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Goodbye Ghana

2019-07-13 | Denmark, Ghana, Long read | No Comments

The Gate of No Return, Cape Coast

I just left Ghana after a visit which seemed too short. It was my first trip back to western Africa since Sofie & I visited Mali 14 years ago. Back then Mali was a peaceful country and we travelled with Sofie’s friend Martha, her brother Simon, her mom Dorthe and her dad David (who is born in Mali).

It was a family visit, but Sofie and I took a road trip to Timbuktu. The first of many trips to far away fairy-tale places (at least for us Danes 😊). Our drivers name was Baloo and our guide in Timbuktu was Tuareg (one of the blue men) with the name Muhammed Ali. I kid you not it was their names. Internal conflict now makes it impossible to visit and the UNESCO world heritage sites we visited back then is ruined by rebels.

The food is good – here jollof

Ghana is the opposite – it’s peaceful and compared to other African countries wealthy. Like all the other countries Ghana is very religious, but the humanist organisation is growing. Roslyn who recently was elected to the board of Humanists International helped me settling in, showed me the beach and took me to a pub, where I experienced the football frenzy – Ghana fighting for a place in the quarter finals of the African Cup. Unfortunately, they lost so we didn’t party all night (good for me).

With Ros on the beach

At Roslyn’s house a met some of the other humanists. I interviewed her, Roslyn’s husband Michael who is also president of the humanists in Ghana and Ato & Anim. They are trying to create a safe space for non-believers, since they are stigmatised. It was so nice meeting them and discuss humanism, human rights and much more.

Danish history is intertwined with Ghanaian history. We don’t talk about it much in Denmark, but we also participated in the slave trade from Afrika to Amerika. We had a few islands in the Caribbean with plantations and some slave forts along the Ghana coast. I visited one of them Christiansborg in Accra with Michael who took me on a road trip from Accra to Cape Coast to Kumasi and back.

It’s estimated Denmark was responsible for 100.000 slaves being brought across the ocean over 130 years. Local tribes delivered slaves to the Europeans – amongst them the Ashanti kingdom which still exists. Slaves was rounded up from todays Mali, Burkina Faso and other countries. Then they were sent marching towards Cape Coast which is several hundred kilometres – barefoot in shackles, many of them dying on the way.

Place for the Homecoming ceremony

Today decedents from the slaves seek their roots and a lot of them visit Ghana. Every year there is remembrance of the slave trade. A homecoming ceremony is held for those visiting for the first time.

Ghana is a beautiful country. People are so nice and friendly – we had a lot of laughs. I leave with a lot of good experiences – a lot wiser regarding my own country’s history and new friends I will surely miss.

Some facts:

Ghana (Denmark)

Population:   30.4 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:   239.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 128/km2 (133/km2)

Life expectancy: 63 years (80 years)

The final episode of Babelfish season 1 has been published. The podcast will be on holiday until August. So far 30 interviews with non-believers from 7 countries in the eastern and southern parts of Africa have been produced.

I have talked to humanists, atheists and freethinkers from Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa. All of them had fascinating stories to tell about their life and the challenges they face.

Many of them grew up in religious families with no room for critical thinking, questions and discussions about belief. Growing up most of them have felt alone, thinking they were the only ones doubting the existence of God.

Now they are building communities for non-believers in their countries. In some countries humanist schools are formed, educating the kids in science and critical thinking. Other humanist schools are supporting single moms. Humanitarian projects are being run by non-believers.

In some of the countries the communities are very small with almost no resources. But in all countries non-believers are having metups, debates and social events in order to grow the small communities.

Everywhere I went non-believers are discriminated and stigmatised. Not due to legislation since the constitutions are based on human rights, but due to the religious society. Some have experienced to be shunned from their families, some have been fired. In some cases, there has been violent reactions to non-believers fight for human rights.

Sometimes it looks like an uphill battle to change the society’s view of non-believers. But everywhere I went I met amazing people full of energy and optimism. They keep up the good work and I am sure they will change the world.

It’s been quite a journey for me as well. A year ago, I started the planning – a bit scared, nervous and excited. I have had doubts many times, thinking this was crazy – thinking I wasn’t able to do this. But I did – and I will continue.

Season 1 has been finalised. Tomorrow I’ll fly to Ghana to meet another group of amazing non-believers. The interviews will be part of season 2 which will begin in August.

Next step is to cover the rest of the world. I am actively seeking funding and sponsors for a tour around the world. The tour will start by the end of August.

You can also support the project by donating money through Patreon – or for the Danish audience through 10er.dk.

Have a nice summer

Goodbye Portugal

2019-04-22 | Long read, Portugal | 1 Comment

Streets of Lisbon

It wasn’t part of my plan to visit Portugal this year. I want to do a Europe tour at some point visiting all the European countries. I want to wait interviewing non-believers in this part of the world where is seems to be easier than in other parts. But since I was in the neighbourhood, I decided to tour Portugal and Spain after the nomad cruise.

Portugal is beautiful, the green mountains, the olive trees, the ocean and the cliffs. The characteristic pavement of white and black stones in the cities and the architecture. Until the 70’ies the country was a catholic dictatorship and has suffered many financial crises since. They are only just recovering from the latest crisis – there are many beautiful old buildings who looks like they are falling apart. At the same time there is lots of restoration going on.

Streetart in Lisbon

I was so tired after the nomad cruise I needed to take it easy and not do much sightseeing while I spend a couple of days in Lisbon. I just did a walking tour with the other nomads to get a brief insight to the story of the city.

I interviewed 2 non-believers from the secular society (http://www.laicidade.org/) Ricardo and Rodrigo. Portugal is very religious, and the catholic church still has a huge impact on government and every day life. This even though the Portuguese constitution has been secular since 1911. The secular organization is not just for non-believers, members are of all faiths. The primary goal is to implement secularism in Portugal. There are still many issues in everyday life. Non-believers don’t face server challenges like in the African countries I have visited, but people think they are a bit strange.

Ecumenical Temple

I also visited the ADFP which is a foundation in Coimbra. It’s founded more than 30 years ago and is based on humanity and helps disabled people, foster kids and others. It owns a natural park, a hotel and a few years back they build an ecumenical temple on the top of a mountain.

The temple is dedicated to peace and to remember the victims of fundamentalism. It is for both believers and non-believers – I find it a bit strange to call it a temple, since it then sounds like a religious place. I understand why they have built even though I would have preferred something more secular.


Cromeleque dos Alemenedres

From Coimbra I rented a car and drove down south through the mountains and landscapes. For once I was on my own – no driver, no public transport. I decided to take a detour, going back in time finding the megaliths (Cromeleque dos Alemenedres) outside Evora. They are thousands of years of old and are amazing. They rest on a mountain top with a beautiful view. There are several megaliths and monoliths in the area. They are breathtaking – incredible they were able to build them back then.

I also visited a former colleague Paul Gerner and his wife Ewa in Lagos in Algarve. We haven’t seen each other for years, but it was just like the old days – nice relaxing and cosy. Paul has been visiting Portugal for more than 30 years. He told me the economy is improving, a lot of investments are being done and many Europeans are moving here with their savings. So, it looks good for the future – and hopefully some of these old amazing buildings can be restored.

Some facts:

Portugal (Denmark)

Population:   10.2 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:   92.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 111/km2 (133/km2)

Life expectancy: 79 years (80 years)

Home sweet home

2019-03-14 | Denmark, Long read | No Comments

I haven’t been active on my blog the last week. My writing routine is a bit off after I came home. I’m still trying to adjust to everyday life – it is especially hard to get used to the cold weather and the rain. I’ve been freezing, some days just wanted to stay under my blanket binging Netflix. It is no surprise that many people suffer from winter depressions here in the north.

I’ve been bust processing all my experiences, catching up with everybody and at the same time plan my next trip. My plans are in progress and I’ll hopefully leave Denmark in 3 weeks. At the same time, I am meeting a lot of new people and hope I can corporate with some of them in the future. interesting times 😊

I & Maja aka minnie_mouseling

I met one new friend through Instagram. The fun part is that she lives in Copenhagen, she is an atheist and has made atheist jewellery for some years. I had never heard about her before and we live a few kilometres apart from each other. She found me and yesterday we met for coffee and talked for hours about humanism, atheism and our common goals. She has a lot of followers in the US where it can be (in some parts of the country) just as difficult to come out as a non-believer as in Africa.

The invisible pink unicorn

Her name is Maja but known as minnie_mouseling on Instagram. Maja has created a beautiful invisible pink unicorn pendant for atheists to wear and has the motto: put a friendly face on atheism. The invisible pink unicorn is an international symbol for atheism. Check out her webpage and follow her on Instagram.

Last week was International Women’s Day and I spent a lot of energy being frustrated about the media coverage. In Denmark the media prefer to ridicule feminism instead of focussing on the issues and challenges we still face.

We do not have gender equality in Denmark – a report from Amnesty international highlighted this in a report on how rape survivors are being treated by the authorities. It is devastating to read how the survivors are blamed, victim blaming is the norm both by authorities and in the public eye.

But the media wanted to cover a non-existing conflict regarding gender neutral traffic lights. A story created by a journalist who months back also created a non-existing conflict about a song.

Saturday night dinner

So I was mad most of Friday – fortunately we (Humanistisk Samfund) was hosting the annual Nordic Humanist meeting the whole weekend – they managed to make me happy again. It is always a pleasure meeting our friends in the Nordics – from Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

We talked, shared experiences and made plans. During the weekend we also had a visit from the Norwegian ambassador in Denmark Aud Kolberg talking about Nordic identity, and a Danish scientist Josephine Valentin talked about SKAM (the tv-series) and Nordic identity. Great weekend.

I’m also adjusting to the day-to-day tasks – getting used to grocery shopping, doing the dishes, cleaning the apartment, visiting the doctor and the dentist. I still need to get a haircut. All the tedious tasks you have to do – it’s tough to adjust 😉