« The only real failure is the failure to try.
And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment.
It doesn’t matter if we feel that we are too old,
too scared and disappointed.
We get up in the morning.
We do our best.
Nothing else matters. »
Huelgoat – 12 June 2021
I am overwhelmed.
Because I have just met you for the first time.
Yesterday, at a neighbour’s house in Kermaria.
Almost by chance.
She had called out to me the day before when she heard me singing in Breton in the street opposite her house.
« How much you look like your mother » she said to me… « Oh yes, I know who you are! »
Alberte had recognised Pierre, Yvonne’s son, Louise’s grandson, from Berrien.
Berrien, this village in the Monts d’Arrée, a few kilometres north of Huelgoat.
When I entered her house, I knew that I was dealing with someone who knew my mother’s family well.
But I had no idea that the lady would be a passionate genealogist.
On her table in the living room are scattered files, photos, archival documents… long and meticulous years of work.
For me, the Ali Baba’s cave.
« Alberte, do you know anything about my grandfather?
« Yes, I even have a photo! Wait until I see it… »
My heart races. My eyes blink. My forehead wrinkles. Am I dreaming or what?
« Here he is! Pierre Marie. Pierre Marie Blanchard. Born in 1909, died in 1943 at the age of 34. He was a granite worker in the quarry of Huelgoat.
My maternal grandfather.
I hold your photo in my hand. A photo from another time. I look at you. You are so young. Probably died prematurely because of that rock dust that stuck to your lungs.
That made you die with so many others.
Until yesterday I knew almost nothing about you.
And now, today, I have your face in front of me, your full name, your civil status.
Is it because she didn’t have time to get to know you that your daughter, my mother, gave me your first name?
By coincidence (or by happy synchronicity?), I have been talking about the history of the granite quarrymen of Huelgoat for a fortnight now during my guided tour.
I am so moved.
Dear Grandfather. I, who never knew you, am in Brittany to pick up the pieces. To find this Breton family that was stolen from me.
I who have returned to my land to heal.
I dedicate these lines and those that follow to you.
Pierre Marie Blanchard, I dedicate my travels to you.
My writings, my encounters, my ascents and my falls.
The shadows and the lights I have crossed in the last thirty years, in the four corners of the world.
Norway, Lofoten islands, Polarfront ship – December 2019
Late afternoon, calm sea and breeze outside.
I was proudly presenting my lecture on « The Viking Age » to the passengers.
In the ship’s lounge, my small group was gathered: parents in the armchairs, children beside them, quiet and attentive.
It was going well.
And then… and then we started to sway a little more than usual.
And a bit more… and a bit more… until I was staggering rather than talking… and the kids were laughing.
I ask for a break, go up to the bridge and consult the crew.
There, the captain looks at the threatening sky, the advancing swell and pronounces without batting an eye:
« It’s going to get ugly! »
I go back down, I wobble, I try to balance myself.
Down in the lounge, the faces are less cheerful.
Some people leave to go to their cabins… and very quickly, everyone leaves.
I don’t have to wait very long either: I take my computer and walkie-talkie and head for the bed.
I’ll lie down and wait for it to pass.
But how long will it last?
The transceiver will keep me informed of the news from the bridge.
I hope I don’t get sick, but I must be a funny colour already.
From where I am, the world is now turning from top to bottom, then left to right « and it goes on and on… ».
I have no idea that this rollercoaster will be going up and down for almost four hours.
Soon, everything in my room is spinning. I should have thought to close the drawers, empty the shelves.
My nice beer glass – the one I bought at the local bar – explodes, the books, the computer and the bottle of cologne tumble down.
I can’t get up to pick anything up.
The leaps we make on the water are now unbelievable.
Every minute, on one side and then on the other, my porthole is drowned by the waves.
I feel like we’re all going to end up in the water.
We are so small in the middle of this immensity…
I’ve never experienced anything like this.
I imagine that the passengers haven’t either!
I hold on to my bed so as not to fall out of it… and to the sentence a friend wrote to me the day before: « Pierre, even in the storms, you are protected.
I don’t vomit, miracle! but I don’t have the strength to open an eye.
When I think that at the same time, my colleagues continue to work, to maintain the course and our safety.
How do they manage to stay on their feet? Sailors are heroes!
And then little by little, little by little, the swell calms down.
Little by little, slowly but surely, I unclench my fists, my forehead, my eyes.
The Polarfront has finally reached the port.
Our small but great boat has valiantly beaten a storm:
a crazy swell and force 9 winds (on a scale of 12, the maximum: it’s a hurricane!)
But I won’t know that until tomorrow.
For the moment, I’m lying down, I’m drained, without strength.
Jerez de la Frontera, Andalusia – 19 july 2019, 8 in the morning
I get out of my house, put on my helmet, get on my second-hand bike and ride through the streets of the city to work.
On the way, I pass the Alcazar (the imperial palace), the Mosque that became a Cathedral and all around « the white walls of Spain ».
The temperature is still pleasant. The heat will start at 10 o’clock. Just like the smell of sherry that will escape from the cellars in the afternoon.
I live in a city that smells of good wine, it’s nice!
So here I am in Andalusia for a month and a half, on an internship in an ecotourism cooperative. And I’ve taken my bearings there, little by little, on a daily basis and according to the people I meet.
During the week, my days are spent in the office or outside with the guides: either early in the morning for a morning hike, or late at night for night walks with a torch.
We accompany groups on mountain trails, historical sites or initiations to astronomy.
Pepe, Paco, Rodri, Charo… my colleagues amaze me with their knowledge… and their humility.
They teach me a lot and I try to contribute to this small company:
Translation of the website, partnership project with the French Institute, preparation of a guided tour at the end of my internship…
Another discovery: I am part of the « Solidarity Conversation Club ». The principle is simple: practise Spanish, French or English with students, expats, retired people or unemployed people over one… or several drinks!
The price of membership: a kilo of non-perishable food to benefit a local charity.
This club is a breeding ground for wonderful encounters.
The Andalusians amaze me. This sense of detachment that they exude, this desire to enjoy the good things in life to the full.
Not a cat in the streets between 1pm and 6pm: everyone’s napping!
But in the evening, the city wakes up, the bars fill up, the squares are full of people, and the flamenco music resounds until late at night.
Those who get up in the morning seem to be completely out of it, and do it again that evening.
« Que nada te pare » … Let nothing stop you!
Spain is really nice.
Port-au-Prince – 1 st October 2009
The trip to Cap Haitien was beautiful.
The clear weather, the high mountains, the tropical plains on which the tiny shadow of the helicopter was reflected…
Cap Haitien is the second largest city in the country.
Located in the north of the island, it is a place steeped in history as it is, in a way, where everything began in Haiti.
It is where Christopher Columbus, on his way to the New World, landed in 1492 with three sailing ships and ninety men on board.
It was also here that the struggle against slavery and for the independence of the first black people was born in 1804.
There are still the remains of many forts, a singularly preserved colonial architecture, and on both sides, postcard beaches with warm and transparent waters.
This is the third visit I have made as part of my training in the regions.
After the South-East and the West, here I am in the North.
According to my usual work plan, I will spend two weeks there.
Ten days teaching computer courses to my colleagues.
I love this life on mission.
The trip itself is already an adventure.
On the spot, solving logistical problems is part of the daily routine.
My travelling class is a challenge wherever it goes.
Because I want it to be perfect.
I want everyone to learn – including me – I want everyone to feel comfortable, whatever their level, wherever they come from.
I put my heart and soul into it.
At the end of the day, I’m exhausted but I can’t imagine a better way to live and travel, to work and hopefully to contribute.
Port au Prince. Jacmel. Gonaives. Cap Haitien.
Next month I should be in the capital city of Hinche, in the middle of the country, on the Central Plateau.
This morning, when I woke up, I had this first thought – not very surprising under the circumstances:
« By the way, where am I right now?! »
The time I spend in the capital, it’s a completely different experience.
I am part of a Caribbean agglomeration. I immerse myself in it, I melt into it.
My daily life is adorned with an indispensable tool: my motorbike.
It takes me to work every day, 20 kilometres round trip on the outskirts of the city.
I wish at the weekend I could take you for a ride!
It wouldn’t be during the day, it’s really too hot.
But in the evening: Wow! You’d see that…
The steep streets come out of their slumber and are full of activity.
The pavements and the barely lit boulevards are bustling with activity.
I zigzag on my two wheels in the meanders of the Creole city, navigating in a busy, noisy, ardent crowd.
I, pierre-petit-pierre, in the middle of the Afro-Caribbean Urban Jungle.
Ushuaïa – 14 July 2010
I am never gonna stop.
I am never gonna get tired of travelling.
I’ll never get tired of running my fingers over a map, wanting to go there and see what it’s like.
To try to understand what people say « over there » and try to speak their language. The world is big, my curiosity insatiable.
This is what has always driven me: the Unknown. Going towards these people, these cultures, these landscapes.
When I was a child, there was a globe in my room that served as a bedside lamp.
I remember looking at this illuminated ball for hours at night. I don’t know why, I was fascinated.
So for the last 20 years, since I’ve been working, this is what I’ve been doing.
Spend what I earn by driving miles. In France, in Europe, in the world…
The ups and downs are with me. Doubts and certainties, loneliness and encounters, mistakes and achievements.
But always – always – the gratitude and the awareness of being very, very lucky.
My passport and what it teaches me is all I have. I want nothing else.
26 June 2010
I take off from Port-au-Prince. I leave Haiti for four weeks. My Haiti. My Haiti that survives.
These last 6 months have been overwhelming, precious, confusing, exhausting.
I don’t know how to describe it. I need to get away.
Heading south. A two-day stopover in Panama.
Above this narrow piece of land that separates the Atlantic from the Pacific, I can see both oceans at the same time for a few seconds.
I keep the extraordinary in my eyes.
And that of the mouth of the canal that I visit the next day. Fascinating engineering work. A country, a continent that has literally been cut in two to allow boats to pass through. Wow!
1 July, Montevideo
I’m very moved.
I came here in 1992.
This is where I discovered something other than Europe, where I learned Spanish.
Dario, Luis-Mi and Alejandro picked me up at the airport.
Later, I will meet Christine, Ines and Lali, whom I haven’t seen for 18 years.
I will also visit the grave of Gonzalo, a Uruguayan military friend who worked for the UN. He was in the headquarters that collapsed in the earthquake of 12 January.
Gonzalo, you are one of the reasons I am making this trip to Uruguay.
5 July, Buenos Aires
Oh Buenos Aires! I deeply fall in love with this city. Instantly.
A huge, passionate city, rich in history and turmoil.
It is Paris with the charm and disorder of Latin America.
I’m staying with Paul, my friend Ana’s brother.
I go to eat at their parents’ house, Shella and Guillermo.
I walk around with Nando, an Argentinian colleague who is temporarily staying with me in Port-au-Prince.
The metro, the bus, the boulevards, the squares… nothing escapes me. I LOVE Buenos Aires!
And then I take the road to the South.
3000 kilometres by bus through the Pampa, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
50 hours of travel – about 10 per day. Stops along the way: Bahia Blanca, Puerto Madryn, San Julian, Ri3000 kilometres of bus through the Pampa, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.o Gallegos.
Days and days of straight road, fields as far as the eye can see.
I had no idea that Argentina could be so big.
The further down I go, the colder it gets, the darker it gets.
Only to find that daylight doesn’t come until 10 o’clock in the morning.
So I am 13,200 kilometres from Paris and only 1,000 from Antarctica.
The mountains are finally here.
The snow covers the summits, the ice makes the roads slide.
Strange feelings in the middle of July!
July 14th, National Day
Tomorrow I’m about to start my ascent.
If all goes well, I will sleep in Punta Arenas in Chile.
For this new stage, like any new journey, I ask the angels for protection.
For this new stage, like any new journey, I leave with my doubts and my certainties, my solitudes and my encounters…
Dominican Republic – 20 January 2010
The mp3 player, the head in the air, the heavy heart accompanied me throughout this strange return to Santo Domingo.
The sadness, the calm, the clouds, then the ocean in the background, and finally the chaos at Las Americas International Airport.
The plane was packed, mostly by humanitarian personnel with medical supplies. Anyone who can’t land in Port au Prince does so here. Like me, by the way.
There are NGOs from all over the world: Europe, the United States, Asia. And this group from South Africa. Young, smiling guys and girls with white helmets hanging from their backpacks.
In the arrival hall, my colleague is not there. Nobody with a sign with my name on it. I can’t reach my Haitian friend Josué. No internet stations available.
Shit. All this complicates things a bit but I’ll manage.
I take a taxi that charges me an exorbitant price and head downtown. He helps me find a hotel room for the night.
He drives at full speed.
The windows are open to let the fresh air in. Outside, it smells like cut grass. Strange, when a few hours ago it was winter in France.
I am back in Santo Domingo, a city that strangely reminds me of Montevideo.
And I am very happy to be able to speak Spanish, now more than ever.
The driver tells me that the earthquake of 12 January was felt here, 370 kilometres from the epicentre. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the Dominican Republic and Haiti to reestablish closer ties.
After several attempts (between the usual tourists and all the rescuers who arrive, the hotels are taken by storm), I put my suitcase down with relief in a room at 80 dollars a night.
I finally manage to reach my colleague. Some hiccups on her part, an email I hadn’t been able to read and we missed each other.
No problem, I’ll see you tomorrow.
Right now I just want to sleep.
Not to think about what the next few days will bring.
Tarapoto, Peru – September 2006
« In the beginning, there were only stones rolling around on the bottom of the rivers so many times that one day they became wood and saved the fundamental laws of life in their roots. The ancients say that this is how the Amazon was born.
And since then, in the heart of the forest, each plant teaches the essence of the origins of man and humanity. The native peoples are the guardians, surrounded by the healers, the maetros curanderos.
Every night they drink the sacred beverage of Madre Ayahuasca, the liana of the dead, which allows them, in a modified state of consciousness, to meet the invisible world of the spirits and thus reread the books of our forgotten memories.
I’ve been in Peru for three weeks, I’ve taken this drink three times, I’ve been on this diet, I’ve imposed this isolation on myself. And I can’t take it anymore.
So much money, so many kilometres, I was crazy. To go so far to look for answers and remedies, to look for a place to put my crutches.
This stuff is too hard physically, I set the bar too high. These plants, these rituals, these shamans, I know they are benevolent but I’ve had enough. I want to go home.
But where is my home? Where is my mother?
Havana – January 2011
I was nervous.
Showing up like that without knowing anyone.
It wasn’t the first time though. I had done this before!
And despite everything, this is often how I feel when I arrive alone in a foreign city.
Vulnerable and without bearings.
But that’s normal, isn’t it?
Human beings fear the unknown.
Human beings fear their neighbours.
So I take it upon myself to try to get past my fears.
Perhaps this is what travel is trying to teach me most of all: to go beyond my fears.
In an airport, on the platform of a train station, when you get off a boat, no matter what time you get off, you have to trust someone you don’t know.
Let yourself be guided.
And so far, nobody has ever deceived me.
Because the vast majority of human beings are good.
I have seen it with my own eyes, I have experienced it.
From Hanoi to Chicago, from Bucharest to Buenos Aires.
Whatever our passport, our beliefs, our ages and our desires, we all want the same thing: to be happy.
Cuba will be no exception: I let myself be guided there, no one deceived me.
And what a country, what a people, what an island!
30th January. I wake up in Havana.
The weather is nice and cool. I arrived last night.
With the sleep, the fears have dissipated.
I drink my coffee at Rosie and Nicolas’, my first Cuban friends.
And here begins one of those perfect days.
New-York City – December 1995
If there was only one, if there was only one left, it would be her.
The highest, the most excessive, the craziest.
If there were only one moment, only a few seconds, it would perhaps be when I climbed the steps to get out of the underground, when my eyes plunged towards the dark sky and the skyscrapers of Times Square.
There, as I tasted for the first time the icy wind of the North American megalopolis, I was about to open one of the biggest gifts of my life.
My days of strolling from Coney Island to Central Park, camera in hand, walkman cassette in my ears, were an enchantment of images and resonances.
It seemed to me that no landscape was more singular than these urban paths and snow-covered trees with the gigantic city in the background.
However, these ten days in Manhattan were far from what I had imagined.
A missed appointment and no one waiting for me, a cold that I had never known so harsh, a wallet limited to a few dollars.
But I was 23, I was free and healthy, I could afford a cheap room, put a hat on my head: that was by far the greatest wealth.
The docks, the Brooklyn Bridge, the mists of the city: I could see them, hear them, touch them. I was Camus’ Noces, Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal and Rimbaud’s Bateau Ivre all at once.
So let me tell you, in December 1995, the richest man in America, the richest guy in the world, was me.
Around Paris – 1er August 2016
Yesterday I visited the Palace of Versailles.
Wow, spectacular! What an incredible place…
This France really, what a history!
I understand better why this gigantic building dripping with gold attracts millions of visitors every year.
If we ignore the number of people who were whipped and killed to build it, we can say that this megalomaniac Sun King left behind an edifice that the whole world still enjoys today…
Amongst the flood of tourists from all over the world, I was like them, speechless, but also moved.
Indeed, I remember coming to Versailles for the first time on a school visit when I was 8 years old, that is to say… 35 years ago.
I still remembered the famous « Salon de l’oeil de bœuf » in the Monarch’s flat, with its large frieze decorated with bas-reliefs representing children’s games.
And I, the eight-year-old Pierre, who used to go from one room to another with his classmates.
Yesterday, in the middle of this room and among the visitors, I took a few seconds to observe this little guy. He had round cheeks and almond-shaped eyes. His gaze was a little vague. A shy little boy.
When our eyes met, I smiled at him and crouched down to get to his level.
Gently, I took his hand and said:
« Hey little thing, don’t be afraid it’s just me, in a few years.
I wanted to tell you… the journey ahead of you is going to be magnificent, extraordinary; but it’s going to be hectic. It’s not going to be easy. Don’t worry, everything will turn out fine. »
So, gently, I brought Little Pierre’s hands and then his shoulders towards me, and for a few moments I held him tightly in my arms.
Monrovia – 2005-2007
Remembering you. This memory of you.
I was so lucky to have known you.
To have lived in your house.
To have worked in your garden.
To have travelled your forests and back and forth.
Over the land and through the air.
Trees and trees and trees. As far as the eye can see.
What a sight!
To have been welcomed with open arms,
From Robersport to Zwedru, from Voinjama to Greenville,
You fed me with your rice.
Yet you, bruised in body and soul,
You trying to lay down your arms,
You standing up in spite of everything.
Mama Liberia… So much dignity!
You have upset me.
Moses, Jeff, my musician friends, the kids in my neighbourhood,
What happened to you?
Wandering in France – 2008-2009
I am homeless.
At first it’s almost exhilarating.
No apartment, no job, no contract.
But I have a car, meagre savings and the summer ahead of me.
I leave the Pyrenees. The Pyrenees were beautiful.
But what was I doing there?
Oh yes, I had worked in a hotel in Lourdes.
A total disaster.
After ten years of absence, I returned to France and got lost.
Pierre wandering in a country he no longer recognises.
So I search and search for myself.
At first it’s almost exhilarating.
This freedom in my car, my little red AX, crossing France.
I still have enough money to put petrol in the tank.
In my little car I eat, sleep and drive.
I am in my thirties, I wear Jim Morrison glasses.
I listen to Riders on the storm through the speakers.
I’m not sure what state I’m in, but I’m wandering.
To connect my laptop to the internet, I go to a famous American fast food restaurant.
I promise myself I won’t eat anything there, just drink coffee.
I’m an active unemployed person.
I send dozens of applications abroad.
Going back… since France doesn’t seem to want me. Not this time anyway.
And then the summer ends, the days get shorter, the campsites close and my health deteriorates.
I’ve got amoebas. I have to visit the public toilets five, then ten, then fifteen times a day.
I also get fungus on my feet which soon itches all over my body.
It’s so fucking itchy, it’s horrible.
In the evening in my buggy, I fold down the back seat, I unfold a mattress and I sleep not so bad.
One day in Dunkirk (what the hell am I doing in Dunkirk?!), I get a phone call.
Job interview with an international NGO based in Paris.
So I go to Paris, have the interview, but I’m not selected.
So I stay in Paris.
And that’s when things start to get really bad.
I park my car in the Bois de Boulogne, then in the Bois de Vincennes.
I go to the baths and showers and start counting the pennies.
Despite the blankets and the heating that I turn on before going to sleep, it starts to get cold.
I socialise anyway. A little.
An autumn of weird friendships and lousy relationships.
At the beginning of November, my body gives up.
I’ve had a fever for days and a stabbing pain in my gut.
I drag myself to the Bichat hospital.
They put me on a drip. I feel like I’m going downhill.
What the hell is happening to me?
Where is my Africa, where I lived for five years? And my Ireland too?
Where is my country?
And then two pieces of good news:
I’m temporarily lent an apartment and I find a food job in extremis.
Little by little, I regain my appetite.
I manage to rent a room by the week.
Then another. Then another. Then another.
It’s really hard. Life is one day at a time. But I’m up and about.
I’m still looking for a job.
I have to get out.
Like many precarious « compatriots », I spend my evenings at the Beaubourg library. Because it’s free, it’s heated and it’s open until 10pm.
I’m shaking off the cold and getting my hopes up.
In spite of the cold winter, there is this 18th arrondissement, these small popular bars that I love so much.
I go and listen to slam poetry, I write some texts and declaim them.
I live to the rhythm of the metro, the cafés and the banks of the Seine.
So I also live those little moments of sparkle when Paris is so beautiful.
Yes, Paris is so beautiful.
So many faces and so many stories, so many destinies and memories
cross and recross each other in Paname.
In my mailbox, an email.
A job offer abroad.
Time to do the interviews, the tests and the paperwork, my plane is soon fixed for mid-April.
Phew. Amen to that. Hallelujah.
Thank you Mary, Jesus and the Lord Above.
Hang in there until April 15 Pierre.
Hang in there until April 15.
On the eve of my departure, from the Ile Saint-Louis to the Grand Boulevards, I walk happily and alone, carried away by the crowd.
I am going to say goodbye to Paris and to France.
Once again, life has caught up with me.
Bucarest – 22 December 1993, 11pm
Where am I?!
On an improvised bed in a small artist’s studio. The radio is on, piano notes are coming out. There is a smell of books, wood and paint.
I have been in Romania for a few hours and I can hardly believe it.
I left my suburban room early this morning. I left school and my job ¼ time. I’m about to meet Răzvan, my pen pal. Getting to know his family in the small town of Azuga in the heart of the Carpathians. To spend the end-of-year celebrations together.
It was Mr Cardas who accompanied me by car to Orly. I’m really lucky. In my wallet, the precious address of his friends, the Savescu family, who are putting me up tonight in the heart of the capital.
I also have a little paper that I will open tomorrow at the « Gara de Nord » ticket office and where it is written in Romanian: « A ticket for Azuga please ».
It’s the first time I’ve travelled this far alone.
I don’t know anything. I have no idea. I am in an ecstatic state.
Yesterday I wrote in my diary: « The world is mine.
I don’t know it yet, but Romania will be so good to me.
She will embrace me, protect me from the cold.
She will offer me her Christmas carols and the bitter taste of her ţsuică.
A caring family and its festive meals.
Răzvan, our walks in the Bucegi Mountains, the snow up to our knees.
Our picnic made of pieces of smoked bacon, sheep’s cheese and country bread.
From Brasov to Sinaia, from Bran to Talea… Romania, how can we thank you?
Nu știu cum să-ți mulțumesc…
Berrien (ma maison, my home, mi casa, ma zi) – 13 July 2021
Talking about the University.
This other incredible journey. This journey of which I am probably the most proud.
Is it strange?
To love travelling so much, and at the same time to be so fond of school benches?
Nothing can fill me more than to sit for hours in a lecture hall with a teacher in front of me, giving a presentation.
I’m there, I take notes in my notebook… and it’s bliss.
Pierre is a permanent student, Pierre is a perpetual schoolboy.
However, I had to wait until the age of 38 to realise this dream.
Because before that, life led me elsewhere, differently.
In France, in Europe, in Africa.
And then one day in Haiti, Elena said to me: « Look at your CV, you should study! It’s the missing link if you want to progress professionally.
She was probably right.
I don’t care about having a career; what do I care about? But learning, yeah, I like learning.
But how do I do it, how do I go about it? Will I be smart enough?
So I look for it, I register, I pay the bill and I get down to the task: Licence and Master 1 in Education Sciences. Distance learning with the CNED and the University of Rouen.
In my modest home, on the road or by plane between my two countries, I worked on my lessons with passion and determination.
For three years, lessons and worksheets and mid-term exams: history, pedagogy, psychology, statistics… What a job, what fatigue, but what a pleasure too!
And I succeeded. It’s a miracle, I manage.
And then I continue. And I don’t stop anymore.
Today I always have a pencil and a notebook in my pockets.
So I can take notes, you never know.
There’s always a course registration waiting for me somewhere.
In September, I’ll be starting at the University of Rennes 2!
University Diploma of Celtic Studies.
An examination of Brittany from every angle.
I’m just TOO happy!
Pierre a permanent student, a schoolboy forever and ever.
Please let this never change.
Conakry – February 2017
A bad time.
I’m in a (very) bad way.
For a year now, everything in my life has been falling apart.
Little by little, slowly but surely.
My job, my money, my inner resources, my health.
I’m an electron in distress, without a job, without security, without protection.
I’m already not fat; I’ve lost almost 10 kilos.
The scale told me so.
I have more money, more strength, more smile.
I don’t think the people around me are aware that I’m doing so badly.
If someone doesn’t do something, I’m going to die here.
And I don’t understand, I don’t fucking understand.
My Africa, my Guinea that I love so much.
For the past few months, the ordeals have followed one another with unbelievable violence.
Everything seems to be turning against me.
I dream that someone will come and get me.
To pack my suitcase for me.
I don’t even have a penny left to pay for a plane ticket.
I manage to ask for help despite everything, despite the shame.
Close friends of mine transfer money to me. I’m grateful.
500 euros, the price of a return ticket to Paris. The price of staying alive.
But what will I do in France?
At 44, no job, no money, no accommodation.
How can I go back to this country, my own country, which has become foreign to me?
After all these years.
And then, the day of departure arrives.
I don’t know how I manage to pack my suitcase and leave my apartment.
I leave half my stuff behind.
I’m torn up, completely wiped out.
Despite everything, I have a plane ticket in my hands.
A flight to Paris, in the middle of the night.
Accompanied by my buddies, I take a taxi to Conakry airport.
I’m about to leave a city I can’t stand anymore, with friends inside that I love so much.
Check-in. Luggage. Toilets. Bar.
« A small bottle of water please…
I can still see myself in the departure lounge.
The hours of waiting, lying in a corner on the floor, inert.
I am not dead but I am not alive.
And I wonder…
How am I going to do?
How am I going to rebuild my life?
Le Touquet airfield, Pas-de-Calais – 1977
Why am I crying? I shouldn’t be crying!
I’m sitting right next to my mum and she’s holding me tight.
I’m perfectly safe… so why am I crying?
It’s true that this is an unusual situation:
We have just taken off, left the ground.
I must be 5 years old and this is a first for me.
Today I’m making my first flight.
« Look, it’s very small down there… people look like ants!
My mother consoles me; I calm down, dry my tears and then… I marvel.
If you only knew, Mum, after that day, how many planes I will fly in my life…
And helicopters too, when I work for the United Nations.
Hours and hours and days in the air.
Oceans, forests, endless tropical beaches before my eyes. How lucky I am…
If I count today, my carbon footprint is probably a disaster.
However, my life experience balance is catching up.
My miles of meeting the world where I learned so much.
Of all this time spent above ground, I could perhaps retain one flight.
The one that will take me to Vietnam in August 1997. Paris – Moscow – Novosibirsk – Hanoi.
My buddy Alex is on board. A crazy trip awaits us!
Vietnam… a country that will change my latitude and longitude.
How big the world is… how different the world is!
A long journey over Europe and Asia.
After the meal tray, the hours and the fatigue, there is this moment when the Chinese wall appears, just below… the Chinese wall!
This long line of stones winding through the mountains, it can only be her.
We look, we marvel. Underneath, no doubt, people like ants.
Then I think back to that little Pierre in that twin-engine plane in Le Touquet, at the end of the 70s.
Then I close my eyes for a moment, I take a deep breath.
And I give deepest thanks to this Mother Planet who welcomes me for a lifetime.
A suivre… a seguir… to be continued… da heul…