Sunday, May 22, 2011

Questions from Choctaw High School - Oklahoma

My new friends at Choctaw High School in Oklahoma have sent me some questions about my journey.  Here they are with my answers.

My question is: Do you plan to enjoy this trip, or will it be painful? -- Rachel Baack

I expect the ride to be physically demanding for sure.  It’s a long ride with very little in the way of home comforts.  However, my aim is to enjoy the trip as a civilian tourist. Last time I saw Angola it was as a soldier, and Angola was the battlefield.  This time I’m looking forward to seeing the beauty of the place and its people.

What if the trip isn't what you are expecting, are you going to be disappointed? -- Erica Herman

I guess when we follow our hearts and our dreams there’s always the risk of disappointment.  But I think the greatest disappointment would be not to take the chance in the first place. So yes, I may in some way be disappointed.  But I’d rather be disappointed trying than sitting at home wondering!

How long did it take you to realize that you needed to make this journey, and was it hard to finally make the decision to do it? -- Cassandra Velasco

I think I’ve always wanted to go back to Angola in peacetime.  Even when I was in the bush as a soldier, I wondered what it would be like to see that beautiful landscape without the constant fear and fighting going on.  The decision came naturally.  It just feels like the right time, so the decision kind of made itself.  So it was easy.

Do you have any smaller goals for this trip, other than the main ones you talked about in your blog?
-- Hunter Brodrick

There are several things I’m hoping for, aside from the overall goal of “putting ghosts to rest”.  I am hoping to write about my journey, hopefully in book form, but if not, then on my blog.  I’d like to meet some ex-soldiers from the Angolan army so that I can hear about their experiences.  I’d like to tell them I’m sorry that I contributed in a small way to perpetuating that terrible civil war in their country.  And I’d like to contribute to a dialogue in South Africa that encourages other ex-conscripts to speak out about the effects the war had on them and that they can find their own healing path.

Do you feel like your trip will help put other people whose situation is similar to yours ghosts to rest, or perhaps inspire them to take the same journey that you are about to take? -- Brandon Reed

Sorry Brandon, seems I answered your question above! It is certainly my hope. Everyone’s journey is different.  I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to undertake the journey in a physical sense.  But certainly in an emotional sense.

When on bike you can’t pack as much stuff, what are some of the items you will pack maybe for emergencies, daily life, or recording your journey while packing light? -- Chase Gooch

Well a very good first aid kit is a must.  Including things like needle kits for injections and drips etc.  HIV and Hepatitis can be transmitted by unsterilized needles so I’ll carry my own.  I’ll carry some emergency food in case I can’t get any along the way, eg. If I’m not sleeping in a village.  My camera is very important to me and I can use it for video as well as still photography.  I’ll also need a few notebooks.  I’ll need a Portuguese/English dictionary or phrasebook.  I am debating what shelter to take for when I camp.  Either my lightweight tent or a bivvy bag.  Possibly a mosquito net because this is malaria country.  Wow, this list is growing!  Finally, I will need some spares for my bike.

In one of your very first posts you mentioned that you believe you "fought on the wrong side of a grubby local war" (or so I took it). Is one of your main reasons for going to Angola to put some of your ghosts to rest to go back as a "friend" rather than a "foe"?  -- Rachel Kelley

In short Rachel, yes.  Inner peace and peace with old foes are intricately linked I think.  Governments make enemies out of men and women who would likely be friends if they met of their own accord in more favorable circumstances.

I noticed in Paul's blog he said war is never good. But is that really true? Is it not war that has brought about some of the most powerful technological advances? Is it not war, along with disease, and natural disasters that keep the population in check? War is the only thing that tempers us, and makes us stronger as a species. It is war, and human bloodlust, that keep the species moving forward.  As painful as it is to say it, humanity will never coexist peacefully. War is perpetual.  – Elijah Talmud
I think you may guess my answer to this by now.  I think war requires a culture that supports it.  I think it is similar to a culture of racism and subjugation of one people by another.  Attitudes can change by those of us who disagree speaking out. As individuals we can decide to participate in the changing of that culture to a culture of peace. 

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