A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: debic

Little by Little...

Working the Moroccan Way



Yassas from Greece!

On May 10th, we left Portugal making our way to Malaga, Spain to meet my parents: Bill and Barb Dietz. On the way, we made a stop in Seville taking in a dramatic Flamenco show (which an exhausted Emmett slept through). We spent a week relaxing with G-ma and G-pa at a condo on the beach; playing mini-golf, eating in, learning how to make sangria and catching up with the folks - (thanks mom & dad!).

From there we flew to Melilla, Spain (an ancient enclave still owned by the Spanish on the northern tip of Africa) where we were met by an old teaching friend of mine, Melodie, before travelleing into Morocco. The border crossing was colorful and one of our more memorable: smugglers with everything from sneakers to cereal, families returning home and a guy with a fridge on his back (!) all sharing the dusty road into Morocco.

From the border we travelled to the city of Fes where we spent the day wandering the Medina (old walled city) taking in the exotic sights, sounds and smells. The Tannery, where they soften and color animal hides, was fascinating. We were all given branches of mint to hold under our noses while we toured around to block out the smell. Donkeys carried loads and people through narrow streets as men answered the Muslim call to prayer and headed towards the mosques.

Next we made our way to Izemouren where the non-profit group "Friends of the Rif" is based. This small group of workers is helping rebuild several mountain villages after a devestating earthquake in 2004. Our friend Melodie has been there for 7 years and welcomed us into their home to live and work for 10 days. While there, sharing the 2 bathrooms with 20 people, we white-washed houses, carried rocks, mixed and poured a concrete floor, picked and shoveled a foundation, all by hand, Moroccan style. We enjoyed interacting with the Rifi people (the local kids loved drawing, playing dice games and building Legos with the boys) and picking up a few Arabic words along the way.

After a few hours of work in the morning, the family on whose house we were working would bring out sweet mint tea, flat bread and olive oil as thanks. Lunch time was shared with the Moroccan workers in the new building soon to be a Community Center, scooping up Chicken Tagine with our hands. One lucky day they prepared for us goat organs and testicles - yum!

During our stay we were all refueled in different ways. Oliver loved the volunteer group visiting from Arizona and the full-time guys from England and the U.S. (always someone to play a game with). Keith and I enjoyed working outside and interacting with and meeting new people - including rekindling a friendship with Melodie (keep up the great work Mel and keep practicing your ping-pong!). Emmett was happy to unpack his backpack and stay put in one place for 10 days. Both Oliver and I celebrated birthdays this week that neither of us will ever forget. We were all blessed by Melodie, Tom, Nate, Joey, Danni, Danni, Musa, Big Mo, Smalls, Brian, Siham, Selawa and the villagers.

Today we are relaxing on the Galissa Beach on the island of Syros, Greece after traveling through 4 countries in 4 days to get here. Soon we will be off for Italy - there's still time to book that flight to meet us! Missing you all...

Posted by debic 08:03 Archived in Greece Tagged round_the_world Comments (5)

Jellies, Didgeredoos and a Big Red Rock



G'day from Australia!

We began the Australian leg of our adventure in the fabulous city of Sydney - the Opera House, Harbor Bridge and Toranga Zoo among our favorites. We were blessed by a family (Simone, Stuart, Alice & the twins) who welcomed us into their home after only meeting us once in a cafe in Kyoto, Japan! They helped us plan our 5 weeks in Australia - stops that included Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef, Darwin and Kakadu National Park, Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, then on to Perth on the West Coast. Each place is startlingly different from the last.

In Port Douglas we enjoyed having our own condo (out of the backpackers lodges - yippee!) with a pool and a short walk from the beach, town and harbor. We made 2 snorkel trips to the Reef, wearing stinger suits to keep safe from the jellyfish (it's a good look, really). It is truly an amazing coral reef filled with more fish than we could count.

In Darwin we learned more about the Aboriginals and animal life in the monsoon rain forest. We were awaken by Cockatoos from our "bush bungalow" and during our days watched dingos, wallabies, wild horses and a vast array of bird and insect life. After visiting so many of them, the boys are now creating their own "cultural centers" wherever we go.

Leaving the humidity (and welcoming the black flies) we flew to Alice Springs - the great Outback desert. Wearing fly nets over our heads to keep the buggers at bay, we hiked around the base of Ayers Rock (9.5 kms!) and through the spectacular Kings Canyon. On our drive out of the park we spotted a wild camel (there are 1/2 million of them roaming the desert here - who knew?)

Tomorrow we are off to Perth, our last stop before departing for South Africa. In Perth, we are once again blessed by the generosity of others with a place to stay and a car (thanks to Amy Jocker's niece Amy). We look forward to enjoying one more week in this bold and beautiful country.

Until our next entry, as the Aboriginals say - "boh boh" from the Outback...

Posted by debic 00:03 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

Santa Sighted in Vietnam!

Merry Christmas & Spring Rolls...


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Xin Chao from Vietnam!

December 6th, we flew into the bustling Northern city of Hanoi, Vietnam and were welcomed by a multitude of scooters, people and shops of all kinds. Here we learned how to negotiate a street crossing with non-stop traffic zipping around us and refuse a purchase by the most persistent shop vendors. Calls of "you buy!", "where you from?", "special price", "lovely boys!", "cyclo ride-one hour!" echoed constantly. We had some fabulous Vietnamese foods like Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) and Seafood in a Clay Pot with Green Banana and Silver (rice) Paper and took in the famous Water Puppet Theatre show. We then took a 3 day trip to Halong Bay ("Halong" translates into "where the dragon descends into the sea") and toured around a few of the 3000 islands in a Vietnamese Junk. Touring Monkey Island by kayak was a highlight until one of the monkeys nearly attacked us for a Pringle. By night train, bus, airplane and taxi we've travelled down Eastern coast through Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and finally to Mui Ne where we will spend Christmas. Highlights include exploring the many cultures of Vietnam at the Museum of Ethnography, Oliver steering our boat in Halong Bay (much to our surprise), bicycling through the rain (a bit of our good old Portland weather caught up with us), watching a Water Buffalo plow a rice field, hiking through the ancient city My Son with still visible signs of damage from the war in the 70s, and negotiating a fair price for a small rosewood sword for Emmett. Travel in Vietnam has not been without its challenges. The fact that it is a bit less travelled is both a blessing and source of frustration. It IS great for our budget: good hotel for 4 people with breakfast included: $25, dinner and dessert: $10, 5 hour bus trip: $3.

We are reminded every day of how lucky we are and so grateful for this experience and for our friends and family who've been so supportive. We are thinking of you all this holiday - and YES, there have been numerous Santa sightings on this side of the world -we hope he knows how to negotiate a thatched roof! We wish you a blessed season and a fabulous 2007!

Posted by debic 00:44 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (4)

Stitches and Silkworms

Oh, the joys of travel...



Sa-wat-dii Kha from Thailand!

These past few weeks have been filled with rest and adventure. We spent some wonderful time on two beautiful island beaches in Southern Thailand: Koh Samui and Koh Tao. Keith and I both had Thai massages on the beach ($7 for one hour!). Oliver and I took a snorkel daytrip around Koh Tao and the tiny island of Koh Nang Yaan (3 small islands connected by a sandbar). Oliver had his first motorbike ride on the way to the Thai doctor in our first official trip mishap. On our last day on the beach in Koh Tao, he stepped on some glass and we got to see firsthand the inner-workings of Thai medicine. $35, 20 minutes, 3 stitches (and a whole lot of screaming) later we were on our way. Soon thereafter, Emmett got seasick on the water taxi back to Koh Samui. Luckily that is all behind us as we are now in the Northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai. The food is fabulous: Pad Thai, Panang Curry, Green Papaya Salad, Fried Chicken with Cashews, Tom Kaa Gai Soup and of course, Pizza. Yesterday we hired a Tuk-Tuk (small scooter taxi) to drive us around and visited the Prah Singh Temple, an Umbrella Factory, Insect Museum, Wood Carving Center and Silk Factory. The boys were fascinated with the silk making process from the worm to the cocoon to the thread and finally the weaving. Last night Oliver and I took a Thai cooking class together. After shopping for our ingredients at the local market, we chopped, mixed, fried and stirred. We departed with full bellies and recipes to share with our friends when we return. We miss you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by debic 21:12 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (5)

A Toilet Seat that Washes and Warms!

...and other amazing Japanese factoids


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(sorry for all of the pictures at once - we just figured out how to upload them...so this will catch you up)

We are slowly adjusting to life in Japan. Oliver is fixated with the fancy toilets (and some not so fancy) and Emmett is desperately hunting for pizza. The food for the rest of us is delicious: bento boxes with chicken or unagi (eel), pickled okra, rice, salad, miso soup, tempura, udon noodles and sushi. We are busily navigating the subways and train lines with Keith's good directions. Our Tokyo hotel is near the Shinjuku Station - one of the world's busiest with nearly 3 million users each day! Make that 3 million and four with us here. Oliver's new favorite place to be is the bathroom as the toilet is fascinating. Emmett decided he was happy to be in Japan while at the Nijo Castle in Kyoto and at the Pokemon Center in Tokyo. We are off tomorrow for a trip to Mt. Fuji and then will go up North with Uncle T-Bone to his old stomping grounds. It will be very different from Tokyo he keeps telling us. I guess that means no fancy toilets...Love to you all.

Posted by debic 00:42 Archived in Japan Tagged round_the_world Comments (6)

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