Musings on my adventures around the world and my ties back in Texas as well as some of the the ideas I have to adapt and create to keep those places close to home.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Turkey.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Magical Musicians

Compelling. Evocative. Toe-tapping. Those are my lasting impressions from this afternoon. What was I doing, you wonder? I took advantage of some discount tickets and went to listen to the Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra that was on tour in Istanbul. It was a lovely concert. The sort that makes you forget about everything that has gone on before during that day . Music that places you in another world that has nothing to do with the one you normally inhabit. Music that has the power to take you away from everything is why music is such a part of our lives. I have to admit though, that it has been a long time since I’ve been that carried away by it. At times I felt as if their fingers were flying faster than my ears could even hear! And the dulcimer player was simply amazing - I couldn't even see the sticks they were moving so fast over his instrument. I highly recommend seizing the opportunity if you ever get a chance to see them. These musicians are also magicians, able to take you away for a brief hour or two. What a lovely way to spend an afternoon!

Sadly no pictures, as cameras were confiscated and checked at the door. Although you can check out a youtube video of them here:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Never uneventful

I don't think that I have every managed to take a trip by public transportation anywhere in Africa and have it be uneventful. It doesn't seem to matter where I am or what form of transportation I take: bush taxi, bus, train, bike (wait, is that public transportation?)...This held true last week when I was in Morocco too. Of the three forms of public transportation we took not a one seemed ordinary.

The day we arrived we flew into Casablanca but decided to go directly to Marrakesh by train. The trip started out easy enough. I was actually pleased at how easy it was to get to the trains and buy tickets. My french was still good enough to cause no problems in that way. Then we had to transfer...and after the expected 2 hour wait, the train was another hour late. Ok, so that wasn't really a big deal. However I was not expecting the train to be quite so...stuffed...shall I say. Standing room only. What I really mean is that I got pushed into a hallway, did a face plant against the wall and required 15 minutes to figure out how to get both feet on the ground so that I had a chance of not falling over (except we were so packed I didn't have space to fall either). Then came the man who insisted on getting the food cart through the packed area, which resulted in me balancing back on one foot while somehow suspending myself over the baggage. No! Don't touch that's the only thing that is keeping me upright! Thankfully we did arrive just fine in Marrakesh, and we even got to sit down for the last hour of the four hour trip. Which worked out just fine until our taxi dumped us on the street and said he couldn't take us any farther. Too bad we didn't have any idea where we were, or where our hotel was! Thankfully the men there seemed to be willing to do just about anything for a bit of money so I finally bargained one down to a reasonable price (??) to take us to the hotel. After winding down narrow alleys and through dark passageways I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever arrive, if he actually knew where we were going, or if we were going to get even more lost. Seeing the hotel had never felt better!

I guess I'd be a bit incorrect to say that the second trip was eventful. It was more what happened just before and just after, which felt like part of the trip. We arrived at the bus station thinking that we were a good 20 minutes early, only to find that as soon as we boarded the bus it pulled away. Phew! Close call. Then when we arrived in Essaouira we discovered that the entire town had lost its electricity. Now you might think, big deal. You're in Africa. Unfortunately our hotel entrance was in the middle of a very dark alley. The sort where you can't see anything, much less the door. Thank goodness again for the people. Someone turned us around, and pointed to a specific spot in the darkness, and what do you know - there was a glimmer of candle light just there. Hurrah. Now if only they had sent us to find our room with a candle. Ended up making do with the flash of a camera until I could dig out my headlamp (never leave home without it).

The most unexpected moment occurred during the six hour bus trip from Essaouira to Casablanca. When we were about half way there (roughly 120 km from both of the marked towns on the map) we were going through a small town whose name started with a Z (but couldn't be found in the guidebook). Suddenly there was a bit of clunk sound. The type that sounded like some of the luggage below falling over, or even perhaps out of the bus. Sadly it wasn't that easy. No, it turns out we had just hit a horse! I still can't figure out how that happened. But I did figure that we were in for a long pause. Sure enough all of the men piled out of the bus, and pretty soon there was a fairly large group of people clustered around the bus. Some of them seemed quite upset. A bit of a relief when someone returned to the bus to say that the horse was alive! That definitely made things a bit easier. Frankly I was surprised when the bus filled up again and we were moving on in just 20 minutes. Of course we did stop again about 2 minutes down the road at the gendarmerie, where 3 people went back off the bus (the driver included) to file a report (I suspect). Ten minutes later we were finally off for good. Only a 30 minute delay!

As I sad traveling in Africa is never uneventful. But it does provide some of the best stories I have from my time there. Morocco was no exception.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Beautiful, enchanting, colorful seductress

Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
I’m talking about Morocco. It is a beautiful, enchanting, colorful and yes, sometimes a bit of a seductress. I’m not sure what it was exactly about the country, but it seemed a bit like coming home while at the same time an exotic new adventure. Beautiful…from a natural landscape that seems to be extremes – mountains overlooking dry rocky flat land, palm trees and the Saharan desert. Beauty also found in old buildings with amazing detail that had my mouth dropping open in awe as I wandered around them. Enchanting…as at times it seemed as if I were stepping into the pages of a fairytale. Snake charmers playing music in Djemaa el-Fna (the main square in Marrakesh). The bubbling laughter of our chef teaching us the secrets of cooking traditional Moroccan food. Familiar images of sheep being hauled on shoulders and by cart for the festival of Eid. Colorful…mostly dressed out in warm orange, pink and yellow shades, welcoming one and making one seem at home. Brightly clad women. Orange stands stacked high. Souks with displays in every shade of the rainbow. A seductress…encouraging one to stand to watch the sunset spill bright shades across the ocean. Warm individuals going out of their way to make your way easier, offering a sweet mandarin as they appreciated an unexpected use of French. Morocco is a land that will remain in my imagination long after this vacation has passed.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Capsul Wardrobe Challenge

So my sister challenged me to participate in this (and then backed out!?!) challenge. The mix and match 10 major wardrobe pieces and 5 accessories for a workweek wardrobe. Its a bit rough to start when you don't find out about it until after day 1, so I was stuck with 4 of my pieces. Pretty happy with how it turned out, although I realized it's quite a bit easier when you are a simple dresser as I am. What I learned...I should definitely exploit belts a bit more.

The breakdown:
Day 1: Pink corduroy skirt from Collezione in Turkey(15 ytl at the end of the fall)
White top from a friend's rejects
Red cardigan - thrifted in Austin
Brown maryjane shoes - thrifted in Austin
Necklace from the Ortakoy jewelry market in Istanbul

Day 2: Dress thrifted (somewhere in Texas)
Red Cardigan (repeat)
Leather belt thrifted in Houston
Black boots thrifted in Austin (although actually a Christmas gift from my sister)
Same jewelry

Day 3: Black skirt (from way long ago)
White top (repeat)
Red belt (repeat)
Black boots (repeat)
Same jewelry

Day 4: Black skirt (repeat)
Black shirt one of the many things my mother brought me the last time she came, surely thrifted from Austin
Silver butterfly belt - not sure who gave this to me, mom probably, again thrifted
Black maryjane's thrifted in Austin (couldn't handle another day in the same shoes)

Day 5: Pink corduroy skirt (repeat)
Black shirt (repeat)
Red belt (repeat)
Black boots (repeat)
Same jewelry

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Quote of the week

"There are no enemies in sport; just opponents. There's no hate; we take to the field to play hoping we're going to win. In no way are our opponents enemies,wherever they come from. Whether they're from Africa or Asia, it makes no difference. We're all the same."

Miroslav Soukup, U20 men's Czech Republic coach


(My father at about age 5 - I hope he's having as much fun now)
Curiosity is a good thing.