The Black Live Matter Debate From a Traveler’s Point of View

For the past weeks I have been engaged in several discussions about racism and black lives in the USA. I did discuss primarily with republicans. Here are some of the arguments I encountered and my answers to them.

Image of Rua de Banana Street. The first street built by European owned enslaved people from Africa. It made it possible for Europeans to "train" their slaves before sending them to the Americas.
This is the Rua de Banana Street. It was this street in Cape Verde that kick-started the worst chapter in human history: The colonialism. This was the first street ever built and settled by European colonizers (with help of slaves) in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Racism is not the only problem

“Racism is not the number one problem we have in the world anymore. What about human trafficking? What about Palestine? What about Yemen? What about black on black violence? What about abortions? Did you know the number one threat to black peoples lives are abortions?”

Yes, there are many problems in this world besides racism. However, I would like you to research a term called “whataboutism”. Basically, when you throw a “what about” argument, the underlying motive is to run away from this particular problem by pointing out something else wrong, that you think I would not support. So yes, there are many “what abouts”, but if we for a second only focus on racism in the American system and society, you might learn something very valuable that you can use to fight other problems that are nearer to your heart.

“Fine, so let’s focus on that. Did you know the biggest threat to black lives are other black criminals way more than police?”

Before I answer you, I want you to reflect about whether this question really has anything to do with the subject of racism in the USA? Because by asking this, you are diverting the problem we are addressing from “racism being a threat to black lives” to “black lives are a threat to black lives”. So this is also under the category “whataboutism”.

However, now you brought it up: The short answer is, that black on black criminality is just as common as white on white criminality proportionally. When you get angry about the high crime rate in the black community, you should relate that to their social circumstances rather than their skin color. Their social circumstances are dictated by the systemic racism in the USA. More on this later. If you take one thing out of this subject is, do not argue with “what about”.

I believe a decent human being can empathize with more than just one cause. Sure, you might have spent years fighting human trafficking or apartheid in Palestine or famine in Yemen, but I hope you wont be so much into only one injustice, that you cannot see another.

When is it time for other causes to get attention?

“I understand whataboutism, but I still wonder when is it time to talk about Yemen or Palestine? When can we create just as much awareness as the BLM-movement has had? Shouldn’t we tackle the more urgent problems first?”

There are some subjects that get more traction than others. They become more mainstream than others. And it is not always the most urgent ones. We have all been travelling and seen extreme poverty in other parts of the world than in the USA. But let me tell you this:

Now, we are lucky to have started a huge movement, which rarely happens for any of the “righteous” issues we like to fight for. So instead of refusing to be part of it, because Yemen or Palestine is more urgent, we should partake. Why?

The BLM is mostly focused on racism in the USA. The USA is also the most powerful nation on earth, and it’s policies (even the internal ones) have direct influence on the rest of the world, even on a personal level. The USA is involved in all larger problems in the world including Palestine and Yemen.

I believe, when the bottom line is lifted in the USA, when racism is just a little bit less, it will also have a positive effect on other more urgent topics.

The statistics are not so bad

“Here is a statistic saying 370 white people were shot by the police last year versus 235 black people”

Without even checking your source, I can already see that the killing of black people is way higher than the population percentage suggest it should be (13%). In fact, it should be only around 66 black people killed, if it had to correspond to the population percentage of black people.

“Oh, well if you compare to the crime rate in the black community, it should make sense then.”

So even here, you are not right. It is hard to make an estimate of how much crime every race makes, because not all crimes are reported or investigated, and most white crimes are financial fraud by mostly white Americans that never get caught. The very thing we are opposing; is that police are harsher on black people than white people. And the police are the ones making those statistics.

But let us play your game:

According to the OJJDP black people count for 26,5% of the arrests in the USA, while white people count for 69,7%. Let us for a second ignore the fact that cops are prone to arrest black people more than white people, and apply those numbers to your above killing statistics:

(370/69.7*100)*0.265 = 140,7 people

So even if you compare the crime rate in the black community, only 140 people should statistically get killed by police, not 235 people. That is 95 human lives statistically unjustifiably killed by the police every year.

So yes, there are a lot of statistics supporting the claim of police brutality against black lives. In all this, we have not taken into considerations the following:

  1. Police under-counts the number of police killings in official reports (sources: The New York Times).
  2. White crimes are often of another type, namely financial, which is rarely investigated, rarely exposed, and rarely put to justice
  3. One thing is police brutality, another is sentences black people get for a crime are much higher than for white people.
  4. The numbers do not reflect whether the victims of police killing were armed or not, or under what circumstances they got shot. There are many reports of unnecessary killings, when it comes to black lives.
    • Unarmed black people are more than 4 times more likely to be shot by police than unarmed white people (sources: The Washington Post).

You should fight from within the system

“We have built an amazing country, although not perfect. This country will allow you to fight injustice from within the system. Going the legal way. That is the only way I will support a movement to deal with racism. I am against any kind of rioting.”
could be talking about the USA or another majority white country.

While I sympathize a lot with this argument, I do not believe it is always true. And definitely not the only way. While some might work for the cause in silence, let others speak up.

If you are not white:
Basically, you are trying to infiltrate a system that in the same time is trying to hold you back as it favors white people. If you are very skilled and capable, you might succeed of course. However, the impact you can do for the cause personally will not be significant, in best case incremental, in most cases very local.

Obama became the president of the United States, and even he could not change the system. There are two things, that will hold you back:

  1. You will have to compromise your integrity and belief system to reach that high, when you are not white. This is because you will have to appeal to the average white person who is unaware of their racial biases.
  2. You will start to care more about being a role model for the non-white kids than doing an actual change.

So yes, accumulated talent working for the cause will work in the end, but it is a very very slow approach that will take ages to achieve. On the other hand, the BLM movement can accelerate all of this. 40 years worth of work could be achieved in a few months. Do not put your own career before your values, even if it feels hampering to your career to speak up.

If you are white:
You can certainly use your position and white privilege to fight racism, do work from within. No one is keeping an eye on you as much as they are on non-white people. However, do not stay silent. We have a momentum now to enforce systemic changes, and that we should take advantage of.

“But if I speak up now, it might hurt my chances to get to a better position, where I can make an even larger impact”

Again, there is no certainty you will. If this is about your own career, then do not use your career as an excuse for your silence. However, if you work to achieve a better world, you should know that it is more valuable to speak up now, loud and clear. We need as many white voices to normalize anti-racism.

Indeed, all this is of course my own opinion. I really think we need people to speak up and not be afraid.

I don’t agree with removing my Africa pictures

“I do not agree that my pictures of smiling children I took in Africa is portraying racism. These were pictures from real life, and I did not just take random pictures of poverty, I actually had a special connection with those kids I met and asked for permission to take their pictures. It is a valuable memory of my visit and a personal experience, and I know very well I am no savior to them, even if I volunteered.”

First of all, you are not a bad person for taking those pictures. If you absolutely want them on your Instagram or Facebook profile, then most people would not even notice. And those who do, would not judge you based on only that.

The problem with the pictures is, that they portray a continent in desperate need of your help to save them. In desperate need of tourists and volunteers and your old clothes. If you have been to Africa, you would know there is much more progress in the continent, and we should rather promote this narrative to flourish it even more.

So if those pictures mean so much to you, you can keep them in your private photo album. It is not enough, that you do know you are a savior. We do not need others to think that you are.

To someone who has never heard about this debate:

There are many morally questionable aspects of taking pictures of and with poor smiling African kids. You can read about it on those links:

Expat Panda: Stop Using Black And Brown Children as Photo Props

Sacred Footsteps: Orientalist Travel Photography: ‘Creating’ the Native

No more white guilt!

“Why do I have to feel bad for something I did not even do? No one agrees with slavery anymore, we would never want that back. But I do not want to live my life in guilt for something that happened hundreds of years ago.”

I agree, you should not live in guilt for what happened back then. If you feel guilty for that, I am truly sorry, I really do not see why you should feel guilty. I hope it goes away.

I understand it, because I feel the same thing about terrorism and wars fought in the Middle East, being from there myself. It is not my fault, but I found myself in constant blame by spectators.

So I also understand, that this feeling of guilt is magnified when you hear about how slavery has had a direct impact on black people’s lives today. History is not told and documented for anyone to feel guilty, it is told and documented for two reasons:

  1. Learning from it and not repeating mistakes.
  2. To understand why the world is how it is today. We are a result of what has happened in the past.

It is not your fault, that things are like this. You were born into a world of injustice. Try to turn this guilty feeling into a driving force to fight racism. You can even use this feeling to easier sense and distinguish racism. I have certainly used this, whenever I encounter an extremist.

As a rule of thumb, anytime you feel guilted as a white person, you can turn it into an understanding of white privilege.

I really really hope that you will not use your guilty feeling as an excuse to stop fighting racism and speaking up against inequality.

Equal opportunities, not equal outcome

“We live in a country with equal opportunities, and I feel black people are complaining because the outcome did not turn out to be as equal, which is none of our fault.”

I do believe that if there truly was equal opportunities for everyone, the outcome would also be equal within statistical uncertainty. However, it is a theory that is hard to prove. The question is rather: Why do you think the outcome would not be equal? Is there something inherently different about black people’s capabilities?

What you perceive as the right to equal opportunities is actually the right to claim equal opportunities. There is no guarantee you will get it. And especially not in the private sector. Especially in the USA, where education and healthcare has to be paid out of own pocket, it is hard to claim that there are equal opportunities. I can advise you to research systemic racism, red lining and even statutory racism in your own country.

There is a strong white bias all over the world. Everyone (non-whites included) prefer to do business with white people solely because of the prestige and reputation. White people favor each other at job interviews and as business partners.

Even in the schools, there is a huge bias. I have felt this on my own skin in elementary school, high-school and universities. The stories are so emotional, I cannot write about them.

I am sure any non-white person, will tell you that they had to work extra hard to achieve half as much as a white person. And when I say “all,” I actually do mean it. Even the ones supporting Trump, I believe would agree although they would add “but stop whining.”

Whining or not, there is no equal opportunity, there is no equal treatment.

“But you can see that Asian immigrants for example are doing very well in society compared to black people, so I believe if they wanted they could have achieved better, but they would rather complain.”

You cannot draw parallel between Asian immigrants and black people. Black people are not recent immigrants. They were brought to the Americas as enslaved people by the white immigrants from Europe who today rule the USA. All those years have developed an inherent bias that hurts black people more than Asians.

Asians came mostly to the USA because they were needed as a work force in recent years. They came to the country with skills and promised job opportunities. Black people have been refused to enter “white schools” until 1964, and they have since been kept in an economical gap by Redlining that prevented them from succeeding. When one black person despite all odds succeeds, he is discriminated against on the job market.

In fact, Asian people do not have it easy either. They are in constant struggle to overcome the stereotypes that white people hold against them.

As with everything, you need to study the history to understand why the world is as it is today. If you just look at a snapshot, you will fool yourself.

The looting must stop

“How does it even help their cause, when they start looting and destroying local businesses. Those businesses are struggling too and not even white. They are just repelling people who would have supported them.”

I do not agree with the looting either. But we must not use it as an excuse to be against the movement. Historically, all revolutions and protests have been exploited by some individuals or even large groups of people for their own benefit. There is no 100% pure and violent free revolution.

So instead of saying_

“It is sad that a black man got killed, but the looting must stop.”

Try to say:

“It is horrible that property is being looted, but killing black people must stop.”

There is also another argument, that has been roaming around since Trevor Noah made a video talking about it, arguing that the social contract that make up society is broken in the USA, making the looting irrelevant. I would really encourage you to watch it.

Unfortunately, peaceful protests have never led to any major change in this world. Modern history books will always pull out Gandhi and Martin Luther King as the two examples for peaceful protests, but the truth is much more complex and much different. As always, history is written by the victorious. In this case, the victorious are using those examples as to uphold the status quo.

The fact is that the media will show more attention when there is some kind of vandalism, which is find very sad.

Black people are naturally more violent

“Look at what is happening in Africa, in countries like the Congo and compare to what is happening in other former colonies who live in peace, in particularly Asia.”

It is not true that Africa is more violent than other former colonies. You can easily look to India and Burma, where you find plenty of violence. You can also look to the Middle East and find the same. Even in countries like Indonesia, there have been genocides, although it is peaceful today.

You have to understand colonial history very well to understand why some regions today are suffering with violence. When the Europeans left Africa, the Middle East and India, they divided the territories without any deeper understanding of the people who actually lived there. Then then went on to support one tribe over the other in different ways to create hate and envy between locals. It was a divide and conquer game that is still played to this day.

There is absolutely no historical and no contemporary evidence that says black people are more violent. In fact, if you look at it historically, Europe have been savages while the Middle East, Asia and Africa flourished with richness, art, science and great architecture.

It is hard to trust what Muslims say

Their own books are filled with hate and violence, so I will not believe them when they say their religion is about peace. Just look at what is happening in the Middle East”

It is so sad that you deny a person the right to tell his own truth. The truth is, an average Muslim person did not grow up with books that promote hate and violence. In fact, these books you are talking about are probably a niche. You can find Christian books that promote hate and violence as well, that does not mean that all Christians are hateful.

Please, allow someone to explain his own beliefs himself, and do not impose your prejudice on them, even if you have read all the “bad” books yourself. If he tells you, he does not believe in something written in those books, he most certainly does not believe it.

The violence happening in The Middle East has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with the colonial past. What is happening in the Middle East is also happening in Christian parts of Africa and Buddhist parts of Asia.

In addition, you cannot justify racism against Muslims in particular. Why are we even discussing this topic? Did you give up on justifying racism as a whole so you are focusing on justifying your Islamophobia?

Do not judge too quickly

The cop who killed George Floyd might not have been racist. He might have been just a very bad man. Do not assume anything, and leave the judging to God”

Millions of people worldwide have seen the video and have not been in doubt that the killing is racial related. Normally, I hate to use pathos in my argumentation, but when you refuse to see racism in a situation that is so obviously racist to millions of people, it says something about your lack of empathy and understanding of the majority of black peoples lives.

So let me explain this without any pathos: If you asked Derek Chauvin (the cop who killed George Floyd) if he is racist, he will say no. Almost no one would claim to be racist, and yet we have racism everywhere. It is the subconscious racism that is the problem. The subconscious racism that makes it more natural for Chauvin to be without mercy when he handles a black man versus a white man.

The question is, what do you want to achieve by arguing that Chauvin is not racist?

Is it that there is no racism in the police or justice system in the USA? All statistics are against you.

Is it that police brutality is not linked to race? Again, all statistics are against you, but even if you are right, it is still a problem. Police brutality is a problem no matter what.

I do not believe the protests will matter

“I do not think any of this will be fruitful. There will always be racism even a 100 year from now.”

It has already mattered. If it was not for the protests, Derek Chauvin would still be harassing people as a police officer. There has already been some reforms to some police departments and more is on the way. More people than ever now have a basic understanding of white privilege, white supremacy and systemic racism.

People have learned history, they were never taught in school. How many of the following topics did you learn about just since George Floyd’s death:

  • Smaller European nations part in colonization
  • Juneteenth
  • Tulsa Massacre
  • Redlining
  • Malcolm X
  • Whataboutism
  • Seneca Village and Central Park
  • Compensation to slave owners
  • The Red Summer of 1919
  • The crimes and racism of Winston Churchill

Imagine how many years until we get those topics in the curriculum. So maybe there will still be racism 100 years from now, but just in a few weeks the end of racism has come nearer than ever.

The Erased Heritage of Palestine: A traveller’s itinerary

By Homeintheair (Instagram: @Homeintheair)

During my 10 hours visit to Jerusalem I got a mild form of the famous Jerusalem Syndrome. I was so amazed by all the holy and historical sites. It is truly the most culturally dense city in the world. But Palestine is much more than just Jerusalem. The country is filled with historical sites.

However, during the Nakba the Israeli’s initiated a military program to erase as much non-jewish heritage from the country as possible. This meant the demolishing of some of the most holy sites in Islam and Christianity. Of course the Islamic sites has been hit the hardest, due to the Pope’s intervention which saved some Christian sites and made it possible for hundred thousands of the Christian Palestinians to return after being expelled in the first place.

Nonetheless countless of mosques and churches were either destroyed completely or turned into synagogues, warehousing, horse stables, nightclubs or the like. The exact number is of course disputed but both sides agrees that at least 570 villages were completely destroyed by the Israelis where each one had probably 1-2 mosques. On top of that comes the bigger towns and cities that were destroyed and the many muslim neighborhoods in Jerusalem. You can do the math.

So finally, I have a huge interest in discovering lost places. I seriously should have been an archaeologist! Some of these places I discovered while doing research for my itinerary for my next visit to Palestine. My researcher gene took over and I listed those 10 significant holy sites that were destroyed by Israel during the Nakba and until today. Number in parenthesis is the year of destruction.

1. Nabi Rubin (Reuben son of Jacob) (1948)
Nabi Rubin was one of the most popular sites in Palestine before 1948. The mosque housed Reuben’s grave and every year one of the largest festivals in Palestine would take place here. The festival included singing, dancing the Dabke, distribution of colorful candy, sufi prayers, horse races and magic shows. The festival was so exciting, that Palestinian women from afar would tell their husbands: “Either you take me to Nabi Rubin or you divorce me!”. In 1947 the last festival was held. The next year the city was razed by the Israelis and the mosque destroyed. 
Today, Jews are trying to claim the ruins of the shrine to be one of their own, but their plans has been facing difficulty since Jewish tradition place the grave of Reuben somewhere very different.

Nabi Rubin Festival
The Nabi Rubin Festival before 1948

 

2. Nabi Yamin (Prophet Benjamin) (1948) 
This mosque was not destroyed but converted into a synagoge and prohibited muslim entrance even though the place in the first place was holy to muslims only. Before 1948 the place was not considered holy by the original Palestinian Jews (the Yishuv Jews), nor was it considered the true burial place of Benjamin. 

Nabi-Yamin-50
Nabi Yamin mosqye turned into a Synagoge

 

3. Nabi Shuayb and Mosque of Hittin (1948)
Hittin was a very special city to muslims. Here Saladdin won the battle against the crusaders that lead to the reconquest of the holy land. He built the city and the mosque in this place where the tomb of Nabi Shuayb happened to be. Nabi Shuayb has always been important to the Druze population of Palestine. Muslims and Druze shared this mosque until Hittin was destroyed by Israel in 1948. The mosque of Hittin was completely destroyed and ruins can still be visited while they gave the mosque of Nabi Shuayb exclusively to the Druze as a payment for them to join the Israeli forces.

PikiWiki_Israel_48150_Nabi_Shuayb
Nabi Shuayb still looking like a mosque from the inside

 

4. Nabi Samt (Judge Samson) (1948)
This shrine contained both the tomb of Samson and his father Manoah. It was destroyed with the city of Sar’a (Zorah). After it was proven that the tomb actually belonged to the two holy people, the ruins of the city has been taken over by Israel as an important archeological site.

5. Al-Nabi Yusha’ (Joshua) (1948)
This was the name of a small village that also housed the tomb of Joshua. The village was under French control during the colonization and therefore, officially, a part of Lebanon. However, the French decided to leave the village to the British who were colonizing Palestine. The British gave Palestine to the Jews which included this originally Lebanese village. And yes, they destroyed it all including the tomb. Ruins can still be found but are rarely visited.

Al_Nabi_Yusha_Mosque
What is left of Nabi Yusha Shrine

 

6. Al-Hussein mosque, Ashkalon (1950)
This site was the holiest to muslims outside of Jerusalem. Here the head of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad was buried. The shrine was said to be the most magnificent building in Ashkalon at the time. This having absolutely no value for Jews, it was the most important mosque for zionists to erase. Today a medical center has been built on the grave.

Sey'd_Hussein_ashkelon
Pilgrims going to the Al-Hussein Shrine in 1943

 

7. Sheikh Eid mosque, Jerusalem (1967)
The destruction of this mosque is part of the story of the destruction of one of the most historical areas in Jerusalem, the Moroccan Quarter. This quarter of Jerusalem dates back to Saladdin’s era and the Sheikh Eid Mosque was the biggest and most prominent in this quarter. The whole quarter was destroyed in order to make room for a big square where 200.000 Jews could stand in front of the Buraq Wall (Wailing wall). The residence got 15 minutes warning to leave their houses before the demolishing. Those who did not leave, were killed by the bulldozers wrecking their walls down. 

Moroccan quarter
The Moroccan quarter. I cannot believe I actually stood there just right there not knowing what thriving life has been here once.

 

8. Al Buraq mosque, Jerusalem (1967)
This mosque was also destroyed during the raze on the Moroccan Quarter. This mosque however, was the second most holy to muslims in Jerusalem. It was built where muslims believe that prophet Muhammad tied his divinely sent horse (the Buraq). One of the leaders behind this demolition said “”Why shouldn’t the mosque be sent to Heaven, just as the magic horse did?”. The basement of the mosque, I believe, is still accessible today. 

9. Al-Khadra Mosque, Nablus (2002)
The Nakba never really ended. So I have included a very historical mosque that was destroyed not long time ago. This mosque was built on the holy site where Prophet Jacob cried after believing Joseph had been killed. The mosque is also named “Sadness of our Lord Jacob”.

Nablus is a large city belonging to the Palestinians on the West Bank. In 2002, Israel razed the city and their bulldozers destroyed countless UNESCO heritage sites including this mosque and Abd Al-Hadi Palace.

10. Siksik Mosque, Jaffa (1948)
This mosque is one of the examples of how they used mosques to other purposes after conquering land. This mosque was first turned into a Bulgarian restaurant, then a nightclub and then a warehouse for a plastic factory. And this is the fate of many mosques and churches as well in the bigger cities.

Maybe at some point I will research the churches and do a blog post about those too. And of course, there are countless more holy sites I did not include. There are also palaces, archeological sites, hamams and historical city centers that were completely destroyed that I did not include here. Long story short: thousand years of heritage was destroyed in this country, but ruins remain for us to go and explore which I would love to have the chance to do.

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Guide for travelling to dictatorships

One of the largest reasons for people not to travel is fear. Specially when it comes to countries with bad reputation or with systems that is very different from the one of your own country. I thought I would share my experience travelling to some of those countries and 10 tips about how to prepare and how to behave 🙂

1. Freedom of thought does exist even in dictatorships

First of all, let me just state that there is no definite way of defining a dictatorship and even if you pointed at a country you think is a stereotype dictatorship, there will be millions telling you it is not. But this exact thing is actually the essence of the first thing you have to understand before even researching the country you want to visit.

Just like there are people of all different convictions and political opinions in your country, there is different convictions and political opinions even in the strongest dictatorships. And this is not just another “political correct” statement, this is an actual reality that you will encounter while travelling in dictatorships. You will actually get to meet people with opposite beliefs, but I will get back to that.

2. Do your research!

This is of course a given. But to relax your nerves I will tell you this: Dictatorships are often more safe to visit than democracies because law is strictly enforced, meaning no much space for thieves, rapists, scammers and the like. Some of the most safe countries in the world are what most people would call dictatorships. Just look at the Gulf or even Central Asia.

3. Check comments online

Another important piece of information is knowing the extend of the strictness of the dictatorship. The word dictatorship is thrown around very easily, even in democracies where a large minority just don’t like any of the options in an election. So it ranges from  dictatorships that probably are not a dictatorship at all, to dictatorships where you can be hanged for saying an opinion different from the ruler’s.

So here is a piece of advice you can’t just get from researching the country: Go into different social medias and find a random political topic that people has commented on from that country. Read the comment’s closely and note these questions:

  1. Are there anyone from this country that expresses the opposite opinion of his government or openly talks bad about them? (Make sure they are actually living in that country)
    • If there are many, probably the “dictatorship” is not that strict. So go there and relax but keep your opinions to yourself when meeting officials or total strangers.
    • If people comment but agreeing with the government even on insane matter’s, you will know that the country is very strict, however the population might love their “king”. But you will have to know, that there is always someone of the opposite opinion and if none of them express their opinion openly it is because they are scared for their lives. You can go there, but under no circumstances should you talk against the government while you are there (unless you are a political activist, then I wish you luck from all my heart).
  2. Do people easily fight in the comments?
    • Be aware of the topics they discuss and avoid talking about your own opinions with the wrong persons. Do some research to know in which part of the country or city that those opinions are dominating. Do NOT be afraid of talking to people from both sides. People on the internet are way more aggressive than in real life. When meeting people from the opposite opinion than your own then ask lots of open questions instead of discussing your personal opinion. Maybe you will even learn something new.

4. Passport renewal and visa

Some dictatorships and questionable democracies do not allow you to enter the country if you have been visiting one of the “enemy” countries. If you are going to several countries and you know that the second country do not like the first one, you can sometimes ask for a removable visa. It is basically a normal visa, but instead of gluing it to the passport, they just put a paper clip so you can remove it.

Another idea is to renew your passport before you leave. Be careful that they would not be able to find out where you have been e.g. if you have visited before with the old passport or if you have lots of pictures online from that country. If so, do not lie if you are asked.

5. Take precautions before landing

Some dictatorships will interrogate you upon landing, specially if you come from a country they do not like or if you are known for your political statements on the internet. I would advice you to delete your Twitter app and log off from most of the websites and apps you normally use to express your opinions. Delete sensitive messages. Some dictatorships looks intensively in your phone and make you unlock it for them to read your messages.

They can be very insisting, even if you do not have anything to hide. For example: If you say “I don’t have Facebook”, they will insist they don’t believe you.

If you are going to China or another country who block’s common western websites, then make sure to install a proxy and WeChat before going. A proxy might be illegal in some countries so prepare yourself before going. For China I would recommend installing the proxy beforehand because they are not nosy with your phone at arrival, but keep a low profile. Do not walk around with Google showing on your screen or you can be facing a large fine.

Remember, this is not only for China. WhatsApp and Skype might be blocked in many countries, at least the calling service of it. Here WeChat or Telegram might be handy to use instead, but make sure those at home also have it.

6. Keep it cool at interrogations but do not lose your integrity!

If they want to talk to you at the airport, do not freak out. This happens probably a lot and in the worst case they will just send you back. Do not state any political opinion, just say that you do not care about politics and only interested in seeing culture and nature. But do not compromise your integrity either. Do not admit to an opinion that you do not have – but do not tell them your real opinion if it is against their system. Just keep avoiding the question – either they get tired of you and let you in or they get tired of you and send you back. There is nothing worth losing your integrity over, specially if you only want to do tourism.

My best advice, is keep an open mind, stay out of political discussions and treat them with a sweet behavior.

7. Do not express yourself openly

Keep your opinion to yourself publicly. Watch your mouth for things you say. I have done this mistake before where I just say something without thinking about where I am. Always be conscious about what you are saying and where. Most importantly: Do not question the ruler’s authority, right or opinion.

8. Adapt to the culture  

You are out to experience a new culture, so adapt! It will also keep you safer. Again, do not lose your integrity, but do not do anything that is culturally not accepted or shameful in this country you are visiting.

9. Be careful with photography

Some dictatorships will ban you from photographing government controlled buildings or border crossings. I did the mistake once to have my GoPro video camera up at the border crossing between two dictatorships but I luckily got away with it after assuring them it was not filming. If photography is legal, then still be careful not to pose in a disrespectful way.

10. Meet different people

Remember the whole reason why you travel. It is not to confirm your own ideas about the world but to actually learn about the world. If you only hang out with people of the same political conviction as your own you will have wasted a whole trip convincing only yourself. Instead engage with everyone, do not be afraid and be understanding when someone expresses something differently. If you travel right, you cant avoid meeting people on both sides or even hearing opinions you never heard before. This is the best thing about travelling, so enjoy it with an open mind!

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The Palace of one of the most terrifying dictators in human history

Top one place to visit in Switzerland

What if you had the chance to visit Switzerland for 1 day only – what is the one experience you should visit? There are many amazing places in Switzerland but the one I would recommend is the only one I consider an actual Wonder of the World: The CERN campus!

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Me arriving at the reception in CERN. If I look tired it is because I woke up at 3 am to drive from Bern to Geneve to make it to the early morning guided tour. 

 

What is CERN?

I think most people know CERN by now, but if not then here is a little background:

CERN is the most advances scientific research center in the world. The density of knowledge and great minds in this campus is not seen anywhere else in the world. Also they have the most advanced and the biggest machinery to perform their experiments. The engineering work of this is what I consider the Wonder of the World!

Here they try to answer the most fundamental questions of the universe by experimenting with nuclear particles. This helps us to understand how the world actually were created and unveiling some of the most complex questions about our reality. How does the world work? Why are we here? Can God possibly exist?

Oh yeah.. and they also invented the World Wide Web!

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The worlds very first Large Particle Accelerator. This one is now retired, but they have build even better ones. The Large Hadron Collider is the most famous and biggest – 27 km in diameter.

But it doesn’t seem like something for me?

Maybe you aren’t interested in science but when I say people should come here it is because you will learn a life lesson here. I think every well rounded adult should have at least some basic understanding of what this place does. How are we gonna answer our children’s silly questions if we haven’t even looked into science?

What will you answer if a 5 year old asks you how come we exist? Why we believe in God? Why we don’t believe in God? What is the universe made of? Why can’t I fly? What other universes can you imagine and who is right and who is wrong?

No matter who you are or what you believe in, you should look into this! Bring your brain and come here. Don’t think you know anything about science before you visit this place.

Even if you believe in whatever conclusion you hear the scientist say. You need to come here to understand that this is our times philosophy hub. Answers are never clear even if some people would try to convince you they are.

Everything is free there. Go there and take the guided tour (book in advance). Even if you only grasp 2% of what they are telling you, it will be worth it!

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Me philosophizing at CERN xD

What did they find out so far?

I consider myself somewhat a man of science but even I only grasped like half of what the Pakistani scientist told us on the tour. However, the basics is this:

They have built the Large Hadron Collider which is the essence of the Wonder. This is basically a big circular tube under high pressure and low temperature buried 100 meter beneath the Swiss/French border. They use this machine to accelerate beams of particles and make them hit each other right where they have built enormous sensors to detect all data from the explosion, process the data and send the most interesting and newest discoveries to scientists all over the world to analyze.

Discoveries could be new unseen particles, antimatter or bosons. Antimatter is basically the exact opposite of matter.. of everything we know. In theory everything has an opposing counterpart: Night and day, hot and cold, love and hate, matter and antimatter. But for some reason antimatter just disappeared when the world was created. With this machine scientists have been able to recreate it.

Another important discovery was the Higgs Boson that you might have heard about. In simple form the boson is a particle that gives gravity to everything. Gravity is not just something that exist out of nothing, it is an actual particle that gives it. Meaning everything in the world has been in touch with this particle. This was also discovered using this wonder of a machine.

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You can actually see the scientists working on this tour! Isn’t it amazing?

I am not an expert

Okay guys, I am not an expert and I have not discovered the answered to everything. I like to learn always and of course I don’t understand the physics behind this fully. I find it interesting so the above is simplified to make it as easy to read as possible. If I am mistaken please enlighten me!

For me this was a true wonder to see and experience. Just as impressive to be there as it was to visit the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China.

Is it unique?

Someone asked the Pakistani scientist if there was any other thing similar. He answered that there are particle accelerators in the USA but they are linear which makes it hard to do the collisions. Also he said that China is doing it as well. I think they are building one just as impressive. But will it be the same wonder? I doubt it.

Not because I don’t trust Chinese science. Not at all! But because CERN is actually international. While Chinese and American like to do everything themselves CERN is open to the world. First of all CERN is totally independent from the industry and military. This is ONLY about science – not war or economy. In my honest opinion peace and science works better together. Only when all the world’s brightest minds work together we can create amazing things – have anyone read the Babylon story of the Bible? Once we get divided by nations and languages we loose everything.

Well in CERN more than 100 nationalities have united their greatest scientists only to enlighten the world in a peaceful manner. You cant feel anything but humbled walking around it’s streets and laboratories. This is a strength not seen anywhere in the world not anywhere in history since the Babel Tower was built!

After walking the tour an old Dutch gentleman asked the scientist: “Amazing.. where do you start?” And the scientist responded: “9 o’clock in the morning”.

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You can’t feel anything but humbled walking around in this place were geniuses have worked their whole life to unveil the mysteries of the universe.

The prejudice about Albanians and my experience traveling there

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InsThe Albanian Flag – picture taken by me 

When I told my colleagues back home that I will be traveling to Albania their reaction was a surprised face with the words: “Albania? I have heard they are a bunch of thieves over there!” and then the jokes started about stolen Mercedes’s and terrorism.

To be honest, the reaction disappointed me a lot but did not surprise me. Albania is one of these many countries with a bad reputation for absolutely no good reason. Actually no reason at all.

Where does the prejudice come from?

I will not attempt to explain this because there is never an excuse to have prejudice. So the answer is that it comes from narrow minded people. Any person who thinks bad about another entire population or ethnicity is either stupid or consciously evil which is worse.

That said, Albania has large disputes with other countries about territories – thus many neighboring countries have a large Albanian minority and as you guys know, minorities are always picked on. Again – because of stupidity.

Another answer is the media! I have heard specially bad things about the Italian media portraying Albanians as criminals and drug dealers. Again – not an excuse to actually believing in it.

What is the deal with Kosovo?

You might have heard that 3 Swiss football players made the Albanian eagle sign after scoring against Serbia in the FIFA World Cup 2018. The players have roots in Kosovo, so why the Albanian eagle?

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The Eagle sign by Shaqiri (Picture belongs to Yahoo Sports).

Here is the quick story:
There once was a country named Yugoslavia that consisted of many different people: amongst others; Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Albanians. Albania was not a part of Yugoslavia though. The Albanians living in Yugoslavia were from a region close to Albania but on the Yugoslavian side called Kosovo.

At some point the country split up (after a long bloody war). The Serbians tried to keep the country together under their rule but no one else wanted that. Eventually they agreed upon borders and everyone settled with their own country – except Kosovo. Because Albania existed, they were seen as immigrants by the Serbs and the right to have their own country was not recognized. Of course they could not just merge with Albania, because that would have been seen as an “invasion”.

Long story short – after a long struggle Kosovo is now recognized by most countries as an independent country. Not Albania, not Serbia – just Kosovo.

So how is Albania actually?

Mind blowing! It is certainly the most underrated country in Europe. Surely, you have already heard about the beauty of Belgrade, the famous bridge of Mostar and the amazing waterfalls of Plitvica. All those are well known tourist attractions in Balkan, while Albania is almost empty for tourists despites it’s unique history and beauty.

The people are very friendly and are actually good English speakers. I did not encounter any even slightly suspicious behavior from anyone. The country is very diverse religiously and everyone seem to respect the other’s way of living.

Albania has had a very dark history and was one of the last countries to recognize the end of the cold war, and that is very pronounced when you visit. You see it in the museums and the architecture of Tirana.

The Albanians are also very honest about their history, and they are not shy to talk about it and explain it to you. Because of that, their museums are very interesting. If you have been to Berlin, you would maybe think their museums were interesting but also a bit depressing. Tirana’s museums will not depress you but terrify you. And while Berlins museums are kinda apologizing for the horror, Tirana’s are just pure honest which makes them so much more interesting!

I will soon be doing another blog post about the history of Albania and what you can expect and learn from that country. If you are interested in knowing more let me know 🙂