People travel in all kinds of ways in Africa. Quite a few books on travel stories have foudn their way to my blog. Sometimes I wonder: will there be new ways of travelling? Now I have discovered a new way.
Manon Ossevoort, a Dutch lady working in the world of the theater, has decided to travel to the South Pole by means of a tractor. And the journey has to go via Africa. During her journey she wants to draw attention to the work of the NGO War Child, she wants to visit projects and to draw attention to these projects.
Before she can set out on her journey a number of tough questions have to be asked. Who will pay for the journey? Who will donate a tractor? Who will take care of the maintenance during this long journey? And what is the connection to the Dutch/Italian singer Marco Borsato, who is the foremost ambassador of the charity War Child?
She starts her journey in The Netherlands and by way of the Balkans and Italy she arrives in Egypt. The first part of her journey she travels with a team, and travelling in this way causes many frictions and many discussions about expectations, the plans and the intentions of the journey.
Manon takes a long time for a stay in the Sudanese capital Khartum. There she is in close contacts with the subculture of international do-gooders, who, according to Manon, travel from place to place and from country to country. During her journey further south she often travels on her own, she adopts a stray dog. At times travelling with a dog is easier than travelling with a fellow human being.
In Ethiopia she once again gets into contact with the international world of development aid workers. She wonders what the benefit is of all these people and all these projects.
Travelling through the northern parts of Kenya the BBC pays attention to her journey. She falls in love with a Kenyan soldier and Manon changes her plans to meet this man as often is possible. In her book Manon is not very careful in writing names and places of people in Kenya. In Nairobi she gets involved with actions against the abuse of women (she writes that in the past white women would not be touched). During this time Manon turns 29.
Next country on her list is Uganda to have a close look at the local work of War Child. She spends time in Lira. My impression is that the people involved in these projects are not very keen on welcoming this stray lady from The Netherlands.
Uganda is the last stop in this book. A next chapter will be written in her next book.
Manon is very critical of NGO’s and aid workers. What do these people and organisations achieve? How do they connect to the local people and local possibilities? In a way I agree with her comments. But it is a bit embarrasing for as a reader I ask myself this question: what has Manon done? She wants to draw attention to War Child, but she is a passer-by. She lives in the world of her own theater.
On the cover of the book the ‘compulsary’ Masaï (or Samburu or … ). On a journey like this she must have met more people, but no, just put in another Masai.
Reading this book on the journey struck me as a rite de passage. Manon is on her way to adulthood. How do I deal with people ? What are my targets in life? What does love means to me? What is the importance of a relationship? What do I want to do with my life in theater?
And in this way Africa is just a backdrop.
Manon Ossevaart – Op de tractor naar de Zuidpool – Breda 2007 – 416 pagina’s