Monthly Archives: September 2014

Winter in Ethiopia

This winter, we don't travel somewhere "just for fun", but dedicate our winter holiday to about 100 boys and girls from the poorest Ethiopian families, who get the chance to go to a kindergarden organised and financed by the Ethiopian/German NGO Adigrat Vision e.V.

Our flights are booked and on the 20th December we'll leave home, first take the ferry, then go to Bremen by car and then fly to Mekele in the Tigray province in northern Ethiopia (via Frankfurt, Jeddah and Addis Abeba). These flights will be the first for our two girls and they are really excited about it - that's also a great test for South America next year! From Mekele, we are taken to the city of Adigrat by car.

Adigrat is the last important Ethiopian city south of the border to Eritrea, lies 2457 metres above sea level and has about 60,000 inhabitants.

countryside in the Northern Ethiopian high country

a shop in Adigrat

the volunteer room

For the time we're in Adigrat, we are going to live in the volunteers' room of the kindergarten.

What will our jobs be in the kindergarten? Juliane will help the nursery school teachers establishing a program to teach the children how to actually learn by playing. The plan is to establish a structure with rituals, games, communication cards et cetera, which can be used and enlarged by other volunteers and thus make the volunteer work more sustainable. Mischa will do regular English-conversation meetings with the staff and both of us are planning to help in with the English lessons the older children get. Our two daughters, Anouk and Sóley, will attend the kindergarten just like all the other children. We'll see what they learn from the Ethiopian kids and what they are going to teach them (Anouk is learning some German and English children's songs at the moment, because she wants to sing them with the kids in Ethiopia; she also wants to draw with them ...).

How come that we go there, anyway? Friends of us in Munich belong to the group of people who initiated the project and built and run the kindergarten in Adigrat. For some years now, the students at our school on Spiekeroog/Germany have supported this registered society and last year, in addition to the annual membership fee, they raised enough money to pay the kindergarten fees for two kids for the complete three years they stay in the kindergarten (so, they are our school's "godchildren"). This spring, the people from Adigrat Vision e.V. asked us whether we could imagine going there and help on site.

We are really looking forward to our stay in Adigrat. It's going to be interesting to be probably the only Europeans in a city of 60,000 inhabitants. We are really looking forward to all the personal encounters and to simply being part of the community there for a while.

Apart from the kindergarten, the stay will be really exciting. Certainly, from the cultural perspective, as we are there when the Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas (on the 6th January). Expecially for our children, this will be very enriching. This Christmas will be totally different: instead of consumerism and taking, we are giving.

What we still have to do in the next two months: a visit to the paediatrist, vaccinations, inquiries concerning Malaria prophylaxis ... If you have any ideas concerning the region, general behavior in Ethiopia ("dos and no-dos"), feel free to let us know.

From Ethiopia, the idea is to blog more regularly writing about our experiences, but there is no wifi at the kindergarten, so for posting and answering mails, we have to go downtown to a hotel to use the free wifi there.

Spark your Dream

Simply one of the best travel books ever! ... be careful, it might "Spark your Dream" and nothing will be as it was before!

Hermann Zapp & Candelaria Chovet, "Spark Your Dream: A true life story where dreams are fulfilled and we are inspired to conquer ours". 4th ed., Buenos Aires: el autor, 2011 424pp. 16,95€ (US$ 19.93), ISBN: 978-987-23134-1-8 

In January 2000, Candelaria and Herman Zapp set off for a half-year-trip from their home-country Argentina to far-away Alaska in a 72-year-old car ... Today, more than 14 years later, they are still traveling. They were outward bound as a couple and now, they're together with their four children that were conceived, born and raised "on the road" ...

The original plan of the couple knowing each other since they were eight was to go backpacking, but one night the question was raised, "Why don't we drive?" ... using the old car in their garage, recently purchased, unrestored, and Herman having no mechanical knowledge at all. ... Against all odds and being bombarded with comments from relatives and friends that they are "nuts", that their car would break down anyway just a few miles away from their house, they leave home with far too less money in their pockets it seems. On the first few miles, fears, confusion and uncertainty mix with a great feeling of power, freedom and belief into their dream.

       "We say farewell to our home with a kiss and a pat on the wall. Now, all that's needed is that first step, the one to begin. I am so afraid and nervous; I don't know how I will be able to do it. -Nevertheless, everything is loaded, all set, all I need is a bit of courage. I look at Cande, who is talking with my brother; she feels my gaze and looks at me. Then I ask her:

       "Shall we go?"

       "Let's go!" she responds. Her voice betrays she is feeling nervous, yet it sounds determined.

       We approach the car, open the doors, get in and start the engine, which turns on immediately. We look at each other.

       "Ready, honey?" I ask her, affectionately.

       "Ready," she answers back in a confident way.

       For the first time, on the first day of the trip, I lay my hand on the gearshift, slip into first and we take off, feeling something very strong. On one hand, I feel fragile, on the other hand very powerful, because I'm going for my dream. My brother and Luis follow us in their cars while we drive away, waving to our neighbors who insist on calling us "nuts."" (p. 14)

Of course, the 1928 Graham Paige car makes funny noises (maybe, they're just normal, but they sound "strange") and soon is in need of repair and even breaks down. Running out of money in Ecuador, they soon discover that as soon as people find out that the couple is following their dream, there are both help and new friends behind every next corner, hill or border. Every disaster turns out to be a gift opening up new connections to people and helps discovering literal or real by-ways leading to new places and new adventures; freely adapted from Shakespeare, "the cause of true love never did run smooth" ... By and by, unease changes into a feeling that by having faith in themselves and their dream, there will always be a way.

"There will always be prophets of failure, it's much easier to predict a ruin than a triumph. It's like a race where the safest bet is the failure of the majority than the triumph of only one. Don't listen to them, listen to yourselves. If you have faith in yourself, you're condemned to success" (p. 176)

To make at least some money to be able to go on traveling, they start selling Candelaria's paintings framed by Herman, and later, they sell calendars and the self-published book about their travel, the first editions of the very book I am writing about here. They travel complete South America including a voyage on a self-made and self-steered raft carrying their car on the Amazon from Ecuador via Peru to Brazil. Next, they ship the oldtimer-car over to Panama to travel Central and Northern America. On their way up North, as experienced before in South America, hundreds of personal encounters with all types of people lets them experience life fully.

Their first son, Pampa, is born in the USA and help is only given after a press campaign following a depressing rejection by clinics, doctors et cetera ... "because there was no room for them in the inn!" Entering Canada seems to be a problem first, but they get help from dozens of people inviting them to the country. Finally, after having been guests in over 800 households in the Americas, they reach their dream-destination Alaska about three and a half years after setting off from Argentina ... only to ask the initial question again, "And what if we go in the car?".

All this is written in an extraordinarily personal and open style using an English with an emotional and picturesque Latin-American melody, which is constantly whisteling-in other tunes between the lines. Far from overdoing, being pathetic or esoteric, this books speaks from the heart to the heart, full of emotion, and both funny and thrilling.

What you should not expect from the book, though, are descriptions of any famous "sights". For the Zapps "sights" are rather the people they meet on the road and all experiences connected to these encounters.

It is very courageous that Candelaria and Herman not only sparked their dream, shared their travel story (apparently the story of their lives), and thereby sparked other people's dreams, but also really live their dream to the fullest including raising their children while overlanding, which seems to be an exclusion criterion for so many people.

 

"Spark your Dream" is a spiritual, inspiring and honest book written by a really courageous couple. All the time, the book never is lecturing or boastful, but rather "down to Earth" and winsome. The book is an absolute "must-read" for any traveller, overlander and nomad ... and it may "Spark your Dream" as well and soon, you may discover yourself on the road!

"Take heart, we're like ships, from the time we're born we are built and prepared for the high seas, we are constructed so we can face strong winds and storms. We have been taught that there is an enormous world made up of seven seas and seven continents. An it is before we are ready that we want to go out, when we're still small and not prepared. By the time we are ready to set sail, when our hull and our sails are stronger than ever is when we don't lift the anchor ... We feel that we're missing something, that still we're not ready, because there will be storms, because there will be ... We are ships, in the port we are safe, but we're not built for this." (p. 202)

... At the end, I feel a bit lost having finished this great book, because I don't want to leave Herman, Candelaria and Pampa; somehow I really miss them ... maybe they're just around the next corner, running into me by chance, destiny, ... ?! Or maybe it's going to be you!

For further information see: http://www.argentinaalaska.com and https://www.facebook.com/herman.zapp?fref=ts

All images used in this post are the property of Herman and Candelaria Zapp.

Running Out Of Time

Will Patagonia be like Scandinavia? (Norway, 2012)

Initially, exchanging the destination "Africa" with "South America" was a big step emotionally as we had been really into planning an overland trip to Africa for quite a long time and were really looking forward to travelling there ... Especially for Juliane it was not easy to decide to go somewhere else. For her, Southern and South-Eastern Africa was still the favourite destination after it became clear to us that Western Africa would not be possible! Finally, I think, only Malaria made the difference (i.e. no chemoprophylaxis needed in most of South America) ... - and, as stated in our last post, the hope that Transafrica will again be possible in a few years.

Anyway, it didn't take too much time for us to see the positive side in that change and realize that South America is at least as interesting as Africa in many ways, so now we are really excited about travelling there.

We would love to be able to spend far more time on planning, studying maps, and reading books and blogs. Still, even without doing so, it is obvious that there are so many places to visit and cultures to experience in South America. We, for example, really look forward to seeing Lake Titicaca, the Altiplano in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, the Andes in general and the Atacama desert. What about cities like Buenos Aires, La Paz, Quito, Lima and Ushuaia? Don't they also stimulate your travel nerves? In addition to nature, cities and historic sites, South America surely will also be a great place to experience different kinds of food, think of "Ceviche" in Ecuador, red wine in Chile or huge steaks in Argentina ... To be honest, at the moment I feel that one year for South America will not be enough!

There are so many ideas running through our heads at the moment ... and it seems time is running out: for planning "South America Overland 2015 - 2016" there are only 10 months left until we leave in July next year. There is still so much to plan and think about ...

At the moment we are a bit lost on where to go when ... We are not sure whether to ship the Landy to Montevideo in Uruguay or to Manta in Ecuador. Connected with that is the question when it's best to visit Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. Writing this, a multitude of other questions immediately pop up in my head:

"Are we going to ship the Land Rover RoRo or in a container?" ... There are a lot of negative reports on RoRo shipping, but then positive experiences are seldomly told of on the internet. Also, container shipping is far more expensive!

"Do we want to go to Patagonia / Tierra del Fuego?" ... This would mean we'd have to go there between December and February, which would force us to plan a more or less defined "route", which we don't really want to do! Leaving out the Southern tip of South America doesn't seem to be a good idea as well, because it is said to be totally impressive with primeval forests, fjords and glaciers ...

"What about Brazil?" We are not sure which parts of this great country should definitely be included and which parts could be left out. I have never, actually, imagined being able to travel to Brazil! ...

"What additional changes are needed on the Land Rover?"

"Will the engine run at the high altitude??"

"Do we really need an engine-independent air heating system or is a diesel heater not going to work at high altitude anyway??"

"What about altitude sickness, especially concerning the children??"

Apart from trying to find answers to all these questions, we are working on a few other "projects" at the moment:

A really good step in preparing for South America certainly is learning Spanish and we started this "project" last week. It's a great thing to sit together with your partner and learn a new language which will open up many doors when we're on our way.

Another project is a possible collaboration with the Muskoka Foundation to use our "professional skills to do good as we go".

Generally ("BIG project!"), we have to start clearing up the flat, throwing things away or giving them to people who could need them, because the plan is to sublet the flat and store all our belongings in one room and the attic. As our jobs are quite intense, this will take some time!

One thing that is new for us and really positive is that people have started to contact us via facebook or our blog during the last two weeks with their ideas on our plans and offers to give advice (thanks in advance to Graham and Luisa from "a2a") or offered to share a container.

If you have any ideas or answers to our questions, please let us know and either add a comment or use the contact form and send uns a message!

...

During the last few months we have experienced something else, which we have heard about from other overlanders who experienced more or less the same: a lot of the people around us seem to be not at all interested in our travel-plans, some even seem to be thinking that we're rather strange, and some even have become more and more reserved. This doesn't mean that we want to talk about our overland-plans all the time or that we want to show off ... it's just that, well, the topic seems to be "a topic not to be talked about"! ... I'm not sure, but could it be that some people simply don't want to openly state that they would like to do the same, but fear the decision (and maybe secretly read this blog ;-)? A quote from "Spark your Dream" by Candelaria and Herman Zapp simply fits this topic and might be an explanation:

"Until a few thousand years ago all humanity was nomadic. It was like this until it occurred to a man to remain in one place. To the others this man was crazy, how could he stop being a nomad, give up knowing new places, new horizons? Abandon the adventure of knowing other lands, eating different fruits and animals? In spite of questions of the others, he stayed, choosing to wake up every morning of his life in the same place. He planted and harvested, his animals procreated and he didn't need to hunt anymore, he could easily feed himself. ... In time, other men joined him and when many did it, they didn't consider themselves crazy anymore. But, other difficulties arose. To begin with, not everyone had access to water and those that did, could have more animals and better harvests. This created the differences between the rich and the poor. So, the land was converted into a subject of dispute, and people went out, searching for others. In this way more settlements were formed. Those that had abundant harvests or storerooms expanded, and so this brought resentment and war. The wars called for soldiers and someone to direct them, in this way, from among the richest, the kings emerged. They dominated the people by defining themselves as their protectors. To them went the harvests and profits, because it was necessary to maintain the armies and construct their castles and walls. But why didn't the walls of the castle protect the homes of those who paid the taxes? Why, if the armies were there to defend the settlements, did the king use them to collect those taxes that were always rising? The years passed and more uncertainty arose. And here we are in the XXI century ... nothing has changed, except that it occurs to a man to be a nomad. The others think he is crazy. How could you give up being in one place like everybody else, stop living in the same house to go somewhere unknown? How could you renounce seeing the same folks as always? Would you eat unusual fruits and food? In spite of the questions, just the same this crazy guy leaves and begins his life in a new world. What did your friends say when you left?"

"That we were crazy ..."

"Could it be "they" are the ones who are crazy? Think about it ... who is crazy? The one who goes for his dream or the one who lets his dream pass away? Why is it that every time one distances himself from the masses he's considered crazy? ...

Many ask us how so we keep going, and we start wondering the same about them. We live in a small sphere that doesn't allow us to see much outside. Each place we go we enter into a new sphere and we acclimate ourselves the best we can. We continue being ourselves, but with small differences. We live in constant change; we're neither strong nor weak, just flexible. If we were rigid, we'd stumble over the first rock, we'd fall in the first hole and there we'd stagnate ..." 

...

By the way, we do have a new short term plan for the winter: We are going to work in Ethiopia this winter ... more about that next time!