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Touch And Go

I'm off to Africa again tomorrow. It'll be a full day of flying: my plane leaves Brussels around 8.20 AM (which means I'll have to leave here around five-sodding-thirty) and fifty minutes later I arrive in Amsterdam. Then I have to switch planes, and I'll fly to Kigali - Rwanda's capital. Then we'll have to wait for an hour or so, and then we fly to Entebe in Uganda. There I will stay for the night, and in the morning I take a small airplane to the north-western border, to Arua. There our team will pick me up, and we should cross the border between Uganda and Congo somewhere in the afternoon. Getting back will also take me two full days, in reverse order of course.

As always, we did something fun with the kids today - it's become a tradition when daddy is going to Africa. In the summer we go to the zoo or a theme park or something. In the winter we go to an indoor playground or theme park or so. I prefer the indoor playground we went to today. It's fun both for Wolf and for Tyl, while theme parks tend to be much less interesting for babies. Also, you don't have to queu for anything. And the food is better. And last but not least, everything is way cheaper than in a theme park. Six euros entrance, € 1.70 for a coke. Multiply everything by four when you go to a theme park. Oh, and the parking is for free.

Not that I want to be cheap when it comes to showing my love for my children. But how else can I afford first class computer hardware?

Out Of The Oven, Into The Freezer

So guess who's back from Ethiopia? It's not the swallows, because they have the good sense to stay in Africa until the winter's really over. I on the other hand found myself basking in the sun at close to 30°C on day, and freezing my gonnads of at -10°C the day after.

Ethiopia is really a beautiful country. I can say this despite having spent more than ninety percent of my time in meeting rooms - you know how these business trips are. But just when I started thinking that I'd only get some tan if I'd stand really close to one of the TL-lights, my colleagues over there suggested to make a little trip on Sunday to visit the volcanic hot springs. And boy were they volcanic hot! I soaked my body in water you could use to boil an egg, and even joined the locals in a game of 'I dare you to stay under that stream of steaming hot water until your skin drops off'. Luckily there was also an olympic size swimming pool with water at a balmy 35°C to cool down. I could have stayed in there for days at an end.

We spent most of our time in the rift valley, a place I've been hoping to visit at least once in my lifetime. It's the very spot where humanity crawled out of the trees, became bi-pedal, discovered fire and made its first tools. It's piping hot during the day, and rather nippy during the night, and the air is full of dust. So no wonder we decided to take a hike and explore different parts of the globe. Yay for us! But still it's a splendid place. I spotted quite a bit of wildlife too: flamingoes, big vultures, weaver birds, marabouts, camels (technically not wildlife, but it's not as if I'm used to bumping into one) and the remnants of a porcupine.

As for the work thing: people were very pleased with my training and my work, so there's a good chance I may visit Ethiopia again. But it'll have to wait, because there's already a trip to Uganda and the Decidedly Not Democratic Republic of the Congo looming on the horizon.

Live Aid

I'm off to Ethiopia tomorrow. I've been looking forward to this trip, it's the first time I'll visit Ethiopia and the first time in years I've visited another African country than The Not At All Democratic Republic Of The Congo. Although I did pass through Uganda a couple of times to go to eastern Congo.

There's been news of an attack on a group of tourists in the north of Ethiopa yesterday. So good thing I'm going to the south.

Don't know if I'll have internet access, if not see you in two weeks time.

Wooden Wedding Anniversary

This Friday, we'll be married for five years. To celebrate this momentous event, Mrs.B and I will dump the children in a random waste container and head of to an exotic destination. Well that was the plan initially, but for practical reasons we've limited the travelling time a bit, so we're going to Amsterdam.

We don't go anywhere without a travelling guide, generally the Guide Routard or a Lonely Planet. However, that was easier said than done. Here in Belgium you can find travelling guides to Papoua New Guinea, the Falkland Islands or Upper Siberia, but a book about the Netherlands is really difficult to find. But eventually I found one about the capital of recreational herbs and tulips.

When I browsed through the book, I stumbled across the Food & Drinks chapter. Now we all know that the Dutch cuisine doesn't have the best reputation, but it says a lot when even a tourist guide that was written by Dutch people warns against eating Dutch food. The chapter starts with trying to make you warm for their 'famous' sandwiches, including the infamous Broodje Kroket (bread roll with a mushy cardboard/meat croquette). But then they advise travellers to try Indonesian, Indian, Chinese or any other cuisine; just don't enter a Dutch restaurant.

Same for the Drinks chapter: Heineken is mentioned of course, but they quickly add that there are many kinds of Belgian beers available which are truly great.

So the message is clear: when visiting Holland, bring your own food or visit foreign restaurants and pubs that serve foreign beer.

Duly noted.


Return To Africa

It's been almost a year since I've last been to Africa, so high time to get back before I get detox symptoms. And I desperately need some sun and heat, this grey winter weather and the cold and the rain is really getting on my nerves.

Although we did enjoy the first few pre-spring days this week. Last week we took the boys to the Zoo (just for a visit, we took them back home) and although the sun was out, it was still a winter sun. But it was very nice, although I almost managed to leave my backpack behind, WITH the video camera, when Wolf slipped and hurt his mouth.

Today we had a really nice sunny day, at times it got really warm. Not Africa warm of course, but spring is definitely coming. We made a nice walk through Antwerp, just strolling without the need to run from one store to the other. People enjoyed the first warm weather in a typical Belgian way: they 'did a terrace' and had a drink outside in the sun. Wolf gobbled down a giant ice-cream; it took me half an hour to get most of the chocolate from his face and then he still looked like he'd put his face into a bucket of mud. We went to look at the ships sailing on the river Scheldt, but we only saw one. And then it was time to head back home.

Tomorrow Mrs.B and the kids will bring me to the airport, Wolf is looking forward to see all the aircraft. Mrs.B on the other hand is looking forward to a breakfast with American pancakes at the restaurant at the very beginning of the check-in lines. And I am not looking forward to saying goodbye to my little guys, because I know I will miss them terribly in the next two weeks.


First I take my underwear, generally for one week but I won't have time to do the laundry and I'll only be gone for nine days, so I take a bit more. Summer PJs, because it'll be warm, but also a sweater because at night it cools down quickly outside in eastern Congo. Then a couple of T-shirts and two polo shirts with the logo of my organisation. Three trousers with legs that I can zip off to turn them into shorts. I really should be some new ones, they're beginning to show their age.

Sandals, mustn't forget those! And a cap, to protect my head from the scorching sun; very important when one's hair is in retreat. Then it's time for the bathroom items. My toilet bag, a small towel and two washing cloths - mustn't forget to take a big towel from the closet in Wolf's room when he's sound asleep. I always forget that big towel - have to stuff it into my suitcase at the last moment.

Then it's time to fetch the medicine bag and check its contents. Sun tan lotion - although I never use it. Something against the runnings, something against headaches and fever, an antibiotic for when all else fails and doctors are far out of reach, something against terrorists and plane crashes and most importantly: a spray against mosquitoes.

Goes into the same bag: the electronics department: charger for my cell phone, charger for my iPod, webcam, headphones.

Down to the basement to delve into the camping box. Water flask, torch, compass, alarm whistle, sleeping bag, inflatable pillow and - again most importantly - mosquito net. Oh, that reminds me: mustn't forget the ball of string. You wouldn't believe the nets I weaved to hang that mosquito net from a mirror in one corner to the door and then a cross-wire to the nail in the wall and then trough the bathroom door to...

Did I pack some hankies? Oooh, this reminds me: the roll of toilet paper! Don't go to Africa without one. It's your one vital link to civilisation.

Finally something to read: three sturdy novels. Two in the big suitcase and one in the small backpack, to read on the plane. I'll stuff my photobag in my backpack too, together with my iPod. I bought new headphones today to replace the very basic fumbling things that are standard isue.

Batteries! I must recharge the batteries! Batteries for my camera! Batteries for my external flash! Batteries for my torch!


Tomorrow my plane takes off around 11:40 to Uganda, with a stop at Kigali, Rwanda's capital. The day after I'll fly to the border town of Arua with a local carrier, and then my colleagues will pick me up and drive me to Mahagi, where I'll stay for three days. At the end of the week, I'll fly to Kinshasa for two days of meetings. And next Tuesday I'll fly back to Europe, via Paris.

Good thing my suitcase has wheels.

Packing For Paris

We're packing our suitcase for tomorrow. We're going to Paris, where I will attend a seminar on organisational development from Wednessday until Friday. So that gave us the opportunity to add two days for ourselves. Mrs.B will stay until Tuesday evening, so we'll have (almost) two days to stroll around in the big city under the Eiffel tower.

We've both been in Paris before, when we were students. So that's a long time ago, but Paris will be Paris. I expect the Seine will still be there, and the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe and of course the Champs Elysées. And there will be real french croissants with the truck load all for Mrs.B, and French cuisine and cafés and...

Ooooh, I can't wait!


A couple of weeks ago on a rainy day, we crossed the border to visit Amsterdam. It must have been almost twenty years since I've been there the last time, but not that much had changed: the canals were still there.

Tulip, anyone?Tulip, anyone?

Amsterdam is a very Bart-friendly city.Amsterdam is a very Bart-friendly city.

The Kalverstraat - Amsterdam's main shopping street (for non-hallucinogenic items).The Kalverstraat - Amsterdam's main shopping street (for non-hallucinogenic items).

Wolf with his cool Siberian winter hat.Wolf with his cool Siberian winter hat.

Guess who had hot cocoa?Guess who had hot cocoa?


Somewhere underneath this pile of bikes lies the famous Damplein.Somewhere underneath this pile of bikes lies the famous Damplein.

I'm seeing pink elephants!I'm seeing pink elephants!

I first saw these elephant statues on Invader Stu's blog and I was so pleased to see them for real. Wolf loved them too. They are scattered trough the city and painted in all sorts of colours and themes. This is clearly an Indian elephant.

Mrs.B was feeling peckish and wanted a little something. Yes, it's the 'Walletjes', Amsterdam's famous red light district. Wolf liked it too, because there were a lot of shops with 'balloons'. That's when we decided to set another course.

The local cuisine is simple but delicious, if you like raw herring with bits of onions that is.The local cuisine is simple but delicious, if you like raw herring with bits of onions that is.

Canals, more canals, with boats, and more boats. And many, many more boats.Canals, more canals, with boats, and more boats. And many, many more boats.

You have 'champignon de Paris' and you have 'champignon d'Amsterdam'. Do not serve the latter in a cream sauce with your steak.You have 'champignon de Paris' and you have 'champignon d'Amsterdam'. Do not serve the latter in a cream sauce with your steak.

Time for a snack, after such a long walk. Do they have hot cocoa here?Time for a snack, after such a long walk. Do they have hot cocoa here?

Ok, the VERY last picture of a canal.Ok, the VERY last picture of a canal.

Touch And Go

I've barely arrived from Congo and I'm leaving again... to Congo. This time to the southwestern part instead of the northeast. I'll be back in ten days, so you'll have to make do with the other blogs that you may find in the dark pathways of the internet. Not that I can imagine that any of them are as interesting as my weblog, of course.

Farmers' meeting near MbandakaFarmers' meeting near Mbandaka

Feel Like A Wreck

Aaah, la Picardie...

Derelict fishing boats at the end of the harbour of Le CrotoyDerelict fishing boats at the end of the harbour of Le Crotoy

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