Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bringing the culture back...

Lou might kill me if she knows this is on here. Shhh..don't tell her.
This is a friend of Lou's from Uni. We introduced her to a little African culture.

We were very pleased with ourselves, but it didn't compare to what we had been fed.
It was still alright though.

Our nice set up.

Preparing dinner...

We arrived in Oxford around five or six in the evening. My roommate and I took showers then headed straight to Co-op to buy some food for the next few days.

We were having company that night and we wanted to give them a little taste of Morocco.

We made some veggies and couscous and placed it in a tagine dish that Lou bought.

Also, we bought some fresh mint leaves we we could attempt to make some mint tea in my new tea pot and glass tea cups.

We showed them how to make a ball with the couscous and how to flick it into your mouth. Its quite messy and sometimes unattractive. :)

and continues....

I accidentally posted that before I was finished...
Also, Im sorry if the pictures don't quite line up with the words. Its hard fitting in the pictures in line with the words.

Where was I?

Right, the Prayer Expedition.

The second weekend we were there was what they called the "prayer expedition" and this was the part i was most worried about. Basically, they told us to pack our rucksacks, split into our track teams again,they gave us a map that was about fifty or sixty years old, and told us to pray over the map, see where God was leading us, and don't come back to the center for the next 48 hours.

The choice of the title 'prayer expedition' is quite self-explanatory now. I don't think I've prayed so much in my life before. It was intense, we had to pray for food and shelter for every day and that we'd get to a village before night fall, that some kind-hearted someone would invite us in, feed us, and give us somewhere to sleep.

On our first day, on of the girls in our group was really struggling with her knees. Another girl prayed that we'd encounter a 'good samaritan' to help us on our way with directions and such.
It wasn't too long after that we met Fahtima and her oh so helpful donkey. She offered Rach a ride on her donkey to save her knees for the next few days we'd be walking AND she carried a the rest of our rucksacks between her and her friend's donkey. Not only did she take a load off our backs, she walked ahead of us and showed us the way!
This is Fahtima, Rachel on the donkey, and myself.

The first day included a lot of walking and our estimation of how long it would take us to get to a village was way off. So, it was getting close to night fall, we actually had no idea where we were on the map because Fahtima took us on an unmarked path, and we weren't in sight of a village. I was starting to panic a bit, but held it in. I found out later though, that both the leaders were starting to panic as well, but kept it inside as well. :) It would've been nice to know others were inwardly freaking out! But i suppose it's good we all kept our cool. Finally we were in sight of a building but it was just one solitary building, but we saw white people on the roof! We figured they spoke English, so we stopped to ask them where we were on the map.

They actually were a French couple living in Marrakesh who work as travel agents. This house was some travel home they were promoting, but they wanted to come and check it out and take pictures. They happened to just be staying that ONE night, the same night we needed a place to stay. Ironic?

They helped figure out where we were on the map then invited us in for dinner and a place to sleep! They had actual beds...AND sit down toilets! Hallelujah! They offered us some mint tea which was delicious. So sugary. And Minty. Hence, mint tea. ANYWAY........the view was outstanding. This is us drinking tea after just arriving and the glorious mountains. I know it doesn't look like the sun is about to go down, but after we found out where we were on the map, we realized we would've been walking in the dark before we made it to the closest village.

That evening myself and one of the other girls helped make the tagine. We had a delicious meal with the family and played UNO with them and their nine year old son! How wicked is that? (Um, im not sure why its underlining everything and making it blue? And i don't know how to stop it. Sorry!). We slept in nice beds that night, woke up in the morning, and were offered breakfast. Not any breakfast though, pancakes and French coffee and mint tea! Above and beyond what we expected! We were on our way that morning to another village, with even higher expectations, which was maybe a mistake........

We were on the right track though, a couple hours into our walk we met Abdullah, well, one of the five Abdullahs we met. :P We asked him where the specific village we wanted to go to was just to make sure we were on the right path and he told us he was going to that same village. Wonderful! A guide who knows these mountains like the back of his hand. Just what we need. Not only that, he offered to take a few of our bags as well! Woop woop!
This is myself, rucksack-less, Henry our group leader, and Abdullah following behind the wonderful donkey. Poor thing, but I appreciated it for sure!

It took us a long time to walk to the village, but it was actually a nice leisurely walk. We finally made it though, thanked Abdullah with some money and English tea bags. He kindly took the money and offered our tea bags back to us. Not a English tea drinker I guess. :) We sat at the entrance of the village for a bit, played with bouncy balls with some of the kids, and tried to make it evident that we were staying for the night. A few people past along with a simple 'salam'. We tried to chat to a few of the women, but they didn't seem interested. Finally, a younger looking chap came into the village and seemed to speak a little French. He tried to work with our little French to see why we were there, what we needed, then offered us a place to stay in his home. Well, his parents home, but his room. He welcomed us in, offered us tea, bread, and oil. Very generous. It seemed to us that maybe staying with him was putting him out, but it didn't seem like telling us no was an option for him. He let us rest for a bit then offered to take us around the village.

While on a walk around the village, we met one of the groups from our year group! We were amazing to see people we knew and who spoke the same language! They apparently were staying in the same village, but were staying in the hostile. Once Rashid, the gentleman, realized we knew these people he seemed to offer us the option of staying at the hostile with them. The problem was, we actually didn't have enough money to stay at the hostile AND get a taxi back to Amizmiz the next morning. We told Rashid that we'd rather stay with him if it was still an option and he simply said, 'no problem' without a smile on his face. We said good bye to the group and continued on the walk. This was a beautiful walk whilst the sun was setting. The breeze was nice and the views were astonishing. But, as the sun was setting and darkness started to settle, there seemed to be a new level of spiritual darkness that none of us had noticed before. As we continued walking, scrambling up rocks, getting higher and higher, farther and father away from the village, I started to worry about where on earth Rashid was taking us. We soon came to a stop though, and the view in front of us was so serene.
This is Rashid and Henry looking at this peaceful view.

Although this was a very peaceful spot and probably a spot Rashid comes to often to just think, my spirit felt very unsettled. As we were up there no one spoke a word to each other. Actually, no one really spoke to each other the entire walk. Everybody was consumed with their own thoughts. Later, I learned that Henry had the words 'family break down' and 'father' running through his head while he was up there and was unsure what it was about. Rashid simply sat. And thought. Throughout the walk he seemed to want to get us further and further away from his home. It was a very strange experience. Finally after a few minutes, i felt so unsettled that I had to stand up and and once i did that, we all started walking back. As we re- entered the village, Rashid stopped at every man we past and conversed with them for awhile. After a bit, it became evident that he was trying to get someone else to take us in, but no one else wanted to. The atmosphere in the village after the sun had gone down was an extremely unpleasant one. The darkness seemed so thick. Finally, we were getting closer to Rashid's house and Henry asked one final time if it was still ok if we stayed in his house. He looked at us with ashamed, sorrow-filled eyes and explained that he had absolutely no problem with us in his house, but his father would not allow it.
He seemed so upset with the fact that he couldn't be hospitable towards us, but we tried as hard as we could to reassure him that we understood, that we didn't want to make anything more difficult for him, and that we were so thankful for the hospitality that he had already shown us.

By this time, the sun had already set and we only had one option left. The hostile. We arrived about 9:30 at night, paid to get in, and were welcomed by the other team that was there. We explained the situation, and went off as separate groups. Our group prayed for Rashid and whatever family issues were lurking in his house. We prayed for the spiritual darkness that seemed so evident in that place. We prayed for light to break through. We were unsure as to why God had shown us to this village, but were reminded of a word that had been given earlier. Someone in our group had a word that we were to bring light wherever we went, and that where ever we put our feet that a trail of light would be left. Maybe that was the reason we were supposed to be in that village that night?

We slept in beds again that night after a late night dinner of chicken and potato tagine. The next morning we were up early and ready to walk to another village to get picked up by the taxis that would take us down the mountains and back to Amizmiz. Before leaving we took a group photo at the hostile:
ONe thing to mention is our group, by God's provision, had enough money to stay at the hostile AND to get a taxi the next morning! Which was fantastic. Both groups walked about an hour's distance to the next village, sat on the rocks and awaited the taxis. They came right on time, took us to the center. We had to delouse once we arrived at the center, just to be safe.

It was an amazing, trying, unforgettable experience. God's provision was so above and beyond and it made me realize just how effortless it is for Him to take care of His beloved ones.

The next day was a well needed reflection day. The days following that were market days and henna days. We are off to the airport early morning and on our way back to Oxford. Thank you Lord!

I hope this gave you a good idea of what the two weeks were like. I am in the process of making a scrapbook of the whole experience. And when I get back, I'll be sure to show you it!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Adventure continues:


I was able to share about my North Africa adventure to some of you, but to all of those who didn't get to hear it from me, this is for you:
And, to all those who were in my parent's home group and did get to hear it from me, you should probably read this as well. I wasn't in the right frame of mind to be explaining anything at that point, meaning I was beyond silly tired.

So, yeah. I want to Africa. The end.

KIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiddddding.... calm down....

Right, so, we left Oxford one in the morning on May 5th. Of course I slept on the coach ride to Luton airport and on the four hour plane ride into Marrakesh. Once at the Marrakesh airport, we were split into our five different 'track teams' and were told to figure out how to get from the airport to where we were staying which was about three to four hours away. We were to do this with no maps, no prior knowledge, no nothing. So, my group managed with the little French that we know (I'm including myself, but actually I know ZERO French. Well, does 'wee wee' count? What about 'croissant'? That's the extent of my French.). Sorry, rabbit trail. ANyway, somehow with the little French that my group knew, we managed to get a taxi from Marrakesh airport to the city center. From there we did a little looking around, eating, and walking around the city.

This is a mosque in Marrakesh.

From Marrakesh it was a two to three hour bus ride to the town where we would be staying called Amizmiz. We finally made it to the center (or centre) and were welcomed with showers and tagine. Chicken, potato, and olive tagine with freshly baked bread. Divine. We ate bread every meal of the day! The best part?? We eat with our hands. Thats right. Total communal eating. This should be adopted everywhere.

One of the first days we were there we did some language learning. The language they speak there is some form of Arabic called Tashlahyte. (Spelled something like that). We learned the basics like "How much do potatoes (batas) cost?"
"Whats your name?", "I need change", "Please", and "Where's the bridge?". All the vital questions you'd need to know. We were sent out into the city in groups of threes with a series of questions to ask random vendors and people. One particular vendor got upset because there were too many people asking him how much his potatoes were and not buying any...... ooops.
Some of us found this a challenge. Actually, I think everyone found it a challenge at some level, but some got one really well with the people they met. Mainly because they cheated and used their French! This is Kass getting some directions from some highschool girls who just got out of school.

The whole two weeks was filled with learning about the culture in many various ways and coincidentally, a lot of it revolved around food. :) I didn't mind. Some of you might thought eating out of a communal dish was revolting, but don't worry, we wash our hands! Look! Completely hygienic. :)
The center in Amizmiz is right in front of 'The Sleeping Lady", which is part of the Atlas mountains. The views are so picturesque and breath-taking. The day after language learning, we were getting ready for our Erdouz Expedition. Some of us learned navigation skills, others learned leadership skills, I, along with a few others, learned how to put up a tent and build toilets, and the last group was in charge of the food and cooking for the weekend. We were going to go to Mt. Erdouz, camp at the base, 12 of us were going to climb to the summit which was about 3600 ft above sea level I think, then we were going to return. Hopefully. :) Some of the group left around 11 in the afternoon to walk to base camp which took them until 6 or 7 at night. Others drove up on Land Rovers to get there before the walking team so we could set up camp before night fall and have dinner on its way. It WAS supposed to happen that way, but it didnt happen that way. I was part of the Land Rover team and we had to get out about three or four times on the way up the mountain to re-build a road, or build a bridge with rocks, all so the land rover carrying all the gear could get across. It took us as long as it took the walking team to get up to base camp. Outrageous.

We were finally there though and we put up tents at once.We didnt' manage to get them up before dark so that was an adventure all in itself.
The next morning everyone was up and ready by four or five, I can't remember, but it was some silly o'clock time. The twelve people in the summit team and other people who were going to various other altitudes for various other reasons were off by six in the morning. Nobody could stay at base camp all day so every one rotated out at least once. There was a communications team at Point B located roughly 2600 ft. above sea level and then there was a Point C that was where some people went to cook sandwiches for the summit team when they came down from the summit. Point C was higher than Point B, somewhere around 3000 or 3200 ft above sea level I think.
Here is our summit team! This wasn't the summit but it could have been it was so high!!
We lost them after this point.
THe days were hot and the nights were cold. It was a physically intense time of the trip, but being so close to the majestic mountains, seeing the tremendous stars (Ellen, you would have loved it), and smelling the crisp clean air which occasionally smelled like sheep and goats as they herded past was so amazing and in all of it I felt so incredibly close to God.

Since I didn't walk to Mt. Erdouz or climb to the summit of it, it was only fair that I be part of the team that walked back to Amizmiz after this long, tiring weekend. So, we left again at an ungodly hour and the rest of the team stayed to pack up the tents and leave when ready. Again, I thought I was going to hate it, because its a ridiculously long walk, but above that it was going to be scorching, but I surprised myself and really enjoyed it! And again, tremendous time praying and walking and being wrapped in God's creative and gorgeous creation.
Here are a few pictures from the walk:

It was an amazing time. Once we arrived back at the center. We were again welcomed with food and showers or some showers and then food. I could wait for showers. :)
The next few days were pretty low key including a trip to the market. I bought shoes. Of course. And a trip to the olive grove for some reflection time. The days following that were community project days. We split into groups and helped with different things around the town. Some of us went to the highschool and did a garden project there, painting a murel on the wall and planting flowers and trees around the garden. Others of us went down and helped dig a trench and build a wall, and others of us basically just kept the kids distracted with bubbles and balls and ballons so they wouldn't try to help with the pickaxes and shovels. I was part of the trench-digging team and rock re-locating team. I really enjoyed it and felt very tough and manly afterward. :)

The kids are absolutely darling. Their smiles are so infectious. The simple things in life make them smile, like tickling Bex: