4 OCTOBER 2011

Chapter 1 – Puolanka to CopenhagenTuesday morning, 4th of October, we woke up early to settle the last bits and pieces. The aim was to leave at 9am, which realized at noon and we made it to the Swedish border by sunset. There we met a wise, innocent young man, Tuomas, who enlightened us with his presence. “Everything is connected in one magnificent whole and no matter the roads we take, we end up where we are meant to be.” His words were the best wishes we could have for our adventure. And we made it through the customs.In our cozy Caravelle, the coffee machine was bubbling, stereo playing, lights blinking and suddenly – there was a dark silence. The fuse burnt and we were faced with our very first car problem…and it was only the beginning. The fuse was changed and the journey continued through the night in happy spirits. We were jamming together through most of the night in JAH 806, while the Transporter VGU 746 was named as ’ZEN’ because of its peaceful, calm atmosphere. In the morning glory, after the tooth brushing football match -gas station stop, the girls took the wheel. It was the start to our next car problems… A few hours later, our fateful sidetrack caused us to recklessly drive over a tiny bridge with a dent at the end and JAH got a punch in the stomach! Kata smelled something burning and we stopped at first chance – which just happened to be a Volkswagen garage in a place called Avesta. Our gas tank was leaking all over and the breaks had burnt out but we managed to get help fast and the mechanics at Bilmetro sealed the tank and pushed us on the road for free! Miraculously, we made it all the way to Copenhagen before JAH’s brakes were on fire. Morten the Squat God from Bolsjefabrikken took us in from the streets at 4am and had booked us for a concert the next night. We slept on the stage of what would be our very first road band appearance. The gig went amazingly well considering it was our second rehearsal (after the car jam session). The Danes loved us!We dragged JAH to Mekonomen for a new gas tank and break installation and spent the weekend busking in the streets of Copenhagen to raise the money for the fix. We thank BumZen and Ali for hosting and guiding us. Lots of laughter, sleep and drumming later in lovely Copenhagen the next member of the group joined us. Mr Geert, the funny, charming and incredibly sexy dude from Portugal/Holland hopped on board. His presence brought the group some much needed positive vibrations and he was also helpful in (some) other ways.. 😉

Chapter 2 – Copenhagen to BerlinWe hit the road again on monday night. Also joining us were two new-old bikes, built at one of the squat bike shops in the city. Happily humming and looking to the future, we headed for Berlin… only to stop 20km outside of Copenhagen for gas which, to much consternation, proceeded to spill to the ground again, as if the gastank had not, indeed, been fixed. A furious Evi and Kata demanded revenge as we head back to Bumzen for the night. ”Tomorrow morning,” we schemed, ”we shall go as a group to the mechanic to demand JUSTICE!” A suggestion to firebomb the building was quickly vetoed amd we decided on a more diplomatic route. The next morning it became clear that the mechanical troubles were not intentional slights, but simply mistakes from our garage. Cool Danny the Mechanic and his crew of merry men got back to work and, thanks to the charm of our very own Kata, we were able to procure some of the required parts for free. After a few hours playing and running around in a nearby park, we returned to the garage to find Jah only moments from completion. A couple of final checks and a happy Cool Danny brought her down and took her for a celebratory test drive. Upon his return to the garage, he made sure to brake hard to impress on us the quality of our tuned brakes. With a teary goodbye and a giant yellow Mekonomen sticker on our door, we headed off into the sunset.The drive goes well, with a  fun stop on the ferry. Fun Fact: The ferry between Denmark and Germany is big, fun and full of terrible food. Cigarettes were had on the sun-deck which was, due to the hour and the season, not sunny but rather windy. Our spirits cannot be dampened. Teemu and Geert have a go at the arcade only to learn that Teemu is a fraction of a second faster than Geert but neither fast enough to stay in the race. In a further demonstration of lack of speed, Geert decided to take his time getting back to the car when we docked only to find himself stranded on board. Pretending to be a truck, he makes his way down the short highway to the spot where Jah, Zen and the jolly Finns await him. Germany, here we come!

Chapter 3 – Ich Bin Ein Berliner!It took a while, but we did it. Driving through the night, crossing the sea and arriving to Potsdam at yet another sleepless 4am. Though straight from the repair shop, JAH got tired of the journey and starts grunting again on the last kilometres – the first sign that we should stay put for another while. Martin, the friendly Giant, somehow manages to pack all 10 of us into his lovely flat and show us great patience and hospitality through the night and the next few days. The Giant is not only Friendly, but well connected. On our second day, he has organised a gig for us at the nearby Bar Gelb. We eagerly set up and jammed for hours happy to be paid in drinks. The crowd was great although they were vastly outnumbered by the band. Bubbles filled the air. The day after driving is spent on recuperation. Though the vans are our saviors and shelters, they take a lot of energy from us – JAH with its reoccuring strange sounds and crooked parts and ZEN with all the donated stuff that takes some genious to pack and unpack and pack and unpack…  We still dream of decorating them with tapes and paints on top of all the mechanic shop stickers, so that passers by will know we are not just a driving disaster but a circus too! Speaking of which, learning to juggle has been the theme of the week :)The day after gig was also spent in recuperation and half the crew made it to Berlin to enjoy some Turkish soup and elaborate cocktails. The next day the rest followed and on the 15th of October we were all reunited at the Global Change -demonstration, along with about 100 000 Berliners, marching past the Bradenburg gate for true democracy. Teemu was lucky enough to be handed a protest sign of his very own. He now feels strongly that ’mit gelt spelen man nicht’ – ’man shouldn’t play with money’. In a spirit of democracy and unity we then went out drinking. Vatu returned later to the illegal squatting at the parliament where he learnt the word ’schweinen’ as his camera light annoyed some friendly policemen who decided to sit on him. He was also the first of our gang to be pepper-sprayed! Congratulations from all of us, Vatu. Some words (from Mia) for the politically literate and/or people who like discussing opinions: ”The reasons for our trip somewhat coincide with this movement to bring power back to the people – we are also tired of big corporations and their policies eating our common welfare. Perhaps this was in the back of our minds when we chose to come on this trip instead of going somewhere else or spending our money on some other charitable cause. The problems of our hypocritic system are evident in the landscape of modern Africa – the people don’t own their land, their voices are muted from our (tv) receptors and we all feel powerless to face the men with money and guns. But hopefully we (around the world) are the 99%. Our chosen action towards this global change is this journey – sharing what we have, teaching what we know, doing what we can – but most of all, learning from each and every experience. Slowly, we are coming together and making the most of our journey.”The next day was a huge flea-market/crazy Berlin shindig at the Mauerpark. Teemu and Niko were early, deciding for convenience not to sleep after dancing all night and instead make their nest on the grass. Kata celebrated her birthday and we all tried to enjoy the beautiful October Berlin weather. We gathered later at the Morgen Rot café to get ourselves back on target – where are we going and how will we get there? The car still had troubles and the confusion of keeping 10 people together in a big city had gotten to us so we decided that the next morning we would meet at nine in the morning to get the car fixed and figure out our next steps. Bleary-eyed and a little grumpy we met the following morning. A quick trip to the local Volkswagen dealer left us with both good and bad news. Good news: Kata learned to drive Jah! Bad news: Jah is falling apart and repairing her would cost almost as much as a new (old) van. The many limbs of Apu Paku quickly get to work trying to figure out what to do and it seems we might have a solution: tomorrow morning we are going to meet a guy who is in the business of sending trucks to Africa. Perfect? We will see. If this works out, he will soon also get a fun nickname

Chapter 4 – What the fuck are we going to do?

This past week has been both eventful and painfully less so. After we had exhausted our welcome in various hospitable homes in Berlin, we moved our group south, just outside the city to an eco-village-squat-commune type thing. There is plenty of room for us (the only rule here is guests are always welcome) and though it is quite cold, the reception has been, for the most part, very warm. The first night here was spent talking to a couple of other guests from America, then most of the group went to sleep while a couple of us stayed up late with some of the local residents talking about life and what this place was all about. Beers were had and then finally, everyone drifted off the sleep.Through a convoluted string of contacts we had got ourselves the number of a guy who might be able to help. After a day of unreturned phonecalls, we were invited to go the next afternoon to Genshagen, a small town south of Berlin where our man Heinz ”37 Solutions” hooked us up with King Mustafah the Protector, Mechanic Extraordinaire. With many a chuckle and many a shaking of the head, he got to work fixing some of the main problems that our little VW Caravelle was suffering from. Then he found more problems and fixed those. Then more, then more. All fixing as he went until, many hours and good scrubbing later, a clean and seemingly fixed van was ready for the road. We jollily drove along, merry in our success when, shortly thereafter and about to go onto the autobahn, we heard with a mighty crunch and felt with a shocking jolt that the brakes had gone on us. We were far from our place of rest but we managed to get to a parking lot where we decided we had no choice but to spend the night. The plan: 8 people would sleep in the 8-seater Caravalle. 2 people would sleep in the Transporter. The reality: It was bitingly cold, but we did not let that stop us. We spent many an hour singing, chatting, drinking and getting along. We saw this night as a test – no matter what happened, we could always just sleep in the car. Comfortable it was not, but possible? Yes. We all got along and when we woke the next morning, a short jog around the lot and some exercise later we were ready to tackle the new day.Back to King Mustafah! Bit by bit it became clear what was wrong. As piece by piece was removed, more and more seemed to be broken. It was clear that we would not be leaving that day. Most of us made our way to the nearest train station (some by car, some by foot) to get ourselves back to our commune where we would rest.Every day since (except for the weekend) we have been returning for updates. At this point, there is just one piece that we are looking for which should get us back on the road. Kind Mustafah and Heinz ”37 Solutions” have been on the phone to dealers and junkyards looking for the part but, in the words of one junkyard man, we had better look in a museum. Today there is a chance that the part will come in – if so, I am sure everyone is looking forward to the trip south.This place we are in is wonderful. There is lots of nature to explore, music to play and even a woodshop where Kimo made a spatula and a Sauna where the Finns go to, well, be Finnish. We spend most days sitting around the fire making food or music or both. We try our best to get along with the natives and just last night we had a very enjoyable jam session in the Dance Hall. Reading, juggling, talking, the occasional day trip to Berlin, chopping wood and hoping our car gets fixed has been the mainstay of our time here. It is wonderful but oh so cold. We cannot wait until we are complaining of too much heat. Soon, we hope. Soon.

Chapter 6 – Once Upon a Time in Pakau Penku

Mia: ”This is a letter to our association’s members still on their way through the desert as much as it is a requested update to our friends and families.So, whether your ears and eyes are full of snow or sand, here is what has happened to Apu Paku since our last entry.

”Evi, Kimmo and I found a fast track to Gambia, after it turned out our vans were quite irreparable despite the best effort of all our beloved mechanics. The flights just happened to be there and the rest of our 10-pack stayed behind long enough to sell the other car, ship the other one to Banjul and fly to Morocco. They are now looking for a way through Sahara and we hold our breaths each day to get a message or phone call asking us to get them from the border. Inshallah, as the locals say, Jos Luoja Suo. It tickles my toes to think we are very close to starting the big main project: building the school to Apu-Paku Land here in Pakau Penku village.

”The villagers have greeted us with open arms. Juho, Jukka and Joonas (the JJJ) arrived two days before us, cleaned up the Apu Paku Skills Training Center and hung up some nets into the trees. The women in the village were generous and kind to offer us daily meals, the kids are curious and helpful in carrying the water from the well, eager also to play games, dance, sing and kick any ball-shaped objects around. The men come to hang around for ’attaya’, local tea ceremony, to charge their phones and, I’m sure, to admire the beauty and peculiarity of European women. Luckily, we also got a surprise addition to our ranks: Terttu from Kotka is our Mama Afrika, a very courageous lady who keeps our young spirits in some reality-check and shows good example to women near and far that it is possible to adventure whenever you feel the calling!

”Money is always the difficulty that creates seeming obstacles to our dreams coming true. But I believe it is only a small hindrance that time will solve. By the end of this week, we can order the building material for the school, buy the donkey we need for help in the farmside, start our English-Wolof conversation classes and, I hope with all my heart, to welcome the missing members of our road trip crew to the village life. Our local guides, Amadou and Modou have been a great help to us in getting adjusted to life here and already, with all honesty, I feel at home! Now that life is about every day, every hour, every dish I wash and piece of cloth I rub clean, every visit to the compost toilet and every peanut shell dried or roasted, then cracked open and eaten, every night slept in the tree and every sunrise welcoming the new day.

”There is so much Presence in Afrika. People live their lives fully, they give all they have and survive with whatever that brings them. Slowly, we forget about past and future and slip into the great present moment. Here, there is no risk of a day slipping by without notice and on the other hand, time only exists as the changing position of the sun and the temperature. We are becoming a part of the whole, the community, the village, the land. I feel it is a blessing to be here, now, happy. Life is a wonderful Lesson!”

Chapter 7 – Apu Paku Nursery and Vocational School under construction…

There is much work to be done. So far we have cleared the land and cleaned the house, planted bananas and some mangoes and been busy making mudblocks and cement bricks. Meeting with the whole village of Pakau Penku was a great opportunity to present our project in all clarity to everyone and kick start the nursery school lessons! Now from Monday to Friday, we have 2 hours of nursing school offered to the youngest of the village. The school building is occupying the next two months and beside it there will be some mudblock houses to host future teachers and visitors to the project! Official registrations are taking some time and paperwork, but life in the village is settling into a nice routine of learning from each other. We offer help in any way we can, whether it is medical assistance, football training or help with English homework.

The donations of this year have been shipped to the Gambia and should finally arrive next week. Incoming are school desks, books, tools, sewing machines and computers, shoes of all sizes and lots of music studio equipment. In Bakau, networking with musicians and other projects is an important priority for the continuation of the project. Opportunities and chances are rising, development can be exponential given the right circumstances, but dangandanga..first we need to establish a solid ground with our local community.

We all arrived safely, through the air and sand ways and now have already said good bye to some members going home for christmas and look forward to welcoming new ones! If you wish to come and join, please contact us through phone (even by texting your email and possible arrival date)! If planning a visit indeed, note that doing anything in Africa may take longer than expected, so double the time you plan to stay.. Useful things to bring are pharmacy equipment (surgical alcohol, betadine, antibiotic lotions, bandages, etc.(anything that does not require a prescription but is vital to first aid treatment of wounds!) and books (especially simple, school level or manuals on how-to-do practical skills (eg. needlework, other craft, farming..), solar panels (REALLY USEFUL!!), mobile phones, light bulbs, torchers (otsalamppu on must!)…”taivas on rajana”..


Blog Update (in English) is ready with 3 new chapters from the road! We are currently in Berlin looking for car parts for Jah and freezing our asses while warming our hearts at Kesselberg -community 🙂


New news from Pakau Penku! We have 7 Finns working hard (or hardly working?) 😉 on the farmside, collaborating with the locals, read about it in our Matkat/Journeys –> Gambia 2011 section!


All is well in Gambia! Everyone has arrived, some have already left for christmas and the projects are starting up! After meeting with the villagers of Pakau Penku, the Apu Paku Nursery and Vocational school production is on its way (yesterday over a 1000 cement bricks were made together by Apu Paku and the locals!)

The future is full of opportunities, we are welcoming all help to join us in building work, teaching games to kids and skills (art, crafts, wood and needlework, computer and language + anything useful you can think of) to young and old as well as musicians and musical wizards to collaborate with our Music Studio Project!Now we celebrate christmas and plan more next week…