I know this
is first world problems – people living here are facing much more serious
problems than this. They have power outages, floods, droughts, lack of clean
water, climate changes, a growing population they cannot feed.
I can leave
– I can go home, turn on the electricity, get clean water out of the tab and be
sure my internet connection is fast.
I’ll be back…
with new podcasts and blog posts when the connection is good… I’ll be back
than 120 tribes (& same number of languages) no tribe has majority in
Tanzania, the melting pot of migrations. The last tribe migrated to this
country less than 200 years ago. Tanzania is even more diverse and complex than
the other countries in East Africa – migrations from all over Africa, from
India, from Europe, from almost everywhere.
rest of East Africa, Tanzanians are very religious, conservative. The
population is equally divided between Christianity, Islam and traditional religions,
which means no religion has majority. This makes Tanzania different from the
other countries – they had to find a way to live together, co-exist, no matter
tribe or religion. They have succeeded in many ways, even though there can be
tensions (as an example Zanzibar which is predominantly Muslim would like to be
independent). Tanzania is peaceful and you don’t have to worry about security.
Like in the
other countries it is difficult to be a non-believer in Tanzania. Family and
friends might consider you a devil-worshipper if you openly come out as a
non-believer. Like in Kenya Tanzania has a secular constitution including the
human rights declaration which protects non-believers even though they might
face discrimination in every day life.
There are a
small group of freethinkers
who try to reach out and find likeminded people in order to build a community.
The internet and social media have helped a lot, since almost everybody has
access to information online these days. So besides being enthusiastic the
freethinkers are optimistic and know things will change slowly, but they will
change. Many more non-believers will come out – because they are out there,
they just think they are alone. Through the social media they will discover
they are not alone in the world, and they will find a place to belong, a
also the biggest country – it is 22 times the size of Denmark, 22 (!). It’s
huge – with the speed limit being 80 km/hour (down to 50 km/ hour many places)
you’ll never manage to visit the whole country. It takes forever to drive from
a to b. The traffic police are everywhere, you would be ruined before managing
to drive from Arusha to Dar es Salaam.
For a Dane
it is difficult to comprehend why they haven’t built highways like in Denmark
where the whole country is covered in highways. Our highways have a speed limit
of 130 km/ hour which makes it easy to get from one end of our small country to
the other in no time. In addition, there is no railways of importance in
Tanzania (again in contradiction to Denmark), which means everything must be
transported on the same roads – goods, containers, people, schoolkids, cows,
through my journey I have almost adjusted to the African way – which means you must
be patient, don’t rush, take you time greeting people in a proper way, a lot of
handshakes and talking. It seems like I have adjusted to the hot African weather
as well – just arrived in Malawi, it’s 23 degrees & I’m freezing (!).
through my journey I have visited 4 countries in East Africa – the other half will
be spend visiting 4 countries in Southern Africa.
My visit to
the cradle of humankind – the Serengeti – made an impact. I think it is an
amazing place. I would like to go back some day, and spend at least one week in
the Serengeti, sleeping in tents among the wild animals, spending hours looking
for them, spending hours staring at them. It’s beautiful, overwhelming,
majestic – pictures can never show how it feels to be there.
Tanzania & East Africa – hopefully I’ll see you again on the Serengeti – Hakuna