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To Morocco with Mom

13 Sep

I just spent the last 10 days gorging myself on feta cheese, olives, and lots of hugs from mom. Can anyone say best vacation ever? We met up in Morocco with two other Peace Corps friends and a set of parents and toured around the Northern cities – so. many. medinas.

Here’s a rundown of our awesome trip, more photos than not (cause I know what you like). And if anyone is wondering, we booked with an Intrepid Tour, and I would HIGHLY recommend them.

Casablanca:

We arrived in Casablanca one day early to acclimate ourselves, and recover from a 10 hour layover in Dubai. Went to the Hassan II Mosque, ate a delicious lunch a Rick’s Cafe (hey, we’re American), and wandered through the old part of the city (called the Medina) before meeting up with our tour.

Lora and I in front of the Hassan II Mosque

Lora and I in front of the Hassan II Mosque

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intricate detail

intricate detail

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It can hold up to 25,000 worshipers

It can hold up to 25,000 worshipers

Rabat:

Took an early train to Rabat and spent a half day walking around the Kasbah, which is the old part of the city. They were also filming an action movie where motocycles ride up stairs into the tiny Kasbah alleyways – pretty cool. Then we headed to the Hassan II tower (he’s a popular guy) where there was a mausoleum for some ancient kings (because I paid attention).

A cemetery outside the Kasbah

A cemetery outside the Kasbah

she's a giant!

she’s a giant!

a bunch of doors

a bunch of doors

the foundations of the old mosque and the Hassan II tower

the foundations of the old mosque and the Hassan II tower

I was helping him guard

I was helping him guard

Moulay Idriss:

A small village nestled in the mountains near Meknes, Moulay Idriss just opened to non-Muslim visitors a few years ago. Many people treat this village as a pilgrimage to see the tomb of Moulay Idriss, and it is said tha 5 times here is the same as 1 time to Mecca… We stayed in a family’s home, converted to a hotel and ate a traditional Moroccan family meal with kefta tagine (meatballs), Moroccan salad, lots of olives, and fresh melon. OM NOM NOM.

can't get a car up these tiny roads #stillinAfrica

can’t get a car up these tiny roads #stillinAfrica

tea time

tea time

a rooftop view

a rooftop view

Sunset over Moulay Idriss

Sunset over Moulay Idriss

Olives. I am a fan.

Olives. I am a fan.

Kefta tagine

Kefta tagine

Volubilis:

The next morning we drove to the Roman ruins of Volubilis. A well preserved city, it was the Southernmost point of the empire. It was inhabited until the 1700s where an earthquake destroyed most of the city. Considering I had never heard of it before this trip, it was pretty amazing, and I would even say gives Pompeii a run for its money on how much was preserved.

Lebanese cedars

Lebanese cedars

proof we went on the trip together! Peace Corps Ethiopia!

proof we went on the trip together! Peace Corps Ethiopia!

crazy bird's nest

crazy bird’s nest

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a preserved mosaic floor

a preserved mosaic floor

all roads lead to Rome

all roads lead to Rome

Meknes:

The fourth largest city in Morocco, we stopped by Meknes for an afternoon of sightseeing and meat eating. Meknes is known for its silver metal work, where they inlay silver thread into iron. We also stopped for a camel burger – pretty delicious!

an ancient granary

an ancient granary

The hand of Fatima - to ward off the Evil Eye

The hand of Fatima – to ward off the Evil Eye

Colourful tagines in the Meknes Medina

Colourful tagines in the Meknes Medina

because this picture is hilarious #MoCroInMorocco

because this picture is hilarious #MoCroInMorocco

Camel Burger

Camel Burger

Meknes metal work

Meknes metal work

Fes:

We spent two nights in Fes. The first night we had dinner at a family’s home in the Medina, good thing we had a guide! You could get lost in there for years. Fes is known for a sweet chicken pastry called pastilla. It was sooooo goooood. Have I mentioned how good the food was? I was a little bit in heaven over this trip. The next day we wandered the Medina (with a guide-necessary) and saw artisans making pottery, carpets, scarves, and leather. I splurged and bought myself a good quality leather jacket. I mean, I need something to go home in when it’s December!

a family meal - pastilla for dinner

a family meal – pastilla for dinner

The Jewish Quarter, more open

The Jewish Quarter, more open

soap for the Hamam (Moroccan bath)

soap for the Hamam (Moroccan bath)

Prickly pear are sold on the street - they are a cross between a kiwi and a melon.

Prickly pear are sold on the street – they are a cross between a kiwi and a melon.

Fez hats in Fes

Fez hats in Fes

Fes panorama

Fes panorama

kick wheel pottery

kick wheel pottery

cutting tile for a mosaic

cutting tile for a mosaic

leather ottomans

leather ottomans

Tannery pits - dye and phosphates and urine. Sexy.

Tannery pits – dye and phosphates and urine. Sexy.

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carpets by hand

carpets by hand

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ready for the Sahara sandstorms

ready for the Sahara sandstorms

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Chefchouen:

The little town of Chefchouen is nestled in the Riff Moutains, but what it is really know for are its blue doors. Well, blue doors, windows, walls, streets and stairs. Everything was blue! This was one of my favorite stops on the tour. Here Lora and I went to a public Hamam (Moroccan bath) and got our henna done. The bath is styled like a Roman bath (not Turkish) where there are three rooms: hot, medium, and cold. You spend most of your time in the hot room, where neighborhood ladies will scrub you down, whether you asked them too or not.

We also went on an early morning hike into the Riff mountains, and got a little lost on our way down. But we ended up in a random village and skimmed down on our butts to get off the mountain. I couldn’t get out of Peace Corps if I tried.

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traditional hats with pom poms :)

traditional hats with pom poms :)

The old Kasbah

The old Kasbah

Early morning Chefchouen with fog

Early morning Chefchouen with fog

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Got my henna on... still visible! though fading

Got my henna on… still visible! though fading

Tangiers:

We spent the morning in Tangiers, walking around the old city and staring at the ocean – you can see Spain! Not much to report here, though a lot of European tourists come through on the day ferry. I did learn that Morocco was the first nation to recognize America’s independence though!

American Legation Museum

American Legation Museum

You can see Spain in the background!

You can see Spain in the background!

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just chillin on the beach

just chillin on the beach

Marrakech:

Our last stop on the tour, we started with a walk through the medina and spice shop demonstration. Saffron here is very cheap, if you’re interested. We saw the Saddien tombs, and the Bahia Palace. That afternoon we walked to the Majorelle Gardens (a lot of cactus) then had a last night dinner with the group (lamb, yum). The next morning we had a cooking class where we went through the market buying ingredients, then learned to make chicken lemon tagine at a local home. That evening we went back to the main square (Jemma al Fna) where the market comes to life at night (it was 43+ degrees  Celsius in the day!). The open area is covered with food tents and juice carts, and snake charmers, lantern sellers, acrobats, and drummers. The energy was contagious.

 

Saddien Tombs - 3 Kings

Saddien Tombs – 3 Kings

cars should not go through medinas

cars should not go through medinas

a traditional berber tent

a traditional berber tent

so. many. spices.

so. many. spices.

lanterns in the market

lanterns in the market

sweets!

sweets!

Majorelle Gardens - crazy cactus

Majorelle Gardens – crazy cactus

buying spices for our tagine cooking class

buying spices for our tagine cooking class

personal tagines

personal tagines

us two chefs :)

us two chefs :)

before

before

after! yum

after! yum

couldn't resist... too cute

couldn’t resist… too cute

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yes, that is a snake charmer

yes, that is a snake charmer

panorama of Jemma al Fna at sunset

panorama of Jemma al Fna at sunset

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Dinner in one of the tents

Dinner in one of the tents

Night market

Night market

A Quick Trip to India

14 May

Overnight trains, sweet lassis, glass bangles clanging, swimming with elephants, repelling down canyon walls. I just returned from India, land of colours and crowds, bindis and bangra. Over three weeks four friends and I visited the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur) and then headed down for a relaxing week on the beaches of Goa. It was a great first trip, though it will have to be a first. India is not a sub-continent for nothing; I only saw a very small slice of this diverse and fascinating country.

Having lived in a developing country myself for the past year and a half it was interesting to see a country that has moved so much farther ahead of its counterparts. While other tourists commented on the “mysticism” of India, the “simplicity” of life coupled with the crazy honking cars, and large crowds, I really heard them commenting on the “mysticism” of poverty.  That culture shock doesn’t hit me anymore. What I saw was where a country like Ethiopia could be in 30? 40? 50? years.

But enough on the larger themes of development and travel. What did I do? What did I see? How much did I spend on pretty things? Well, I had some amazing experiences (see photos below), saw some huge castles and forts (and the Taj Mahal), and too much. I spent too much. And yet still came out under budget (the magic of rupies).

So if you’re planning a trip, and you happen to be going to any of the above mentioned cities, here are some things you absolutely must do:

Delhi

Bike tour of the city. We rode bikes through the crooked alleyways and markets of old Delhi and through the grand architecture and colonial houses of newer Delhi. They also ended with an amazing lunch.

Alyssa excited to go biking

Alyssa excited to go biking

Flower market in Delhi

Flower market in Delhi

Us Girls

Us Girls

This is 7am. This is "not busy" at the Spice Market

This is 7am. This is “not busy” at the Spice Market

The Red Fort

The Red Fort

Agra

We hired a driver for the day who took us to many more sites than we would have thought to visit. For 600 rupies (split between 5 of us) it was very much worth it.

 

The Agra Fort

The Agra Fort

amazing detail work

amazing detail work

Every fort had some sort of palace in it

Every fort had some sort of palace in it

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because we are too cute

because we are too cute

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The baby taj! or some other mosoleum

The baby taj! or some other mosoleum

There it is!

There it is!

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not paint, actual inlaid marble.

not paint, actual inlaid marble.

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Jaipur

We spent a week in Jaipur. You could probably do it in a couple days. But you most definitely have to do Elephantastic! We fed, rode, painted and swam with rescued elephants who live in one of two elephant villages in the world (the other is in Thailand). We also took a day tour of the sights of Jaipur including some of the forts, silk printing and an observatory park. We also did some major shopping here.

It was amazing to be this close to the elephants

It was amazing to be this close to the elephants

we fed them by their trunks

we fed them by their trunks

His name was Raja. He was rescued from a circus.

His name was Raja. He was rescued from a circus.

This is how we got on their backs

This is how we got on their backs

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Our masterpiece

Our masterpiece

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Swimming with elephants!

Swimming with elephants!

Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

The Albert Museum, so many birds!

The Albert Museum, so many birds!

a painting of Krishna

a painting of Krishna

so. many. bangles.

so. many. bangles.

The Jaipur observatory

The Jaipur observatory

horoscope lines

horoscope lines

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silk block printing

silk block printing

A view from the Amber Fort

A view from the Amber Fort

Mirror Palace... the whole thing was covered in glass and mirrors.

Mirror Palace… the whole thing was covered in glass and mirrors.

need I say more?

need I say more?

Goa

Goa is actually a region, not a city, but we managed to ride public transportation up and down for hours doing awesome things. In the south, near a city called Palolem, we went canyoning (repelling and jumping into to pools of water in the jungle). In the north, we visited Anjuna, a hippy town and host to one of the largest flea markets in the region- so many hippies. And we stayed in a town called Benaulim, with white sand beach for miles. We also visited some temples, a spice farm, and generally got our tan (ahem, sunburn) on.

At the Spice Farm, with our bindis

At the Spice Farm, with our bindis

Cashew harvesting by climbing palms

Cashew harvesting by climbing palms

local liquor - fenny. Rough.

local liquor – fenny. Rough.

getting my traditional dance on

getting my traditional dance on

Benaulim Beach

Benaulim Beach

Breanne got some henna

Breanne got some henna

Canyoning!

Canyoning!

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this is me, free falling... because the rope was too short! not. cool.

this is me, free falling… because the rope was too short! not. cool.

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temple in the jungle

temple in the jungle

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I was on vacation. what of it?

I was on vacation. what of it?

Giant flea market in Anjuna

Giant flea market in Anjuna

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More Portraits

27 Jan

It’s been a while since I posted some portraits, but since I just went all touristy all over Africa I had my trusty camera in hand. Here are some of my favorite photos of people over the past month, Ethiopian and Tanzanian.

a long way from home

a long way from home

siblings on Zanzibar

siblings on Zanzibar

Stonetown slave monument

Stonetown slave monument

Masai schoolchildren

Masai schoolchildren

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in the Masai village

in the Masai village

an inviting smile

an inviting smile

Masai women

Masai women

a safari photo

a safari photo

The perfect Timket view

The perfect Timket view

Yemrehanos Kristos monastery by candlelight

Yemrehanos Kristos monastery by candlelight

roadblock

roadblock

through the trenches of Lalibela

through the trenches of Lalibela

on the steps of Bet Giorgis Church

on the steps of Bet Giorgis Church

it's been a long day

it’s been a long day

a friendly priest

a friendly priest

hermit on pilgrimage

hermit on pilgrimage

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A priest in Lalibela

A priest in Lalibela

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In her Sunday best

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Threshing wheat outside Gondar

Threshing wheat outside Gondar

following the Arc of the Covenant

following the Arc of the Covenant

waiting for the parade

waiting for the parade

a PCV at Timket

a PCV at Timket

dawn prayer

dawn prayer

Timket boys

Timket boys

Safari Photos

25 Jan

Suffice to say the second “leg” of the family vacation was all about animals. It was such a relaxing time, and so nice to be with the family and see their reactions to all these crazy creatures. My mom was a little bit obsessed with giraffes. But less talk, more photos! I’ll try to put up the best of the best, the cutest of the cutest and the weirdest of the weird.

Wedding on camel

Wedding on camel

Our tour company - Ranger Safaris

Our tour company – Ranger Safaris

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hippo skeleton

hippo skeleton

Panorama of Ngorogoro Crater

Panorama of Ngorogoro Crater

wildebeast, look at those beards

wildebeast, look at those beards

this lizard was neon purple and pink

this lizard was neon purple and pink

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life is so hard

life is so hard

so close to the lions!

so close to the lions!

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giraffe at twilight

giraffe at twilight

their necks are so bendy!

their necks are so bendy!

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me and my mommy

me and my mommy

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a parade of elephants

a parade of elephants

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lions in a tree!

lions in a tree!

she made it

she made it

David jumping with the Masai

David jumping with the Masai

Sunset over Ngorogoro

Sunset over Ngorogoro

yup, that happened. Makin' babies!

yup, that happened. Makin’ babies!

and... enough.

and… enough.

cracking that tree with his trunk

cracking that tree with his trunk

mid fight

mid fight

yawning is contagious

yawning is contagious

three cheetahs at once! so rare

three cheetahs at once! so rare

awwwwwwwww

awwwwwwwww

AWWWWWWW

AWWWWWWW

waterbuck

waterbuck

the family with our guide Sadiki

the family with our guide Sadiki

Why Did the [Blank] Cross the Road? – Adventures traveling by car in Africa.

9 Jan

The Crozier family came to visit for the holidays. We spent a little less than a week in Ethiopia, visiting my town Gondar and then seeing the historic monolithic rock hewn churches of Lalibella. Next we jetted down to Tanzania for a week long safari and a few days on Zanzibar Island. I’ll get into more details on all these adventures in later posts, but for now I thought I’d illuminate a funny theme of the trip – animals crossing the road. Our safaria hit all the highlights, the Big 5 (elephants, leopard, buffalo, lions, and even rhinocerous), and plenty of other typically crazy looking savannah creatures. We were guests in their territory, bouncing along on barely used roads. The animals walked where they wanted, and so – a theme post! and a preview of the amazing photos to come.

leapin'

leapin’

BABY ELEPHANT!!!!

BABY ELEPHANT!!!!

 

Stompin'

Stompin’

swaggerin' (impala)

swaggerin’ (impala)

struttin'

struttin’

amblin'

amblin’

gallopin' (Thompson Gazelle)

gallopin’ (Thompson Gazelle)

Migratin' (wildebeast)

Migratin’ (wildebeast)

slitherin' (this snake was probably over 3 ft long)

slitherin’ (this snake was probably over 3 ft long)

water buffalo herdin'

water buffalo herdin’

Panorama of the Serengetti Plains

Panorama of the Serengetti Plains

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Saunterin'

Saunterin’

Blue Monkey

Blue Monkey

Strollin'

Strollin’

More to come!

On Senegal, Malaria, and Beaches at Sunset

5 Oct

Back safely in Gondar, tucked in to my wool blanket and sweatpants, I can reflect back on the past two hot and humid weeks in Senegal at the Stomp Out Malaria Bootcamp. A Peace Corps initiative to beef up malaria prevention programming across the continent, I represented Ethiopia as one of the regional coordinators at the conference. We spent two weeks learning from experts in the fields of entomology, epidemiology, and malaria intervention experts from CDC, USAID, The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and MACEPA all stopped by.  But in between the sessions, case studies, and 12 hour days of training (it’s not called boot camp for nothing), I was able to get duly sunburned, and see the westernmost point in Africa.

Popenguine, Senegal

Popenguine, Senegal

fisherman at Popenguine

fisherman at Popenguine

They took us to the beaches of Popenguine for a day trip, where I swam, ate fresh fish, and spent a little too much on souvenirs.

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So as beautiful as the beaches were, we still actually learned a lot. And I am coming back to Ethiopia with best practices and project ideas from Peace Corps countries all over Africa.

remembering my French

remembering my French

we did a lot of this

we did a lot of this

looking for malaria parasites (microscopy)

looking for malaria parasites (microscopy)

At the end of the conference we headed back to Dakar (Senegal’s capital, and the westernmost capital in Africa) for some good times before long flights. I was able to see a friend from Korbel who is working in Dakar now – so nice to see a friendly face! On the whole Senegal was very different from Ethiopia. The food, the language, and the heat! made the trip, as busy as it was, still feel like an adventure. Senegalese eat family style (like Ethiopians) but you won’t find injera here. The staples were rice and couscous and everyone gets a giant spoon.

all for meeeee

all for meeeee

My last night in Senegal I went out to the Pointes des Almadies, the westernmost point in Africa. I got to literally pick out my dinner from the catches of the day, and watched the sun set over the Atlantic… the opposite side of the ocean from home.

Dakar at Sunset

Dakar at Sunset

Pointe Du Almadies (the Westernmost point in Africa)

Pointe Du Almadies (the Westernmost point in Africa)

A Passion for Prevention

25 Sep

For the past week or so I have been in Senegal on the West side of Africa learning about best practices for malaria prevention programming both broadly and for Peace Corps volunteers. Waaay over here:

All the way across the continent - First time to West Africa!

All the way across the continent – First time to West Africa!

Over two weeks we are learning more about malaria and mosquitoes (anopheles female variety of course) than I could ever want to know. Did you know they rest perpendicular to the wall? Did you care? But in the middle of the science, the entomology, and the  details of funding schemes, we are also sharing best practices, practical programs and visiting a beach or two.

More on the conference later, but Monday night we had the opportunity to attend the launch of malaria prevention program in one of the villages outside of Thies (pronounced Chezz) lead by a man who has a personal connection to the cause.

Monsieur Elhage has started malaria prevention programming in Senegal in over 10 villages around the area. Starting by walking door to door, he garnered support from village chiefs, women’s groups, and community leaders so that in a country where malaria is endemic, these villages have had 0 reported cases this year.

The "trois Toutes" (3 Alls) program- The whole family, the whole year, every night

The “trois Toutes” (3 Alls) program- The whole family, the whole year, every night

A skit about the importance of a bed net, and seeking prompt care

A skit about the importance of a bed net, and seeking prompt care

But these results have been the blood sweat and tears of over a decade of advocacy. One morning in 1999 his daughter fell ill, and asked her father, then a photographer for UNICEF, to pick up apples and oranges in the market. He went to work, bought the fruit, and mid afternoon received a call from his sister telling him of death of his 12 year old daughter Ami only 10 days before the start of school. A severe malaria epidemic rocked the region that year with children and pregnant women dying for no apparent reason.  After a gathering with the health workers in the area, Elhage began to understand his daughter had died from malaria.

What was worse, she could have been saved had she been treated quickly, or prevented the bite. So Elhage rededicated his life to malaria prevention education. Working at the village level he employed a few different strategies to get buy in from the community. He worked with the women’s groups, youth, and village leadership to develop a health community committee and fund. The fund would pay for education supplies as well as treatment costs for malaria cases.

The village clean up celebration

The village clean up celebration

Leaders of the health committee and women's groups

Leaders of the health committee and women’s groups

With push from village leaders and a mass bed net distribution from the Senegal government (in partnership with the US’s President’s Malaria Initiative), confirmed malaria cases dropped in these villages. But there was still a hot spot of infection – students coming back from summer vacation who had visited families in other villages or towns and were coming back with malaria. To combat this migration effect, the schools developed a “vacation card” and kit that gave the kids nets to take on their trips with them.

The "vacation" card

The “vacation” card, it says: “I will protect myself from malaria, I will sleep under a bed net”

In addition to the health education and bed net distributions, village chiefs put together a “night watch” group that would go around to houses in the evening to check if bed nets were up. If they were not, the household would be fined $5 (USD) – a LOT for the villagers.  The fines would be added to the community health fund. This was a completely internal idea, and worked to keep usage rates high, even in the dry season.

As malaria rates went down, funds needed to treat cases also shrank, freeing up the community health fund  to dream up bigger and better projects. Elhage began to advocate larger development goals, and he developed three philosophies needed for moving forward: politeness, cleanliness, and punctuality (a frustration for any aid worker across the continent).

Politeness, Hygiene/Cleanliness, Punctuality

Politeness, Hygiene/Cleanliness, Punctuality

For his hard work in malaria prevention and social behavioral change, the head of the President’s Malaria Initiative (Admiral Tim Ziemer) presented Elhage with a medal. Elhage has continued to promote vigilance against malaria infection and other small scale development goals.

Obama on a Medal

Obama on a Medal

Elhage talking us through his work

Elhage talking us through his work

As we hear about best practices in malaria prevention across the continent, it is always important to connect with the people who have poured their lives into the cause. People, like Elhage, who have worked for decades and pursued his message and worked with community members to affect change. Change that was home grown, and sorely needed to protect against a deadly disease. His story, while tragic, was one of the most motivating moments of the conference. With stories of his success, we volunteers can head back to our own communities and hopefully support people like Elhage.

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