Photo: legendary climbing Mecca of Fontainebleau

Walking around the forest, the signs fit beautifully

Walking around the forest, the signs fit beautifully

forest of fontainebleau and climbing

the mossy rocks, humid forest floor, and the colourful pine trees all add to the peaceful atmosphere

Mister Marc attempting a fairly technically complicated dynamic move in the forest of Fontainebleau

Mister Marc attempting a fairly simple but technically complicated dynamic move in the forest of Fontainebleau

The weather for climbing was not ideal, but at least it did not rain!

The weather for climbing was not ideal, but at least it did not rain!

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Photo: when the sun hits the right spot

My colleagues and myslef were visiting the border between Pakistan and India near Lahore. Everyday, there is a traditional closing of the border ceremony (more pictures to follow on this). I was sitting in the stands, shouting PA-KI-STAN at the top of my voice, and whilst looking around, saw that the spire of the border gates was struck by the sun in the perfect light. hope you enjoy the effect

My colleagues and myslef were visiting the border between Pakistan and India near Lahore. Everyday, there is a traditional closing of the border ceremony (more pictures to follow on this). I was sitting in the stands, shouting PA-KI-STAN at the top of my voice, and whilst looking around, saw that the spire of the border gates was struck by the sun in the perfect light. hope you enjoy the effect

What do you think of when you think of Afghanistan…

friendly people in a market in Bamyan

friendly people in a market in Bamyan

What do you think of when you think of Afghanistan?
War, Taleban, jihad, deserted mountains, insurgency, war, freedom against oppression, America’s war, Pashtun people, war, war and more war?
First of all, Afghanistan is a country, populated by 32 million people. Yes there are horrible people there, just as there are disgusting human beings in western societies. The lack of a unified justice system and corruption in governments allow them more freedom out there it is true, but I would bet we have just as many dishonest and revolting people in the West as they have. Our society is just better at identifying them and cracking down on them
My point is people are just people, wherever you may go.
What Afghanistan is not, contrary to what media outlets try to make you believe, is a country full of people ready to slit your throat to steal the 10 dollars you have in your wallet, ready to kidnap you because of what your skin colour represents, ready to wage holy war and kill every western or Christian person they see indiscriminately.
This article, http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/25/under-americas-surveillance-dome/ ) a truly well written account of the “rule of law” in USA, shows the bias western media has when commenting on international polemics. I urge you to read it in order for your mind to have that 10 minutes of balance when reacting to news we receive through our little screens on our desks or in our hands.
I cannot write as well as the author of the article above, Rev William E. Alberts, but I echo his sentiments completely. We in the UK are relatively lucky to possess a media that still has an element of freedom to it (although this is being chipped away at gradually), contrary to state and corporate owned media in the US. I am not going to start becoming holier-than-thou in this blog, as this is probably not why you’ve clicked on it in the first place, but I guess my message would be: please please please make an effort to read news that is balanced and not written for political ends. Research all points of views before simply basing your own opinion on what you see in one article or bulletin. The world is not just black, or just white. Every person sees the world and its history in a different way, and the more you speak and understand others’ point of view, the more learned you will become.
Just a thought on a sunny Friday morning…
For your information, when I see Afghanistan, I see kebabs and fruits, old men smoking hashish in the parks, green tea being brewed on street corners, battered old cars that still carry on, black hair and green eyes. Most of them, just like you and me, revere family, love their friends, respect their wives as their culture dictates, play football or cricket in the park on weekends, drink tea and whose first instinct is to be helpful and smiling if someone approaches them.

And although I feel tense when walking around, I wonder how much of this is created in my head to what is actually happening out there…

Photo: Somewhere, everything is illuminated

In Kitale, where I was staying as of two days, I had a wonderful view of Mout Elgon, a very old mountain that is dwarfed in size by Kilimanjaro, but certainly not by charm and beauty. Hope this picture brings you a bit of sunshine wherever you may be

In Kitale, where I was staying in western Kenya, I had a wonderful view of Mount Elgon, a very old mountain that is dwarfed in size by Kilimanjaro, but certainly not in charm and beauty. Have a look at the sun shining on its blueish eastern face. I love the fact that the sky was so grey and wet and windy, but just in that particular spot on the mountain, everything was illuminated… Hope this picture brings you a bit of sunshine wherever you may be

Photo: my host family in Province Orientale, Northern DRC

My adoptive family in Northern DRC during a training

When I went to Province Orientale in Northern DRC, near the Sudanese border, I stayed in a very remote village that took about 12 hours to get to on a small motorbike. I was a bit apprehensive because I was not sure what I was going to find there once we arrived. My hut was clean and well looked after, and one of the families in the village looked after me. They gave me food and washed my clothes. There were adorable and I hope this picture does them justice. I think about them every now and again, and hope they are doing well. Hopefully I will see them soon! That area of DRC has a lot of problems with Cassava Mosaic virus and Banana bacterial wilt. however they have an amazing quantity of food due to the tropical conditions in the region. It rains 10 months of the year and avocado the size of watermelons grow everywhere, they feed peanuts (usually a cash crop) to the pigs and the chickens are very tasty (which I find unusual in East Africa)

Photo: A South Sudanese woman in a market in Northern DR Congo

South Sudanese woman in Northern Congo market

This woman, whose name I unfortunately cannot remember, lived in what is now South Sudan and left during the recent troubles in Juba. She crossed into DRC and now lives in Aru, near the Ugandan border. She is growing cassava and banana to sell at the moment and is an expert seamstress. She owns her own sowing machine and gets good income from it. She was very happy to talk to me about the problems in the area. The North East Congo-Uganda-South Sudan region used to be a lawless area where many bad things happened. It is however easier now, and she is looking forward to returning to her native Juba soon. For her and her family, I really hope this happens! good luck!