Category: Kenya

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I’m back in Copenhagen, I’m back in my hood on Vesterbro down town Copenhagen. Today I went back to my ‘office’ – a local restaurant BOBs where it is possible to work all day if you are a member of Sp8ces. Through sp8ces (no I don’t get paid to tell about it) you have access to several working lounges in Denmark and Norway – they make agreements with hotels, restaurants, etc. to use timeslots where their spaces are not occupied. It is a great concept – and cheap.

I’ve spent the last couple of days sleeping, doing absolutely nothing besides catching up on Netflix. It will take time before I have processed all my experiences from my journey. I have travelled many kilometres, met so many people – not only humanists, but also other locals and tourists, seen the most amazing landscapes and met fantastic animals. Earth is an amazing and beautiful place.

I know I’m privileged – I have the possibility to visit places where the usual tourist never goes. I’m glad this journey is a combination of following the usual tourist path and meeting people living their lives in these countries. It adds so much more when you talk to people living there and not just other tourists or people from travel agencies.

My journey has showed me the diversity of the different countries. There is so much prejudice in the western world toward the African continent – yes, it is a continent and not a country. Africa is unfortunately often perceived as a country and treated as such in popular culture and media. Africa is three times larger than Europe and occupies 20% of the land mass on Earth – it is huge.

In eastern and southern Africa where I have been travelling, they have many challenges. I travelled during the rainy season but in most of the countries, if not all, they got lesser rain than they need to avoid drought. Climate changes are already impacting this part of the world. The growing population is also impacting the infrastructure – water supply, electricity and transport.

I’ve been travelling for 10 weeks, visited 8 countries and held 30 interviews with non-believers. During the next 3-4 months all the interviews will be published as podcast episodes through Babelfish and I will continue to write articles for POV International.

At the same time, I will plan the next steps of my journey. Which means I will be pretty busy while in Copenhagen – I also want to see, to hug and talk to my friends and family. Right now it is cold and rainy – I hope spring is coming.

My – now dead – favourite fan

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.

top 12 plus 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.

tsetse flies

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 time).

sun tan after 1½ month

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.

sun burn

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.

Church – Dar es Salaam

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 vote for.

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.

Kigali, Rwanda

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 enough.

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.

Freedom of opinion & expression

2019-01-23 | Kenya | 1 Comment

The above article 19 is from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It gives all of us the right to say what we think and participate in the public debate.

Last week when I was in Nairobi visiting Harrison Mumia, the president of the Atheists in Kenya, he got fired from his job due to some political tweets. Harrison is probably the most well-known atheist in Kenya, participating in a lot of debates, tweeting and commenting on different subjects.

It is not easy being a non-believer in the very religious East African countries. Most people think you are a devil worshipper or illuminati if you publicly say you don’t believe in one or more gods. People will think you have no morals or ethics, because in their opinion only god (or gods) can tell right from wrong.

Some non-believers get shunned from their family, most loose friends and many know it will affect their chances of getting jobs and establishing a carrier if they openly declare their non-belief. When the humanists in Uganda spoke up for LGBT rights their office was attacked. They even went to Kato’s house (president of HALEA) and burned his car.

And now this – an atheist fired for participating in the public debate. Even in Denmark we have heard stories from civil servants fearing it will affect their job if they express their opinion. We have also seen stories about politicians requiring people to be fired because they disagreed with their opinion.

And these cases in my country Denmark where we are so proud of exercising the freedom of speech – to the extent that some people feel the need to humiliate others instead of keeping a civilised tone in any debate. Even in Denmark the freedom of expression is under pressure if our opinion is in opposition to the powerful people in our country.

A few years ago, the atheists in Kenya registered as an organisation. Some religious groups got upset and successfully pressured the government to revoke the approval. But the step was in violation of Kenya’s constitution, which meant the government lost the following court case and the Atheists in Kenya is now a registered organisation.

Harrison will off course sue his employer for wrongful termination and violation of his right to speak freely. I hope human rights organisations will follow the case closely. We need to protect our right to participate in politics and express our opinions.

Goodbye Kenya – Hakuna matata

2019-01-18 | Babelfish, Kenya | 1 Comment

Karen Blixen

Looking out on the scenery through the shuttle bus window driving from Nairobi to Arusha in Tanzania I’m thinking about my week in Kenya. The horrible attack in Nairobi the other day with 21 lost lives, reminds me of how fragile life is. The people and the fantastic animals remind me of how beautiful life can be in this country. A country with a complicated history, influenced by the whole world.

On one hand Kenya feels very peaceful – the security levels are the same as in the other countries. When you get used to armed security everywhere, the thorough security checks when you enter a mall, a hotel, a bank etc. you stop wondering. Al-Shabab continues to make life unsecure for everybody here. It’s difficult to understand how they cope with the fear continuing living their lives.

On the shuttle bus a group of passengers with unmistakable Indian decent reminds me of the melting pot of different cultures that is Kenya today with more than 42 tribes. Arabs, Europeans, Indians and as the latest addition I see Chinese signs all over the country showing how much China invest in infrastructure – not just here but all over Africa.

The landscape passes by – the flat land surrounding Nairobi turns into green hills and later mountains. I see Masai with their red clothes looking after their cattle and donkeys. It is the first time I have seen donkeys on this trip. The sky is so incredible high with the flat savanna and the green hills and mountains in the background. It makes you feel tiny and insignificant.

It is understandable why Karen Blixen fell in love with this country. I visited her museum with Harrison from the atheist organisation. Fun fact: he had never heard about her, so I taught the Kenyan a bit about Kenyan history. It was amazing to visit her farm, learning more about her life here and how she influenced Kenyan tourism.

It is difficult to be a non-believer in this country. In contradiction to Denmark Kenya has a secular constitution. Legally there is no discrimination, but in reality, the country is very religious, which means everyday life is influenced by religion.

People are very friendly and curious. As a Dane you would never say hi, shake hands and talk to a stranger in the street. After a few days you realize Kenyans mean it, they just want to talk – while you thought they wanted to trick you and get money out of you.

It’s been a week with many experiences, many emotions – highs and lows.

I will end this blog post with some of the highs – I met Harrison, the nicest guy who open his home to me. He is the best-known atheist in the media in Kenya, fighting for equal rights for non-believers. I saw a black rhino for the first time ever, it was amazing, big and a bit scary. And then there was the beautiful lioness, she passed our car not more than half a meter from my face – I’ll never get tired of watching them in the wild.

Have a nice weekend and as they say in Swahili – Hakuna matata

P.S. A new episode of my podcast Babelfish has been released today – check it out

Some facts:

Kenya (Denmark)

Population:  52 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:  580.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 89/km2 (133/km2) Life expectancy:  64 years (80 years)

Precious lives

2019-01-15 | Kenya | 4 Comments

Lioness

Today while I met this beautiful creature lying on the side of the road a terrorist group attacked a hotel in Nairobi with bombs and gunfire. While we were waiting to see if the lioness would succeed and hunting down one of the many antelopes, people were dying in Nairobi.

It isn’t the first time in recent years terrorist has made attacks in Kenya. Al-Shabab (a militant Somali terror group) has unfortunately succeeded many times. I think everybody remembers the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in 2013 which lasted several days.

At that time my friend Peter lived in Nairobi – Sofie and I wanted to visit, go on a holiday and hopefully see a lot of animals. We never made it, partly due to political unrest but also due to the risk of terrorist attacks. It simply wasn’t safe enough. Now Peter lives in Denmark and I am a tourist in Kenya – Al-Shabab continues to spread fear and taking precious lives.

Being far away from the attack we didn’t notice anything – not until I got a message from my insurance company and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I recommend everybody to sign up on ‘rejseklar’, the ministry will keep you posted on any issues in the country you are travelling in (for Danes only). The twitter exploded and I decided to contact my relatives and friends telling them I was ok.

On our way home from the national park Nairobi looked the same, no changes, the same melting pot of people, boda bodas, taxies, busses, cars – the same smells and sounds. Live continues in the capitol.

The lioness didn’t succeed in her attempt to catch an antelope – the antelopes fled, and the lioness wandered off, she passed our car, peed on a bush and continued down the road. Live continues in the national park.