Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Serious thoughts from the prairie

“Why do people join Al-Queda?”, my Arabic teacher in Yemen repeated my question to himself, “Well, because in most cases they don´t have a choice. Take this friend of a friend I knew from my home town. He couldn´t get a job in the village, came here to Sanaa, didn´t get a job here either…so he ended up in crime, got caught, sent to prison, treated badly there and when he came out, the only one´s which helped him, fed him and gave him some direction was the fundamentalists and the next time I heard about him, he was the suicide bomber who blew himself and some tourists up in Hadramawt. It wouldn´t have happened if we would live in a fair society.”

A day after I landed on the prairie outside Minneapolis in freezing cold, hauling snowstorms and a geographical flatness that made me numb, a Nigerian bloke once again caused serious harm to the way the west sees the Muslim world. And he put Yemen, once again, in the center of the worlds attention. I have spent pretty much all my time reading the global newspapers, both from the East and West, and what worries me the most, is that it seems like the Western media, at times, seriously thinks that most Muslims worldwide condone what is happening. And, as serious, is that pretty much all reporting from Yemen, comes from journalists who are browsing the Internet for information. They are not actually there themselves. And this is the picture reported to the West. As you readers know, I have devoted my life to do this upcoming Expedition, for the main reason to try to present a more balanced and real picture of this exiting part of the world. Therefore I have traveled extensively in the Arab World to prepare for this Expedition. And I have met a lot of people all over the Arab world. And, only a few have voiced support for Al Oueda and its violent cause and they have all, without exceptions, been people with no decent education. However, I have met many educated Muslims, who doesn´t like the one sided view presented in the West that we are the saviors of the modern civilization. But that is a much bigger philosophical question. I just want to add my own voice and experience here and my quest to do this Expedition is stronger than ever. But, the question is, what kind of a Yemen will it be within a year?

One of few signs of Christmas that I have encountered in this small village where we we stay right now....
One of few signs of Christmas that I have encountered in this small village where we we stay right now….

There´s no doubt there is more obstacles to the Expedition now, compared to when I start planning it about a year ago. And on paper, it seems more difficult than ever to accomplish. And the major threat to it, is this continuous hatred between the West and East.  And pretty much all due to the lack of conversation and understanding. And misinformation. But, I am the first to say, that when you hear something many times, after awhile it sticks like truth in the back of your head. Therefore, when I arrived in Chicago and got briefly detained, I feared the worst, since I have come across so many travelers saying that the US immigration are the un-friendliest on earth.  I spent a long nervous time waiting to see what would happen and saw a lot of people being detained and not one of them was treated badly. Most of them time with kindness and respect. And I, as always, was lucky to come across a real human being, not judging, just trying to understand and help. And this scary visit taught me a very important lesson, never, ever stop believing in the good sides of humankind. They are everywhere.

Once again, this spectacular country is in the news again. In a very negative way. It is such a sad reality, when the truth is also that some of the best people I have ever met, live here, in one of the most spectacular countreis in the world.
Once again, this spectacular country is in the news again. In a very negative way. It is such a sad reality, when the truth is also that some of the best people I have ever met, live here, in one of the most spectacular countries in the world.

We have been almost ten days in Minneapolis now, we have once again set up a kind of a normal life with a temporary home, a temporary car, but most of the time we have been sitting inside watching TV, hiding from the cold and trying to figure out, once the bell of the new year have called, how to get America on board. There´s no doubt, if we can´t persuade America to believe in this vision, the Expedition, not a lot will change at all. There´s many obstacles along the way. The quest continuous.

We will return to Oman soon again. In the meantime, I will enjoy a traffic which is easy and uncomplicated, good bread and a state which has a Scandinavian presence which is very interesting. It means one can get lutfisk, Kalles kaviar, hard bread and ginger biscuits here! And the locals are really down to earth and in fact, where we live right now, it could be Särna, where I used to live and a place I loved. People are laid-back, big, comfortably dressed, hunt and fish, drive snow mobiles and don´t care that much for what life looks like outside their houses. So, in one way, it is like being home over Christmas!

4 comments

  1. Hi Mikael,

    Good luck for your quest in 2010.

    It’s funny isn’t it how wherever you go people are all basically the same. Deep down they have the same needs, the same ambitions, hopes and fears.

    Unfortunately most people are similar in their ability to ignore this and always think the “stranger” is different and dangerous. I guess this is a natural defence thing but in this day and age I hope we could overcome this. It’s a tough job though.

    Nick

  2. why not ask people to join you to do small parts of the trip, arabs and westeners, only for a few weeks.
    It would become a collective achievement, gratifiying for yourself and others”.
    Build a hospitable caravan, eventually people will pay to be able to join you, anyway you will probably have to change your camels from time to time (read Michael Ashers Impossible Journey)
    I think it should end in the west, Granada would be for historical and actual reasons a good place, it would speak to peoples imagination.
    More than exploration it should be a caravan of fraternization east/west, a media thing,
    you could go the other way round the Meditteranian also, through the MiddleEast, along holy places of the 3 religions of the book, as far as Turkey Istanbul or Sarajevo.
    Maybe a kind of adventurous peace caravan is likely to speak to the imagination of many young people, who maybe don t even have the opportunity to trvel.Personally I would love to see that on tv.
    As far as i can see you seem to be courageous and with a good heart Mikael, really i wish you well and succes with what you are doing. H

  3. Dear Henri! Your suggestion is excellent and I have had those thoughts for a long time. However, it isn´t easy regarding permission, paper work and so on. But the idea is great, has been in my thought for quite some time and working together with Jamie at Digital Explorer.com….Take care and thanks! M@henri

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