No, he is not a mascot. “I am an independent person”, stresses Pinguin Pinguin, who became the 1700 fan of the Golden Times during the Rhein-Neckar Agora in Mannheim. He told the Golden Times why Europe is so much cooler than the South Pole – and why it is so much fun to travel with Wieke van der Kroef and Mathieu Soete.

Pinguin car
Pinguin Pinguin travels a lot!

Golden Times: Pinguin, congratulations! You are the 1700th fan of the Golden Times. How did you hear about it?
Pinguin Pinguin: Everybody knows the Golden Times, and I am a part of everybody, so I know.

Golden Times: What kind of articles do you read most?
Pinguin: I like the stories on the history of AEGEE, because you cannot find those anywhere else…

Golden Times: Let’s clear up a misunderstanding. Many people think you are a mascot, but you are not, right?
Pinguin: No. I am an independent person, I have an opinion and rights just like anybody else. I am no one’s property and I support certain opinions but not a local or any group of people. No one can own me, or tell me what to do or where to waddle. I am independent!

Pinguin Mathieu
Sometimes you can see him with Mathieu Soete

Golden Times: Most penguins live at the South Pole, far away from Europe. What do you like about this continent so much?
Pinguin: Well, as you might know the South Pole is very cold. And I like the sun, I like swimming in a warm pool every once in a while. Plus the other penguins did not really respect my different opinions. They could never see beyond the fact that I like other things than just fish day in day out. I wanted to be able to make choices. I heard Europe was an open place, where people can be themselves and be respected for it, so I gave it a try. Now this feels like home as well.

Golden Times: How did you hear about AEGEE in the first place?
Pinguin: I was not sure where to go exactly when I arrived here. So I was browsing the web, playing songs on YouTube and all of the sudden there was this cool song. It really inspired me. And, well.. It was about AEGEE. It was hopeful and represented everything I was looking for: friendship, travelling, freedom… Here’s the link:

Pinguin AgoraMannheim
He was at the Agora in Mannheim with Wieke van der Kroef

Golden Times: You have been to many places in Europe already, judging on your photos. Which two or three places did you like most?
Pinguin: The nicest was Mollina in Spain, where I helped Mathieu and Wieke at a Green Leaders training. I found that I can make people feel more comfortable in telling their story, sharing their opinion. Plus the weather was great and there even was a pool. And we went to pick organic grapes with the whole group, we made an entire mountain in just one morning! On the other side of Europe I really liked Bucuresti in winter, because all the snow reminded me a bit of home on Antarctica, and I could finally make snow angels again. The third best would be my first trip in Europe, road-tripping in France, chilling on the dashboard, visiting castles and a strange city on a rock in the sea…

Golden Times: How did you like the Agora in Mannheim?
Pinguin: Uncle Paul! Uncle Paul was on the stage all the time, epibrating and actually being important, and looking cool…

Golden Times: You mean Agora vice chair Paul Smits?
Pinguin: Yes! I like being on stage and looking cool too, I was on stage in Budapest with Atanas for a little while. That was awesome. I also liked seeing and hugging all my friends from Europe on Track and the NWMs again. Hugging people is a good thing, more hugging is more better.

Pinguin snow
Pinguin Pinguin loves to make snow angels

Golden Times: I did not see you at the parties in Mannheim though. You are not a party animal?
Pinguin: Not really, I am too young to drink and people never watch where they walk in a club. I prefer a bar with just talking and sipping when nobody is watching me…

Golden Times: How did you like the CD candidatures and other candidates?
Pinguin: I know them, nice people. CD is epibrating on another level, the election took a long time, but there was little choice to be made. I would have preferred more efficiency. So there would be more time for sleeping or hugging or a good thematic discussion.

Golden Times: The most controversial proposal was the proposal to introduce regions. Would you have been in favour or against?
Pinguin: Hmmm… I don’t really understand what it was about. In Antarctica people also made regions, but we penguins don’t care. We waddle around where we want and make friends everywhere. You think I would let any border stop me from travelling? Penguins don’t care, we waddle where we want.

Pinguin hat
Last Christmas he went to Morocco, as you can see from his Fez

Golden Times: It seems that half of the Agora was sleeping in the plenary. What’s your opinopn about it?
Pinguin: Lazy people. I understand though, I like sleeping too. But sometimes you need to be awake as well. Otherwise you miss all the nice stuff that happens in the world around you. And learn, you can only learn when you are awake, I like learning! So I guess people can be awake to learn, but I understand that sleeping is nice too, I would just do it at a quiet time, when you don’t miss anything…

Golden Times: I saw that you are often travelling with Mathieu Soete or Wieke van der Kroef. How come?
Pinguin: They take care of me. Like parents, but I am not their child because people don’t lay eggs, and I come from an egg. I am a bird.

Golden Times: You were one of the travellers of the Blue Team during the “Europe on Track” project. Did you expect it to be so successful? What were your strongest impressions of the trip?
Pinguin: Epibrailing! Snow! Thematic discussions! Europe on Track was really amazing, it was my best AEGEE experience ever. I think the success is largely because of all the locals and people that helped us on the way. Organising workshops, opening their homes, showing us around. Thank you!

Pinguin Panel
Pinguin Pinguin also loves events

Golden Times: Are you also so fanatic about environmental issues like Mathieu Soete?
Pinguin: Yes. I know of the problems we had back home with ice melting and colonies having to downsize. You think you have a crisis here? Try losing your home to climate change or oil spilling everywhere, like it is happening to my friends from the north: polar bears… That’s why I support the campaigns “Save the Antarctic” by Avaaz and “Save the Arctic” by Greenpeace. I even have a picture with Kumi Naidoo, the Greenpeace boss. And bees of course. Bees are awesome too and we need them.

Golden Times: What AEGEE plans do you have this year? Will you go to a Summer University?
Pinguin: No, I am going to travel Britain. I will be ruling Mathieu’s bicycle all the way from Land’s end to John O’Groats.

Pinguin with Greenpeace Director Kumi Naidoo

Golden Times: What other hobbies do you have aside from AEGEE?
Pinguin: I like swimming, and washing machines… And watching documentaries with David Attenborough, he is my hero. And as I said before, I like sleeping a lot. But also being awake… I like pretty much everything about being alive…

Golden Times: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Pinguin: Can I send hugs to people? I will send a hug to everyone who needs one. And anyone who is not sure where home is, pick up your stuff and go find it, the least you will find is some very special places on this beautiful planet we live on!