Flying for Kosovo

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Acknowledgments and pictures from Sudan

Posted by flyingforkosovo On June - 3 - 2011

There is no way in this world how I can thank enough the people who helped me here in Sudan. Mr. Denis Baillargeon and his team have been wonderful to me during all these days after the accident. They provided food, shelter, protection and emergency assistance in every aspect for me.

Once, during a trip from Macedonia to Bulgaria, an Albanian helped Mr. Baillargeon in a difficult moment. He has never forgotten this, and now he was willing to return the favor to an Albanian.

Yesterday, after the completion of the accident analysis, Mr. Denis authorized and organized the transport, team for loading the aircraft into the transporting truck which they use for carrying their baggers, and has made available all other equipments from the mines. I am very pleased to inform you that the transfer of aircraft from the place of accident is finally completed.

I am attaching pictures of the aircraft transfer process. It has been an event with rather complex logistics, and any small error could damage the aircraft. Ten people participated in this transportation. This process lasted for over seven hours, the distance to the mine is 43 km and we have been forced to move at a very low speed. Loading and unloading of aircraft has been very delicate and difficult. The transportation of the aircraft has been followed by numerous and armed police forces.

I am extremely happy that the aircraft is now safe and protected and it is not in the dessert under the care of police, who had to guard it temperatures up to 47°C.
Today I returned to Port Sudan, where I have extended the visa for five days. I hope that I can extend it for longer until I solve the aircraft issue.

My wish still remains to bring the damaged engine to Kosovo. I remain hopeful that I will achieve this, thanks to your help and support.

With much love,

Your Captain
James Berisha

———————

Shumë të dashur,

Në këtë botë nuk ekziston asnjë mënyrë me të cilën mund t’i falënderoja mjaftueshëm njerëzit që më ndihmuan këtu në Sudan.

Z. Denis Baillargeon dhe grupi i tij kanë qenë të mrekullueshëm me mua gjatë këtyre ditëve pas aksidentit. Ata më siguruan ushqim, strehim, mbrojtje dhe ndihmë të jashtëzakonshme në çdo aspekt.
Njëherë, gjatë një udhëtimi të tij nga Maqedonia për në Bullgari, z. Denisit i kishte ndihmuar një shqiptar në një moment të vështirë. Ai nuk e ka harruar këtë gjë kurrë dhe tani ka pasur kënaqësinë që edhe ai t’ia kthejë këtë nder një shqiptari.

Dje, pasi përfunduan të gjitha analizat e aksidentit, z. Denisi ka autorizuar dhe organizuar transportuesit, ekipin për ngarkimin e aeroplanit në kamion transportues me të cilin ata transportojnë buldozerët e tyre, si dhe ka vënë në dispozicion çdo pajisje tjetër nga miniera e tyre. Jam shumë i kënaqur të ju lajmëroj që më në fund ka përfunduar bartja e aeroplanit nga vendi i aksidentit.

Po ju bashkëngjis fotografitë e procesit të bartjes së aeroplanit. Kjo ka qenë një logjistikë mjaft e ndërlikuar dhe çfarëdo gabimi i vogël mund ta dëmtonte shumë aeroplanin. Në këtë transportim kanë marrë pjesë rreth dhjetë persona. Ky proces ka zgjatur mbi shtatë orë, largësia deri tek miniera është 43 km dhe patjetër kemi qenë të detyruar të lëvizim me një shpejtësi shumë të ngadalshme. Ngarkesa dhe shkarkimi i aeroplanit ka qenë shumë delikat dhe i mundimshëm. Transportimi i aeroplani është përcjellë nga forca të shumta e të armatosura të policisë.
Jam jashtëzakonisht i lumtur që aeroplani tani është në vend të sigurt dhe të mbrojtur dhe nuk është më në shkretëtirë nën përkujdesjen e policisë, të cilët e kanë ruajtur edhe në temperaturat që janë ngritur deri në 47°C .

Sot jam kthyer deri në Port Sudan, ku e kam zgjatur vizën për edhe pesë ditë tjera. Shpresoj që të mund ta zgjas edhe më shumë deri sa të bëhet zgjidhja e çështjes së aeroplanit.

Dëshira ime mbetet që motorin e dëmtuar ta sjell në Kosovë. Mbes më shumë shpresë që do ta arrij këtë, falë ndihmës dhe mbështetjes tuaj.

Me shumë dashuri.

Kapiteni juaj,
James Berisha

A Necessary Trip to the States

Posted by admin On April - 4 - 2011

I was quickly approaching the expiration date of both my certified flight instructor license and my medical health certificate, which needed to be kept on file back in the USA and required an updated physical exam.  These two documents are necessary for any pilot and need to be up to date at all times due to professional standards that are set and must be followed.  If I were to let my license or health certificate expire, then it would be the end of our mission folks and a lot of extra time and money to get them reinstated.  For these reasons, I needed to make a necessary trip back to the United States.

The price for this endeavor was definitely not cheap and I had to pre-purchase my ticket back in Zimbabwe in order to fly on Ethiopian Airlines.  There were all kinds of enroute stops on my flight back to El Paso, TX and by the time I arrived, I had landed on 3 continents and had spent over 26 hours of flying time.  But, we all know that there are going to be times of struggle on this journey that I have chosen for myself, so there is no room to complain.  It’s always helpful to stay positive about these things, otherwise its no fun for any of us.

Wow!  What a difference I felt landing back in the states.  It felt terrific to touch that soil again.  Since I was back in El Paso, I was able to meet up with some friends and family that I hadn’t seen in awhile.  What a long time that it had been since I had experienced such luxuries as eating great food, feeling safe and secure, breath in some air that my body was used to and feel a strong sense of the comfort that being in a home away from home provides.  After a brief visit with my friends, I was off to take care of my obligations.

After finishing up with my licensure and certification activities, I was invited to Detroit by our angel, Mr. Tom Duhani.  I hope you all remember that he has been very kind to our mission and has helped organize support from the Detroit community for us a few times now.  Within hours of arrival, Mr. Duhani had arranged for a group of locals to meet the very next evening in order to learn more about our mission and give to our cause.  I was delighted to see that so many people turned out, that they offered their help financially and that they showed great interest in the work that I am doing.  If it were not for all of the emotional and financial support that I have received over the past two years from everyone, there is absolutely no way that I would still be able to continue our mission.  When I am having down days, I remember all of the excitement and well wishes of my brothers and sisters who have shown their support for our Kosovo and who wish to see Flying for Kosovo succeed.

Mr. Duhani graciously offered us his beautiful new restaurant Fortesa as the meeting place.  I was astonished to learn that Mr Duhani and his brother Alex, had an ever bigger surprise for me.  They expressed to me that their television station, Illyria, had been busy making a documentary about me since my last visit here in 2010 and that they often aired it locally to the surrounding Albanian community.  I am grateful to our good friend for the many things that he has done for us.

It was a great pleasure to meet with my brothers in Detroit.  Out of all of the Albanian-American communities that I have met, it appears that Detroit is the most organized of all.  Of course, they were very helpful back during our war in Kosovo, but they continue to maintain their organized manner and are ready to help out our homeland in whatever way is needed.  I am sure now that the rest of our diaspora around the globe might not be very happy to hear this from me, but the fact is that we can’t avoid the truth of the matter.  Our friends in Detroit take things seriously right away and are ready to participate in anything that will help our Albania and Kosovo, including our mission.  Their professional manner is a good example of how we all can contribute our individual attention and resources toward our common cause.

One person that I was very honored to meet while in Detroit was Mr. Ekram Bardha.  Some of you might know him very well as he has done a tremendous amount to help the Albania cause and has done so for many decades.  Mr. Bardha is a successful businessman whose heart remains loyal to the Albanian cause and he indeed has been very influential with America’s government officials in raising awareness of the issues faced in our area of this giant planet.  Mr. Bardha was kind enough to spend two evenings with us and donated a great deal of his time, money at attention to our mission.  May we all be reminded to express such commitment to the progress of our country.

I also got a kick out of our American friend, Laurie Smith (whom you’ll remember is a very loyal member of our voluntary mission team).  She currently lives in the Detroit area and so was able to attend the event.  She was so focused on trying to understand our Albanian conversation and wanted to know every word about what we had discussed.  At one point, I looked over to notice that her face was turning red from her gratitude at receiving a copy of Mr.Bardha’s book, Far Yet Near Albania.  Folks, it seems like she hasn’t had enough of us yet and keeps wanting to learn more.  Crazy girl she is.

Again, it was great to be spend an evening with such great friends and enjoy a fantastic food at Fortesa.

Someone else that I have a great appreciation for is y close friend Mr. Nail Spahiu.  He has remained a loyal and dedicated friend to our mission and has spent many hours with me in our baby plane filming and experiencing life ‘on the road’.  As I was heading back toward Malawi, I was able to visit with him during a brief layover of my flights.  He again expressed his support and graciously donated some of his money to our mission, along with our good friend Samir Ibroci, who came to pick me up at the Neward, NJ airport.  It was great to see them both and have a wonderful dinner together.

Finally, it was time for another transatlantic flight.  Thankfully, this one took only 15 hours, which is much better than the 26 hours it took to get here.  As always, you meet many interesting people during your travel time.  I am thankful for the new friendship that I made with Mr. David Schroeder, Mr. Glen Diller and Ms. Lulit Negash during my long flight back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Ms. Negash took time to teach me a lot about her Ethiopian culture during our flight back to her homeland.

Here are the photos taken in Detroit, USA

Zimbabwe

Posted by flyingforkosovo On March - 17 - 2011

My dear friends: though some of the information that I have for you is not directly related to the mission’s overall goal, I oftentimes find it necessary to share some of the daily struggles that I face in order that you might better understand the context of our mission work.  Here in Zimbabwe for example, I was shocked to learn that they are continuing to struggle with appropriate currency and don’t even use one that is their own.  There are currently four different currencies being used in this country (US dollar, British pound, South African rand and Botswana’s pula) and I have to be honest, this fact was very hard for me to understand as it makes things as simple as buying a newspaper much more difficult than they need to be.  Things often have four different prices listed on them and the process of buying something becomes can sometimes become quite difficult.

The primary reason for this issue is that Zimbabwe has experienced tremendous inflation in recent years (the second worst inflation spike in history) and the countries currency could not keep up.  Though a $Z100 trillion banknote was created in 2009 due to high prices, the Finance Minister then announced that the country would be permitted to use other, more stable currencies.

The reasons for the inflation are speculative, however many believe that it stems back to the President’s redistribution of farmland in the 2000.  During that time whites (a very small minority of the population) reportedly owned nearly 70% of farmable land and President Mugabe evicted nearly 4000 white farmers in attempts to equalize ownership.   This resulted in a flood of refugees to neighboring countries, hyperinflation many US sanctions and nearly 80% local unemployement. 

After redistribution, the once farmable land was affected by continuos drought, lack of finance and a tremendous reduction in agricultural (which had been the country’s leading export).  This led to shortages in important things like fuel and other consumer goods and forced many people to buy their goods from neighboring countries as far away as 500-1000km during that time.  Though workers often received wages, there was no way that they could keep up with local inflation prices.  Many residents fled permanently from the country and there are currently over one million people within the country today who live away from their homes.

In addition, taxes and tariffs for any private enterprise caused many companies not to invest in Zimbabwe.  In 2008 there were reports of corruption in the areas of government, diamonds and currency.  US sanctions were enforced and human rights organizations reported that the government of Zimbabwe violated the rights to shelter, food, freedom of movement and residence, freedom of assembly and the protection of the law.

 The countries landscape has also struggled as a result of inflation.  Though still beautiful and picturesque from above, the scenery has changed tremendously.  The once lush forestland with pleantiful wildlife has now become deforested and eroded.  There is no longer a substantial amount of fertile soil available and poverty, population growth, poaching and lack of fuel have led to a reduction in local wildlife as well.

One thing that shocked me in the other direction, my friends, was the upkeep of the international airport.  It was in working condition and clean.  The best part: when I attempted to clear customs, I was told not to worry about it, that it was not a concern and to have a nice day.  They didn’t require my passport and I didn’t need a visa in order to enter the country.  This is so very different from all of the other countries that I’ve visited, but nonetheless appreciated.

Another thing that I enjoyed was that, unlike most other countries in Africa, the airport here seems much closer to town.  Usually, I have had to spend a ton of money to go from the airport to the local city, but not here.  I was pleasantly surprised that the two were so close to each other and that I could catch a break on this one.

 Since it was approaching the weekend upon my arrival, I had not choice but to wait to do our mission work.  Plus, I still had to wait for a permit to land in Malawi before I could leave this country anyway.  At least the mission work was spread out nicely because of this. 

As far as the media is concerned, one thing that I have learned from my travels here in Africa is that it is often the case that one media organization ends up owning a bunch of subsidiary newspapers, television and radio stations at once.  This can be a great thing or a it can be dreadful because if you get rejected from one outlet, you are likely to be rejected from the others since they are all controlled by one source.

At least here I was able to get a few interviews and I am thankful to all of the media who helped to make our cause known to the public and to local government officials.  Thanks to Mr. Nevanji Madanhire with the newspaper The Standard.  He authorized my interview with Mr. Owen Gagare with the newspaper NewsDay, which is the first privately owned daily newspaper to be published in over seven years.  Mr. Gagare was very detailed and knowledgeable about Kosovo. 

Thanks to More Tirivashowa with the government newspaper The Herald for his time and effort in covering our cause.  Thank you to Mr. Zivisai W. Chagaka with The Financial Gazette for his hard work and dedicaiton toward expressing our wishes to country and finally, thank you to Mr. Reagan Mashavave with the Daily News newspaper.

Mr. Freedom Moyo and the team at the national station TV Zimbabwe were also wonderful.  Mr. Moyo was able to organize a live interview for me with his coworker Mr. Jonathan Hunzvi, which was transmitted nationally.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I have to thank the Deputy Director of Protocol, Mr. Claudius D. Nhema and his coworker in the European Department, Mr.Canisius Tanyanyiwa.  Both gentlemen showed a great sense of care and dedication towards Kosovo’s independence and promised to follow up with their bosses.  I was assured that they would do everything within their power to help our nation succeed. 

In the capital city of Harare, I was greeted by a landscape similar to any other city of the world.  The main difference, though, was that the struggles of the local people were evident everywhere you looked.  Again, due to high inflation that has occurred here, many people still struggle to meet daily needs.  Electricity is a problem, as it is in many of the African countries that I’ve traveled so far and some remote and rural areas go without any power whatsoever.  Similarly, these rural areas also lack access to running water.  Folks, it is sad to encounter so many people around this world that don’t even have access to the basic necessities that we in the Western world take for granted every day.  Here, things like running water, electricity, accessible roads, schools, hospitals, etc. are not readily available.  It pains me to imagine the difficulty of daily life that some people face and I am reminded of the ease of modern day life back in the States.  Today, I am trule grateful for the fact that I have been blessed with such small things.

 One thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is that, by traveling in countries that are so close to each other down here, I often find that I am running into relatives of someone that I had met in a previous country.  This is the case here in Zimbabwe.  It was a pleasure to meet the family of Ms. Kudakwangu Chisweto (whom interviewed me for One Africa back in Namibia).  Her mother and two sisters provided me with a small sense of meeting family in a home away from home.

Lastly, I can’t forget to thank my taxi driver, Mr. Joseph Mazarura.  He was such a polite, humble gentelman who was very polite during our drives around town completing our mission work.

Despite all of the struggles that I have seen here in Africa, there is always hope within the wonderful people that I meet.  No matter what circumstances I find them in, they always manage to present such optimism in the face of the big, messy governments that rule down here.  Although one would think differently, I have not seen much pessimism down here at all.  If it were people from the USA or Europe experiencing conditions like this, I think that the situation would be much different and you would be hearing lots of screaming going on day and night.  But with these great people it’s different.  They still manage to have hope in their lives, which is truly a gift to bear witness to.

Next country is Malawi.  Bless you all here in Zimbabwe.

News Day

Zimbabwe Press PDF

The Financial Gazette

Bulawayo24 NEWS

The Financial Gazette PDF

The Herald

Mozambique

Posted by flyingforkosovo On March - 15 - 2011

Very short distance today between Swaziland and Mozambique, but there is a huge difference in the infrastructure, organization, road system, cleanliness, etc.  The changes between these two countries are quite noticeable.  I suppose that part of this may be because Mozambique is a much larger country with many more people in it.  It’s comparable in size and, whereas Swaziland had a population of a little over a million people, Mozambique has well over 22 million.  I would imagine that it’s a bit harder to keep things neat and clean with so many people.

It’s so refreshing for me to be traveling north my friends.  Just knowing that I am on my up the continent of Africa and have reached over half of the continent gives me a small sense of relief that this portion of the mission will be coming to an ending at some point.  It helps me stay focused as I can now see a small light at the end of the tunnel.

Another thing that makes me happy here in this country is that I get to travel along a small portion of the Indian Ocean coastline.  It is refreshing and there is a different feel to it than there was on the Atlantic side of the continent.  And its actually a bit warmer here than in Swaziland.

I am feeling comfortable already and am sending thanks to God for the few Spanish speaking skills that I have acquired over my travels.  Since this country was once a territory of Portugal, Portuguese is the official language here. Though I definitely don’t have many skills in speaking that one, my Spanish is allowing me to get by fairly okay and at least helps me get my point across so that I can get my mission work done.

Remember, there are tons of different languages being spoken here in Africa every day.  Luckily, the culture here is that there is also a lot of trade going on across countries and cultures, so the people tend to pick up on each each others languages fairly quickly.  Even though they may not speak it perfectly, it is usually possible to carry on a brief conversation or make business transactions.

That fact has been my saving grace down here.  I am especially fortunate in the arena of all of the media communication that I have done.  Many of the journalists that I meet generally speak in their primary language, but because of their familiarity with either English, French or Spanish, we have been able to get by and I have been able to get my point across as far as the mission work is concerned.

Regardless of language, I have learned over the past two years that the most important qualities to have when communicating with others are those of tolerance, forgiveness, understanding and compassion for others.  When you present those qualities, it often translates into showing respect for the other person, no matter what their culture is, what language they speak, what race they are, what country there are from, etc.  When this magic happens, you end up finding solutions to many problems that may come up along the way.

I arrived in Maputo in the early afternoon and attacked work right away.  There have been lots of times, folks, where upon arrival to a new country, I don’t even check into a hotel right away because I am trying to make my brief stay as productive as possible and get our message delivered to the people and the government in the most efficient and effective way possible.  As a result, I am usually able to get my work done fairly quickly by taking advantage of official office hours, etc. to work and then do my personal business after hours in order to avoid spending days and days in one nation.  Remember, our planet has 192 countries and if I ended up taking my sweet time then James would never finish anything, so I have to get to work right away when I arrive in each country and be as efficient as possible.

There have been many times where I don’t see anything in a country except what their media houses and Ministry of Foreign Affairs offices look like, unless I have to take a particularly long taxi ride in order to get there.  This work is often in the capital of each country and so I am only able to see these two privileged perspectives as opposed to spending more time with the local people and exploring more of the regional nature that I would like.  But my friends, we have to get the word out about Kosovo to as many people as possible and the way our mission runs, almost broke all of the time, I don’t want to take up our precious time or finances acting like a tourist.  We have a serious request and I am on this mission in order to present our case for recognition to the rest of the world.

The media houses here in Mozambique were actually very receptive to our cause.  Thank you to all of the wonderful journalists here who have helped our people by using their professions and positions in life to help us gain strength and recognition around the world.  Thank you to my friends at the newspaper Noticias, Mr. Alcides Tamele and Mr. Aboobacar Amade for their valuable time in their help in sharing our mission and our cause with their country.

A big thank you to my friends at the national radio station, Radio Mozambique and Mr. Aderito Lipanga, a very detailed journalist who was well spoken and a very humble human being with great character.

Thanks to Mr. Adilson Mahomed Dos Santos Taju, with STV television and the newspaper O Pais, for his meticulous work and dedication to delivering a high quality story that would have great impact on his people.  He actually had something prepared and played on television within just a few hours of our interview.  And I can’t forget to thank Mr. Francisco Carmona, Redactor in Chief with newspaper Savana, who had lots of knowledge about Kosovo’s past history and our problems in the Balkans overall.
Finally, thank you to the wonderful team and Televisao de Mocambique (TVM) for their interest and to Mr. Admiro Feliciano and his cameraman Mr. Samuel Canda for their wonderful work during our interview.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Antonio Bambissa, Directory Adjoint (Deputy Director) for the Europe and America’s Division was gracious with his time, even though I had no prearanged meeting scheduled.  Vlora Citaku’s letter was hand delivered to him and he assured me that if there was anything that he was able to do in his power within the Ministry that he would do so to help further recognition of Kosovo as an independent nation.

Most of my taxi drivers were okay here in Mozambique, except for a few dishonest, unreliable, greedy drivers.  I have been very lucky, folks, that this hasn’t happened to me more often during my mission and that, in general, most of my drivers have been quite helpful.  I do want to thank Mr. Denis Vilancules though. He really helped me out during my stay in his country and helped me to gain the most productivity from my very short visit here.

After working on this mission for the last two years, I have been through so many changes, challenges and experiences, but one thing that does make me happy is to know that a majority of the nations that I have visited so far actually agree 100% that we should be considered an independent country.  Two years ago, I would never have guessed that this was true.

But this does not mean that we should stop working on this cause now just wait for things to happen.  We must still continue to demonstrate to our world that we are serious in this area and that we are ready to begin a relationship with all of the nations around the world.  We must also take this opportunity to continue building relations with the countries that we have already visited.  This does not mean that I should have to go back to every one of them for a follow up visit, but that each and every one of us begin to think of ways that we can contribute to furthering our nations position worldwide.

As Albanians and Kosovars, we each have a duty and an obligation to demonstrate our capacities to the world so that they will continue to hear our message.  We must all use our individual talents that we have been given so that we can further contribute to society, the world, humanity, peace, etc.  As a new nation, we have no choice now but to do our part and demonstrate to the world that we can show strength and perservere in being recognized and that we actually have the capacity to be stable politically, economically, socially, etc.  We need to continue to harness the power that we have within all of our individual abilities in order to demonstrate to the world that, as a nation, we can become a contributing member to the world community and that we do not intend to settle for mediocrity.  I hope that you all will find your own individual ways to help our country become stronger in these areas and live up to what we all know our Kosova can be.

Back here in Mozambique though, it looks like this country is trying to grow stronger as well.  It is unfortunate, but this country maintained a civil war from the late 70’s through to the early 90’s.  Because of that, there were many people who fled from here as refugees and the economy was not as strong as it could be.  I see here though that they are trying to improve things since then and that there is great potential for future growth and success.  There are many dynamic, hard working, welleducated, aware and wonderful people here too, like Kosovo, which puts both of our countries in a position to progress in a positive direction.  All that remains to do is to put all of our talents to work and to use so that our nations can play an even bigger role in the world – for Kosovo with Europe and for Mozambique with Africa.  Despite the common struggles that I see, things could turn around fairly easily if things move in the right direction.

Maputo overall seems very well develped, except for a few improvements that might need to be made here and there and looks fairly similar to any other European city that I have seen.  There is some construction being started which is a positive sign for their economy I would guess and the locals tell me that most of the people who fled during the civil war have returned, which is also helping the economy to grow.  It definitely takes a village to grow a nation and progress cannot be gained when there are only a few people here and there contributing to efforts such as this. There is tremendous opportunity to be made if we all begin to realize that we are all responsible for our future success and that we each have certain strengths that can be given towards leading us in that direction.

The next country for me will be Zimbabwe, which I am looking forward to visiting and seeing what progress has been made their after the sky rocketing inflation that they experienced a few years ago.

God bless our neighbor Mozambique.

Premiero Journal

Swaziland

Posted by flyingforkosovo On March - 13 - 2011

This country is beautiful, clean, with a nice location.  The topography is that of some mountainous areas along with much farmland.  The infrastructure is great and the people are also very nice and friendly here.  The weather here was great upon my arrival in the mid afternoon.  I was able to enjoy some of the nice countryside by taking pictures during the entire time that I was here.

This country is very small in size.  Though it is a little bigger than Kosovo, it has nearly ½ of the people that we do back home.  Part of that is because the population hasn’t grown in awhile due to the debilitating AIDS epidemic and many adults now have a lower life expectancy.  On the other hand, I have seen so much strength and determination in the eyes of people in the last few countries.  They are committed to finding an end to this current struggle and have been some of the best people that I have met in my life.

After landing in the capital city, Mbabane, I find that it is quite small but refreshing, as it means that there are not enough people to run you over like they would in a bigger town.   The people here also seem very relaxed and not stressed out at all.  I guess they must have been practicing that lifestyle for a while since this place is known to have had residents living here as far back as 25,000 B.C.

I feel good about trying to find another bed and breakfast here because I see that the city seems very neat and clean, so I will have to worry a little less about our little mouse friends visiting me in the night.

Folks, it feels so good to be visiting this country.  The main reason: Swaziland is one of the nations that have graciously recognized our independence so I will be speaking with the media and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to thank them for their swift action and the good things that they have done for us.  Remember, part of our mission is to visit these countries too in order to thank them and not ignore the ones that have already recognized us.  At least I get the sense that my mission work here will be fairly quick, easy and laid back since the people here are also relaxed.  Being such a small nation, they will probably only have a few newspapers, but I do want to be sure to get a television interview as well, since nowadays that is the best way to communicate your message to people.

It’s Sunday night when I arrive, so I am able to check into the B & B, put my luggage down and go for a small walk to take pictures and familiarize myself with the surroundings.  I spot a beautiful plaza area with a charming little shopping mall in the heart of town.  Wouldn’t you know it though, that right this beautiful spot is where all of the taxis, mini-buses and other transportation run as well.  They have an outdoor market in this same location, so you can imagine the type of chaos that this scenario may produce sometimes.

It also appears that city life here starts very early in the morning but also finishes very early in the evening.  The people here often leave to go home earlier in the day to get to their home on the outskirts of town.  The younger people here tell me that, though this is the capital of Swaziland, it is very different from the economic capital, Manzini, which is about a 30 minutes drive down the road.  For one, Mbabane is fairly small, so you can reach everywhere within a 20 minute walk or so. Also, the young people report to me that, though this area is relaxed and lower stress than Manzini, they often get bored easily and don’t have the luxury of crazy and wide-ranging entertainment that places like a bigger city, Johannesburg would have.  To me though, I prefer this environment instead as it is much more peaceful and you don’t have people running you over all of the time.  After having a good food at our American chain restaurant KFC, it was time to go back to the B & B and get some rest before beginning tomorrow morning at full speed ahead.  I am confident that things will go very smooth here for me as far as media goes.

Early Monday morning I am up and ironing my shirts, which I hand washed last night and hung to dry.  This is one of the things that I will never miss in my lifetime after finishing our mission.  I don’t like having to hand wash my clothes at all, but circumstances make you do everything in life.  Another thing that I do not like at all in this portion of the mission is the money issue.

Here in Africa, the most important and most difficult thing for me to learn has been patience in all areas of the trip, as far as all of the logistics go.  Since Morocco, I have been without reserve cash and my team has had to send me money via services like MoneyGram or Western Union, who rip you off and often charge double or triple what MoneyGram does at times.  In more developed Western countries, a transaction like this would usually takes 3-5 minutes tops.  However, here in Africa, the minimum amount of wait time is over an hour and it could be as high as four.  I have encountered many problems when making one of these difficult transactions.

Often, the amount of money that I need transferred to me at times is more than $1000 USD since the expenses of landing fees, parking the plane, fuel, accommodations, etc. often total more than that.  So, back in Gabon for example, I tried to make a transaction like this right there at the international airport, but they did not have $1000 USD in order to pay me.  Other times in the past, the transaction system has been down due to electrical and/or Internet outages and unlike other places, most African nations aren’t even able to make the required copy of your passport that they need in order to complete the transaction (or the more ridiculous scenario where they don’t have any ink in their cartridge), so instead, you have to leave that place and travel miles away sometimes to get a copy made and then travel back to the company to complete the transaction.  That is just the beginning my friends.

In places like Zambia, for example, you are limited to transactions under $1000USD, but by accident, you are sent 1000 Euros instead (around $1300USD).  Well, you can’t complete the transaction because the amount equals more than your limit so you are forced to find another place to get your money sent to you.  If you find another place aside from Western Union or MoneyGram, then they give you the countries local currency.  My friends, you can just imagine James Berisha walking around with $1000USD worth of local cash.  I have to carry it like a bag and since I already look suspicious (being white in mostly darker skinned cultures) I then start sweating (both from the heat and the stress of it) and the people start staring at me more.  On top of this I’m then terrified of getting robbed or killed for that kind of money since most of local peoples live on less than $2 a day.

If you do take that risk and get it changed at a local exchange business, the first question that they ask you is if you have a local bank account.  Can you imagine me opening a bank account in every country around the planet!  To add some more frustration, places like this often limit you to only $500 USD worth of local cash, so then you have to either go buy USD on the black market or at the Burem De Change (Exchange Offices) which are hell to deal with folks and 90% of the time they don’t even have $1000USD worth to give you, so you end up having to go to three or four of them just to try and avoid the black market.  I had to do this once in Caracas, Venezuela and ended up losing $200 USD as a result of dealing with those heartless people.  In exchange for $100 in local currency I had to give them $200USD.  But when I tried to use it, I was told by the cashier that it was fake money, that I was taken for a ride and that I could end up going to jail for being found with fake money in my wallet.  Needless to say, the cashier then took my $100 worth of local currency, leaving me without my original $200 USD and broke again.

Over time I have learned that these banks or bureau de change locations are just decorations for their city.  Just because you see one doesn’t always mean that they will provide a service to you, especially when you are dealing with the large amounts of money that I often need.  And to add to that, don’t forget that each time you exchange money, you are charged a service fee and an exchange fee, which will vary depending on if you are switching it into local currency or into USD.  So what may start out as an initial transfer to you in $1000USD might end up being only $600 in your pocket by the time you are done with all of this nonsense. I don’t even want to think about what would happen to someone if they ever needed to exchange larger amounts like $10,000 USD or $10,000 Euros.
And let’s not forget that a lot of these places will not provide services if you go even just one minute after 15:00pm unless you want to wait until the next business day.  In some of the banks, you can’t even go past 14:30 pm because the queue is already so long and you will have the security guard telling you to come back tomorrow.  Unless of course you want to start throwing scandals in there when being lighter skinned is already something that gets additional attention brought to the situation.
Try dealing with these things when you have a landing permit for the next country that expires at midnight and were up to an especially early start today in order to get this done because if you try to fly there tomorrow they will not let you since your original dates are set in stone.  When that happens, you are stuck for another three days of your life because you then have to go and reapply for a permit with new dates on it before you are allowed to take off again.

Add to this chaos the fact that you have been held up at the airport for a number of reasons.  One of which may be the fact that they only charge you and accept payment in the form of USD, which means that you don’t have the right currency after you have already spent so much time trying to arrange to have local cash.  So back to town you go again trying to exchange the money back to USD, which then costs more astronimical fees.  After you get back to the airport and are ready to pay the fees again, you have to do so in many different offices and sometimes someone may require you to pay a random fee by using their local currency again.  So now you may have to go back to town and change some USD back to local currency, all of the time knowing that you have now changed the original USD into local currency once already and then back again to USD before this additional transaction that now needs to take place, remembering the whole time that each of these transaction has charged its own fees.
By the time you have run around the airport paying all of your fees (and/or going back into town to exchange some more money), you are leaving late and now have an eight-hour plane ride to fly in a single engine plane over jungles with lions and tigers under your feet and can do nothing about the fact that you know that this will only lead to unsafe flying after dark in order to arrive at a safe aiport on the ground, which will now charge you an extra $100-200USD in order to land because you need to use the required runway lights because it is after dark.  On top of which you have flown all the way there in an airplane which was built in 1967 and that you’ve had to fly like the pilots did in the 1920’s and 1930’s because the primary navigation instruments stopped working about 15 countries ago and I haven’t had the the couple thousands of dollars that it would cost to install a new GPS.

My friends, I wish to higher powers that I was only exaggerating, but these things are true and I have had to deal with things like this on a daily basis because This is where a lot of our money goes and part of why our mission is broke all of the time.  But I have no other choice because I can’t give up.  I could keep going with this list for days and days, but try to explain it to someone sitting in the US or Kosovo or Switzerland what the heck James is talking about and their eyes will start going blank.  By the way friends, I know that this is not part of the Swaziland description, but since I started talking about why I will not miss hand washing my clothes I thought I would let you all in on the other little secrets of my day to day frustrations because my sunburned, bald head was already starting to explode.  I guess to accomplish a mission of this magnitude, one has to have the character of an elephant or a donkey because otherwise you might have a nervous breakdown or end up in a clinic with a bunch of mentally ill “bingo” friends of yours, though you are in perfect health otherwise.

When I am feeling stressed about all of these little things, I try to remind myself of why I started this mission in the first place.  It is because of the atrocities that I saw in Kosova after losing my father.  All of those people in the refugee camps that I saw and the trauma and destruction that I witnessed firsthand.  I knew then that their stories needed to be told, which is why I wrote my first book Escape From Kosovo.  But after that, I knew that it was only a matter of time until we gained our official independence.  When we finally did, I was devastated to learn that world would still not legally recognize our country on a simple passport, instead reminding us that because not enough countries recognize our independence formally, the official country name on our passport and even some maps is still Serbia.  It was then that I decided that I needed to use the skills that I have gained in my profession as a pilot in order to further our place in the world and share with others our request to be accepted finally as our own country.

I guess to accomplish a mission of this magnitude, one has to have the character of an elephant or a donkey because otherwise you might have a nervous breakdown or end up in a clinic with a bunch of mentally ill “bingo” friends of yours, though you are in perfect health otherwise.

Okay friends, I’m sorry about venting and enough with the problems.  Let’s be an optimist and be positive in life.  I guess that if I was not an optimistic person in my life today then I would still be back in Brestovc driving my tractor and raising cattle.  The bright side of my mission is that I also get to visit countries like Swaziland who have recognized our independence and re-energize me to continue on.

Thanks to all of our media friends who were excellent.  Mrs. Gcinangaye Tsabedze with Radio Swaziland organized an interview there within minutes of reaching their doors with Mr. Mbuso Tilman was awesome to work and whom I thank for his time.  To the great team at the main newspaper, Times of Swaziland, thank you to Mr. Maqhawe Nxumalo and Mr. Mbongeni Mbingo who called our us “our Kosovo”.  They both had been wanting to write an article about us since Swaziland recognized our independence last year.  Finally, thank you to Mr. Oscar Mabusela at The Swazi Observer for his detailed interview about our nation of Kosovo.

Thank you my wonderful friends at the national television station, Swazi TV.  They were all excellent and appreciative of learning that the people of Kosovo respect them very much.  They even invited me for a live interview on their morning show, so thank you also to Mr. Oscar Mabusela, the boss man and news editor, for authorizing such an interview.

Thanks to Ms. Xolile P. Mkhonta, the personal assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.  She was very charming and also very appreciative of our interview.
The next country is Mozambique and I would like to thank Arlindo at their embassy here in Swaziland for giving me a visa for his country with no complications at all and within ten minutes of entering their doors.

May higher powers bless this beautiful nation, I will miss it very much.

Lesotho

Posted by flyingforkosovo On March - 6 - 2011

This amazing country looks very similar to places Austria, Switzerland, or even Colorado in the USA.  It is full of mountains and valleys and, unlike some of the other countries that I have visited, I actually see lots of lakes and rivers below.  I could not believe the beauty that my eyes were seeing.  I never would have imagined that this country would look so magnificent.  It is all very nature and wild looking with beautiful sunshine (which makes it better for me to take lots of pictures).

Like Botswana, Lesotho is one of the rare countries that do not require a crazy flight permit in order to land, which gives me even greater joy to be landing here soon.  During approach to this beautiful nation I was actually able to take pictures of both Lesotho and South Africa at the same time, since the capital city of Maseru (where I landed) is right on the border.

In no time at all after landing I cleared customs and was out the door.  This facility seemed fairly calm and empty to me for being an international airport.  One thing that I noticed right away was that the taxis are not lined up outside and waiting for passengers.  I couldn’t find one anywhere.  I was later told that this is because they don’t come around until they know that there will be an arrival of a plane full of passengers so that they don’t waste their time waiting.

I ask a gentleman outside if he knew about how to contact them or when the next big flight arrival would be and the distance from here to the city center so that I could get an idea of how much the trip would cost me.  Without hesitation he offered his help to me right away.  Without asking for or taking any compensation, he drove me the nearly 20km into the city.  I can see right away here that the great people of Lesotho take hospitality very seriously.

I am reminded of traveling in the past few countries where the people have been very friendly and willing to help out in any way.  After traveling to so many countries so far, I have learned to look closely at the little details of each nation.  I pay close attention to things like the infrastructure, cleanliness, the beauty of the surroundings and most importantly, the friendliness and courtesy of the local people. To me, those details are very important and serve to demonstrate just how much that country wants you to visit.  Personally, I think that there is nothing better than to have a nation really pay attention to its foreign visitors because those visitors will keep the perception of their experience in their memory for a long time to come and share it with the people that they know back home.

Both Lesotho and Botswana gave me the impression that providing a service meant more to them than just seeing you as a walking dollar sign screaming at their ears to come and get me.  Then there is the other end of the spectrum where there are certain countries where the mentality is purely that of ‘give me all your money’ (even if they just come to greet you).  In some countries, local people try to come and help you even if you do not ask for it.  They impose themselves on you in order to get you to give them money.  It makes your life miserable when they do that.  Its important to remember folks that I’m not talking about the truly needy people that you can see struggling, but rather some people in general who provide a service to you whether you ask for it or not and think that because you look different that you must have a bank account with money that flows out of it like a stream.  At least with people who you can see as genuine and truly needing to work, you sometimes want to give them more because they aren’t asking for it.  But many times people are just trying to take your money and treat you like you are a dollar sign.

After my gracious ride into town, I arrived at a hotel near city center suggested to me by some locals.  Price wise, The Victoria was fairly reasonable for the quality that they provided, especially since they gave you a nice breakfast buffet each morning.  The only bad thing about staying here was that I found it slightly annoying that the cab drivers would honk all throughout the day.  I am not talking here about a few of them honking a couple of times a day, but hundreds of them honking all day long.  I guess that the people here are accustomed to it and expect to be alerted to their taxi pick-up via the honking.  Usually when checking into a hotel, I try to request the highest floor possible to reduce the amount of noise that I hear (and mosquitoes and encounters with rowdy hotel guests, etc.) and to get a good view of the local scenery, but  I guess you can’t have everything perfect all the time.

After checking in it was still daylight, so I took advantage of the small opportunity for a nice walk.  It was such an invigorating experience to enjoy a walk around town while I explored and took pictures of this brilliant setting.  The view is absolutely stunning with the cooler temperatures (due to the higher elevation), the beautiful mountains the distance and approaching peach sunset.  I could not stop taking pictures the whole time.  After that refreshing experience I head back to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow’s working day in which I hope will be successful.

For the next two days I work to finish a bunch of media interviews, all of which were excellent and very comprehensive.  I first owe the biggest thank you to the amazing team at Lesotho Television, the national government station.  They did an excellent job in transmitting the important details of our mission.  Thanks to Mr. Dyke Sehloho, the Operations Director, who after a brief few minutes of discussion authorized and organized a team of journalists to visit the airport with me so that we could do some live footage in front of our baby plane.  Mr. Sehloho sent Ms. Mamotseki Paanya to cover the story.  She was an amazing journalist and news producer with a very charming personality and very sharp and focused leadership style.  Along with her and the  cameraman, we rode out to the airport together and filmed some coverage for the interview.  The best part of this experience my friends, was that I was able to take them up in our plane to fly for a few minutes.  This was exciting to me for a couple of reasons.  One, the cameraman had never before been on an airplane, which I always enjoy.  Two, this country gave me no problems whatsoever about authorizing a television crew to visit airport, which is rarely the case and oftentimes requires a lot of bureaucratic nonsense.  And three, the best part was that this was the first time in the African continent where they authorized me to take a local flight without having to prepare flight plans or have a permit in order to take off and land.  So far, in all of the countries that I have visited, this would have been impossible, except for maybe South Africa, Botswana and here.  The interview was excellent and we were able to get some great live footage in addition to the brief, unexpected flight.

Thanks to the Public Eye newspaper team and Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri who authorized an interview with his journalist Ms. Tsisti Matope.  Thanks to Mr. Khutliso Sekoat, an excellent gentleman from the native language newspaper Moeletsi Oa Basotho (Bathoso Advisor).  Since the main language in this country is Sesotho (or Sotho), the local people (known as ‘Basotho’) will be able to read about our plea for recognition as well.  It is estimated that nearly 40% of people here live below the international poverty line of $1.25/day.  Yet Lesotho has one of the highest literacy rates in the region, with 85% of the adults being able to read.  Females actually have a higher literacy rate than men here, which is highly unusual for this area of the world.

Thank you to Mr. Mapamela Khanyela with the newspaper Informative for his interview and to Ms. Lerato Matheka with thenewspaper Lesotho Times/Sunday Express, who was a sharp young lady with a lot of knowledge about the history of our country.  Thank you to the awesome team at Radio Moafrika FM (99.3, 90.7, 89.7 and 94.6), Mr. John Ramane and Mr. Selebalo Mathebekoane, who gave me the best 45-minute live interview.  In that short time we had over 30 people that called into the show to ask some great questions.  Had we been able to continue the interview I’m sure that the phones would have kept reading off the hook, but the radio station had other programs to cover for the day instead of only talking about Kosovo.  Interviews like that will stay in my memory for a long time to come.

The meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also very productive thanks to Mr. J.T. Metsing, Principal Secretary to the Minister who graciously took some time to talk with me and share his knowledge about Kosovo’s situation.  Mr. Metsing stated that his government and the Ministry totally agree that we should be an independent country and that they had advised Serbia many times of their position and stance on our independence.  The only concern that they have is that they want it done right and to make sure that we maintain peace and stability in our neighborhood.  I should note here that Lesotho has a long history of supporting just causes.  Though they are sometimes vulnerable to the political and economic decisions that are made by South Africa, Lesotho was one of the original supporters of the end of Apartheid and at one time offered a number of South African refugees political asylum during that time.  Additionally, they are one of the minority of countries that officially recognize Palestine as its own state.

Mr. Metsing was very personable, friendly and down to earth and our interview was very comprehensive.  A day or so later I called him back in order to update him on the status of my media interviews.  He was happily surprised to see that my interviews were broadcast on the national television station of his country and of the things that I had to say during my interview.

Finally, I can’t forget to thank my taxi driver, a very young man by the name of Mr. Moeketsi Sekeleoane who drove me around during my entire stay in Maseru.

Lesotho is one of the nations that will always have a place in my heart and I hope to visit this nation again in the future just to enjoy the beauty and splendor that exists here.  The people are very friendly and for the first time in Africa I even saw some fruit trees growing.  Seeing the peach trees, grapes and other fruits brought me comfort and gave me a brief reminder of home.

Another thing that I noticed is that I could feel a sense of isolation and sadness in some of the voices and eyes of the local people.  For one, this country is completely surrounded by another (South Africa), but more than that, there are some other problems here as well.  Many local people have to travel into South Africa for work and so are gone for three to nine months out of the year.  The work that they find there is difficult too, mostly finding employment at diamond or mineral mines.  Most households here subsist on farming and it has been reported that there is somewhat of an issue here in regards to child labor.  Finally, this country has been devastated by the horrible AIDS epidemic, which is rumored to infect up to a third of the countries population.  It is so serious that the government now offers free screening to anyone who wants it.

During my next trip here I would definitely like to explore some of the natural wonders found here.  In addition to the beautiful mountains, many local people have talked to me about visiting the dams that exist in this country.  Apparently they are part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which was put into place in order to provide an ongoing water supply to this country and to South Africa and to allow for hydropower to exist.  The locals say that this is quite a large system of several dams and tunnels that have been put in place and tell me that it has positively impacted their local infrastructure.  Because of all of the additional new roads that needed to be built in order to maintain the system, rural villages in the mountainous areas have had increased access to communication with the outside world.

One thing is for sure my dear friends, I could definitely see myself living in a country like this, Zambia, Botswana or Namibia with absolutely no problem at all, especially when it comes to being surrounded by the very friendly locals.

May higher powers bless this beautiful nation and its people.

Namibia

Posted by admin On March - 4 - 2011

It is a small relief to finally arrive here in Namibia.  I have been waiting a long time to be able to touch down in the last country on the western side of this continent.  The only western coastline after this belongs to South Africa, which will be the southernmost tip of Africa.  What a joy to reach this point.

The only other thing that I knew about Namibia before landing here was that there has traditionally been a strong German influence in this country for many centuries and that a lot of things down here work like a clock (always organized and on time).  In the early days Namibia was known as German South West Africa (later South West Africa, when it was taken over by South Africa).  Several Germans stayed on here and this was later one of the countries involved in Apartheid (legal racial segregation). While much of the white population flourished, many of the natives did not fare so well and the previous genocide is still remembered here today.  In 1990, the nation was able to win independence in the Namibian War of Independence and has since been under self rule (though it still maintains strong economic ties to South Africa).

This country is huge my friends.  For a land area the size of Texas and Louisiana combined, there are only a little over two million people here.  That turns out to be about 3 people for every 7 sqare miles of land.  In other words, people here are very spread out, unlike our tiny country of Kosovo.

Because it is so vast, many people still have a lot of room to farm here.  But most people rely on subsistence as over ½ of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25/day.  Though mining for diamonds and other minerals is popular (similar to the last few countries visited), there is still a lot of outside aid that comes to this country.  Since Libya and Cuba provided a lot of help during the war, Namibia tries to maintain good foreign relations with them as a result.

As I approached  Namibia’s airspace, I could already see the vast, untouched land below.  I could see no civilization for miles, except for a farm or two sprinkled here or there.  It was so beautiful and green everywhere and very flat looking.  Remember, part of that Kalahari Desert from Botswana is here in Namibia and there is another desert land here as well known as the Namib, for which the country is named.  That desert is considered the oldest in the world.

I have to stop here and again thank our friend Jean Philippe van Nyen whom I met back in Sao Tome and Principe.  Remember that he requested that I receive a diplomatic passport through his organization, OSJ Ecumenical Knights of Malta.  It has been a tremendous gift that has worked out very well for me.  It is now much easier to travel and has really cut out a lot of the bureaucratic nonsense that I hate.  Here in Namibia, it allowed me to clear customs with no problems and in no time at all.

Catching a taxi was a bit of a different story.  I quickly learned that taxis in this country are not cheap.  Though I did try to explore other options, it turns out that buses here are nonexistent, which meant that I had no choice but to pay the steep asking price of $50 USD for a ride into town.  It was nearly a 50km distance into town, so I guess that this price might compare to what it costs to get a taxi from Prishtina to my home in Brestovc.  Last time I took a taxi there it was 35 Euros, which is pretty close to the price here in Namibia I suppose.

After all of my travels, I have learned a thing or two about how to save money though.  Thanks to god for that knowledge, otherwise I would have remained broke and stuck in some place like Mauritania.  After taking so many cabs and having been a cab driver myself, I have gained some knowledge on what types of bargains can be made, how to cut corners in cost, etc.  I have found that if I am not vigilant, everyone starts to see me as a walking money sign.  Remember, these taxi drivers, they sit sometimes for many hours waiting for a passenger and once they get you, they want to charge you all of those astronomical prices.  They definitely don’t like people like me who know a thing or two.  Once they know that how persistent I can be and that I will not take any crap, they start to reconsider their asking price and we tend to get along just fine.  Basically my friends, they mostly just give up arguing with me and agree to my demands in order to make at least a little bit of money, which is always better than none.  This time, they finally gave up trying to get the full amount for a ‘solo’ taxi ride.  Since I was not willing to pay their asking price just for a ride into town, we worked out a deal where other people who were as poor as me could share the ride and the cost.  So after rounding up another passenger, we all agreed on a total price and were off to town.

On the way, I see that Namibia has a beautiful road system, very clean and neat everywhere that you look.  Our taxi driver was now acting as our tour guide and ended up giving us lots of information about his nation.  One thing that I learned was that these people seem happy to have received lots of rain this year.  It turns out that their government regulates water here and when there is not enough rain, it limits people from their water supply.  Actually, Namibia is one of the few countries in the world to specifically address conservation and protection of natural resources direclty within its constitution.  But the people here, they don’t seem to like being limited in their water usage, so they are very happy this year to have more than enough.

During our short drive to town, I was also starting to get a feeling like I was taking a ride somewhere in California in the spring time.  The sun is out (no surprise since they get about 300 days of sun per year here) and the topography is the rather flat, much like that of the golden state.  I am feeling a lot of charm to this place.  I see a lot of true nature here and it looks fairly wild too.  Everything is green and apparently it has been raining quite often here lately since it is now the rainy season.

We arrive in no time at all to the capital of Windhoek.  Such a pleasant ride with enough time to get a feel for the nature that exists in this part of our beautiful planet.  The taxi driver dropped me off at  a local bed and breakfast which was within my budget and not far from the city center.  Shortly after check-in I was off to a nearby mall to find an internet cafe in order to update my team on my whereabouts.  Though I ended up getting there around close, the workers were nice enough to let me stay and use the computer while they cleaned and closed up shop.  In a lot of these African countries, everything closes at around 17:00 or 18:00, which often makes it difficult for me to finish up some of the work that I need to get done.

Friends, I could not believe my own eyes when I walked out of that place.  Directly in front of me was a bright and shiny sign with the words Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in beautiful, mouthwatering letters.  It was like the heavens parted and I literally got chills down my body from missing home so much.  Without any further thought I went straight for their comfort food and had one of the best meals that I’ve had in a long time.

On my way back to the bed and breakfast, I was trying to negotiate a price with the taxi driver for tomorrows drive around town.  He agreed to 350 Namibian dollars for the day (which is around $50USD), so I decided to hire him (even though I was getting a strong negative vibe at the time). In the morning, he had completely changed his tune and was trying to charge me triple the price that we had agreed upon, acting all innocent and unaware of our agreement.  To cut it short my friends, it ended up being my worst experience with a taxi driver since I began this mission.

After getting that mess resolved, I finally started my day by heading to the media outlets and then to the Ministery of Foreign Affairs.  The first and greatest people that I met that morning were the wonderful team with the television channel ‘One Africa‘.  Those people were excellent, very nice and just a happy group of people.  I owe a big thank you to Mr. Willem Snyman and Ms. Kudakwangu Chisweto who were both amazing to work with.  They gave me an awesome interview for their tv show and were very professional.  I could start to see here part of the German-style work ethic.

Thanks to the rest of the  media here, Mr. Nico Smit with The Namibian who was very intelligent and dynamic with a great personalitiy.  Thanks to Mr. Kae Matundu Tjporuro and Ms. Albertina Nakale with New Era newspaper for all of their great help.  Thank you to Mr. Tafanji Nyirenda and Ms. Belinda Apollus with team at 100 FM Energy Radio who were all amazing people to work with.  Lastly, thank you to Mr. Nghidipo Nangolo with the newspaper Informante for his dedication to publishing something that would make his government pay attention to details and remain on their toes.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I found a very professional team as well who were willing to help and hear me out.  Thank you to Mr. Pinehas Aluten, the personal assistant to the Minister.  He took our letter from Vlora Citaku and offered to forward it on to the Minister.

I feel fairly well at having accomplished many things in just a few days of work here in a nation like Namibia.  I will miss this country very much, especially the nature.  It is so beautiful and wild looking and remains very much an untouched and remote part of our globe.  I should mention here the best part of this whole stop over.

On the way back to the airport, I was able to see a bunch of monkeys hanging around on trees.  The most amazing part, though, was that from the highway I was also able to some gorillas running wild and free out there.  Real, live gorillas my friends – in nature and not locked up in a zoo somewhere.  To me, it is things like this that have no price tag.  There is no price that you can pay that would equal the pure joy that I get from experiencing this kind of nature.  The beauty and wild looking creations made by higher powers are something that we can never replace and I will rememer this about Namibia for years to come.

Further down the road I was able to stop and take a few pictures of my raw and natural surroundings.  I spotted many more monkeys out there playing around and having a ball.  I am very blessed to have experienced these moments and it helps me to forget some of the struggles that I have been through.

As a reminder, Namibia is the last nation on Africa’s west coast and I am leaving here, which is something to celebrate.  Next country is Lesotho, which is a small, tiny nation surrounded by South Africa.  After that will be South Africa, which will be the southernmost nation on the continent.  I am excited to know that after that, I will be on may way north and working my way toward home.

New Era

Botswana

Posted by flyingforkosovo On February - 28 - 2011

Back when I left Zambia, it was a wetter, tropical climate.  The farther towards Gaberone I have flown it has become more dry.  Even at the slow speed of our turtle plane, I am able to see these huge changes within a 7-8 hour flight.  I am now starting to see land that looks like it could be from the Sahara Desert.  The natural beauty fascinates me.  Many times I have try to memorize the topography as I go along.  I want to remember it all – what the land and geography of each place was like.

Down below I notice that things are starting to looking very remote and isolated.  I see a few mining locations here and there and a few ranches strewn about, but most of it is no man’s land.  Communications with the air traffic controllers sometimes doesn’t even exist for hours at a time.  This definitely could be an ugly situation if I were to have any technical problems.  Right now, I’m thinking about how grateful I am that I was able to fuel up on quality AVGAS back in Zambia and that the plane has no more mechanical problems.  Otherwise, I would make a nice lunch for our friend the Lion King.

During this flight, I have been able to fly near several different territorial airspaces.  Because I did not get pre-approval to fly over Zimbabwe, I had to instead fly around their boundaries and head in a more southwest direction.  At one point, I was literally in the middle of four different airspaces.  Behind me lay Zambia, ahead of me Botswana.  To my right was Namibia and on my left, Zimbabwe.  What a strange feeling to be right in the middle of four different countries.  And to top it off, not far to my right was also the Angolan airspace.

Needless to say, before touching land here in Botswana, I already feel at peace.  Just knowing that I’m dealing with friendlier aviation officials makes me excited to be here.  I am in love with this country already, especially with all of the knowledge that I have gained about it from local people already.  I already know that I’m going to a place known for big, wild animals can be hunted for game.  I know that this country is just a little bit smaller than Texas, but that it only has about half of the people that we do in Kosovo.  The landscape here is very much like it would be in the New Mexico, Arizona and Texas area of the USA.  The big difference of course, is that the US doesn’t have a lot of rhinos and elephants running around like they do here.

It feels good just to be able to enjoy nature up here in our plane and not have to deal with any of the details that you do on the ground.  Even despite some of the suffering that our trip entails, I often stop to think just how grateful I am to be able to experience so many wonderful places and locations on this wonderful planet earth that we live.  Like now – I am a few hours outside of Gaberone and spot some wildlife underneath my wings.  I fly lower so that I can check it out and low and behold, I see ostriches.  It surprised me to see them and I laughed out loud because here I thought that ostriches were some big bird that only lived in Australia.  I never dreamed that I would see them here in Africa, but there they are, a bunch of them down there, just enjoying nature  So many groups of them down there just running around wild and free all over the place.

I can already tell that I wouldn’t mind visiting here as a tourist.  It’s a sad story that I can’t stay here longer to experience ‘real’ Africa.  I’ll be sure to do in the next time around when I don’t have other important obligations to fulfill.  The locals tell me that there are a lot of big wild animals here to hunt and I would love to see more of them.  I hear that there are a lot of game reserves down here that you can pay big money to visit.

A lot of those reserves are inside the great Kalahri Desert, which is over 350 square miles large) and covers much of Botswana and even parts of Namibia and South Africa.  There are some animals and plants that live inside the area because it’s not all a true desert.  Surrounding the actual Kalahari is the Kalahari Basin which covers another 970,000 square miles (that’s about as big as the Sudan, or the Mediterranean Sea).  That makes tons of room here for animal to roam around and not be bothered.  I hear that there are also many kinds of birds and reptiles here, and things like lions, elephants, giraffes, warthogs, antelope – even animals like  hyenas and camel.  No wonder people have been hunting here or 20,000 years or so.

Though definitely not due to the climate, this place reminds me a lot of where I lived in Alaska when I was working as a bush pilot.  Up there, you could also fly for hours and not see one single person on the ground below.  Also like Alaska, there are many wild animals and people still live off of the land.  Up there, it was the Eskimo cultures that existed for thousands of years and down here there are Bushmen, or San people with a similar culture of kinship.

The local tribes here still live in a very primitive way, sometimes using tools that have existed for thousands of years.  The local housing is usually a hut of some sort and the most important thing in daily living is finding food and water.  Like many native people, the San people have recently been asked to relocate away from the land and move into settlements.  There has been a lot of disagreement about that down here and both sides have argued about the ability of the native people to hunt within land that has been deemed a reserve.  The Bushmen have legally won back their right to hunt, but in 08 the United Nations Human Rights Council still criticized Botswana’s government for not allowing certain bushmen to return.  On top of that, there’s also been  a lot of fighting over water since the government initially prohibited access to it during the relocation. That right has also been fought for and won back in court.

Other people have also tried to exploit the rights of the local natives.  A pharmecuetical company recently tried to trademark a local plant down there known as hoodia.  There reason: it seems to work for weight loss.  That too, has been argued in the local courts and a benefit-sharing agreement was able to be reached with the San people.

Back to our flight.  I’ve been making good progress today and things have been going well.  As hard as try though, I always seem to be finding myself flying after dark.  Though I get up early and hurry around, by the time I finish at the airport and start my flight, I am often approaching my destination post sunset.  Tonight, it feels okay though because I know that I am flying to a friendly part of the world where laws and aviation have meaning.

The air traffic controllers are friendly already, checking in with me every 10-15 minutes or so as I’m approach an hour or so outside of Gaberone.  I’m impressed to learn that my progress is being tracked by radar.  And just to be nice, the controllers also point out some obstacles that I may encounter next to the airport upon landing. What a treat to be well taken care of my friends.

After my nearly 8 hour flight, I have landed safely on the ground and secured the airplane.  In less than 10 minutes (record time), I am out of the airport and on my way to the hotel.  The customs people were fantastic and I already am starting to get the warm, comforting feeling of good old customer service.  It’s been so long since I’ve experienced  it down here where everyone would like to get your money immediately and send you on your way.

The airport looked great.  Very clean and new looking, functional, high ceilings, electricity and my favorite part: a functional air conditioning system.  If you remember, when I landed in Bangu, Central African Republic it was shocking to know that I had landed in the country’s capital airport and there was no electricity or air conditioning, with only half of the runway lights working on top of it.  I’m pretty grateful right now that Gaberone doesn’t have the electricity shortage that they had, as I am basking in the coolness of the air conditioning.

The taxi ride from the airport was a joy.  I had a strong sense of being in a place like my home in El Paso because of the sights and sounds that I was experiencing.  Since I had heard that the hotels are a bit more expensive here, I opted to head towards a bed and breakfast instead.  It turned out to be an excellent place, very nice looking, secure and comfortable with a great team.  I am again impressed with the focus on customer service.

I needed a good night’s rest before starting work first thing in the morning and I slept like a baby my friends as I fell asleep to the natural sounds of the crickets and birds singing their nightly songs.  What a joy to wake up to as well.  After a great breakfast I was ready to tackle a full day of hard work.

One of the lodge workers had volunteered to drive me around for the day which was very kind of him.  We drove directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that I could hand deliver Vlora’s letter.  The office team was very friendly and radiated this wonderful energy throughout the entire building.  I was guided toward Mr. Tshepo Mogotsi, the private secretary of the Minister.  He had a wonderful personality and is very down to earth. For being in his early 30′s, I am quite surprised by his knowledge about the world and our country.  He knew our history very well and reports being approached many times already about recognizing our independence.  It was such a pleasure to meet with him, especially knowing that his country has been taking our situation very seriously.  We spent over thirty minutes deeply discussing the details of my country.

It’s the second day that I feel great about being in this country.  The people that I meet continue to be wonderful, they are all so happy and willing to help out with a smile.  I was not disappointed with this when I went to the media.  What an amazing feeling to be in such a liberal country after being in so many of them recently who don’t allow their media to express what they would like without government interference.  Here, the journalists are able to do their job and utilize their knowledge and expertise.

The wonderful team at Gabz radio, 96.2 FM were a happy crowd.  Ms. Tshepo Ntshole and Mr. Thebe Mogapi were able to do a live interview with me, which is always a treat.  Another live interview that I will never forget was with radion Yarona, 106.6 FM.  They were very professional and the team had a lot of energy.  Thank you to the boss, Mr. Uyapo Khupe, the “Big Duke” who authorized my interview with “Ms. B”, Bonolo Seone and “Dollar Mac”, Kgosi Kgosidintsi.  I will remember those two for a long time to come.

The team at Mmegi newspaper were all awesome.  Mr. Titus Mbuya was the managing editor who authorized my interview with another editor and journalist Mr. Tshireletso Motlogelwa and Mr. Ephraim Keoreng.  At the government newspaper The Botswana Daily News, Ms. Amogelang Makgabenyana and Mr. Thamani Shabani were both wonderful.  Thanks also to the editor at Echo Newspaper, Tomeletso Sereets.  He authorized my interview with their reporter Mr. Tshwarelo Motsomi.  Mr. Joseph Tononoka Whande was very knowledgeable about Kosovo at the Sunday Standard newspaper and he assigned news editor Mr. Botlhale Koothupile, who gave me a great and in-depth interview.  Finally, the team at ‘BG’, Botswana Guardian, Mr. Lawrence Tsondai and Ms. Phemelo Ramasu were also quite nice.

It was also a pleasure for me to see the booming construction that is going on in this country.  Though this country is also rich in things like diamonds and minerals (similar to the last few countries that I’ve visited), it is currently trying to broaden it’s focus into becoming a tourist destination and the next innovation hub of Africa.  Unlike some of the other countries with the same type of natural wealth, Botswana has actually chose to help out its people rather than put the profits from those resources into the pockets of its elite.  Instead of all of the money going into an account somewhere in Switzerland or France, half of the mining industry here is owned by the government and they are actually using some of the money to work towards things like conserving the land and address the substantial drought and desertification that the country is currently facing.

Botswana, you have won my heart with your friendly, hard working and service oriented culture.  I have to admit that this is actually the first country since I’ve left Northern Africa where making sure that the customer is taken care of actually has meaning instead of just worrying about getting paid.  This is a remarkable country and one in which I actually wouldn’t mind living for awhile. God Bless you all.

The next country for me will be Namibia.

Mmegi online

Mmegi PDF

 

Zambia

Posted by flyingforkosovo On February - 25 - 2011

After my mechanical stop in Lubumbashi, I was on my way to Zambia and very excited to hear the sound of my airplane working well again.  Thanks again to the team at ITAB in Lubumbashi for everything that they have done for our mission. 

Compared to my last flight, the flight to Lusaka, Zambia was a short one.  I arrived around noon to find great weather and beautiful countryside.  As I was flying over, I could see lots of farmland and farmers taking care of their crop.  Later I learned that this is typical of rural Zambia.  It’s weather is considered tropical and the rural populations tend to rely on subsistence farming tosurvive. 

What a difference I felt upon landing at this airport.  The runway was excellent and I could already see from the outside that this airport was more modern than the last one.  Once inside it felt like any European airport.  Things seemed to be working well, everything was well kept and clean.  The terminal was modern and everything was well organized.  Such a big difference between two neighboring nations.

In no time I was out of the airport and off to the hotel.  What a joy it was to take a taxi ride to town.  The driver had a uniform on and his car was nearly brand new.  After I arrived at a hotel within my budget, I was off in another taxi to get some work done before days end. 

One thing that I didn’t expect here in Zambia, was to meet people from back home.  Mevilda Jerjlija and Indira Jerlija were wonderful ladies from our country who have been living in this country for about 40 years or so.  What was interesting about meeting them, was that I was reminded yet again that even in Africa, there are people from our country who are successful and work hard to prosper in life.  I never cease learning lots of interesting thigns through my travels, things that I would have never even thought of beforehand.

Things like seeing throughout Africa that ‘Tito’ was quite popular here and seems to be somewhat of a local hero.  Many times now I have seen roads being named after him.  Remember, our former nation was visible around the world back when it was strong enough and at one time had lots of embassies.  Now that we have all split up and Yugoslavia does not exist, Serbia has taken over that real estate and has sold some of it.  Our former embassies are are prime real estate in some countries.  Here in Zambia, I got a chance to visit our land myself and it seems like an excellent location, just closed down and waiting to be sold.  I’m pretty sure that any money that is made through those transactions goes right to Serbia – or do you think that they might split the money with us and the rest of the former Yugoslavia?  What do you think my friends?  I highly doubt that we will ever get anything from that.  Maybe it’s because no one has ever thought about this?  I can imagine that our people and our government might not be aware of such things.

Thanks to all of my media friends and their bosses here in Zambia for their time and dedication towards our cause.  Thank you to the team at Muvi Television: Ms. Corinna Paolini, Mr. Paul Shalala, Zefaniah Zulu, Costa Mwansa, Brian Mwal and Betty Nguluwe.  They all played a big role in talking about Kosovo on their talk show for hours and hours.  They were great about expresssing to their people and our government that the people of Kosovo would like to be accepted as an independenc nation by their country.  Thank you to the local radio station staff: Ms. Monde Phiri with QFM; Mutale Kani with Radio Pheonix 89.5 FM; and Lweendo Himdonde Chiko with Radio 5 FM, 89.9 Mhz.  Thank you to the newspapers:  Charles Musonda with Daily Mail Zambia; thanks to Linda Myondo, David Mataka, Charles Chisala; Elias Shilangwa with Monitor Newspaper Zambia; Roy Habaalu with The Post Newspaper; Obert Simwanza with Times of Zambia and finally, Mr. Anthony Mulowa.

Thank you to Mr. John Mulutula at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He was comprehensive in our discussions and mentioned that he supports the people’s will for independence in Kosovo.  He dedicated a lot of his time and agreed to hand deliver our letter from Vlora Citaku to his boss the Minister himself.

Mr. Mario Kandalu, my taxi driver was wonderful with a great character.  He helped me a lot and knew the city well.

My friends, Zambia is a very nice place and quite functional.  Though outside of the urban areas, many people still live on less than /year, the cit I’m in still looks clean, organized, has a good infrastructure.  I can see that lots of progress has been made since Zambia was known as the British protectorate, Rhodesia.  I had a great experience and it is a place that I would feel comfortable living in for a little while.  The people here are quite nice and friendly too.

Another thing that I really liked was to look at the nice blue color of the high octane AVGAS.  I was able to fill my plane with it which gave me a small sense of joy.  The bigger joy that I got though, was that it was very cheap – only US for a liter.  The only place cheaper than that so far in Africa was in Malta.

The next country is Botwsana.  It will be the first country on this trip that hasn’t need a landing permit to land our plane.

Zambian Whatchdog

MUVI Television

MUVI Television 2

Zambia Daily Mail

Lusaka

 

 

DR of the Congo

Posted by flyingforkosovo On February - 16 - 2011
You all know by now that one of the hardest things about this mission is the bureaucratic nightmares that I have to encounter in each country.  Things like customs, airport paperwork upon landing and upon leaving, obtaining visas, etc., they all take so much time and often times it feels like I am running in circles all day trying to get things straightened out.  Many times the personnel are not as helpful or as knowledgeable as they would be in airports in say, the United States or Europe, but they still want to make sure that you know that they are the ones with the authority.  It is not their fault, and I am not complaining, but I hope you see why I would rather avoid this if I’m able.  If I did everything as requested folks, I would still be sitting somewhere back Morocco or something.  In this case, I want to thank my friend Ms. Germaine Malongc as she was instrumental in helping me get a visa for visiting this country.  For a small fee, she was able to get me a visa pronto.  It worked out better this way because her and the official in Congo-Kinshasa* knew each other personally, which increased my chances of the visa being authorized.  I also want to again thank our good friend Mr. Jean-Philippe van Nyen from back in Sao Tome and Principe.  Remember, he is the one that graciously offered to request that I receive diplomatic travel status with his organization, Order of Malta.  His offering has put me in a completely different category of travel as far as country officials go.  Now instead of jumping through so many bureaucratic hoops, the process goes much faster and I don’t have to give every single personnel my reason for travel and have them exert their authority and try to give me problems each time.
Friends, having travelled now for such a long time in Africa and having been exposed to many challenges and struggles, it is often difficult for me still to get used to the unknown and unpredictability that I often times face.  The stress that it generates in your body is something that I can’t explain.  Many times I am physically tense most hours of the day because you never know what you are going to encounter next.  I’ve just had a very short flight from Congo-Brazzaville to Congo-Kinshasa, but what a difference in infrastructure, organization and culture.  Things look more chaotic on this side of the border and much more complex, with a higher price tag.  It took me two tries to get a taxi for a reasonable price.  Of course, once I did I enjoyed spending time my new grandpa for the next two days, Mr. Rene Tombuele Kiteki, as he drove me all around Kinshasa.
I find it odd that the capitals of these two countries are so close together, yet so different upon landing.  I believe that they actually hold the world record for being the two closest capitals.  After all of my travels, it is rare for me to see two neighboring countries, which are connected geographically for thousands of miles, try so hard to not be associated with each other.  Coming from Europe my friends, it is quite strange to see these things in the world.  Especially since we have transportation like ferries and tunnels connecting countries together (like English channel connecting France and England and Mont Blanc connecting Italy and France, etc.).
Despite having a river between the two Congo’s (which at times is only a few hundred meters wide) the two countries have decided not to have territorial connections.  This means that there are no bridges at all connecting one country to the other, so the only way for accessing each other is through either boats and/or planes. I am even guessing that you could throw a rock from one side of the river to the other, except that there is such a lack of trust between these two that this is probably not possible.  The only other place where I have seen this lack of accessibility between countries was between the Central African Republic and Congo-Democratic Republic.
It is my understanding that they two Congo’s are very different from each other due to a number of reason.  One reason is that Congo-Brazzaville is historically French in origin, but the Congo-Kinshasa is historically Belgian.  Since then, there has been a lot of conflict in this area at several points throughout history.  The latest conflict was the Second Congo War, which began in 1998.  It is my understanding that this war began as tensions from neighboring Rwanda (at the time in its own civil war) spilled over into the DRC.  This war devestated the region, involved seven foreign armies and has sometimes been referred to as the African World War.  Estimates reveal that this war has been the deadliest since World War II, with as high as 5 million people killed.  Even though peace accords were signed in 2003, fighting still continues and it is believed that tens of thousands of people still die each month due top the war, disease and famine.  Things seem to be extremely difficult in the eastern portion of the country, where it is rumored that the prevelance of rape and other sexual violence against women is still considered the worst in the world.
On a more positive note, I was very excited upon arrival to be able to call some old Kosovar friends that have worked in Kinshasa for several years now with the United Nations.  It had been so many years that we had kept in contact only by internet.  It felt wonderful and gave me a great sense of security and comfort to be meeting with my brothers from back home who share the same values and culture as me.  After finishing my work the first day, I met up with Mr. Mehmet Berisha when he came to my miserable hotel to pick me up and take me to get some dinner.  It was the greatest feeling to spend the evening with a group of my Kosovar friends from long ago and converse in our language for a few days before I moved on to continue our journey.
For the next few days, I was treated like a King by my brothers.  Both nights we went for a nice dinner and one evening we had the added company of Mr. Dionis Avdimetaj, Afrim Lepaja and Meriton Ahmeti.  I was even invited to say at Mr. Jeton Krasniqi and Feim Zeka’s apartment and it was also great to know that they lived in a very nice and secure area of town.  Mr. Krasniqi and Mr. Zeka were so kind to lodge me in their wonderful apartment.  They gave me lots of care and attention.  The most amazing though, was that they both generously gave a donation to our mission, which touched me deeply.  May higher powers bless you all my dear friends and thank you for everything that you have done for me and our mission.
In the two days that I stayed in Congo-Kinshasa, I was able to get a lot accomplished.  A television broadcast was done extremely well, thanks to my very professional friends, Mr. Richard Shako Kanyengeo and his camera technician.  And the journalists and bosses with each newspaper were also great.  Thank you to Mr. Dieudonne Mwantote with the newspaper Le Palmares; Mr. Jean-Marie Kapongo with Africa News; Mr. Tshingombe Lukusa John with Journal Congo News; Mr. Jonas Kota with Forum Des As; Mr. Jean-Rene Bompolonga with Le Phare; and the team with newspaper Le Potential, Mr. Mulumba Kabuayi and Pierre Emangongo.  Finally, I want to thank Mr. Berisha again for driving me around for my business in Kinshasa.
Thank you to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the great team at the Protocal Minister’s Office for taking the time to discuss Kosovo’s independence and for accepting Vlora Citaku’s letter in order to present it to their boss.
Though Congo-Kinshasa has its share of problems and many unfortunate years of civil war, I hope to hear one day that this country has been able to raise its head above water so that the lives of all its people can be improved.
*Note: the Congo-Kinshasa has been renamed several times throughout it’s history and has been known by many names, some of which are Zaire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, DR Congo, DROC, DRC or RDC)

Happy Independence Day!

 

Le Potentiel

Le Potentiel PDF

Congo News 1, 2 PDF

Forum Des As PDF

 

Republic of the Congo

Posted by flyingforkosovo On February - 13 - 2011

Landing in Brazzaville felt like heaven compared to the last country (Angola) as far as I am concerned and the first thing that I notice about this place is that the prices are much more reasonable. For one thing, the hotel prices are at least 5-10 times cheaper than they are in Angola, which is good news for our mission. The next thing that I learn is that this country is also known as Congo-Brazzaville, Little Congo, or simply the Congo, which helps to separate it from neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire), whose capital is Kinshasa, which is quite close to Brazzaville.

After a good nights sleep, I am excited to get to work as soon as possible here. My friend Jean-Philippe van Nyen has already been working very hard for Kosovo ever since I left him in Sao Tome and Principe. He was able to put me in touch with some contacts in Angola and now he has worked things out for me in Brazzaville, where he called an old family friend, Mr. Paul Valentin Mossimbi. Mr. Valentin Mossimbi and Mr. Van Nyen’s father have been friends for over 20 years now. As soon as I arrived, I began to make plans to meet him right away.

Mr. Valentin Mossimbi and I meet first thing Monday morning and he immediately started working his magic with his government. Paul is my new grandpapa. He has the greatest sense of humor and personality. He is also a successful businessman who knows everyone that has authority in his country. The Minister of Sustainable Development, the Forest Economy and the Environment is his close cousin, so it was easy to get an appointment with him on Monday. Mr. Henri Djombo was very thorough in trying to understand the issue of Kosovo’s independence and personally expressed that we should be recognized by his government and that it would be the right thing to do. Our meeting was very successful and he reassured me that he would do anything possible with his coworkers and partners in order to push our independence issue forward with his government.

Mr. Djombo then called his Director of Communications who took charge right away by directing us to the Minister of Foreign Affairs office for a meeting. Of course, Paul was with us at all times during the day and he turned out to be great company to me as we were waiting for an open appointment with the Minister. At first, we were told that the Minister’s day was packed with appointment. However, we learned later that the Minister had some hesitations about meeting with us due to his concern that he would receive repercussions from his superiors. On the other hand, that means that the Minister already knew the purpose of my visit and that I had Vlora Citaku’s letter to deliver to him. Thanks to all of the MFA staff for the sense of care that they showed to our mission during this time and specifically to Mr. Gasto Bavovidits, Chef de Secretariat du Cabinet of the Minister, who promised to pass our much treasured letter from Ms. Citaku directly to his boss, the Minister himself.

I had much better luck with the media here in Brazzaville. I want to thank all of the professional journalists and their bosses for giving our mission the greatest attention. Depeches de Brazzaville was the first newspaper that interviewed me. I could tell that Mr. Nestor N’Gampoula already knew a lot about Kosovo before beginning our meeting.

The next newspaper, Le Nouvel Observateur was my most memorable interview here in Congo-Brazzaville. This newspaper is owned by Mr. Gabriel Bouzanda, an amazing, caring and spiritual man who was very attentive and involved with my interview with his journalist, Mr. Valda St-Val. Both men asked me very detailed questions and Mr. Bouzanda showed a real love for other human beings around the world. He knew Kosovo’s history well and reported that he felt very attached to our nation’s predicament because he and his family also have a history of hard times due to the the recent war here in the Congo. People like Mr. Bouzanda are inspiring to meet and remember forever. His spirituality, his beliefs and his warm heart help to remind me of our common bond as humans. No matter where we are on this great planet, or where we are from, most of us share the same values and hopes for our future and our families.

Thanks to Mr. Godelh Godefroy Baouadila, with the newspaper Maintenant for his dedication and friendliness. He was deeply involved with all kinds of questions during our interview. At La Semaine Africaine, Mr. Veran Carrhol Yanga also did a wonderful newspaper interview.

In regards to television, I had great luck as well. My first interview was at MNTV, which stands for Maurice N’Guesso, who is the brother of the President. Thank you to all of the managers for having made my interview possible and to Ms. Miguette Mangoula, who was in command and made sure that our interview went really well and was broadcast live on the evening news. The other television station was TOP TV which is reportedly owned by the daughter of the nation’s President. This made it very convenient for Kosovo since we were able to get an interview with them (which means that there is no one in between to decide wether or not to cover our story).  I want to mention that at this station, I encountered Mr. Igor Cameron.  He was a great journalist who really took time with our story.  He requested to have a few days to research about Kosovo before our interview.  He was very thorough and completed a full one hour interview with me.  Mr. Cameron really takes pride in his work and is very neat.  He has lots of talent, was very comprehensive and has an awesome personality.

Finally, I never want to forget the taxi drivers that I meet and make friends with in each country. Mr. Joseph Diazolamfoumou was able to move me all around Brazzaville in a timely manner in order to help me accomplish my duties here in the Republic of Congo.

From the few days that I was able to spend here in Brazzaville, it appears to be a nice country. I want to remember again, my new grandpa Paul who really took care of me and who also invited me to an excellent restaurant for lunch, where I was able to have a great meal. He made me feel at home in a foreign country that is so far from where my own home is.

Let’s hope that the President of Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville can make a decision about Kosovo soon and that he watched our interview on his brother’s MNTV station and his daughter’s Top TV program.

God Bless Congo, Brazzaville and its people.

Les Depeches

 

Gabon

Posted by flyingforkosovo On February - 5 - 2011

Gabon is another African country that makes a lot of profit from its natural resources. Already I can see lots of progress here as far as infrastructure. Things look well kept here and cleaner than some of the other places that I’ve been. Socially, people here seem to be well aware of their surroundings and about life in general. Things are not always equal though, about 90% of the income here goes to the richest 20% of the population.

Lucky for me, the air conditioning was working at the airport when I arrived. This is always a great relief because it means that I won’t have to sweat while running around trying to get all of my bureaucratic paperwork taken care of. You may have noticed from all of my writing, that the paperwork part of landing and taking off is by far the very worst part of the whole mission. Not only do I dislike all of the time and money that it takes to complete it, but it seems to me that this nonsense is just a destructive force to the lives of normal human beings that would think of visiting these countries. The paperwork and all of the fees that go along with them seem to only benefit the elite in these countries and is something that they use to control the lives of ordinary citizens and keep them in the dark.

At least the staff here in Gabon was efficient and organized. I was able to complete the paperwork in a timely manner, even though I did not have a visa for this country. Thanks to god for my pilot’s license. I have found out over time that in some of these countries, I am able to use my pilots license to bypass getting a visa. Instead of normal procedures, I tell them the airport staff that I am in transit for a technical stop (which is not far from the truth). This allows me to complete only the administrative paperwork and pay for the landing fees and not have to deal with the other nonsense that getting a full visa can entail (more paperwork, fees, wait times, etc.). Folks, if I would not have figured out this loophole to jump through, I promise you that I would not have been able to accomplish even half of what I have been able to get done on our mission.

Remember that my vision is this: to go to each and every country on the planet and deliver our message to the people of each nation in the most efficient and cheapest way possible. I am not trying to play tourist and visit each country for weeks on end. It is for these reasons that I do not wish to spend my time trying to please every countries requirements and get a visa for each one of them. This would take months and sometimes even years of planning and MUCH more money. Additionally, many of the countries that I have been visiting don’t have the most democratic governments. The fees and requirements that they have are often created so that only a few people profit anyway. If I were to be completely honest and up front upon arrival to each country, I would likely be kicked out and many countries would not even allow me to visit due to my mission and the issue of Kosovo being sensitive subjects to their government.

Fortunately, once I have entered into each country, I have found that ordinary citizens are usually quite touched to hear about our concerns and are often very helpful in raising the issue to their government. Once I expose people to our nation and make the voices of our people heard, most individuals that I come in contact with are interested in learning more and helping Kosovo in whatever way that they can.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been grateful to meet ‘locals’ who have helped the mission out in ways such as making me a meal, offering me a place to stay, arranging meetings with someone that they know that would benefit us, etc. Even though some of the countries that I visit may be one of the last one’s to recognize our independence, this still will not prevent me from bringing our message to the ordinary citizens there.

In fact, it is through the media and the individual people in each country that I have been most successful in raising awareness about our country. Like I have mentioned before, I have found that most of us are all alike no matter where we are born. We all desire the same things out of life: a safe place to stay, a roof over our heads, food to eat and to make sure that our families are taken care of. By talking with local individuals and local media about Kosovo’s independence, I become a kind of a thorn in the side to these governments that will not go away. I just keep bringing up the name Kosova every time and in any international political agendas.

Ok, back to my work in Gabon folks. After the airport business, I got a taxi and went to seek out a hotel right away. I could already see that my surroundings are very clean. This is such a relief to me and it makes me think that I might get a good nights sleep soon. On the other hand, I will soon find out that that night of sleep is a little on the higher priced side.

The next morning I am up and seeking out the local media. It was a little difficult to be received by them and some even kept giving me the run around. Of course, you may start to guess at which ones those would be – correct – the government channels and media outlets gave me the hardest time.

In Gabon there are two main newspapers, one private and one public. L’Union gave me a great interview. Thanks to a wonderful friend and absolute gentleman, Mr. L. Joel Akouango who is a great leader. He was a soft spoken man with many beliefs about the world. He showed a great sense of care toward our cause and was willing to write a nice article expressing a lot of sympathy about Kosovo. Mr. Akouango also introduced me to his journalist, Mr. Juste Kombile, who was very knowledgeable about Kosovo and gave me a very solid interview. I would like to thank his boss, Mr. Akouango for allowing the interview.

Thanks to Tele Africa team and Mr. David Claverie, a French gentleman currently in Gabon. He approved a meeting with Mr. Charles Stephane Mavoungou who actually completed the interview with his team. Not only did he do the television interview, he also did an interview with me for BBC Radio Africa and an interview in French for the radio station 94.0FM. The Tele Africa team was so efficient, that I was able to see my interview on the evening news. The next morning, my taxi driver even mentioned to me that he was able to view it too on the morning news.

Regarding the government, I want to thank Mr. Paul Bie Eyene, the General Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He took some time to meet with me to discuss Kosovo’s independence. I was able to deliver Vlora Citaku’s letter to him and in return, he assured me that he would deliver it to his boss on the same day. I would also like to thank Mr. Gaston Brun Beraud, a Consul Honoraire of Cote D’Ivoire for Sao Tome e Principe. I met him while he was traveling in Gabon and he offered to attempt to use his connections in an effort to help expose Kosovo to the Gabonese, Sao Tome and Cote D’Ivoire governments.

Finally, I can’t forget to thank my taxi driver, Mr. Patrick Etoukomoye Osseine.  He was very nice to me and very helpful while he drove me around his country.

One thing that I want to mention here is that, here in Gabon, Josip Broz Tito, the former President of Yugoslavia had a big presence during the 1970′s. Though 30 years have passed, ‘Tito’ for sure is still respected in many African countries today.