Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of The Union?

President Obama delivered the symbolic State of the Union address tonight to hundreds of Congress-people and millions of citizens. But what does this mean to me? I have to wonder if my daily routines are affected by the symbolic poetic rhetoric that is delivered on a night such as this. When I walk down the street and buy a gallon of milk? When I go to the library and browse the hardbacks? When I stroll to the local bar and get a drink?

But then I step back and think a little more critically. A walk down the street means I'm walking on carefully planned infrastructure based on intricate budgets. A gallon of milk requires countless regulations and subsidies. A trip to the library means committees, boards, and political action taken to pay for the hardbacks and computers.

So why aren't more people paying attention?

After the president's speech, a representative from the Republican party gave a response, followed by a representative from the Tea Party. Even though Obama asked us to unite despite our differences, the conflicting rhetoric increased with each representative.

Now I now why people aren't paying attention.

Picture yourself listening to three screaming children, all trying to tell you who was responsible for breaking the Lego castle, after it was so carefully built up. There is screaming, crying, hitting, accusing, blaming. And no one sits down to discuss the problem that, above all else, the Lego castle has crumbled and something needs to be done. How are you supposed to reason with these juveniles?

I agree it is hard to make sense of the issues in Washington and the political jargon that is associated with it, but you must give your intellect the credit it deserves. You can understand government and take a stand on the future you deserve. We have always been preached to about "our children's children's government." Well, think about your government. We can't be the forgotten generation, the generation that gave up trying to make sense of the mess that was left for us on the steps of our capitol.

So get out the books, stop listening to rumors, start questioning, and never, ever stop caring. This is our government, these are our days, and this is our chance to make a difference.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Destination: Home

How am I supposed to answer the question, "How was your trip?" How was what exactly? The weather, the people, the hostels, hotels, dirty beds, bright colors, speedy mopeds, the smells, the history, the....what was it you asked me again?

It's nothing short of strange and beautiful being back home. Being able to walk the streets holding a coffee, getting into my car and driving...anywhere. But still I remain stuck on how to explain why I am tired or emotional, slightly absent-minded or aloof. I have great memories of my trip to Morocco but, unfortunately, it all feels like a dream with hazy details. I seem to have woken up sweating and shaking from a vivid dream that leaves me flailing in the dark for any specifics that I can remember. Just as in a dream, was there a beginning or an end to all of it?

Ask me again about my trip and I'll tell you about the native men trying desperately to sell me a handmade rug to support their family. Or what it was like to see a man in Casablanca wearing a traditional Moroccan robe, a turban, and new Ray Bans. Or getting lost in the walled city for three hours trying to find a way out. Or maybe I should tell you about the Brits I met on the beach or the girls from Belgium who gave me a free place to stay. It's a grab bag of hard working people, backpackers, cultural cuisine, and dusty roads. The lucid stories come and go in my conscious state like hallucinations.

And here I am at home with all the luxuries I missed. The grocery store has everything any human could ever want. The streets are big enough for four cars and void of garbage. I can talk to my family as fast as I can dial, and I can reminisce with all of you about my wonderful, irrational, indescribable adventure. I've been asked several times, "was it worth it?" Of course. I learned so much about a new culture and religion, about a person's desire to make a sale, about the rich and poor, and that passion comes in many colors.

But above all else, I am most thankful for the fact that I now have toilet paper.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 23 - Essaouira, Morocco

Apparently they don't have cyber cafes in the middle of the Sahara so that's why I haven't written in awhile. I can hardly explain to you the magnificence of the desert. I rode on a bus for two days out to the Sahara over nail-biting, heart-attack inducing curvy roads over massive cliffs. (I swear that only two wheels were on the road at several points in the journey.) The first day I wandered through an old village of mud huts where Gladiator, Babel, and many other desert movies were shot. It was such an honor to see these native children talk about the movies being filmed and how their families were extras. "I was in the movie! Did you see this scene? Remember this guy? That is me!" It was surreal trying to imagine cameras and celebrities walking around these dusty paths.

After hours of mountain roads and small villages with donkey carts and children trekking miles to school, we finally caught our first glimpse of the giant golden sand dunes. Dunes rolling across the horizon with a million shadows standing in stark contrast to the brilliant blue sky. We were approaching sunset so the Berber men (the native tribes people of Morocco,) quickly ushered us onto camels wearing saddles made of thick blankets and rope. Civilization disappeared behind me as I was led further into the Sahara, swaying back and forth, back and forth to the rhythm of the silent camel. I thought to myself, all I really know about the desert is what I have seen in movies. Lawrence of Arabia, Mummy, and all the others that take place in this barren land. So if movies are correct, as they always are, that means there should be a sand palace on my right, a mirage of an oasis in the distance, and ninjas ascending behind us. Ninjas?! Gallop camel, gallop!

Unfortunately I saw none of that; just sand for miles and miles and garbage strewn about, completely ruining my romantic expectations of the desert. But I could look past it, into the sunset, and imagine brave souls crossing the desert on foot so many years ago. I day-dreamed into the sunset and didn't even realize that we were soon riding camels in the dark desert as we approached camp. Camels were parked outside the walled tents as we fumbled around in the darkness trying to gather ourselves. When I entered the walled tent I felt like I was in Harry Potter when they open the flaps of the tent to find a giant room with candles, food, and warmth. Out in the middle of the desert these men had set up a palace with rugs lining the tent and lanterns providing light for our weary minds.

After dinner our Berber hosts brought in hand drums and finger cymbals and sang ancient Berber songs at the top of their lungs. It was amazing to see these guys, who looked so bored leading us through the desert, expressing themselves so passionately with their music. Pretty soon we were all up dancing, banging on drums, enjoying the history of the desert with Berber music.

By now, night had fully engulfed us and the temperature began to drop. I stuck my head outside the tent and gasped when I saw the number of stars in the sky - unlike anything I had ever seen in my entire life. Remember those posters of the constellations? Or seeing a show in the planetarium? It was even more spectacular than that. The Milky Way stood out like it had been brushed across the sky and the planets popped like diamonds. More heads popped out of the tent, one by one, and each person gasped in excitement at the moonless sky lit only by the billions of ancient stars. Just another bit of history still alive in this vast desert.

I began to make my way to bed when a Berber man said, "No, no. Get your shoes on. We're all going for a hike." A hike? It was pitch black and I was standing in the middle of the Sahara. I'm sorry, but where the heck do you expect to take us? He pointed up off in the distance. "We're going to the top of that sand dune." Oh boy. We all started strong, hiking in the uneven, exhausting sand but stragglers began to drop like flies. I pushed myself harder and harder, soon climbing with my hands and feet on the steep sand dune. I could see the top silhouetted against the bright starry sky but it felt like it would never come. Only ten more steps....only five more....three more...where's the top?! It felt like a step ladder at the gym where you hike and hike but get nowhere. Vertigo began to set in as my footing started to slip and my eyes refused to adjust to the pitch blackness. Finally! I made it to the top and cheered with excitement as the wind whipped my face and sand bit my legs and arms. This is Africa!

What an amazing adventure! But now I am out of the desert and meandering the streets of Essaouira on the coast. Once an American hippie destination in the 1960s, old hipsters still roam the streets with dread locks and long Moroccan robes. The white-washed walls of houses and buildings with purple and mint green trim set against the blue ocean make for an easy place to relax and dream about camels and sand palaces.

And now, with only three days left to travel, this will be my last Moroccan post. But don't you worry, the adventures will surely follow me back to the United States and with them, more posts! Thank you to everyone who has followed me and shown so much support. I look forward to taking you along on my next adventure. With a big farewell, I leave you with some inspiration from a favorite childhood author:

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

I hope all of you keep moving in your life, never forgetting what it's like to be a part of constant change.