To return, after a long time of absence, to a place one has liked or even been quite happy to work and live in can be a venture. The risk is that the place has changed – or oneself has done so.
My own most dreadful experience was to return to Liberia during the most intensive heat of the civil war in 1992.

”The beautiful city of progress”, as the reporter at the local radio use to call Monrovia during the 1960s, was neither beautiful nor progressive, quite the contrary very sadly. It was rather frightning to go by car from Monrovia to Yekepa, being stoped at checkpoints manned by young fighters at almost every second kilometer.
It was also with a very strange feeling we passed through completely deserted villages, once, as I use to know them, full of life, with people, goats, chicken and dogs.The silence was creepy.
My duties as Liberia Liaison Officer for Caritas Internationalis has taken me on annual fieldvisits to Liberia and settlements of Liberian refugees in Tabou in Ivorycoast and Lola in Guinea. It has been very painful to meet old friends and acquaintances I knew from the good old days at LAMCO J.V.Op.Co. At the same time happy to see them alive and struggling, considering those 250.000 who died during fighting, being murdered or from hunger, during the civil war. For me as former community intendent in Yekepa, it was very depressing to see the destruction of many of the buildings and facilities in this once very prosperous miningtown, at the foot of the Nimba mountain.
To my delight Carroll Highschool is open and has approx.380 students, both boys and girls and remains the best school in Liberia. In addition the catholic mission is running primary and elementary schools in the community, and one in Camp 4. Of those I admire most are the brave and dedicated staff at Yekepa Community Hospital, as the LAMCO hospital now is called, who have kept the medical services running during the war despite many difficulties.

To get in and out of Liberia can be rather tricky, everybody looking for “Cold water”. Once entering Liberia after crossing Cavalla river on a handoperated ferry from Prollo in Ivorycoast I was interrogated by a fairly young officer asking me if I had been to Liberia before. My answer was: yes indeed, I think I came here about ten years before you did. Finish palaver!

The same duties have taken me to Rome three times a year to attend Emergency Aid Group meetings at Caritas Internationalis, to circulate Liberia Report and on behalf of the catholic church in Liberia appeal for funds for various humanitarian projects from the Caritas network. It is indeed very sad to see a small country like Liberia, rich in human and natural resources slowly commiting suicid, because of ignorance, greed or plain stupidity.
Very unfortunatly there is very little hope in sight so far, considering the extensive exploation of the Liberian rainforest, by the Liberian government in cooperation with international timber companies, having devastating effects on climate, flora, fauna and livelyhood of ordinary people.
In addition cosmopolitan crooks and mercenaries dealing in diamonds, weapons and “security” have found a very profitable market in Liberia, despite UN sanctions.

While in Rome I have had many opportunities to visit many churches, and ancient monuments, but my spiritual “waterhole” has been and remains “Comunita di Sant Egidio” in Trastevere, because of it´s commitment to peacebuilding, and it´s concern for marginalized people such as the poor, the homeless, asylumseekers, gypsies and others next door in Rome.
My work at Caritas Sweden, as Africa Desk Officer has involved many fieldtrips and follow up visits to our projects in various Sub-Saharan countries, in addition to Liberia. I have visited projects in Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana, but most frequent Gambia and Senegal.
Once I spent Easter together with my collegue and friend Kaj Engelhart. This was in the Benedictine Monastery of Keur Mousa, located on the savanna outside Dakar. The monks are worldfamous for their inculturation of traditional catholic liturgy to traditional African languages, songs and tunes played on drums and coras made at the monastery, and for sale on cd recordings. The coras are exported to countries as far as Japan.

The very fertile province of Casamance and it´s Diola people is very special to me, in particular Cabrousse and the Centre Sainte Marie, with the Senegales sisters of “La Congregation de Saint Coeur du Marie ”whom the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, the readers of Katolsk Kyrkotidning and funds from the Swedish Mission Council (SMR) have helped to build a very badly needed maternityclinic and staffhouse/convent in the village, only a short distance from the boarder to Guinea-Bissau.

The dungeons where slaves were kept before the horrific transport to the Americas and other distinations, at Isle de Goree, outside Dakar are one of the most dreadful and depressing sights one can experience, at the same time a necessary place to visit for us all, Africans and Westerns alike to make us remember past and present evils man is able to comit to fellow human beings.

During a visit to the two Congos we crossed the Congoriver by speedboat between Kinshasa and Brazaville. It was an exciting experience to cross this mighty river, I will not forget.
Brazaville was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in Africa, but has suffered the same fate as Monrovia, because of civil wars.

During my service as recruiting officer, 1971-1989, at Gränges Int.Mining (GIM) I had many opportunities to travel. I made regular visits to Liberia and went out on recruiting trips to a number of countries in Europe and Canada. In connection with GIM´s involvment in an iron ore project I went together with two collegues on a factfinding mission to Iran, a year before the fall of the shah. This journey was one of the most memorable journeys I have ever made, because of the beauty of the country and it´s historical ruins of Persepolis, cities, buildings in particular the islamic architecture and ornamentation of the mosques. Worth mentioning are the mosques in Mahan and Shiraz. The most impressive city we visited is Isfahan with it´s Maidan Shah, now called Great Maidan, with the Shaykh Lutfallah and the Shah mosques.
The Armenian quarter New Julfa in Isfahan with it´s cathedral, churches and museum,visible signs of Christian presence was of great interest to see in this muslim country. Adding to our delight with Isfahan was our stay at Shah Abbas Hotel ,an old caravanserai turned into a modern hotel, with a very nice garden and a traditional storyteller.

During the mainpart of 1978 and the early months of 1979 I worked as campsupervisor in the Northeastern desert of Saudi Arabia, The camp was located 350 km.from the nearest town of Tabuk, 250 km.on paved road and 100 km.on very rough desert tracks, in addition to radio our only means of communication. My lasting memories are the beauty, grandeur and serenity of the Saudi Arabian desert.
I spent regular local leaves in Jordan, with stays in Aqaba and Amman and unforgetable visits to the ancient cities of Petra, Madaba and Jerash. The hospitality and friendliness of the people I met, many of them Palestinian refugees driven away from their homes by Israeli occupation made a very deep and lasting impression on me.

During vacationtimes my friends and their families in Tunisia have made my stays at their homes in Tunis and Sfax very pleasant. We have together gone by car and visited many of the places I wanted to see. One tour took us to Tabarka, and the ruins of Bulla Regia and Dougga. On another occasion we went to the oasis of Touzeur and further in the desert to the oasis of Nefta. Another time we went by ferry to the island of Kerkena and spent a couple of days there.

In 1980 I wanted to make a second pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I went via Damascus, where I spent some days visiting the Omayad Mosque, the most important churches and the National Museum. From Damascus I went by the regular taxiservice to Amman, and checked in at Al Manar Hotel, where I use to stay during local leaves from Saudi Arabia. After receiving the necessary permission, I hired a taxi to take me to Jerusalem, where I checked in at the Holy Land Hotel, to start my pilgrimage to the most holy places of Christianity and visits to the holy places of Islam, the mosques of Al Aqsa and the Rock on Haram esh –Sharif.

During my almost ten years of work with LAMCO J.V.Op.Co. from 1961- 1970 I had regular home-and local leaves. When taking homeleave I often boarded a French passengerboat in Monrovia taking me on a ten day tour to Marseille or Bordeaux,with stops for a day in each city of Conacry ,Dakar, Casablanca and Alger or Vigo depending on the final destination. On other occasions I went by the orecarrier Svealand from Bremerhafen, and Alida Gorthon from Newcastle to Buchanan in Liberia. For local leaves I use to board Elder Dempster Line passengerboat in Monrovia leave the ship in Las Palmas, and board on it´s way back from Liverpool to Monrovia.
Once when SAS had flights to Latin America, I went together with a collegue to Rio de Janerio, where we took a bus inland to Belo Horizontes, made a stop there to visit Oro Preto with it´s famous Mineral Museum. We continued some days later by bus to Brasilia, in it´s later stage of completion.

In 1959 I applied and was accepted to join the Swedish Battalion ,G06 of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) ,Gaza, Egypt. I served as staffsergeant at the medical clinic at the battalions headquarter, close to the beach in Gaza city. Besides my daily duties, I had to make regular visits to the Norwegian UN hospital and Canadian UN maintenance center in Rafah, for renew medical supplies and drugs. In addition to the treatment of sick members of the Swedish battalion, we had a number of locals who needed our services.

The UN battalions of various nationalities had a leavecenter in Beiruth, Libanon,and a UN clinic at Garden Hotel in Broumana, to take care of soldiers on leave with medical problems.
My chief the late Dr. Kjell Dyster-Aas and myself were ordered to fly to Beiruth and run the clinic during three weeks. During time off I went to the very ancient city of Baalbeck in the Bekawalley, among many other interesting things. On one local leave I visited Jerusalem. On another local leave I went by train together with some other soldiers to Kairo and Alexandria. From there we went by taxi to the battlefields of WW II and warcemetaries in ElAlamein.
If it was not for the daily reminder in TV and the press about the constant attacks by Israeli gunships, targeted killings, murdering of innocent Palestinian civilians, women and children, and bulldozing of their homes, we who were there 42 years ago, might have forgotten names like Gaza,Khan Yunis and Rafah. The very same happens on a daily basis to Palestinians on the occupied West Bank, in addition to the almost total destruction of the infrastructur.
It´s very hard to believe that the worldcommunity still accepts and little or nothing is done about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, the over- consumption of very limitted waterresources, by the Jewish settlers .The constant haressment and humiliation of the Palestinian people. I am old enough to have heard words like “Lebensraum” and “Herrenvolk” in German, but these days it´s said in Hebrew, Jiddish, Russian or quite often American English., and if not expressed in words, the deeds and the actions in practices are the same and as clear.
There is much talk about Arab and Muslim religious fanatics and fundamentalists but the very same can also be said about the Jewish religious fanatics and fundamentalists, who for decades, have invaded and are occupying land ,that does nor belong to them. I am in no way condoning suicide bombers killing and maiming civilian Israelis, but I am afraid it will continue until such a time when Palestinians In- and outside Israel are treated as human beings and granted the freedom and respect to life and property they are entitled to.

The Hungarian peoples revolt against the oppresive communist system in the autum of 1956, followed by a very brutal and violent Sovjet invasion of Hungary. The crushing of the revolt caused a human catastrophe,and a flood of Hungarian refugees to Austria. The League of Red Cross Societies needed German speaking staff to assist in the reliefwork in Vienna. The Swedish Red Cross asked if the regiment T4, where I was stationed, had a suitable and willing person to spare. I happily accepted to join a team of three Swedish Red Cross warrant officers, ready to fly to Austria and start our work.
I liked very much the seven month of work in and outside Vienna, with many possibilities to experience the very rich Central European culture of art ,music and religion in this traditional catholic country at the crossroad between east and west, north and south in the heart of Europe.

During a couple of summers in the early years of the 1950s a friend of mine and I made journeys by car and visited many places in Germany, where we could observe ruins and other traces of WW II in Hamburg, Bremen, Cologne and other cities. We paid an unforgettable visit to the site of the Nazi extermination camp in Bergen-Belsen with it´s many graves of murdered Jews. We spent few days at Laacher Seehotel ,at the Benedictine Monastery of Maria Laach, were I became a friend of Rev. Pater Ignatius Kornfelt, OSB, who invited me to stay as guest of the monastery during few days the following summer, which I did.

During the most recent years I have spent some weeks visiting Istanbul. It´s indeed a very fascinating city with a lot of ancient buildings to be seen. My favorite hotel is Best Western Hotel Spectra, located at the Hipodrome (www.hotelspectra.com). The owner and staff are extremly friendly and helpfull. The prices are very reasonable ,and best of all the most interesting places to see like Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque Topkapi palace, Archeological Museum and Grand Bazar are within walking distance also for elderly people.
Istanbul has a lot to offer of ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman architecture and art. I will certainly return to Turkey when possible, to see and discover more of the historical towns and sites.

Having retired I like whenever possible to revisit places that once were and still are important to me. As a child I use to visit my maternal grandparents farm, Ljungsberg, Ödestugu, south of Jönköping. I will never forget the nice smell and taste of my grandmother´s newly baked bread, homemade butter and cheese. Later on when my uncle had taken over the farm I used to spend my holidays from school at the farm, milking four cows each day, raking hay and spreading dung when raining.
Since many years now the mainbuilding has become a summerhouse for some unknown people. The very old timbered storehouse has been moved to an outdoor museum, and the smithy my grandfather used is falling apart. At the age of 14, I was old enough to go alone by bicycle the 100 km road from Jönköping to Vadstena with stops at the ruins of the Cistercian abbey of Alvastra, the very small, medivial church of Väversunda and other churches and the famous runic stone in Rök. I made these journeys by bicycle an few summers in my youth, and return whenever I am in the vicinity. I am hoping to return once again to East Jerusalem, as the capital of a free and independent State of Palestine. There are two places ,where I have never been but would very much like to visit are Palmyra in Syria and the oasis of Siwa in the Libyan desert in Egypt

 
Home | CV | Commissions | Publications | Orders
Memberships | Places | Photos | Links