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World March Blog
26 December 2009

The World March review

Just before the end of each year it is customary to make a review and give awards; the best sportsperson, the best film, the funniest joke, etc.

I thought it would be fun to do something similar with the World March.  With only 1 country left for me (Argentina) here is my personal review of the World March (remembering that I travelled only 30 of the 90+ countries)…

Best welcome: Rekohu – Standing out among all the fantastic welcomes we received was the one given to us by the beautiful Rekohu islanders.  The spiritual and ceremonial start to the World March surely put us in the best possible condition to start this long journey.

Most exciting moment: Wellington, 2nd October the official start of the March – knowing that what we were doing in New Zealand was being awaited around the world and knowing that in the next 24 hours hundreds of events were taking place in support of the International Day of Nonviolence and the WM start was exhilarating.

Best welcome dance: Aboriginal welcome in Sydney Australia. It was about 5 degrees centigrade and raining and this family performed some splendid welcome dances and even had the rest of the base team dancing too.

Solemnest moment: Walking along the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. The feeling of quiet and sadness was invasive.  It was only at the end of this event that we realised that we were the first foreigners to visit it, something I still can’t quite believe.

Most publicly emotional moment: receiving a hug from a hibakusha in Hiroshima. See the blog entry for details.

Rudest airline: Aeroflot.  Not only did the check-in staff make us pay for virtually every single kilogram of excess weight even though we were Marching for Peace and Nonviolence, even though the flight was half full, but then the cabin crew treated us like shit too!

Most paranoid police force: Moscow. Being made to hide the WM logos and flags 10 blocks away from Red Square even though we had no intention of doing anything other than take a few tourist photos beats all the others I experienced, although I hear that the Ankara police would have been in competition for this prize.

Most amusing moment: phone call from HSBC. See here.

Best technological gadget: The bus from Istanbul to the Greek border. Who knew that you could get internet on a bus?

Best political discussion: Greeks discussing the name of the country on their northern border.  We spent hours on this theme travelling through the Balkans.

Best children’s March: Macedonia. The children were everywhere we went.  Splendid!

Most paranoid border control officer: Macedonia. We were only taking a photo of ourselves with our friends who made Macedonia so memorable!  We weren’t planning to come back and bomb the place later.

Biggest shock: Bomb damage in Belgrade. You turn a corner and there you face a building shell, the remains of the US bombs on Serbia during the Balkan wars.

Most bizarre coincidence:  the World March arriving in Prishtina, Kosovo on the day they give an award to Bill Clinton for all the bombs he dropped on the country!

Most entertaining World March companion: Former World Boxing Champion, Mensur Peljto, BosniaSee here.

Most beautiful city: Sarajevo, Bosnia. A cold and sunny day in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital city in the mountains, made this the most beautiful city for me and one that I hope to return to soon.

Best joke: President Mesic of Croatia. “You can negotiate with terrorists but not with Protocol,” as our time with him came to an end and the Protocol officer was kicking us out.

Strangest Peace Sign: Slovenia. Forming a peace sign while kneeling on the floor with umbrellas while it is raining heavily.

Best peace sign: Trieste, Italy. With the energy of the samba band this was far and away the best peace sign I took part in.

Wettest March: Vicenza, Italy.

Strangest night’s sleep: Geneva, Switzerland. Sleeping in a nuclear-bomb-proof underground shelter cannot be beaten even by sleeping with 50 other people in the same room in Rekohu!

Best singing: World March organisers in Germany, singing Ode to Joy the day before Silo addressed the Nobel Laureates Summit.

Most inspired speech: Bernard Lafayette, New York, USA. In the church where Martin Luther King denounced the War in Vietnam, Dr Lafayette blew our socks off with the inspiration and energy of his speaking.

Best day of the World March: Los Angeles, USA. This was a hard category with Wellington, New York and Bogota all competing for this honour.  In the end a fantastic civic reception and declaration of support by LA city council, followed by the Tongva Nation blessing ceremony, followed by pictures at the Hollywood sign, followed by a March of 500 people down Wilshire Boulevard including Martin Sheen, followed by a cultural event with many inspirational speeches is my best day of the World March.  Congratulations to Mayra Gomez and all those who made it possible.

Best head dress:  Mexico City indigenous ceremony. Huge feathers and great costumes.

Best music accompaniment: Marimba from Tapachula. I could have listened and watched these guys play all night.

Best hat: Esquipulas, Guatemala. Stefano Cecere (with the base team in Asia) asked me to bring as a present for him the most amusing hat I could find.  Stefano, I found the most amusing hat ever!!

Best hour of tourism: Copan, Honduras. Wandering around the Mayan ruins, then planting a tree for the World March.

Best small event: San Salvador. We were told that the last event of the day in San Salvador was cancelled because of no sound system.  We were told this when we had already arrived at the venue.  Apparently no one told the people it was cancelled either and together with Micky and Magaly, the three of us had the opportunity to take part in the most unexpected, yet inspirational event of the March for me: a small gathering of around 40 people who had stayed for an hour waiting to hear from us.

Best drummers: the boys of Aruko Wakia, Costa Rica.  Rafael, Alberto, Jonathan and Felipe – you made the Central America leg of the March something very special for the base team.

Best March I didn’t participate in: Panama City. 8,000 people marching for Peace.

Best media coverage: Colombia. The work with Caracol TV led to all Colombian media taking part.  An incredible work by David Nassar and others in the Colombian promotion team.

Best food: Montserrat, Bogota. This was a difficult category also, only just beating the fantastic food we received in Rekohu!

Most surreal moment: A day spent with Juanes, Ipiales, Colombia. See here.

Best government reception: Ecuador. The Government of Rafael Correa gave us a splendid reception in a meeting with his entire cabinet.  In addition to the work done by the local organisers in Quito, Cuenca and Quayaquil this was the most impressive part of the March at an institutional and Government level.

Most touching moment: Lima, Peru. Bringing the World March to young people who suffer with disability (which is not the same as inability) reminded us that the work of the World March here is just as important if not more important than the work with Presidents and governments.

Bravest marchers: the LGBT representatives of El Alto, Bolivia. These young men from El Alto, expressing their sexual orientation openly by dressing as they did, paid no attention to the strange looks from passers by as the March led into the centre of La Paz.  Good for them!

Most hopeful venue for the World March: Asuncion, Paraguay. The young people of Asuncion, even on Christmas Day, gave us a welcome that matches most of the best receptions we have had.  Here we really felt that these young people are the future once the March has finished.

As you can see, every country wins a prize!!  Clearly, this is just a bit of fun, and shows some of the World March highlights for me.  Only one week to go to Punta de Vacas!  We can’t wait to get there…

Big hug

Tony

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