Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Belgium, A Working Visit.

"There is no knowledge that is not power" - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

At the Atomium Brussels, on the invitation to NATO HQ by the Commander of all United States European Forces.
by Kudakwashe Kanhutu 

Napoleon is reputed to have said that he did not want to be God because it was a dead end job without prospects for career advancement, or words to that effect. In my own life, I have found that this Napoleonic trait (not the complex, mind you) is present to a degree. Take this with a pinch of salt because I have never been to a desert; but all the same I find that I am just like a man wandering in the desert, who sees the mirage of an oasis in the distance, but by the time he arrives at the spot he thought he saw the oasis, it will have moved a bit futher such that he never arrives at his destination. 

All the things I thought would be great to do - playing football in Europe, getting a degree from a top university, dating the world's most beautiful girl, having the job of my choice, befriending the great and powerful,  and being feted in the world's great capital cities - once I have arrived at them I have found they feel so pedestrian and I remain unfulfilled. I suppose this is not a very esoteric feeling as the reason behind this has already been pointed out by authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson: "If I could put my hand on the north star, would it be as beautiful? The sea is lovely, but when we bathe in it, the beauty forsakes all the near water. For the imagination and senses cannot be gratified at the same time." 

Still, perhaps, acknowledging this trait will allow the individual to avoid the worst pitfall of this fault. The epitome of what becomes of those who let this trait go unchecked is Dr Faustus as recounted by Christopher Marlowe. Even after having become a proficient medical doctor, Faustus of Wittenberg still thought he could do more: "Yet art thou still but Faustus and a man. Coudst thou make men to live eternally, Or being dead, raise them to life again, Then this profession were to be esteemed." 

While Dr Faustus of Wittenberg, and his ignominious end, is an extreme example, I still hope my point is made that I worry that all the things I aim to achieve will not mean anything to me once I have achieved them. Which, to be fair, is probably a good problem to have than perhaps being in a situation where you have no hope of attaining these ends at all. 

In Mons, Belgium
As things stand right now, all the things I thought (a few years ago) would say "I have arrived!" seem to me to be just another part of the daily grind - routine, mundane even. To have a one on one conversation with the Commander of NATO, and voice to him my reservations on Operation Unified Protector in Libya while it was in progress, would have been a highlight worth writing home about a few years ago. To travel to Brussels and be driven to NATO Military HQ for a full day of briefings on NATO's modus operandi would also have been the apogee of my dedication to studying global strategic issues. A few more years previously still, to catch a flight - any flight, anywhere - would have been the holy grail as even catching a bus was rare in my junior years in rural Zimbabwe.

Admiral James G. Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO SACEUR), Commander, United States European Command (USEUCOM).

Arriving at S.H.A.P.E, Mons. the Headquarters of all NATO Forces. 
The pedantic among you may observe that, globalisation has made all these things more accessible anyway as flights have become cheap, social media means you can converse with anyone, even the President of the United States or, for that matter, the Queen (Beyonce). I agree with you on these points and, further, it is also my argument that should one become President twenty years from now, one will not help but wonder whether it is not because all the great men - Robert Mugabe, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah - have gone and one is only slightly better than the current mediocre stock in existence. It is also the same with getting a university degree these days, there are so so many tools that can help you - Youtube, Google Search, Wikipedia - that you cannot help but wonder whether if it is not only because it is now infinitely easy that you managed to get your degree.

My transport from Mons Train Station to NATO HQ.
Having said all this, however, the one thing I cannot dismiss is the value of the knowledge I now have, compared to what I had before I - case in point - visited NATO HQ. This point must also be valid in other things in that, even though the novelty of the experience you thought would define you may wear off once you have experienced it, what you may learn thus will stay with you. Which is perhaps what that remarkable fellow - Heraclitus - meant when he said: "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." 

The excellent team that briefed me in Mons on how NATO works while I was conducting my researches on the conditions that will allow militaries of the SADC Region to become interoperable.
Post Script:

Admiral James G Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Commander USEUCOM, briefing President Barack Obama at the Lisbon Summit.

Admiral James G. Stavridis, who has encouraged me to achieve the highest possible educational qualifications in the field despite the fact that I differ with him on world views as his allegiance is to the United States while mine is to the Republic of Zimbabwe.
Photo Essay:

Royal Dutch at LHR.

Boarding my first (and hopefully last) Fokker 70 aircraft. London Heathrow to Amsterdam. 

Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the water. A picture at Amsterdam Schipol Airport (AMS).

Amsterdam Schipol (AMS)

My very brief stopover at Amsterdam Schipol en route to Brussels National Airport.

Boarding the KLM Embraer E170 Jet for the Amsterdam to Brussels leg.

Everything shutdown on arrival at Brussels National Airport after midnight. No delays.

My hotel near Sainte Catherine, Brussels.

De Brouckere Metro Station near my hotel.

Beekant Metro Station on my way to the Atomium.

The Atomium, Brussels.

The Atomium, Brussels.

The Atomium viewed from Heysel.

The Atomium, Brussels.

The Atomium, Brussels.

The view from inside the Atomium.

The view finder

Inside the Atomium.

Inside the Atomium.

Inside the Atomium.

Learning about architecture inside the Atomium.

Learning about architecture inside the Atomium.

Learning about architecture inside the Atomium.

Transiting from one atom to the other.

Transiting from one atom to the other.

The atoms viewed from inside another atom.

The back or the front of the Atomium, who knows?!

The Atomium, viewed from a distance.

The area surrounding the Atomium.

The area surrounding the Atomium

Night falls on Brussels after my first day.
Night falls on Brussels after my first day

Finding my way during the night

Upmarket Brussels at night

I would refuse to be seen dead in this alleged car

I would refuse to be seen dead in this alleged car.

When morning came. Travelling from Brussels to Mons.

Arrival at Mons.

My transport from Mons Train Station to NATO HQ.

My host for the morning briefing at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe - SHAPE. 

My host for the whole day at SHAPE.

With the excellent team that oversaw my visit.

End of day.

Travelling from Mons back to Brussels

Central Brussels

Central Brussels.

Central Brussels
Central Brussels

Brussels Central
Brussels National Airport

Brussels National Airport

Brussels National Airport

Taxiing out at Brussels National Airport

Taxiing onto 25R at Brussels National Airport.

Lighter than air ex 25R at Brussels National.
Lighter than air.

Lighter than air over Belgium

Lighter than air over the Netherlands.

To think that just 70 years ago this was a very unsafe airspace due to WWII

Finals onto Amsterdam Schipol Airport

Feather light landing at AMS, thrust reversers engaged.

Blue on blue: a KLM MD 11

Blue on blue: a KLM MD 11.
Push back at Amsterdam Schipol Airport for the AMS - LHR leg.

Taxiing out at Amsterdam Schipol in a Royal Dutch Boeing 737 - 700.
A British Airways Airbus A320 taking off for London Heathrow, call sign - Speedbird.

Lighter than air ex Amsterdam Schipol Airport.

Lighter than air over the United Kingdom.

Circling over London while waiting for our landing berth at London Heathrow.