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- From: Zozolo
I just got back from Mongolia travelled few weeks covering south Gobi desert and north beautiful big lake. My driver was really friendly and guide was knowledgable to explain all sights that we visited. I realized spring is not best time to travel to Mongolia might many people suggestion true that June or July best. I hope i will come to Mongolia again during the summer time to watch greatest Nadam Festival. I want to share many things happened in Mongolia if you want feel free to contact me ... :) email@example.com
Also i realize choosing good travel company is important and i m satistfied with my choice which is family-run small company. If you want visit here www.travelbuddies.info
I wrote here some values of nomadic life that i observed. Please enjoy.
1. Values of nomadic life are in the following in general :
· Loving nature
· Loving livestocks
· Having various intelligences
· Loving neighbors
· Storing ancient customs
I believe nomadic life is moving-oriented, adaptive and one of the tuft life to challenge people. Nomads live very close to the nature, depend on nature and pray for nature which involves landscape, sun, blue sky, river, grass, mountain and trees. Loving nature is their value. Because if this year winter is not harsh and quite warm, nomads are really thankful for nature and happy. Keep ancestor customs, protecting , adapting nature to breed live stocks is value of nomadic life.
In Mongolia, every morning especially women sprinkle milk to the sun when it rises. They believe and pray for sun to protect our family and loving ones with white milk which is symbol for goodness. Worshiping sun is one of our nomadic life values.
Nomads move 3-4 times in a year. When they move they leave the place very clean and no print. Because we believe if they pollute the landscape it counts as a sin.
They always take water with clean ladle from the river. If they pollute river with milked ladle they believe that they become blind.
Nomads believe when flood comes if we make voice to the sky it stops. So that nomads when flood come they climb to the top of mountain and make voice to the sky.
They prohibit children pulling out grass and break growing tree. These are examples of protecting nature.
During my trip, my horse trekking guide shared me that he cried because someone broke growing tree which is only one around that area. This is his value of nomadic life. Also he lives in further Terelj as a nomad. He also shared me that Japanese tourist visited their home ten years ago. When that tourist leave the place he cried that be this beautiful natured place same forever because he loved so much. But now you see many crowded building here. I realized his heart broke while he is talking. Because he loves the nature which is one of his live values.
I asked from one nomadic family do you want to move to live in Ulaanbaatar city. They answered this life is from my ancestor and we can’t leave it but maybe for my children it can be possible. Following the ancestor rule and breed their livestock is one of their life values.
I met some of guys in countryside. They shared that few days ago they visited Ulaanbaatar city with some amount of money. But they spent all money within 3 days and realized that it is not the place where they live. Nomads have real freedom than citizens. They move where ever they want and independent. When tourists travel around countryside they shout that freedom is here and they could take a rest well. Freedom is one of their precious values.
Loving live stocks
My horse trekking guide loves horse. He trains racing horse and if he got money he dreams to buy more racing horses. From here I see nomads love their live stocks. Breeding them is most important value for them.
I heard several times that when hard winter comes to take away many of nomads live stocks many child herders get stress and hurt. This shows how they love livestock and even it is the reason to get hurt.
If nomads look people or nomads who are moving they go there with a plate of pastry, dairy products and milk tea. Because they think we are nomads too. They will move someday in that time others might feed us with their food and think our help. Mongolian people generally help those who need and suffer from sickness and contribute when hard time comes. It is critical that young people forget about this customs. Ex. There were students travelling in the countryside. Then local nomads came to them and offer their food to them. After finish to eat food one of student asked locals how much should we pay for your food?. But local nomads disappointed. Because nomads don’t do those things for money.
Nomads heart for others is one of their values. Especially in Gobi area, nomads never lock the door because they think if someone in need such as hungry then come to our house and cook also take things you need.
Having various intelligences
I think the intelligence of growing live stocks is one of the values. Because nomads learn caring live stocks, increasing the numbers and overcoming the harsh weather saving live stocks from the childhood. Good herder can be good businessmen. The reason is they know how to turn and increase ten sheep to twenty. This is their intelligence. They prize herders who increased number of lives tocks to one thousand.
Growing children intelligence is one of their values. Because when children turn to adult, get married they live next to the parents as a neighbor. Parents teach riding racing horse for boys from age 3, looping wild horse and training racing horse. For girls, they teach riding racing horse too also making dairy products and milking live stocks.
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- From: laratada
My husband and I took a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines last December. I plan to write a more detailed journal about our adventures, but thought I'd start with some handy resources for anybody planning a trip. Since we barely had five days in Vietnam, we decided to make Saigon our home base and take a couple of day trips beyond city life. Feel free to contact me with any questions!
DAY 1: Late night arrival and check-in
DAY 2: Explore HCMC District 1 & 3
- Grab a quick bite to eat at the city's largest covered market, Ben Thanh. Explore the maze of fruit, meat, food and shopping stalls.
- Walk or take a cyclo to the Reunification Palace
- Stroll through the shaded park filled with locals and students to Notre Dame Cathedral and the General Post Office. This is near HCMC's high-end area with some of the fancier and more diverse dining options (albeit pricey by Vietnamese standards).
- Spend the afternoon touring the collection of machinery and weapons and getting a different perspective of the Vietnam War at the War Remnants Museum. Be warned that some of the displays and exhibits can be very graphic. Make sure to bring water as there is no A/C and on a hot day, it can get quite muggy on the upper floors.
- Jet lag may sink in so you may want to head back to the hotel for a break, or get a cheap foot massage at one of the many salons (stay away from ones with women in scanty outfits displayed in the window).
- Enjoy dinner near your hotel or at a Bia Hoi sidewalk stool for a cheap and more authentic experience
DAY 3: COOKING CLASS & MORE EXPLORATION
- Arrange a cooking class or tour with Connections Vietnam. A local guide, usually a student, will meet you at your hotel and take you around the city or to a family's home where you can shop for ingredients at a nearby market and prepare a delicious, Vietnamese lunch.
- Spend the afternoon visiting one of the city's many Pagodas. For an atmospheric, spooky experienceI recommend the Emperor Jade Pagoda in District 3. Cholon (Chinatown) also has a slew of temples to visit, including Giac Lam Pagoda.
- If you have time, take advantage of one of the city's many cheap salon or spa services before dinner.
DAY 4: DAY TRIP TO CU CHI TUNNELS AND CAO DAI TEMPLE
Arrange a tour through your hotel or something more personalized with an operator like Connections Vietnam or Sinh Balo for a day trip out of the city. A popular day trip is to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels in the morning and Cao Dai Temple in the afternoon. The advantage of taking a personal tour is that you can start earlier and beat the crowds.
- Meet your guide and take a 90-minute ride out of the city and through the country to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground network of tunnels made by the Viet Cong during the war. You start the tour with a funny, war-era propaganda film about its history and proceed to explore an outdoor exhibit of tunnels, bunkers, and traps. There's even a shooting range where tourists can pay to fire different weapons.
- Head out to Tay Ninh to visit the spiritual center of the Cao Dai religion and observe a ceremony at the colorful temple around noon. Cao Dai is a popular religion in southern Vietnam that pulls from the pillars of Buddhism, Islam, Christiany, and Taoism.
- Usually the tour will arrange for lunch nearby the temple before arriving back in the city in mid to late afternoon. Spend the rest of the day shopping or resting.
DAY 5: DAY TRIP TO MEKONG DELTA
We arranged our tour with Sinh Balo and were very happy with their personal service and expertise. Though a little pricier, our tour group only consisted of six people, unlike the many bus-loads you may encounter on your journey. There are several Mekong sites you can visit, we opted for a trip to the Can Tho floating market as described below.
- Meet guide in morning and pick up remaining tourists before take a two hour drive south to Can Tho.
- Board a small boat and explore daily life at the floating market.
- Enjoy a tour where you get to watch how candies and rice paper is madewith free samples and tea afterward (in hopes of course that you'll buy more).
- Set back out on the Mekong River and admire the countryside and local life. Eventually you'll arrive at a small canal area where each couple boards a sampang (Vietnamese canoe) to explore the area.
- Hike through fruit orchards and sample exotic fruit in season.
- Board back on boat and stop at restaurant for a late lunch.
- Arrive back in Saigon in the early evening.
GENERAL HCMC INFO:
- Connections Vietnam - Responsible tourism operator that sets up tours with local students or young residents. Offers cooking classes in people's home. Highly recommended!
- Sinh Balo: Adventure travel operator offering in-depth, small tours. I recommend booking with them a few days before you want to take a tour. The more people that sign up, the cheaper their rates become for the next people who join.
- Travelfish – Asian budget/backpacker site
- Reid on Travel – Great itinerary and planning suggestions written by ex-pat living in Vietnam. Super helpful.
- Any Arena – Guide for hip Saigon shopping, dining and nightlife
- Spas Vietnam – Helpful listing of area spas
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- From: hhart
I went to Morocco on study abroad in the Fall 2007 semester of my junior year of college. I spent most of my trip taking classes and staying with my homestay family in Rabat. I also spent a lot of time travelling, and spent time in Asilah, Meknes, Fes, Mehdya, Azrou, Casablanca, Marrakech, Essaouira, Merzouga, Ourzazate, the beautiful Cascades d'Ouzoud and a small village in the Atlas Mountains. I hope you enjoy my stories!
On the second day of the SIT Morocco program, we students are required to be "dropped off." In this assignment, a bus takes students to random locations in Rabat, and drops them off four at a time with an assignment to complete. The assignment is ususally just to observe something, and in my case it was clothing and dress. We are to take note of varieties of dress, in my case, and report back on our findings to the group. Our other unoffficial and infinitely for difficult assignment, though, is to find our way back to the school INDIVIDUALLY and within about one and a half hours. This task may be relatively easy in a city like New York for instance, where people speak the same language and you and roads are marked clearly, but in Rabat that is not the case. A map is pretty worthless if you don't know the street you are on. We were given 20 dirhams (approximately 2 dollars) in case we got horribly lost and needed to take a taxi, but were encouraged to make our way on foot. For women, there is the added difficulty of street harrassment; it is not uncommon for a man to follow you for ten minutes whispering what he thinks are winning pick-up lines in your ear.
For those of you who don't know me directly (aka, my mom's friends :) I have very little faith in my abysmal sense of direction. But I was determined to accomplish this task as gracefully as possible. My group was dropped off fourth and by no definable area. By that time I had given up trying to remember the way through the labyrinth and so just set off in the direction I came and hoped my intuition would kick in. Encouraged to make our own way, the four of us split off quickly and I immediately found myself in just about the worst neighborhood I could have picked. Stearing clear of the numerous motorcyle gangs, I navigated my way through the shantytown and panicked slowly as a realized that I had no idea where I was. Some moroccan guy asked me for directions, and I think I laughed at him kind of maniacally, looking like a crazy person. Finally, I hiked up a hill and breathed a sigh of relief as I saw my salvation--The ocean. My school is on the ocean so I knew that I just had to ask someone which way a major building was, and then I could follow the beach. I got up the courage to ask a lone guy for directions, and, being typically moroccan, he proceeded to have a five minute one-sided conversation with himself in French while I tried to portray an apologetic expression, which probably just came across as pained. Soooo, I walked along the beach for a while but then had to go into the medina to dodge a "hunter," as we jokingly call the pathetic guys who follow us. Time was running out, so I got on the main street that my school is on and hailed a taxi. Two minutes later it was a five dirham (about 60 cents) ride and I got out RIGHT ON TIME, with a feeling of accomplishment and a story to tell.
I just moved in with my homestay family. There name is Ben Ali and they have three children: Amina, who is 19, Hamza, who is seventeen, and Zahira, who is five and adorable. Amina is in her last year of highschool, speaks English well and is a "crazy girl" by moroccan standards. That is, she dresses and acts very western (which means loud) and is friends with a lot of boys who she abuses publicly. Hamza is in highschool and is much like any teenage boy, kind of quiet and sullen, like someone else I know :) He speaks a little english. Zahira is the cutest little girl in the world, and doesn't really care that we can't communicate as long as I let her brush my hair. The dad, Robio, is retired and only speaks moroccan arabic, which is great because he is making it his business to teach me. The first word I learned was "ajee," which mean "come." The mom's name is Nezha, and she can't remember my name, but that's ok because she is very nice and washed my clothes for me while I was at school.
How to describe the house. When you walk in, you go up stairs and there are two open rooms in front of you. One is the room for prayer, called the saloon, which looks the nicest because it is not really lived in. The other one, lined with couches, is the guestroom, and I sleep in there with Amina and whoever else comes to stay the night. Turn left and there is the family room, with the tv that is always on. It is next to the bathroom, which is the only room that has a door. The turkish toilet takes some getting used to. You then go up the tiny stairs through a hole in the roof, which makes you feel like you are climbing into a tree house. You are on the terrasse. You are currently in the kitchen, which is indescribable and not at all western. Duck under the clothesline and we are in the last room, which has the dual function of dining room and bedroom. There is also a tv there. No matter how I describe it, there is no way to convey what we would call the poverty they live in. They are middle class by moroccan standards, and it is amazing to see these people living so normally in conditions that we would consider unhygenic and decrepit. It is hard to remove the hygeine part of my brain, I didn't realize how engrained it was. Going to the bathroom is a compromising experience. But I don't want you to think I am negative. The hospitality of the people makes up for the dreary ambiance. And they are definitely not hungry. The eating schedule is different: Some bread with spreads in the morning, A big lunch around 2:00 in the afternoon, and a smaller dinner ranging from 8:00 to 11:30 at night. Eating late has proved to me a trial for some of us whose families eat around 11. These times do not include all the tea and bread that is served when guests come over, which is often. Other than that--A lot of arabic music videos and soap operas! Oh, and Ramadan starts this weeks, and I'm gonna try to fast. Wish me luck!
One of our assignments was to buy anything and eerything we could for 10 dirhams (A little over a dollar). The catch is, if you want to buy anything in the souks (markets), you will severely disappoint the shopowner if you don't bargain. If you keep a smile on your face, you can generally get a quarter off the shopowners starting price. The trick is to propose half of what the original price is and then bargain from there.
Soooo, I went with another student to conquer the labyrinth, figuring, between her French and my arabic, we would do ok. The shopowners weren't as jolly as we had anticipated though, and we walked from shop to shop becoming progressively more defeated. Finally, I saw a pretty necklace and asked the guy how much it was, and he said 30 dirhams, so I abandoned that idea immediately. Then he showed me a matching bracelate, and said it was 10 dirhams. I went to 7, and he blew me off saying "No, good price," which made me feel like a failure. He kept trying to push the necklace though, trying to get me to buy both. Eventually I just had to stuff the 10 dirhams into his hand and walk off sheepishly with the bracelate, hearing calls of "30 dirham, 25 dirham," at my back. It was pretty darn depressing.
Here is a priceless mistake I made: As a gesture of thanks, we students are told to bring gifts for our homestay families, such as books about the states we live in, small toys for children, music and tee shirts. I brought a cheesy book about California and two boxes of chocolates, thinking I was pretty clever. So, I unpack and my homestay sister Amina sees the chocolates and asks if she can have some. I was told that it is customary to give the gifts to the mother and have her distribute them, but I figured there were too boxes so that would be ok. I hand her the box of chocolates and she eats one, saying, "mmmm, muezian bizef" (very good) and handing one to her cousin. After biting into another chocolate though, she looks at the inside (which looks like a raspberry filling) and sniffs it. I ask her what is wrong and she asks what's inside. I say "fruit, berries" and she looks confused and asks, "alcohol?" I say "No, I don't think so," and she looks skeptical and passes it to her cousin, who sniffs it. I grab the box and read through the ingredients, and right in the last line it says "liquor." I tell her and she runs to the bathroom and spits out the chocolate, washing out her mouth. You can imagine how confused I was. She comes back and says "it is no problem, no problem, but here, it is very bad." I had known, prior to leaving, that many muslims do not drink alcohol, but it never occured to me that my box of chocolates would have a chocolate liquor in it, or that it would receive such a violent response. Anyway, I must have looked pretty apologetic the rest of the day, because she kept repeating "it is no problem". More than anything else, I am glad that it was her, and not her parents.
Nobody really knew if Ramadan was going to start on Thursday or Friday, because Islam follows the lunar calendar. So starting Wednesday night all the religious scholars and other important people camped out, waiting for the moon to announce the holy month of Ramadan. Here’s some background info:
Ramadan is the month in the Muslim calendar in which everyone fasts from sunup to sundown everyday. It can last anywhere from 20 to 30 days, depending on the moon. Although it doesn’t sound like a party, everyone still eats the same amount, just at night. You have foutour (breakfast) right when the sun goes down, then another meal at about midnight, and then one again before sunup at about 4:00. So there is a lot of napping involved. It is like a month long Thanksgiving, with the family gathering around the table to have a wonderful traditional meal every night after a long day of cleansing their bodies.
The food is fabulous. You break fast with tameroon (dates) covered in syrupy sugary goodness and spiced zitoon (olives). Then you have herira (soup), which has flour and Moroccan spices in the broth, and full of chickpeas and meat and unidentifiable things. There are lots of rif (flatbreads): plain square ones, round ones, ones filled with onions, and ones drizzled in butter and honey. There is an equal amount of variety in the cookies: shebekia with its floury texture covered in a honey/sugar glaze, cookies in the shape of flowers with hard, glasslike shells, and cookies with soft insides and unusual aftertastes. My host family has a lot of hoot (fish), which I’m not too keen on because they are caught in Rabat’s highly contaminated waters. But other than that, foutour is my favorite meal, because traditional is where it’s at when it comes to breaking fast.
In addition to food, you are not allowed to drink water, smoke, or have sex, which is why you can count on fights breaking out between nicotine deprived young men at about 5:00 everyday. The whole thing’s a good deal for women, because they can walk down the street during the day without being harassed. Men either feel too guilty or just don’t have to energy to catcall creatively. There are also five days in which women do not fast: when they are menstruating. (I was very confused when my family would not let me fast when Ramadan started, before I knew about this rule). So, in addition to having for freedom on the streets, women get a brief respite from fasting.
The nightlife is really fun during Ramadan. Although the streets are eerily dead from about 6:00 to 8:00 everyone comes out onto the street after foutour, newly revitalized and ready to mingle. (Here I should emphasize that Moroccans are very friendly people who really value community, and the primary form of entertainment is walking down the souks and main boulevards, chatting with neighbors and people watching at cafes). Men and women, young and old stay out until 11 or 12, shopping and playing soccer in the streets. Cafes open at 5 pm and stay open through the wee hours of the morning. There is something amazing about being in a country where nearly everyone practices the same religion. Fasting is much easier when everyone else is doing it. Restaurants are closed during the day, governmental organizations keep odd hours, nobody sells alcohol, and the 5am call to prayer exhibits the most beautiful singing I have ever heard. The fact that the administration and news media in the United States portrays Islam as a religion that condones and encourages violence makes me very sad, because living here in this country united in their shared religion, all I see is beauty.
Hitting a Wall
In anthropology, our main method of gathering data is through participant observation, meaning exactly how it sounds. So far, from my stay here, I've realized that I have a pretty good handle on the observation part: watching people and analyzing based on my findings is my strong suit. Not so good at the participant part though. After being here a month it is high time for some introspection, and here is my profound conclusion: I just don't like people very much.
Anyone surprised by this revelation? Probably not. I can list a variety of adjectives: private, reserved, quiet, shy, aloof, unfriendly, whatever. They all lead to the same result. So, I have to ask myself, "Can I really do this anthropology thing?" Right now, I'm not so sure. I've hit a wall, that is certain. I am cordial to my homestay family. They feed me, give me a place to sleep; I listen to them talk and we exchange polite, cryptic conversation. But immersion stops there. It's not just the language barrier. I could be more active in the family. They invited me to the hammam, which is the public baths. You bring all your bathing stuff and get scrubbed down and come out smelling like oils and stuff. A lot of the girls really like it; apparently you feel clean for a week. But the thought of not wearing anything in front of a lot of women who stare at my white self anyway with clothes on, in a really hot room, with people touching me, for over an hour just made me want to cry. If I can't do this simple thing, how can I possibly be an active participant in a culture? Every time I walk down the street and someone wants to talk to me, I just want them to leave me alone.
No Day But Today
Some of you may roll your eyes at the slightly cheesy Rent reference, but it was all I could think about while I sat in an Amazigh (Berber) café at the side of a mountain, drinking my Coca Cola in a glass bottle while overlooking the spectacular shalal (cascades) of Ouzoud. Yes folks, I spent last Saturday chillin’ at a remote waterfall in the Middle Atlas Mountains, hiking and dining and drumming with rural Amazigh people—Isn’t life grand? Five of us set out at 1:30 Friday afternoon, and after we took the train to seedy Casablanca, a five hour bus ride to Beni Mellal, and an action-packed grand-taxi ride through the mountains to Ouzoud, it was 11:30 at night. Now, whereas staying in rustic huts sounded oh-so-adventurous at noon in warm Rabat, after a long day of traveling, I opted for a bed. (Am I my father’s daughter or what?) After our good friend Abdelsalaam showed us to our salon, by friends were all thanking me for pushing for the family-owned hotel. Our salon with five couches lining the walls, a fireplace, and a set of Amazigh drums was the coziest room I’ve ever stayed in for the equivalent of seven U.S. dollars. After a communal omelet and hot chocolates all around, we were dead to the world.
Thanks to a rooster and a particularly whiny dog, we were up bright and early Saturday morning. The cascades were literally in our backyard. Peer over the cliff and aghast, water! The falls plunge from three different sources and crash into a pool before streaming into the river, which whiles its way down the mountain. I have pictures from just about every angle. As amazing as the falls were, they were nothing in comparison to the genuine and unmotivated hospitality of the people. While looking at the view from the top of a mountain, I met two Amazigh guys who lived by the falls, and when my friends started taking the wrong path down the mountain, one of them said he would show us the way. I told him he didn’t need to, that we could find the way, but he insisted that it was no problem, and took off down a path. In the cities, we are always skeptical when someone offers to help, because it is hard to know if they expect payment. But we learned very quickly that the Amazigh people in the Middle Atlas do not have any desire to exploit the naïveté of tourists. Their generosity is entirely selfless. After taking a boat ride under the falls, we set off down the river in search of an Amazigh village recommended by our guidebook. We walked passed a campsite, and asked a guy for directions, having no idea that he would be our faithful companion for the rest of the day. His name was Bijuma, and he grew up next to the falls, alternated between traveling and working every two months, smoked hashish like there was no tomorrow, and spoke the best English I have heard from someone who never took classes. I am constantly impressed with Moroccan’s ability to absorb language. Everyone speaks Arabic and French, and many speak English, Spanish, Amazigh, and German, for some bizarre reason. In the case of many people in the mountains, they learn these languages solely by communicating with tourists, from sheer desire. We had no problem communicating with our new friend, who insisted that he was not a guide, “just walking.” He just walked with us for four hours up and down a mountain, explaining aspects of the village to us, consenting to rest with us when we got winded, and pointing out excellent times to take pictures. Afterwards, he would not let us buy him dinner, and told us some wicked Moroccan jokes, while getting shamelessly stoned. He’s kind of my hero.
The day never ceased to be amazing. We went back to the hotel to sleep that night, not knowing that we would be hosting a genuine Amazigh party in our room. We started chatting with our buddy Abdelsalaam in Arabic and French, and then his sister joined us, and before we knew it they were playing the drums and a bunch of their family and friends came in clapping their hands and dancing. One guy brought out his laptop and showed us some videos of different Amazigh groups singing and dancing. They taught us some basic words in their language and gave us hot chocolate on the house, saying that we were family now. Their kindness was overwhelming. I have no way of knowing if they treat everyone like this, or if they were impressed by our desire to communicate with them in Arabic. All I know is that I could go back there at any time in my life and feel at home.
Oh, I also went cliff diving, and have gigantic bruises on my thighs to prove it. And I saw a monkey.
While it is Raining in my House...
The Moroccan dialect of Arabic, more commonly called Darija, has an often used verb- “bghreet”- which has two meanings: to want and to like. When I first heard this I was very confused, because surely “want” and “like” mean two very different things. You can like something (or someone) very much and not want it (or him/her). Because of this, I have been very careful in my usage of this word in conversation, should it be misconstrued. Recently however, I have come to realize why the dominant language in Morocco does not differentiate between the two concepts—the culture largely equates them. One example, which is fresh on my mind since returning from Marrakech, is shown in bargaining. From souk-hopping, I quickly learned that you never show interest in a particular item, and definitely do not ask the price, unless you are sure that you are going to buy it. Because as soon as you say bushhal (how much?) the shopkeeper starts bargaining, and you will walk away from the store with that item even if he has to chase you down the street. Why, because “I like this” is immediately interpreted as “I want this,” and the shopkeeper is not happy unless you are satisfied with the price and walk out of his store smiling.
Another more vexing example is shown in the young men in Morocco. As a woman walking down the street, it is necessary not to make eye contact, and definitely not to smile, at any man you see. Any sign of recognition is interpreted as an invitation. If you smile or laugh at a silly pick-up line, the man thinks that you like what he is doing and that you want to go to coffee, the discotheque, and back to his place for some sweet lovin’. It is difficult for a foreigner, because you don’t want to offend anyone by saying that you don’t like something, whether it is food at your homestay family’s table, a beautiful shawl with a questionable price, or a guy who has spent the last half hour helping you with Arabic. The people get very perplexed if you show any discomfort, but it is necessary if you don’t want to make commitments. I like Morocco very much, but I can’t have it rule every aspect of my life.
Falling in Love with the Middle Atlas Mountains
I thought about writing a long summary of my week staying with a family in the Middle Atlas, but the experience was too overwhelming to chronicle. The best way to convey my experience is to provide you with direct quotations and scenarios, and you can make of them what you will.
"I want to be a Moroccan Man when I grow up" (Ellen).
Referring to the fact that men in the village have comparatively few obligations next to the women, and spent the bulk of their days sitting around smoking keef (weed).
"Sorry boys, but I wanna marry a man with a sense of dental hygeine" (Ellen).
Referring to the fact that the women in the village were always trying to set us up with their unmarried sons and nephews.
"You got kohled!" (Allison).
Kohl is the traditional Moroccan eyeliner that unmarried women wear in order to attract husbands, and it never comes off.
Hannah: What is that on your face?
Rachel H: It is kohl, now tell me I am beautiful.
Hannah: You look like a hooker.
Rachel J: You look like a mama.
Referring to the fact that I was balancing a five year old on my hip and holding another girls hand while my brother was getting water from the well. Yup. mom and pop and the kids. Oh, and there was a donkey present.
Hannah: Oh, I never get tired of being made fun of.
Rachel H: I would rather be made fun of than taken seriously.
"Shnoo heda?" Translation: "What is this?"
A five year old Moroccan girl looking down my shirt.
"Abdelkarem wa kita keef keef" (Hannah). T: AbdelKarem (the baby) and the cat are the same
Referring to the fact that the cat and the baby sound the same when they cry/meow. I didnt think it was all that funny, but my mom laughed about it for days, and told everyone that came over.
AbdelAziz: (Snapping his fingers in my direction) Yellah, ajee! T: Lets go, come!
Hannah: La, la heda. Smeety Hannah! T: No, none of this (snapping). My name is Hannah!
Am I my mothers daughter, or what!
Language and Communication
For me, I don’t feel like language is much of a barrier. If you want to communicate with someone, you will. Knowing the same language as someone does not guarantee that you will connect with him/her on a deeper level. The comparison between my homestay family in Rabat and my brief homestay with a family in a village east of Bejaad is a prime example. My family in Rabat consists of mom and dad, my 19 year old sister, 17 year old brother, and 5 year old sister. The 19 year old speaks English, not fluently but proficiently. She is very nice, but we have nothing in common, so we don’t exactly have in depth conversations. My 17 year old brother speaks a little English, but I can’t tell how much because he expresses next to no interest in my presence, only occasionally rewarding me with a condescending smile. Baba is my favorite, and we communicate using a bizarre hybrid of Arabic and French and a smattering of English words that he enjoys using constantly. I also have enough of a functional grasp of Darija/Fusha to speak with mama on basic subjects. My 5 year old sister is adorable, and I understand almost nothing she says, but it doesn’t matter as long as she can abuse me. In short, I have little difficulty communicating with my homestay family in Rabat, but I am not close with them.
My brief weeklong homestay in a rural village in the mountains is an entirely different story. My dad and mom only speak Darija (the Moroccan dialect of Arabic that we do not learn at school) and they have very thick accents because they are both illiterate. Mama especially was very difficult to understand. My 17 year old brother goes to school, so he knows Fusha and French, which he was sad to learn that I did not speak. But although I do not speak French, I understand some of it because of an intensive course I took last summer, and all the cognates. So he spoke to me in Darija and French, and I spoke to him in Darija and Fusha. It was a pretty good system. We had relatively in depth conversations in Fusha on paper, because Fusha is the standard Arabic that is written but not spoken. Sometimes I needed help understanding with the aid of an Arabic/English dictionary or a lot of miming on his part, but we always got the point across. I am a firm believer in using the words that you know to convey what you want to say, even if you cannot formulate a full sentence. It is better to speak and say something wrong than to not speak at all. The point of this entry is this: I forgot that I could not speak English with my family because I grew to love them so much. The language barrier did not matter one bit. I will never forget how quickly they enveloped me into their family.
Taken From the Source
I have been listening to my interviews for my original research project, and I came across some quotes that I thought you guys might want to hear. They are from young moroccans living at the Cascades d'Ouzoud.
“When I open my eyes in life I speak Tamazight” Dude, what does that even mean?
“If you don’t speak other languages, and you can’t speak with other people, you don’t know much in your life”
“My dream is to live well, in a normal situation. I don’t need big car, I don’t need big house. I just need to be happy, and to have a good health”
“We are here to help each other. You are brought here to this earth to like and to love and to help each other. Not to fight each other”
“I am Amazigh, I am Moroccan, I am 26 years old, and I want peace and love!” This is why I love interviewing hippies
"In Morocco, a lot of people have time. You go to shop, you argue the price, and you bargain. In Europe, it was the same way, then it changed. People don’t say “hello” on the street. They just go home"
"When you think about the future, you think to do the very best to be happy, and to find material, in thinking in the money. And me, no same. I am not thinking in very high. I don’t think to be in a very high class. I just like to be normal. To live easy life, to not have problems in front of me. Eating simple things, and sleeping in simple place. That’s enough. For me, that’s enough"
"How do we think different? We think simple. We do not try to get very far in subjects, you understand. We have limit. I don’t know how to—I am not American. If it was an American man here now, he would speak about these things very fluently and know what we say. But not me, because I am Berber. I don’t have that mind that think a lot, and thinks very hard. I think simple"
"I am a normal man. Normal just means normal. I am not a very rich man. Life is normal; we live normal. We are just interested to live, to live on this planet. I am interested to spend a good moment, to have a nice time. And I like others, I like other people. I don’t hate them. And, I like people to love me"
"I like my religion, but I don’t practice. I am thinking, I like to practice it, but not now. I am still young, I mean, between a population that is not good at following the religion. All of Moroccan, because of civilization and because of watching TV and goes to the internet. They’ve got a lot of information that is outside and away from religion. I am same, but I like one time to change. Because I still do every good things that our religion forbids us to do it. I do smoke, I do drink, I do meet girls, I do everything, everything in opposite what God tells us. But all the time I think and I hope to God, give me his help to do my prayers again and to follow his way and to stop all of these things"
Boy, do I love interviewing!
Prepare Yourself for some Intense Anger
You wanna know something ironic? I came to the Cascades d'Ouzoud to do my independent study project because I felt comfortable here, and now I have to leave because I feel the exact opposite. In some ways I am very safe: I don't need to lock up my luggage; people worry about me if I come home late; there is always someone to offer me a flashlight or a steady hand down the mountain after dark. But safety is not the same as comfort. The longer I stay here, the more I realize that I will never be respected, at least as far as the men are concerned. It doesn't matter if I came here from Rabat on my own, or walk around by myself, or am brave enough to look people in the eye and ask for an interview. I will always be the white, American, twenty-year-old, beautiful, single girl who is up for it. It sounds crude, but it's true. Every twentysomething unmarried and nearly unemployed local guy that I have interviewed has tried their darndest to seduce me by taking me to their patented "romantic" spots and then back to their cribs for some sweet lovin'. Well, I am having none of it boys! You can whisper all your cheesy love sonnets in my ear, I don't wanna hear it. They all think that by giving me an interview, I will give them something in return, and it is definitely not money. In fact, the only person who I have interviewed who did not have an alterior motive was a woman. But, guess what, it is not the women who are jumping down my throats asking for an interview, no sir, because they actually have things to do. Actually, one of my favorite things that the woman I interviewed said was that women do not talk to people on the street because they are too busy thinking about all the things they have to do that day. The men have too much time on their hands, and they are sexually frustrated. This is why my appearance has caused such a stir. I would kill for someone to call me intelligent and interesting, instead of beautiful. I would love, for one minute, for someone to look at me soley as a researcher. Sure, women have come very far in this country, but they still have a long way to go.
The Different Types of Men in Morocco
1. Crazy-eye guys
2. Asshole-bank guys
3. Want-to-practice-my-English guys
4. Stare-at-you-on-modes-of-transportation guys
5. Odd-job man
6. Underage charmers
7. OLD men
8. Seduce-you-with-their-mad-rhythms men
9. I-wear-a-blazer-and-carry-a-briefcase-so-you-want-me man
10. The cute ice cream man
11. The idle (aka the WORST) man
12. The lean-and-look man
13. The fuzzy red jellaba man
14. The hanoot man
15. The "come into my shop" man
16. The "I know your name and therefore we should get married"man
17. The multilingual man
18. The reverse psychology man
19. The guilt-trip man
20. The rasta man (My favorite)
21. The ambiguous sexuality man
22. The two-for-one (My second favorite)
23. The foreign=beautiful man
24. The woo-you-with-my-vocabulary man
25. The grunts-n-whistles
26. The Moroccan Mafia man
27. The precocious child
28. The tag team
29. The my-smoke-rings-are-sexy man
30. The student
31. The man in uniform
32. The infectious smile
33. The preach-the-koran man
34. The service-with-a smile man
35. The man who does not know the concept of personal space.
36. The stalker on wheels
37. The nationalist
38. The I-Hate-America man
39. The crazy taxi driver
The Rough Guide
The Rough Guide, the most comprehensive travel guide around, offers a list of 37 things not to miss in Morocco. After being here almost two months, my friends and I have started a new list based on our experiences. Here is what we have so far:
1. Walk down Mohammed the Fifth Avenue during foutour (breakfast) time during Ramadan and count how many people offer you bowls of harira (soup).
2. Tell someone you are fasting during Ramadan and get some free dates and apple milk.
3. Break fast during Ramadan with an eclectic mix of souk food while overlooking the sunset over the medina in Meknes while talking to a local who uses a lot of hand gestures to get his point across.
4. Learn the intricacies of café life from an experienced guy.
5. Learn the methods of avoiding street harassment from an experienced woman.
6. Take the train to any location, and I dare you not to miss your stop.
7. Ride the waves at the hidden beach in Mehdya.
8. Take a taxi through the mountains and watch your life flash before your eyes.
9. Hike to the Berber Village in Ouzoud, led by a local who speaks 5+ languages, can flip off a cliff into the water, jumps over ants because he doesn’t want to kill them, is always stoned, and tells wicked jokes.
10. Go cliff-diving. It hurts really bad, but you can say you did it.
11. Drink hot chocolate while Abdelsalaam plays the drums is a cozy saloon at the Cascades d’Ouzoud and become part of the family.
12. Walk uphill to the Old Medina in Azrou and befriend the local precocious child magicians.
13. Watch the progression of shooting stars to utter blackness to patches of light to pinkish glow to the spectacular sunrise at the Merzouga dunes in the desert.
14. Drink 3 dirham orange juice is the square at Marrakech after torturing the rival juice-sellers by being indecisive.
15. Haggle for at least 10 minutes with a smiley shopkeeper in Marrakech over anything that is ridiculously priced, and then have tea with him and get his business card.
Additions to the list of thirty seven things to do in Morocco, based on a week spent staying in a rural village in the Middle Atlas Mountains:
16. Pee next to a cow in a barn while a whole family tries to watch, fascinated.
17. Play soccer with the boys of the village, let in five goals, and get replaced by a child.
18. Ride a donkey into the mountains while making unintelligible sounds at sheep.
19. Fall asleep with henna drying on your hands and feet.
20. Fall in love with an eligible bachelor in the village/kindly decline a marriage proposal.
All Good Things Must Come to An EndAfter an extremely long and exhausting trip, I am now in the states. It seems fitting to wrap up my study abroad experiences with an addition to the list of 37 things to do in Morocco. Enjoy!
21. Watch an bunch of Amazigh men play drums, sing, and smoke shisha around a campfire after dark.
22. Ride a sandbuggy under the Sahara stars while bundled in blankets.
23. Navigate your way down a rocky mountain after a heavy rain while dodging cacti.
24. Have a regular breakfast spot in Marrakech and laugh as every tourist sits at the bee-ridden tables.
25. Try the ginsing drink with menthal on the Jamaa el-fna square.
26. Go to Casablanca to see the Hassan II mosque, and then leave immediately after.
27. Eat a 5 dirham street sandwich in Rabat.
28. Make obscene hand gestures at the Passion Creme ice cream man.
29. Watch the teenagers flirt at the Chellah ruins.
30. Watch the waves crash at the beach in Rabat after a new moon.
31. Drink ten cups of tea a day in the village of Masaha.
32. Paint the sunset in Essaouira.
The list is not finished because we all have every intention of coming back.
Thanks for reading,
- Blog post
- 4 years ago
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- From: rajuindia
Useful Travel Tips
HI, My name is "Raju India" many years of my work as a professional tourist taxi driver in India and Nepal I drove more then one million km. without accident, during all this time I always discover and collect information from other places which is useful for any western tourist during there India travel. Here below is the list which will help you lot if you careful about all this:-
GENERAL TIPS FOR INDIA & NEPAL TRAVEL
Visiting India or Nepal can be a wee bit unnerving for the first-time visitor. The lifestyle and culture is totally different from the West. I made a list of some important dos and don'ts for hassle-free and enjoyable travel in these both countries.
A proper VISA to enter and stay in India & Nepal is a must. There are reported cases when travellers are advised non-requirement of Indian/Nepal VISA by their travel agents. Practically every foreign national requires VISA to enter these countries.
Do not encourage beggars.
Don't trust strangers with money. Trust your hotel, but not people you may bump into on the streets.
Don't offer bribes to get any job done. Bribe-taking and bribe-giving are a common practice in India but they are intended to speed up things or win a favour that you are not entitled to. Plan well in advance. Use consultants or trade and industry associations. If you expect favours, let them come free or not at all. Warn anyone (even in government) who asks you for a bribe that you would report him to the Anti-Corruption Bureau or the nearest police-station. If he persists, do it discreetly so that he can be caught red-handed.
Indian English has its own delights especially to foreigners of English nativity. Don't show amusement at the different Indian accents and choice of words. This does not take away from the fact that many Indians speak and write better English than many native English speakers.
It is advisable to cover yourself with travel insurance for thefts, loss and medi-claim.
Carry proper maps of the places proposed to visit in India/Nepal, as signboards are often absent. Try to reach a station during daytime if travelling on your own. In any case avoid persistent touts and taxi-drivers at airport/stations/bus stand to help you find your hotel. Always use tourist assistance desk for proper advice.
Women travelling alone in certain deserted places should avoid walking at odd hours.
While changing money, insist on getting encashment certificate.
Do not checkout of the hotel in hurry. While checking out it has been noticed in some hotels, the extras are unreasonably charged which the guest hurriedly pays without cross-checking.
Do not leave your cash and valuables in your hotel rooms. Keep your cash divided in different pockets.
Take care of proper disposal of your rubbish always whether you are exploring desert, or Himalayas or beaches or anywhere else.
Don't accept offers of visiting anyone's home unless you are confident of the person.
Use licensed guides for sightseeing.
Always use strong suitcases/baggage, as mishandling is common at airports/stations.
Don't tip unreasonably and unnecessarily in a hotel. The NEWS soon spreads in the hotel and by the time you checkout there will be a group of them saluting you to expect something.
In Monsoon time avoid night stay in the desert while you do camel safari.
Most of the monuments give very good discount for students from all over the world.
They must carry there valid school identity card.
Don't buy antiques more than 100 years old. Selling and buying "shahtoosh" shawls is a crime. The same goes for ivory and wildlife.
Buy at genuine shops only. Bargaining is a popular practice in India and necessary too. Don't ever believe in lucrative offers of antique dealers in which they offer you to carry a parcel of some other buyer back home with your own margin described. Entire transaction should be legal and transparent so that you may claim later if dissatisfied.
Almost every touristy town you will found some boys and they will introduce you as poor student with many different stories, finally there target is to sell you and get commission.
Indian Customs department at the airport stop some people from Spain in 2006, Her name was Lionor Mendoza, because they were carrying some Auer Vedic Medicines ( Herbal), which they bought from one of the Aurveda Message resort from South of India. So if anyone buy such kind of things must ask and be sure if you can carry or not to your home.
Guides & Taxi drivers often get commissions if you make any shopping. Percentage of commission is depends on your bargaining level, as more you bargain they get less commission.
TRAVELING IN TRAINS, BUSSES & FLIGHTS
Often trainâ��s and flights are get delayed and can be cancelled at the last moment without any prior notice. Yesterday (25.3.08) it happens with one of my client from USA and they phone me about this situation from Jodhpur town at 9.00pm and there connecting flight to States was just after three hours, It was horrible situation for both us. So it is always better to arrive one day before to your departure destination to catch your International flight.
While travelling, don't act confused. Keep a posture of a person known to the region.
If you are travelling in the trains then you may have to reserve your seats in advance, last time it will be not so easy to get confirm seat reservation.
Buses are not as comfortable as trains.
Trains and buses are the best and cheapest option if you are travelling for more then one month holidays.
Be careful about your luggage while you travel in train or in bus.
Flight from Khajuraho to Varanasi is often over booked so try to get boarding pass as soon as possible otherwise they will provide you car for to go Varanasi.
It is always better to arrive one hour before scheduled departure at the train station and one and half hour before any domestic flight.
Always chain and lock your luggage under your berth in a train. Don't keep anything valuable near the window. Always carry plenty of water, fruits in trains. Alone woman travellers may request to be accommodated near other women travellers.
Don't eat anything offered by fellow travellers on train or road travels. It might have sleeping pills. Always travel reserved class in trains.
RENT A CAR â�� FOR INDIVIDUAL FAMILY TRAVEL
Cars are one of the best and safest way to travel in India, if you are not travelling for months in India.
Make sure that your driver is trained for defensive driving and speak basic English.
As a driver you always have one person with you to help you and your luggage is always safe.
Always avoid driving at night on Indian highways, It is not recommended.
Avoid self driving in India unless you have been trained on Indian roads.
If you feel not comfortable by the driving or he drives fast is always better to tell him to drive slow.
Do not visit places which encourage orthodoxy, social injustice and inhuman practices (like visiting a sati temple).
Politics can be freely discussed in India and most people will have an opinion which they will not mind being contradicted. But avoid discussing religion.
Avoid offers of spiritual salvation and magic remedies from saints, god men and quacks. There may be some spiritually elevated people in India, but there is no way you can distinguish the genuine ones from the crooks. If you are seriously interested in these aspects of India, take help from someone you know or visit one of the respected spiritual organizations in India.
Don't ever enter a temple, mosque, tomb, dargah or Gurudwara ( Sikh Temple) with shoes on and/or scantily dressed. One should cover his/her head with a cloth while in a Gurudwara or Dargah. Parikrama or walking around the sanctum sanctorum should always be in clockwise direction. Also should use your full pantaloon.
FOOD & WATER
Take care of contamination of water and food problem. Always drink safe mineral water and take well-cooked food.
Drink bottled water only. Even many Indians who have lived out of India for a few years sometimes suffer stomach upsets on drinking local tap water. If there is no alternative to tap water, ensure it is boiled. Most famous brand is Bislery, Aqua Fina and Himalaya.
Avoid eating buffet meals, even in expensive hotels. The food may become contaminated due to over-exposure
If you are buying from roadside stalls or hawkers, bargain you must. Start by offering half the price they ask for and settle for 70 - 80 per cent. Don't bargain in proper shops especially those that display "Fixed Price" signs: that will be seen as bad manners.
Never buy food from roadside stalls or mobile canteens. Not that they are bad, but your system may not be accustomed to such delicacies and you might end up spending more time in the loo than normal.
Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Chicken Curry, Malai Kofta and Naan these are the most famous dishes eaten by western people and they like them very much.
King fisher Lager bear is one of the most general alcoholic drinks taken by any western tourist.
Lassi & water is one of the most general non alcoholic drinks taken by any western tourist.
Not only drink bottled water also brush teeth with it.
If driving between cities, have your hotel pack a lunch for the road.
SOCIETY & TRENDS
Participating in a social occasion or visiting a home requires conservative dress codes. Do not shake hands with ladies. Always pick up a thing and eat with your right hand. Take only as much as you can eat, do not leave anything uneaten over the dish.
Do not point your finger at any person. It is taken as a sign of annoyance.
Be careful of cultural and social sensitivities of the regions. There is no single rule for that, the best way is to observe and follow.
The â��NAMASTAYâ�� is a local form of greeting. It involves the joining of your palms as during prayer in church â�� well, not exactly, but it can pass (in church, the two thumbs are crossed, in the Indian â��NAMASTAYâ�� , the thumbs join but remain parallel to each other: this is only for information as the difference is not visible to the person in front of you).
If you find the lady is not extending a hand shake, go for the â��NAMASTAYâ�� , Even with men, the â��NAMASTAYâ�� can be an excellent little PR gimmick! Follow it up with a â��AAP KAISE HAINâ�� (how are you?) and you have broken the first block of ice if one there was!
If somebody has invited you home for dinner, carry with you a box of sweets or at least a chocolate bar for the kid.
Many Indians are in the habit of shaking their head in the course of conversation or taking instructions. Don't show amusement if you witness this.
Don't photograph women without permission.
Indian weddings are one of the most famous social ceremonies liked by western people.
To go Varanasi to Kathmandu ( Nepal):- Often flights are full from Varanasi to Nepal so to find out new possibility I wend to Nepal by road from India.
I already been many times with my car but it was always from Varanasi, this time I start from Jaipur (Rajasthan). It was beautiful trip.
People can go by road to Nepal from Varanasi itâ��s quite easy.
Varanasi to Sanouli Border (Nepal) via Gorakhpur is around 300km 7hours drive.
To start early morning is recommended to avoid busy traffic hours.
Just after get in Nepal you can sleep in Lumbini or Chitvan National park or if you have enough energy then be continue till Pokhara, just 160 km more through the Himalaya Mountains 4-5hours drive.
This drive between Nepal Border to Pokhara is one of the most beautiful drive on the Himalaya mountains.
Kathmandu is 300km from Nepal border by road.
TERRORISM & DRUGS â�� UNSAFE AREAS TO TRAVEL
Avoid visiting Kashmir in the extreme north as well as areas in the extreme north-east. Foreigners, especially West Europeans ands Americans, are at risk to hostage-taking by terrorists in those areas. The rest of India is safe haven for everybody.
Never argue strongly with anybody.
You should not become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for possession of narcotic substances can be severe. There is a minimum sentence of six months for possession of small amounts for personal consumption only.
VISA, INSURANCE & OTHER DOCUMENTS
You should keep a photocopy of your passport, Indian visa and flight ticket separate from the originals when travelling.
This will save you much inconvenience and time if your documents are lost or stolen.
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusion, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.
CUSTOMS & AIRPORTâ��S AUTHORITY OF INDIA
Indian Customs department at the airport stop one client of mine from Spain, Her name was Lionor Mendoza, because they were carrying some Auer Vedic Medicines ( Herbal), which they bought from one of the Aurveda Message resort from South of India. So if anyone buy such kind of things must ask and be sure if they can carry with them or not to their home.
DREAM PLACES IN INDIA
Majority of the people think that to spend night in a house boat in Karela Back Waters is one of the most memorable moments of their India Travel.
JAISALMER ( The Thar desert) is considered as one of the most beautiful and peaceful places of India.
"" - At Agra is one of the most visiting place in India.
"GOLDEN TEMPLE" - Amritsar is one of the most impressive monuments after "Taj Mahal".
"KHAJURAHO" - The Kamasutra (Erotic) Temples, preserved by the world heritage monument.
VARANASI (Ganges) - is one of the towns which give you most strongest feeling.
RAJASTHAN, KERALA & GOA are one of the most organized states for tourism.
I will come back to you soon with more information, in the mean time if you really think that my efforts to collect all these information helpful for people just leave your few words about it. It will encourage me to keep continue.
Thanks and wish you all the best for your next travel to my beautiful country.
- Blog post
- 4 years ago
- Views: 2655
- From: jubu
Maria and I are headed to France! Follow our adventures (and misadventures!) right here. We leave January 9, 2009. We hope to update this blog throughout the trip, though this will be the first-ever blog for either of us, so who knows how it'll go! We'll also be trying to do a VoiceThread which you can check out at this address. It's empty now, but we hope to fill it with our comments, photos and videos. And please add your own comments to the blog and to the VoiceThread:
Sunday January 11 (2:30 a.m.)
Before we left, Maria had asked me to tell her about all the things that would be different in France. So, as they occurred to me over the past few weeks, I told her about dinners that don’t start until 7 p.m. or later, cars that get parked on sidewalks and the fact that if you spot someone in Nikes you can be pretty sure they are American. But I forgot about the smell.
As we got off the plane and onto the jetway, I was struck by the smell of France. It should have smelled like exhaust from the plane, but it was distinctly the smell of France. I read somewhere that the nose can identify something like 10 times more smells than the brain can name and this is one of them. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of unexpectedly smelling something and subsequently being flooded by memories, even if you can’t describe the smell. There’s a definite element of perfume in this scent, but that’s the only piece I can specify. It’s just “Eau de France” and if they sold it everyone who ever came here would buy a bottle.
The flights over here went off without a hitch, in spite of snow in Detroit. We were really lucky that the airport only had about an inch of snow, but my cousin who lives two counties away was unable to get to the airport to meet us for dinner because there was much more snow where she lives. L
The hotel is the nicest I’ve ever been in in France. We’ve been upgraded to one of their best rooms just because no one else was booked in it. It’s “La Tour Eiffel” room and guess what we see from our window? Way cool!
Our first day here was spent largely in trying to catch up on sleep (Maria has been very successful at this, but not me. It is 2:30 a.m. as I write – from the bathroom!) and get our bearings, but we did get to go on a nighttime river cruise on the Seine. My French friends warned me that it would be “cold” but considering that we’ve had temps around 15 at home, I thought a daily high of 30 would be pleasant. Wrong! I don’t know what the temp was during the day yesterday, but we are really glad we packed long underwear. The boat was enclosed, but the walk there was rather frigid.
OK, I'm off to try to sleep!
Sunday, January 11 (at a much more respectable hour!)
We then went to Anne Frederique (Mom’s former host family’s daughter) and her husband, Nicolas’ apartment. Their apartment and cat were nice and we went on a chilly walk.
Mom and I also went up the Arc de Triomphe, 284 steps! But it was worth it. The view was spectacular and I got a cute diary from the gift shop.
Then we went to the modern art museum. I had to ask mom a lot, “Why is this art?” But some of it was cool.
It is 9:40 here and I’m going to sleep soon!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Yesterday was a marathon. I don’t know how we did it.
Once again, I was up for about three hours in the middle of the night Sunday night. It must be my age, because jet lag has never been this bad for me. I had a meeting with a woman at the Alliance Française at 10 a.m. and Maria came along and read a book while we discussed options for me bringing a group of students to Paris for an intensive study-abroad program. It was all very impressive but I fear the whole thing will be deemed too expensive by the powers-that-be in Madison who would need to approve it.
After changing into warmer clothes we headed for the Eiffel Tower. It had really been too cold to go up on the previous two days, but yesterday it was time to bite the bullet. Personally, I think the tower is nicer to look at than be in (same for the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame). But it is practically a requirement to go up your first time in Paris and Maria loved it.
Next we headed to the Louvre. I should say up front that I’m not a big fan of the Louvre. It’s just too blasted big! Honestly, it was cruel for someone to put so much art in one location that you need three months and a GPS (the maps are awful!) to view it all. But, I suppose, back in the 1600s when Louix XIV decided to leave the royal residence of Paris and build Versailles they had to do something with the building and low-income housing wasn’t an option at the time. Nonetheless, we went and checked off The Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory and the Seated Scribe (which I’d never seen or heard of but Maria had).
I observed more of the décor of the galleries than ever before, which was pretty amazing. Much of the artwork is missed if you don’t look up (no doubt adding to that three-month figure!) Maria also did some sketches in the ancient Egyptian wing, at which point I almost fell asleep.
From there we headed to the Orangerie, which is my all-time favorite museum. It’s the home of two huge, round galleries specifically designed by Claude Monet to display eight of his largest paintings, les Nymphéas (the Waterlilies). I read that he wanted to create a peaceful retreat in the middle of the city and that was just what we needed. On the lower level are about eight rooms with other impressionist paintings and we noted a Renoir with a figure that bears a remarkable resemblance to Maria’s classmate, Ellie Knoll. If you know Ellie, what do you think?
After a quick trip back to the hotel and another change we went to dinner at a nicer restaurant that is rather known in Paris, La Coupole. I head read in “Paris with Kids” that it was family-friendly so I thought it’d be a treat. Long story short, it was just a waste of money. When we return we’ll stick with the ordinary cafés and restaurant.
As I write this we are on a train headed to Pau, in the southwest of the country – where it promises to be a little warmer! The train ride is five hours and I couldn’t be happier to have all this time to just sitJ
(10:30 p.m., Lascazares)
We have done a 180 degree turn from Paris and are with Remi and Elisabeth in the southwest. They live in a beautiful house in the country with a farm right next door (I was warned that we might hear the rooster early tomorrow morning). I'll write more about this place tomorrow, but for now it's time to sleep.
Wednesday, January 14 (Maria)
I slept until about 10:00 and then we went to Lourdes. There was an underground cathedral. It was HUGE but too cold.
Also they had a spring of water that when Mary appeared, changed it from a mud puddle to holy water and they had faucets that had the water in it and I got have drink some. It’s supposed to heal so that was cool! I wonder if it works. I’m beginning to feel homesick thoughL.
Maria did a good job explaining our day (though she left out the fact that it is 50 degrees here :) ) so I won't recap. I will, however, explain why we are here. When I did my semester abroad in Strasbourg 17 years ago I lived with Remi and Elisabeth Bogner and their three children. We have stayed in touch ever since and Paul and I stayed with them when we came to France in 1995. When Remi retired in 2007 they moved here to the southwest. Their hospitality is wonderful (it always was) and it has been lots of fun catching up with them and recalling stories from my student days.
If you have not read "A Year in Provence" I highly recommend it for a good laugh as well as an accurate glimpse into French life. It's the story of a British ad exec who uproots his life and resettles in an old house in the south of France. The picture I had in my head from reading the description of that house matches Remi and Elisabeth's house perfectly, and from what they tell me, the stories of the madness of dealing with French subcontractors also match those from the book.
P.S. We've loaded some pictures on the VoiceThread. Click the link at the top of the blog.
Friday, January 16, 2009
We’re on a train headed back to Paris. Yesterday Rémi and Elisabeth took us to the Pic du Midi, one of the highest peaks in the Pyrenees. We took a cable car from a ski resort and had lunch at the summit, which is also home to a research center with high-powered telescopes. I can’t describe what this looks like – I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves (of course, as soon as we arrived I realized that I had left the memory card for my camera back at the house, so Maria and Elisabeth were the chief photographers.)
Back at the house we had dinner with Elisabeth’s mom, brother Michel, and cousin. It was Grandma’s birthday and Rémi’s feast day (the feast of St. Rémi) so it was a little party, though a bit sad since it was our last night. We enjoyed many animated discussions around their table about cranberries (unknown in France), American Girl dolls (also unknown, though Michel was fascinated by the store in New York when he saw it) and the proliferation of wild boars in France (Rémi and Michel hit one with the car. The insurance agent actually came out of her office to look for boar hairs to ascertain if that was truly how the damage was done.)
This morning we returned to Pau where I had a meeting with some people from the university there about establishing a study-abroad program there, which sounds very promising. We had a very nice stroll outside on the lovely green grass – no hats, no gloves, jackets unzipped.
Hi! It’s Maria and I’m going to tell you what happened other than a meeting. After dropping mom off, Remi, Elisabeth, and I, left for the castle of Pau where King Henry IV was born. We got there; only to find out they just closed and wouldn’t be opening again until I was on the train. So we went to lunch at a good pizzeria and went back to the castle to poke around outside and take pictures. I really liked the garden. Remi and Elisabeth were really nice to me and I thank them (Merci beaucoup!) I’ll find something to do for the rest of this boring ride. Bye!
Sunday, January 18
I can’t believe that today was our last day here! The time really flew by.
Yesterday was souvenir-shopping day. We also visited the Sainte Chapelle, famous for its amazing stained glass windows , and strolled the Latin Quarter where we got this photo taken, which I think is the best of the trip. Then we went to the home of our friends Olivier and Karine Maccarone in one of the suburbs. (Don't you love it -- peanut butter and champagne!) We met them in 2007 when they were visiting our friends Holly and Kevin in Wausau. Olivier had been an exchange student with Kevin’s family in Appleton 20 years ago. They have two boys, Baptiste who is 8 and Nolann who is 5. It was fun to see how Maria, with her limited French, and Baptiste, with his limited English, managed to communicate and teach each other a bit. It was a wonderful evening that concluded with Olivier driving us back to our hotel via the Champs Elysées! We look forward to seeing them all again.
Today was all Versailles – 6 hours and countless kilometers of walking! I turn the keyboard over to Maria for the summary:
Hi! Today we went to Versailles as Mom said and it was so much walking. I took 109 photos. Is that enough? Well we went to a lot of bedchambers and here’s one of them. We also went into the famous hall of mirrors. I don’t know what makes it famous but oh well, more pictures! We then went to the gardens which, like the castle, are too big, but they are very pretty. We also visited the queen's hamlet which is where the queen would go and play peasant. Here's me in the queen's hamlet. We also visited the king's and queen's "mini" castles. They were tiny but sweet.
This is our last post as we head to the airport at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Thanks so much for reading our blog. We enjoyed reading everyone’s responses – it made us feel not so far from home! I’ll continue to sharpen this blog with a few more photos and videos in the next week, mostly for my own desire to try to preserve everything in the relatively sure-fire security of the web. Check back in a week or so to see the finished product. Au revoir!
Wednesday, January 21st
We're back home now, where we're glad it has warmed up to 15 degrees F (-10 C), though it's hard to forget that when our plane took off it was 60 F (14 C) in Paris!
I'll call this last entry "Tidbits We Forgot to Mention Earlier" and it's going to be a hodgepodge. I'll start with a short list of things that were noticeably different to me from 13 years ago.
1. The French smoke MUCH less than they used to. Smoking in public places (including bars) became illegal a year ago, but they obviously made some significant progess long before that. I can count on one hand the times when I found myself smelling cigarette smoke.
2. There were way fewer dogs out on sidewalks, thus much less caca to try to not step in. This could be entirely due to the fact that it was winter, but it was still nice.
3. Parisians are friendlier. This could be entirely owing to the fact that I speak their language. But even with that, there were so many virtual strangers who wanted to engage in conversation, mostly to find out where we were from and details about our trip. Parisians don't have a reputation for their warmth, but it seems they deserve that less and less.
"Maria's Favorite Meal" -- la Raclette. Leave it to the French to take a simple baked potato and turn it into a chef d'oeuvre! To make this you use a special applicance that gets plugged in and set in the middle of the table (I'm so mad at myself for not taking a picture of this at Remi and Elisabeth's house:( ). Each person gets their own little frying pan into which they put a particular variety of cheese made just for this purpose as well as bacon and onion, according to their preference. While it melts you peel a potato and cut it up. When it's all melted you dump your toppings onto your potato, using a small wood spatula to scrape it clean. This is often served with deli meats and pickles on the side. Maria liked this so much that she ordered it at a restaurant in Paris, where I did get a photo.
This "appliance" was different and was heated with a flame, but you get the idea. There's a little handle that you tip up to facilitate the dumping. Incidentally, you use a different part of the appliance to grill food for a different type of meal, la pirouade (I know I'm spelling it wrong), which was what we had at Karine and Olivier's. I found one of these machines on the web and I'll be adding it to my birthday list.
"Moment of Greatest Linguistic Achievement" Outside the Louvre, I wanted someone to take a picture of Maria and I, so I approached a woman who had the air of waiting for someone and asked her in French if she could take our photo. She shook her head and said, "Espagnole". "OK," I thought, "I know enough Spanish to ask this." So I said, "Pueden" (yay for remembering to use the formal form!) and then I drew a blank. I wanted to say "mirar una photo" but I knew that was "look at a picture" so I just kept gesturing to my camera. Mercifully, she said, "Sacar una photo?" Yay for sign language! Wanting to prove that I really could speak her language, I added, "De nos dos, con la pyramida..." at which point I forgot how to say "behind" but she was saying "si, si" so we went for it. It wasn't until I loaded the photo that I noticed that her husband came along at just the right moment:
Well, I think it's time to wrap this up for good. I have to say that it was a more wonderful trip than I had hoped. Maria was an awesome travel companion, motoring through 10 hour days often with more energy than me. She was very bold about trying out her French whenever she could. I should add that on the plane home she said "Bonjour" to the flight attendant with such a good accent that the woman handed us customs forms for French citizens entering the U.S.!
I also want to say a special thank you to all of our friends in France. Getting to visit with Anne-Frederique, Nicolas, Remi, Elisabeth, Mamie, Bijou, Michel, Karine, Olivier, Baptiste and Nolann made this so much more than just a tourist junket. On ne peut pas attendre la prochaine fois qu'on peut se revoir! Merci mille fois!
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