30.10.07

Human Dignity

One of the biggest things I hate when it comes to travelling outside of the Western world is seeing the poverty people face on a daily basis. In a world where there is so much wealth I find it amazing that individuals still are starving or suffering. It just doesn't make sense. I wish I could give to everyone but we have been constantly told on the trips we have made to be careful who we give to and how because it encourages children skipping school, buying sweets or even more unemployment, etc. So when we were told in Morocco about one individual we could actually help James and I jumped at the chance to make a difference.

Morocco has only a 50% literacy rate. You see many children younger than 15 herding sheep, working in the fields or even serving in cafe's. Every few steps you take you consistently get the 'open palm' begging for a few dirham. Loads try to sell items in shops but with 20 others on the same block selling exactly the same thing, times can become rough. Imagine trying to conquer this inevitable poverty if you were disabled!

In Essaouira we were told about a chap (I can't remember his name unfortunately) who has severe spina bifida which confined him to a wheelchair and is quite disabled because of it. Instead of begging or ending up in an institution he learned how to paint using his mouth and 365 days a year (including Ramadan--a month long period of fasting during the day) paints in the main square. He uses a tray on his wheel chair as a display and with the money he earns from painting he supports himself, his mother and I believe his sister as well.

No matter who you are, you want the dignity and the basic right of being able to provide for yourself. I was so inspired by his determination to overcome any odds to be able to do this. We just had to help him for this reason so we bought three of his small paintings (see below) and gave him extra. The extra was nothing to us (about £6) but was probably double of what he would have made in a week (the average Moroccan makes approximately $3.00 a week). No wonder why his smile was so big with our purchase!

It really is not about the money but about changing someone's life and giving them the self respect and dignity to continue. Although we just chatted to this chap for a minute it is one of the moments I'll remember from my trip the most! It felt so great to make a difference even when I was on holiday!

Here are the paintings:


my favorite-- I love the colors!


Medinas, Mountains and Kasbahs

Wow--what a glorious three weeks! I can't believe the time went by so fast and how much I packed into the trip (saw most of the country). I took nearly 400 pictures and was so pleased with the results for the first time I feel like I should put my name on them, i.e. copyright. Although I've only posted a few pictures on here and just over a dozen on Flickr--they are still a good reflection of what kind of trip I had.

Morocco reminded me of my trip to Egypt a few years back but it was much more Western because of being previously under the rule of France. The appeal of Morocco is that much of life hasn't changed since the beginning of time and the idea of 'artisans' still is very much in existence. Wandering the medinas (old medevil markets) you can easily get lost and overwhelmed in the sites, smells and culture (and by the number of cats!). The art on everything is beautiful usually based on words from the Koran , the influence of mosques and uses 'mosaics' absolutely everywhere. In our trip we actually went to a place where they did mosaics and it was interesting to learn how they do it and see the patience and love that goes into their creations (to put the mosaics together, they have to do the patterns backwards on the floor).

In most cities are Medinas and my favorite was in Fes which had blacksmiths, wood-carvers, glass-makers, leather workers and fabric weavers. In the open spaces of many of the medinas they would often have storytellers, jugglers, snake-charmers, acrobats, etc. It was like a carnival gone wild. The most famous of these is in Marrakech.

Besides wandering the Medinas, the countryside and Mountains are absolutely gorgeous. We ended up doing over 15 hours of hiking throughout the trip and it was amazing. Hiking between villages, through agricultural fields we got a first hand look at how life really outside of the city. The villages or Kasbah's (mud huts) were very impressive (particularly Ait Ben Haddou and the people so friendly (French is spoken in Morocco). The children all waved and said Bonjour and begged for 1 dirham (money in Morocco). I wish I could have taken more pictures of the people but many Moroccans unfortunately have a very bad view on photographs and get upset when pictures are taken.

Next to the sublime peacefulness of the mountains I really enjoyed the ocean in Essaouira. Who doesn't like the sounds of the ocean and the fresh sea air? I slept so well and I loved wandering the streets and shopping. The blue and white decor of the city apparently is the Andalucian way of warding off the evil eye which they must have successfully done because the city has such a relaxed and blissful vibe to it.

In the end--A very good trip one that I'll remember for the rest of my life. I'm very glad to be home but enjoyed getting away from everything and escaping to Morocco for a few weeks! So here are some pictures (I would double click on them to see their full size) and please remember there are more pics in Flickr:


Fes




Marrakech- the main square




The High Atlas Mountains---very near the highest peak in North Africa
Ait Ben Haddou-The most impressive Kasbah in Morocco. (Has been used in NUMEROUS movies)
Hassan mosque in Casablanca. You can get a little bit of an idea how big the place was!

8.10.07

Moroccan Adventure


Leaving in a couple of days for Morocco and I can't freakin' wait! Going to be spending nearly 3 weeks travelling around the country and seeing absolutely everything as well as eating divine Mediterranean food. Looking forward to the fact it will be a heck of a lot warmer than it is here in London and that the shopping will be amazing. If you want to read a bit more about what I'll be up to on my tour of the country--check out my side-bar under 'October trip'. Our first port of call is Casablanca, very exciting. Apparently there is an actual 'Ricks Cafe' as well--go figure eh? Well-enjoy the month of October and I'll post plenty of pictures when I get back!!

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* A quick note: You may be interested that for most of our trips we do a carbon offsetting scheme through Climatecare.org. Basically you can figure out how much CO2 your trip will be, pay some money and they invest in third world countries to help reduce global warming. If you are interested in this organization please check my side bar under 'What have you done today?'

4.10.07

Eat, Pray, Love


Only 7 days (not counting or anything!) till my holiday to Morocco and I thought heck why not get a little start on my book I bought specifically to take with me. Well 4 days later I've finished the darn thing! I blame the author for writing such an enjoyable, inspiring, thought provoking book about her journey of self-discovery traveling for a year through Italy, India and Indonesia. Its her fault the pages are now all dog-eared and underlined due to the fact I don't want to forget the inspiring things she's said and that I'm sleep deprived due to staying up till nearly 1 a.m. the last few nights trying to find out what happens next. Its her fault as well I have to find a new book now to take on holiday--so Damn You Elizabeth Gilbert!! Anyway--Its interesting though how things come in your life at the exact moment you need them and this book has filled this beautifully. To some who read this it may not hit a chord or you may think its rubbish but for me this book I could relate to on so many different levels. I guess that's why I feel so exhausted (in a good way) having finished it because her journey has been my journey. Sure the exact circumstances surrounding hers was different, but each one of us is ultimately on the same path aren't we; to try to figure ourselves out and to find peace and happiness. We sure beat ourselves up in the process sometimes (myself included) but if we take the time to slow down, listen and understand the words self-compassion and love we can do and enjoy so much more of this short period of existence called life. It reminds me of a passage in the book that says, " The problem with all this swinging through the vines of thought is that you are never where you are. You are always digging in the past or poking in the future, but rarely do you rest in the moment."
My life has had periods of such chaos and I forget sometimes to experience and take in the moment. Even if it is painful and horrid I need to embrace these times as well because it is all part of listening to what God/the universe/whatever you want to call it is trying to teach me. The chance to truly listen though comes only when you peel away all the layers of your life. I like what the book says about this, " The only place the mind will ever find peace is inside the silence of the heart. "
Although I'm exhausted and my pillow is beckoning me--I am glad I read the book. I guess what I learned from this in the end is to embrace the stillness, embrace the moment, listen more, to love myself and to love others. Sure I'll mess up but I'm going to just do my best each day which is all anyone can do really. Its not the end result that we learn the most from, its the process getting there. Being alive is extraordinary and I have/ we all have so much to be grateful for and to be exuberant about. Having this gratitude, this contentment is so key to obtaining inner peace and ultimately being able to help yourself and others. Its like the book says, " The search for contentment is...not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but a generous gift to the world. "