Riding a bike in a quest for peace

Sherine Abdel Monaim
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Everybody is striving for peace now or they are at least claiming to. The US says it is working for peace. Israel says the same. The Arab leaders as well voice their commitment to their peace initiative at each and every summit they hold. Reading newspapers published in Egypt 10 years ago, one can find the same headlines, the only difference being in the names of ministers mentioned.

Jeffrey Polnaja, also called Kang JJ, turned from being a passive observer to becoming active. It all began when his five-year-old, after watching the news on television, said to him: “Daddy do something.

What can I do? JJ asked. Ride for peace, don t you know how to ride?! JJ s son replied.

I wanted to ride for peace for my boy and family. All of us need peace, even babies, JJ said with tears in his eyes in an interview with The Daily Star Egypt.

He sold his business to support his family, and began a journey around the world on April 23, 2006. The solo peace ride, on his BMW bike, will take JJ to 100 countries and cover five continents and will take five years, concluding in 2011.

This week, the tall, strongly built JJ was in Cairo, the 21st country he has traveled to in Asia and the Middle East. The countries he has visited so far include Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

When asked about the dangers he faced, JJ said once he was shot at in a conflict-ridden country but the bullet thankfully missed him. In Bhutan, he ran into a bear. In Pakistan, a drunk driver hit him with his car, destroying his windshield.

But despite all the dangers he has faced, JJ has seemingly not lost his strong will orhigh spirits. I m not afraid. We don t have to be afraid of nature. We have to respect it, he said.

Polnaja is set to leave Egypt Thursday through Matrouh to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, from where he will start his journey to Europe.

After exploring most of the countries in Europe, he will continue his journey toAmerica and Australia before heading home to Indonesia in 2011. He also intends to celebrate his 50th birthday in Africa, but with a car this time .

JJ said that a lot of people have been supporting him. He gets as many as 500 clicks on his web site www.rideforpeace.info.

During his visit to Makkah El-Mukramah in Saudi Arabia, he managed to perform Omra (smaller pilgrimage). I m the first person to perform an Omra on a motorbike, he said, showing me his photo in Ihram clothes.

I prayed to Allah and thanked him for everything, he told me.

When asked about his thoughts after riding his bike across 21 countries in a single year, JJ said: Life is so fantastic and exciting. Sure it is and I wish you a safe journey back home.

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