IIt All Begins with Crocodiles

My smallest crocodile is golden and only 13 millimeters long. It is actually a pin on the head of a Zairean fetish, holding together a piece of real leopard skin with a synthetic ancillary. I was in Zaïre, today the Congo, in 1981/82. I had passed the diplomatic examination of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs the year before. My father who was a career diplomat and, at that time Ambassador of Switzerland to Tunisia, asked me, “Are you sure?”, my brother said, “You’re crazy”, but I still became a diplomat and Kinshasa was my first posting abroad. After

King Kong Meets Tarzan

The film ‘King Kong’ was shot in 1933, sixty years before ‘Jurassic Park’, but has a much more refined plot. It plays between the Great Depression in New York and a mysterious island with the life of 200 million years ago, a Jurassic park. Adventurers travel to this island to film and capture an oversized ape named Kong. Kong falls in love with a woman amongst the adventurers, Ann, and abducts her. The group searches the jungle for her and is attacked and decimated by vicious dinosaurs. They find Ann and rescue her. On their way back, Kong pursues

At age nineteen, after I had finished high school and enrolled at the University of Bern for my studies of law, my parents left Switzerland. My father had become the Swiss Ambassador to Ethiopia. 1974 was not only the year of my last visit to them there, two other events drew the world’s attention to Ethiopia: Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, was removed from his throne in a communist coup d’état. And in the northern end of the Ethiopian Great Rift Valley, the Awash, the bone fossils of a female hominid were found. Worldwide, this lady became known as

Throughout her history, the Earth’s climate has been fluctuating between hot and cold, ‘greenhouse’ Earth and ‘icehouse’ Earth. When the asteroid hit our planet 65 million years ago, Earth was in a greenhouse period but with the continents moving into their current positions, it started cooling. A new geological era opened. Flowering plants evolved. The main new feature, however, appeared in the fauna: After the Age of Reptiles with its dinosaurs and crocodiles, the Age of Mammals began. – That’s us. And 36 million years ago, the Earth slipped into an icehouse period with the Arctic and Antarctic ice

As a student of law in the 1970s, I had a lot of free time on my hand. This allowed me to visit the countries where my father was the Swiss Ambassador in that time, Ethiopia, China, and Tunisia. After my visits to Ethiopia and leaving Switzerland for Tunisia, it would never have occurred to me to say that I was going to ‘Africa’. Once in Tabarka, the Tunisian wine region, I was surprised by snowfall in spring. Tunisia and Morocco are both fully in the northern temperate climate zone. In Morocco I was only once, for a seminar

South of the Sahel comes the open range of the tropical savanna, one of the defining landscapes of Africa and, of what I have seen of the vast continent, my favorite. Add to an endless plain of grassland a lone acacia tree and a sunset. Or add a giraffe or one of the ‘Big Five’ – a lion, a leopard, an elephant, a rhino, or a buffalo – and you have the perfect advertisement for a photo safari in the savanna of East and southern Africa. In some countries, for a lot of money, you can shoot these animals

The coastline embracing the vast land of Africa and holding together the Arab North and the Sub-Saharan South, the East and the West, measures something over 30’000 kilometers and defines the shape of Africa. The distinct and clear-cut form of Africa has become a recognizable logo for the continent itself. It is printed on tee-shirts, artisans sell it as keyring and necklace pendants, and tourists buy its replica in leather, wood or gold and silver in any African country they visit. Geologically, the shape of Africa shows us what a continent is meant to be: A discrete landmass separated

I am a baby-boomer and a rock’n’roller. In 1951, my year of birth, Ike Turner and his ‘Kings of Rhythm’, a rhythm and blues band, recorded ‘Rocket 88’. Nobody really knows why, but today, Rocket 88 is said to have been the first rock’n’roll song. It does have that back beat but so did other songs of that time. In the sixties, the Rolling Stones picked up that beat and I grew up singing and dancing with them, “I know it’s only rock’n’roll, but I like it”. Ike Turner became the husband of Tina Turner and together they were

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