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Nights on Deserted Islands

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“Nights on Deserted Islands.
Lesson #1: Don’t walk between the trees”

Around midnight, I give up. I can not sleep. The cod I lay on is too hard. I don’t have any cover, and there is no space anymore in the tent. Half of us sleep under the sky. Seems romantic, sleeping under the open sky on a Pacific island, but the combination of the wind with my wet T-shirt and shorts, make it too cold to have romantic thoughts.And above all, adrenaline pumps in my veins.

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.

Jay sticks his head out of the tent.
“Shit, I can’t sleep”, he sighs.
“You know, Jay, what we could do? We could go to the landing spot, and get some of the sleeping bags, and cushions. I just can’t sleep on this cod without covers.”, I wisher softly not to wake up the rest of the landing party.
“Cool, let’s do that. Here is a flashlight. Let’s go”.

I put on my wet shoes. It was a pretty rough landing on the island, this afternoon. There is no port nor jetty here. We had to steer the dinghies through the surf and jump in waist-deep water to offload our gear, wading through the water, trying not to trip over coral heads and not to step on sea urchins. My shorts are still wet too, making it difficult to walk.

The beam of the flashlight veers left and right, lightening up the hundreds of land crabs crawling over the broken coral, in between the boobies, sleeping with their beak tucked in their wings. Most birds don’t even move as we walk close to them. They don’t know these big creatures, called humans. The boobies are not conditioned to be scared of humans, that is clear. One flies straight into Jay in a typical booby-clumsy attempt to land. The more gracious these birds are in the air, the more silly they behave on the ground. Their way of landing and taking off, often involves tumbling upside down, tripping over their own feet. Nature can’t be perfect in everything.

We get close to the palm trees, lining up at the beech.
“I hear the sound of rain coming closer”, says Jay.
“Hmm, rain, and all we have is T-shirts and shorts..”, I mumble.

As we negotiate our way inbetween the palm trees, the first drops fall. Big drops. Platsh, platsh, platsh. Warm drops. The strong smell of ammoniac cuts off our breath. As we sway the flashlight to and fro, the beam catches the side of Jay’s head for a moment. I hold his hand, take the light, and shine it onto his face. It is covered with a white thick glue-y stuff.

“Jay”, I can’t catch my breath from laughing, “that ain’t rain, man, that is bird shit”.
Jay shouts “Oh shhhhit”, as he starts running to the beach, from under the trees. “Oh shhhhit”!
“Yeah, shit indeed!!”, I laugh.

We shine the light in the trees. The palm trees are full of boobies. Dozens of birds sit on each branch. Hundreds of boobies in each tree, thousands of them in the small bush we just walked through. And it seems like they don’t do anything but shit in their sleep. The palm trees, the leaves, the ground, is covered with white smelly guano. And so are we. From top to bottom.

Welcome to the deserted island of Clipperton! Welcome to paradise!
Continue reading The Road to the Horizon’s Ebook, jump to the Reader’s Digest of The Road.

Written by Peter

October 27th, 2007 at 10:18 am

A Lot of Crab -eh Crap?- !

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1. A lot of Crab!
While editing my Dutch eBook, Addicted to the horizon , a lot of memories are coming back. Tine and I were scanning through some old pictures when she reminded me how intriguing some of this stuff was. [there is a lesson here: one gets easily used to the extra-ordinary].
I guess I got used to all of it, having gone over these pictures so many times already. And having been there. Things like the shot above, taken during our expedition to Clipperton, a deserted island in the Pacific. The land crabs were piling up trying to devour the bone of a spare rib. That is a lot of crab! They would eat anything. Plastic, cardboard, sleeping bags, ropes,… This made the island pretty clean!
Human waste was considered a delicacy. While squatting ‘au naturel’ on the island, shorts around our ankles, we had to scuffle forward as dozens of crabs would be fighting for your waste, piled on top of each other. If you were not scuffling fast enough, they would grab hold of your private parts… Tell ya, there are more pleasant things in life.

2. A lot of Crap!
Read an article today about the amount of garbage the world produces.. As an example, every day, the US [not trying to pick on the US, but it was the only figure I found!] produces enough non-recycable waste to fill the New Orleans Superdome twice. That is 230 million tons of solid waste per year. The amount of pollution and toxic leaching produced by a landfill receiving 1,000 tons per day of waste is 22,000 lbs. After a landfill closes, it is estimated that emissions could remain constant for as long as 30 years.

3. Let’s launch “Crabs for Crap”!
I think I will run for prime minister, with only one single programme item: I will introduce the use of Clipperton land crabs in the processing of our waste in ‘developed countries’. Think I stand a chance?

Written by Peter

February 11th, 2007 at 11:32 pm

How Cigarettes Once Saved My Life

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Wednesday February 3 1993, 5 am

My watch beeps me out of my sleep. For a moment, I don’t know anymore where I am. I lay on a hard cotton cot, in a wet sleeping bag. The side of the tent drips. I am cold, wet. My muscles hurt, my skin is sunburned, my head aches. All I want to do is sleep. Just another hour, just another minute, but I know I can not. I fumble under the cot to find my glasses. They fog up. I step through puddles of water in the tent, and grab a flashlight. It is still pitch dark outside. The flashlight beams over our surroundings. Sand, low thorny scrub bushes. Hundreds of tiny hermit crabs with shells on their backs scavenging in between the huge boobies and frigate birds sitting randomly around us. The sound of the waves crashing onto the coral reef and rolling out onto the beach a bit further away. The smell of guano in the damp tropical air. We had a huge storm last night. I remember we were fighting to keep the tents up, and the water out. It was never supposed to rain here. They call it the desert of the Pacific, this place. Howland island. On the crossing of the equator and the dateline. In the middle of bloody nowhere. Emilia Earhart, the first woman to fly around the world was supposed to land here to refuel on July 3 1937, but she disappeared, never to be seen again. They had even flattened part of the island as a make shift landing strip for her, and put a fuel on shore.

For a second I curse the pain I feel in my body, curse my constant urge to ‘go where no man has gone before’. Well few men at least.. Why this constant drive to do the unusual? To take the risks? ‘Adrenaline junky. Peter, you are an adrenaline junky’, I repeat to myself as I walk over to one of the main tents. Well, ‘stumble’ is more like it. Stumbling between the pieces of coral and trying to avoid the thorns of the bushes. My legs are scratched a thousand times already. Every evening, I have to pull the thorns out of the soles of my feet. Everything hurts.

I open the flap of the tent, and see Mike sitting at a table in front of the radio. He has his reading glasses on the tip of his red sunburned nose. He looks up and winks at me. I smile at him. The small light, dangling by its electric cord from the top of the tent frame, swings slightly in the wind. The light dims as Mike is transmitting on the radio. I just hear the click-click from his morse key. Randy lays on a couple of plastic bags on the tent floor, amidst puddles of dirty rainwater filled with sand. I pull his shoulder, and tell him my cot is free. Without saying anything, he smiles as if he is still in a dream and shuffles off towards my tent. I take a seat in the plastic chair in front of the second radio and computer, put the headphones on, and listen to the cacophony of noises. It seems like these are people transmitting from Europe.. Let me see if I can create some order in this chaos..

Several hours later, my shift is finished. The sun is already straight above us and has heated up the tent to 40oC. Sweat is dripping off my back. My shirt and trunks are wet. I need a bath. But there is no fresh water. There is nothing on this godforsaken island, unless if we had brought it with us. Bathing is in the sea. Plenty of sea water, though, surrounding this half a square mile island. The sea is wild. The waves created by the immense storm last night thunder over the coral and run deep onto the shore. Where there was a hilly white beach yesterday, the sand is flattened to a perfect spotless even plain today. No traces yet of footsteps. As sand was scooped away by the storm, parts of the remains of a second World War amphibious plane surfaced. I take some soap and shampoo from my tent, and walk to the sea. Kurt, the ship’s cook is standing at the shore line, looking at the Machias, our chartered sailing ship. A wave turned over the dinghy he and Captain Bill were using to deliver our daily rations of water and food. The Captain broke his wrist when he smashed onto the coral. ‘We were supposed to get off this island today. Guess not, hey’, I smile sourly to Kurt. ‘Nope, the waves are too high, man’, Kurt says, ‘No dinghy can get through this’. There is no port on this deserted island. Nothing. All transport between the Machias, anchored outside the reef, and the island is done by shuttling dinghies, riding the waves. But with waves this high, it is pure suicide.. I see Bob and Walt walking towards us, coming from the second radio tent. They say nothing, but think the same as we do: yesterday, we made a huge error. In a hasty effort to start evacuating the island, when we saw the storm clouds gathering, we first ferried water supplies and food rations off the island. We thought: ‘This is the only stuff which can get wet, so let’s see how well it goes’. But the waves got bigger and before we knew it, there was no way we could get through the walls of white foam crashing onto the coral. The waves now run fifty meters deep over the beach and then retract back. What a difference it makes from the babbling waves when we landed two weeks go. The sea had resembled a lake then, compared to this raging madness.

I pull off my T-shirt, sit down in a coral pool filled with 50 centimeters of water, and start rubbing soap over me. The waves come over the pool, filling it up, and a few seconds later, the water gets sucked out as the wave retracts. I feel like a baby in a cradle, rocking to and fro with the waves coming in and out. Kurt pulls off his shirt and shares my pool. ‘Lovely’, he smiles.. A bigger wave comes crashing over the edge of the coral pool and hits us off balance. We giggle, floating in the current. But as the wave retracts, the force is so strong, it sucks us with it. In a flash, our smiles change into disbelief, fear, panic. My heart skips a beat. The wave pulls us over the edge of the pool, into the water. I can not believe water of only 50 cm deep can have this force. We try to stand up, holding on to whatever we can grab, but we are sucked into the sea. We know the edge of the coral is only a few meters away. It has an underwater hole in it. The water gets sucked through the hole, and pulls me with it. My legs get stuck into the hole. Kurt holds on to the coral with his hands. An incoming wave is not strong enough to push me through, back onto the shore. I am stuck in the underwater hole. Kurt gets smashed onto the shore again. I lose my glasses in the thundering whirlpool of white foam. As the wave retracts from the shore I now get sucked underwater. My body is pulled through the coral hole, and I can feel the sharp edges cutting into my legs, arms and back. A few seconds later, I appear above water at the other side of the coral. I don’t feel the bottom anymore, I can not stand up anymore. The water is too deep. Having lost my glasses, I can hardly see. There are waves all around me and the current drags me with it, probably way from the shore. In the background I hear shouting on the beach. I paddle with my legs so I can look around. I can not see Kurt. I look at the Machias, shout at the crew, but don’t hear any reply. Probably they had not seen the accident. Suddenly I realize I still have my soap in one hand and the plastic bottle of shampoo in the other. Here I am floating in a rip current, with my body bleeding, peddling with my feet to stay afloat, but still holding on to my soap and shampoo as if these were the last earthly belongings I wanted to take with me into the next world… I let go of them. They sink. All I can think off is staying afloat. The current is too strong, I can not swim against it. I have to preserve my strength. I kick off my sandals and strip my pants as they hinder my movements. Suddenly I see a reddish colour in the water. I see the scratches on my arms. Can not see the stuff on my back, but it must be bleeding badly. This is not good news.. I know the sea around this island is infested with sharks. Bleeding in between sharks…. I remember people always said to lay still in the water not to attract sharks, and I temper my movements.. Have to, to preserve strength also. My hope is that the guys on the beach have witnessed the accident, and would do something to get me a rope or whatever.. I can not really imagine what this ‘whatever’ might be. I look at the Machias again. I am drifting away from it, towards the open sea. I am now probably 100-150 meters from the shore. And counting.. This current is strong… Suddenly, I hear splashing. Sharks? I am seriously contemplating I might not survive this. Either I will drown or sharks will shred me to pieces. Funny, I am not panicking. I actually think about how in the books people describe how ‘they see flashes of their life passing before their eyes’. I don’t see fuck before my eyes.. Maybe it is because I lost my glasses. The only thing I see is the fucking shoreline disappearing, and the fucking Machias disappearing, and the only fucking thing I feel is that this fucking current is dragging me with it, and that the fucking sharks will have a feast with me. In the best case scenario, I might only loose an arm or a leg. For a moment, I think how Tine would be mad at me, when I would come back home less one arm or a leg. She would tell me ‘And I warned you so many times before you left, to be careful, you fool! I have more problems with you than with a class room of three year olds!’ Tine is a kindergarten teacher.
No, the splashing is caused by something else. The first thing I see is something orange. My eye sight really sucks.. Orange. And then I see a head.. It is Kurt. He is wearing an orange lifejacket. ‘I have a rope, hold on’, he shouts. I swim towards him. We touch. I never could have imagined a man’s body could feel that welcoming… ‘Man, I thought, I thought’, I stumble over my words.. Kurt smiles.. He is a strange character. ‘He is a lunatic’, Bob once said. True, Kurt could get these sudden rages, shouting and waving a knife when someone would appear in ‘his’ kitchen while he was preparing the meals. But Kurt and I had a bond. A special bond which had been building for weeks now. I had cigarettes, and he had none. ‘Here, take the rope’, he says smiling, ‘The guys on shore will pull us in. You ok?’. I nod, grabbing the rope knotted at the back of Kurt’s life jacket. We shout and make signs to the shore party they can start pulling and before we know it, we are moving like a speedboat against the current. ‘Watch the coral’, Kurt shouts, spitting out water, ‘Watch the coral as we go in. Protect your head’. We are catching the surf again, as we get closer to the shore. A huge wave towers two meters high behind us, and picks us up. Now it is the white foaming whirl which pushes us onto the shore. Well, it does not push us, it tumbles us, throws us head over heels, literally, as one of my knees bangs my forehead. I grab my head, protecting my face with my arms and elbows while still holding onto the rope. The wave does not hit us onto the coral, but drags us over in a tumbling rage. I try saving whatever parts of my body which were not bleeding yet. The next thing we know, is the feeling of soft sand below us. When I stand up, I realize I am only in 10 cm of water. Kurt tumbles in behind me. I sit on my knees, catching my breath, spitting up water. Kurt comes to me and grabs hold of me.. ‘Hey what a surf, hey?’.. I stand up. Must be a funny sight. I am stark naked, with blood running off from me. Someone found my glasses. I put them on. They are wet and full of sand, but I don’t see anymore.. Blood gushing in my eyes…
The guys help us into the shade of one of the tents. Kurt limps. He has hurt his leg as he was dragged with me into the sea. He said he only made it because I got stuck in the hole, and ‘the hole was not big enough for both of us’, he laughs, with his nutty giggling sound. ‘Yeah, I think he is a nutcase’, I say to myself, ‘but he bloody well saved my life’.

Burt, one of our expedition doctors appears with a white plastic bottle and a rough sponge… ‘You know life coral in your blood stream will kill you. It will consume all the oxygen in your veins and kill you. We have to dissolve it with distilled vinegar.’, he says softly, ‘This might hurt a bit’.. ‘Distilled vinegar on open wounds?’ ‘Yep, and I have to rub it in a bit, to ensure it is all properly cleaned’, Burt says in a calm occasional tone, as if he would be talking about the colour of the sky.. I don’t think I felt pain like that before. Two guys had to hold me onto my chair, while Burt, with no sign of mercy, rubbed all the wounds and poured the damned vinegar over it.. Thousands of needles were pushed into my body.

I cry, I shout.. So does Kurt. With chuckles and sniggers in between. After it is all over, he turns to me, smacks his hand on my shoulder and smile ‘Hey Peter, can I have a cigarette from you now?’. He might be nuts, but he is a hell of a guy.

No, I never felt that kind of pain again. Once it came close. A couple of months later, back in Belgium, when I got a kidney crisis due to the dehydration after being stuck on Howland Island for another week after the incident, without sufficient drinking water, the boat breaking down, the engines of the dinghies failing… Kurt was crucial in getting us off in the end, but that is another story.. It is also another story how I got back to work a week too late. My boss shook his head in disbelief and anger ‘you always want to do weird stuff, don’t you?’. He clearly did not agree with me wanting to take three months off next year to go to the Antarctic. I quit my job a week later.

Why I do all this? I don’t know. Maybe it makes a nice story to tell afterwards.. Maybe it is to learn a few lessons. Lessons for life like “Always listen to your wife’s advise”, or “Soap and shampoo are of no use when drowning” or “Sometimes cigarettes can safe your life”… I don’t know…

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

Written by Peter

January 11th, 2007 at 4:07 pm

The Road to the Horizon – Introduction

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I come from no country, from no city, from no tribe.
I am the son of the road,
my country is the caravan,
my life is the most unexpected of voyages.

(From Leo the African by Amin Maalouf)

“I’m mad like hell and I am not going to take this anymore”
I remember it very well. Must have been somewhere mid 1991. I arrived home late from work one evening. I had a well paid management function in a respectable firm. I lived with Tine, my loving girl friend. We had two cars, two dogs, a flock of sheep, chickens and geese, on our villa-farm on the Belgian country side. The future looked bright. Nevertheless, that evening, as I sat in the car on the drive way, I did not feel happy. Some things were missing. It felt like at the age of 30, I had just finished my life. The plans for the future were all laid out so well. Autopilot from now on. But deep down inside, I hated corporate life and corporate politics that go with it. I hated wasting two hours of my life in traffic jams every day. And getting up every day at the same time, seeing the same faces every day, and dancing to the tunes of the people at work. Working my butt off until I could retire. I hated the limitations my job and life put on me.

African music played on the tape recorder, that night, as I sat in the car for what seemed like hours. I remember it very well. Just looking into the dark night. Listening to the exotic sounds, dreaming of exotic places. It suddenly darned on me: “This is not my life. Actually it is not a life at all”. Life is supposed to be creative. Variable. Free. Filled with the laughter of children, working with people one likes, working when one likes, doing what one likes. Going to places one likes. I wanted to do things so once, old and ready to die, I could take my grand children on my knee, and close my eyes, and look back on a life I could be proud of. A life that was filled with landmarks of what I had achieved, things I had done and seen. Things that would have an impact on the people around me, a positive impact.

As I got out of the car, I had made up my mind. “Something’s got to change around here”. I felt like on the movie “Network”, where a journalist encouraged people to throw open their windows and to shout “I am mad like hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!”. Well, I was not going to take this crap anymore!

Breaking the chains.
The first sign of madness was my spontaneous decision to participate in an expedition to Clipperton, a deserted island in the Pacific. Decided one day, gone on expedition three weeks later. It was a spiritual experience. For the first time since very very long, I felt deeply happy. I sat laid back, in the middle of the night, looking at the Milky Way in the middle of the Pacific, with palm trees waving in the moon light, listening to the music of Enya playing in my head over and over again. Completely sun burned to the second degree, dizzy because of the lack of sleep. But happy. I was doing what I wanted to do. I found part of my destiny, it seemed.

Once I got back to Belgium after the expedition, my job looked even more dull than ever. I needed another shot of adrenaline. The shot came one year later. Another expedition to the Pacific. This time, it was to an island called Howland. Guess you never heard of that one. Well, I did not neither. And what an adrenaline shot it was. A team of great people, each one still being a close friend today. A trip where I almost drowned in a stormy see. A trip during which I learned to love the Pacific. A trip where we lived on survival mode, using the very limited food and water provisions we had for almost a week waiting out the storm which made it impossible for us to leave the island with the small rubber dinghies we had. What more can one do to lead an intense life?

As we had trouble getting off the island, I arrived back at work one week too late. My boss schmuttered some remarks like “that is typical you again, is it not? Always trying to do the unconventional.”. Well he was right. And almost on the spot, I asked for 2 months leave without pay, for the next year, as I wanted to go to the Antarctic. He said no. I did the only sensible thing to do: I quit my job. That was June 1993. Since then, things have only been improving. Ha!
For one year, I did not have a paid job. But I enjoyed working home. I wrote a book. About past expeditions. Mostly for myself. And worked on the preparations for our expedition to an Antarctic island called Peter I (rather appropriate name, don’t you think?). Only then, I started to feel what the word ‘freedom’ meant.
We did the “Peter I expedition”. When I left home for the Falklands, where a Russian icebreaker would pick us up, I told Tine: ‘I do not know when I will be back. Might be in two or three months, but do not worry!”.

I still carry the memories of the Falklands and the Antarctic deep inside me. You had to be there to believe it. Life on Peter I was so intense you could almost touch it. The beauty of bright white icebergs floating in a dark blue see, with colours so intense that you have to wear sun glasses. And storms that wipe you off your feet. Talking about living your life!

Making a living
Many a time, life is determined by coincidences. The art of living, I think, is often to catch those coincidences, those signs and to use them as opportunities. One time such a coincidence happened. I am a ham, a radio amateur. At that time, I was a fanatic ham. One weekend, we were operating a ham radio competition from a friend’s home. Paul, one of the other radio operators, was a friend from the Howland expedition. During the contest, he received a phone call from someone offering him a job working for the United Nations as telecom specialist. I had never even heard the UN took civilian telecom people. I thought it was all military. Little did I know. I talked to Paul about it, that weekend. It looked interesting. Was this the road to take? I could put my skills as radio amateur and professional IT expert, to a good use. Travelling, working with people, and at the same time work for the humanitarian cause sparked off a lot of day dreaming in me.

So a few weeks later, I also applied for a telecom job in the relief work. That was April 1994. Three months after our Antarctic expedition, one year after I quit my corporate job, the Red Cross sent me to Angola. I started the ideal job: doing radio stuff, travelling and working with and for people, was all I ever wanted to do. Earning a living out of it made me feel I turned my hobby into my job. It never felt like a job, though. Not even up to today. It became a passion.

Angola was my first trip to Africa. And it was an eye opener. I had expected a hot and humid savannah, with loads of wild life, and villages made of clay huts. Quiet nights with stars overhead. Instead of all that romantic stuff, I got an flat in the middle of Luanda, with plenty of noise from hundreds of television sets and radios, each one tuned to shout over the other. And machine gunshots blasting in the city the whole night.

But the job was exactly as I expected it to be. Telecommunications. Loads of freedom to plan my job as I wanted. Loads of independent work, with improvisations every day. Meeting lovely people. One day, I was driving off to a town in the middle of the bush, another day I was flown into a shelled and deserted town given a few hours to install a complete radio station from scratch, training people in Portuguese how to operate a radio. And no, I do not speak Portuguese. Talking about challenges… I remember one night I was climbing a tree in the pitch dark to hang up a dipole antenna, thinking how much I enjoyed this work.

Fifteen years later

We are now fifteen years following that one night when I took my decision to quit my well protected life and to go on a totally different route, Since then, I have done several missions for the IFRC – International Red Cross: twice in Angola, twice in Malawi and one in Ivory Coast. Later on, I took over Paul’s job in Goma, Zaire –now DRC-, working for UNHCR, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The first two years I worked as a consultant, spending half of my time in Belgium, with Tine and Lana, our first born.

Early 1996 I was offered a job by one of the UN humanitarian agencies in Kampala, Uganda. Kampala became my base for four years. First I worked as a telecommunications officer in the regional office of our organisation. Later I was promoted as the head of the regional Technical Support Unit. We looked after a vaste area covering Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Congo-Brazzaville.
After a second expedition to the Antarctic in 1997, Tine and Lana joined me in Uganda. Hannah, our second daughter joined us too. Two weeks old and already in Africa, probably marked her as a life long traveller.

Mats, another fellow radio amateur, joined our team, and together we founded FITTEST, which over the years grew to be the UN’s fast intervention support team. Side by side we have assisted in most of the humanitarian crisises in the world since 1997.

In 1999, I moved to Kosovo, and then to Islamabad, Pakistan. Tine said ‘she would rather be alone in Belgium than alone in some remote country’ and moved back to our home base. I started to work two months on and one month off, shuttling between home and work. A good decision it seemed afterwards, as with its global coverage, the work with FITTEST took me to well over a hundred countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Pacific, South and Central America. The funny thing was that once I got home, my ‘girls’ wanted to travel, so I was never really ‘home’ in Belgium for the past ten odd years.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we started our office in Dubai, where I worked until 2006.The office grew into one of the main UN humanitarian fast response facilities. Be in the midst of the Balkan’s crisis, the 9/11 fall out in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the tsunami, the refugee crisis in Darfur, or the Pakistan earthquake, we were always on the frontline of the activities, calling ourselves the ‘special forces’ of the humanitarians. ‘Fast is good, First is better’, was our motto. Work was always presenting new challenges and had many sudden twists and turns giving us sleepless nights and exciting days, to say the least.

In 2006, I decided to take a thirteen months’ sabbatical, so I could spend more time with my family, and do a bit of sailing. Taking that distance, I realized that as years flew by, my path crossed that of many people. Many situations came up unexpectedly, leading to funny, sad, moving or weird stories. I started to write them down. Some were published in magazines, some I wrote as Emails to friends, some I just jotted down for myself and some stuck in my memory.
During my sabbatical, I started this blog as an eBook, as a string of these stories.

Mid 2007, I started my new job, still as a humanitarian, but this time working in our Rome headquarters. But the blog continued. I added some stories of the travels I did with the family, sailing stories, and later on expanded with news items. All of them form “the tales while travelling The Road”, my “Road of Life”, my “Road to the Horizon”.

I dedicate these stories to Tine, Lana and Hannah, my “three girls”, under the motto: ‘It is easier to be a nutcase than to live with one’. Their love has kept me going.

A sincere thanks to Els and Ekram for the work they have done on the short stories, for their relentless editing, their encouragement and tips.
Peter.
peter(at)theroadtothehorizon(dot)org

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

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Written by Peter

January 11th, 2007 at 3:11 pm