So, am I a corporate drone or a "do-gooder"? I don't self-identify as either, but I do like interesting projects.
more later -
Travelling with no plan - and no timeline. I'm going to see how that feels for a while and when I get bored, I'll take that as a sign to come back to the US...
My job was Business Developer for artisans. Prior to globalization of markets, artisans made both objects people needed for daily life ( shoes/sandals, pots, furniture, and blacksmithing/metalwork) , along with the artistic items...
Then the souks (markets - often travelling markets that travelled village to village) became flooded with cheaper - usually Chinese goods - plastic, cheap, but affordable, which put serious pressure on the artisan's lifestyle.
My job was understand what the local artisan's wanted to accomplish - then work with these stakeholders to help with expanding markets, or new product development and such.
I decided to design a project which extended my 2-year assignment - to import and distribute 550 wheelchairs to the rural poor in Southern Morocco. Two years ago I became aware of the scope of the problem of disability and how closely disability relates to poverty. I will describe it for you, but the short version is: Its a bitch to be disabled, and a total bitch to be disabled in a developing country.
It has been estimated that 100 million people living in the developing world suffer with walking disabilities yet have no access to a wheelchair due to poverty and economic isolation.
Already suffering with the pain, inconvenience, exclusion and indignity of a physical disability, many of these people with physical disabilities must endure further burdens. Some are forced to crawl on the ground or wait to be carried by loved ones to reach their most basic of needs. Safety nets are few, and available social services are scarce. Families strain to care for their disabled loved one within an already overburdened existence.
100 million people need a wheelchair, and yet this empowering gift of mobility remains an economic impossibility for most.
80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries. There are many reasons why the vast majority of disability occurs in low-income parts of the world.
• Disease and lack of access to immunization
• Inadequate/unavailable Healthcare
• Birth defects from malnutrition or exposure to chemicals
And, unfortunately, the poorest members of any society tend to live in the least desirable areas, which are at best unclean and at worst, dangerous.
Disability has many contributing factors, but one of the most powerful, observable links is the direct relationship between poverty and disability.
Poverty causes disability through dangerous living conditions, lack of health care and malnutrition. People living in poverty are often forced to live and work in unsafe conditions, risking illness and injury. They often must make decisions that sacrifice their own health and well-being for the sake of their family and they have no safety net to save them from the consequences of these difficult choices.
Disability creates poverty when it excludes the disabled from full
participation in the economic and social aspects of community. In many parts of the world, the disabled lack access to jobs, health services, transportation, or any form of rehabilitation. Disabled individuals may suffer additionally from inbuilt social stigma, cultural suspicion and economic prejudice.
Perhaps the most damaging arena from which the disabled are excluded is that of education. Education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially disadvantaged populations can lift themselves out of poverty. It is estimated that 98% of children with physical or mental impairments in developing countries do not attend school. The result is that the disabled children remain illiterate, without math skills, and as a result -
Look - I didn't write this for your approval of my project - strictly education - I din't know this stuff before, and now I do. Now YOU do. Tell someone.
This trip started when I shut my apartment door for the last time in Taroudant, Morocco, the last week of july 2012
To Rabat, for last medical check ups, good-byes , and signing out of Peace Corps - 3 days
Train to Tangier and took the ferry to Algeciras 2 days
Bus to Seville - 7days
Travelogue - Seville - .have been is Seville, in Southern Spain this week. Over 100 operas have been inspired by. or take place in this city - once home to Monarchs Fernando and Isabel, and now epicenter for Flamenco. Reminds me, I´ve never seen an opera and confess this visit conjures no desire to see one now. I´ll further confess that I hated ¨Tommy´ (apparently one of the few operas that did not take place here). I thought the premise stupid - There! I said it. It´s hot here - the city does not notice, buzzing its own cool vibe. The beer is cold, though, and bacon and ham are celebrated, as they should be. Maybe I´ll write an opera about it..
Bus to Malaga - 5 days Bus to Nerja - 7 days Bus to Benidorm - 13 days I will describe this wacky place later - great beach with strange English /Spanish mix - I had a great hotel and didn't feel like moving for a while, but not a destination I will return to, but nice while here...
Bus to Barcelona - 5 days
Flight to Italy - Brindisi - Lecce - 3 days Train to Bari - 1 day
Ferry to Montenegro - bus from Bar to Budva, - 4 days Bus to Kotor - 3 days
Bus to Dubrovnik, Croatia - 7 days
Decided to not continue north due to the season changing and wanted to visit Greece before things closed up for the year on Corfu. To get to Greece from Croatia I had to backtrack to Bari to catch ferry.
Ferry back to Bari - 1day Bari to Corfu ferry - Paliokostritsa - 30 days rest watching the sea and relaxing.. Perfect weather and wonderful place.
Looked for freighter to make big move eastward... no options, since many carrier's insurance wont allow passengers travelling through pirate-infested zones.... Decided to catch a repositioning cruise on a luxury cruise line instead for the experience.... Celebrity Solstice.... womb of luxury with a 1300 retired couples for 12 days...... As I discovered later, about 30% I think were on vacation and had saved and planned this as their yearly getaway - lots of small business owners, and. since internet access was slow and cost 75 cents per minute, it forced some to relax... So now I needed to get to Dubai to catch the ship...
Took flight from Corfu to Dubai via Athens and Cairo airport stops
Dubai - 4 days ...had to shop for "country-club casual" clothes so I wouldn''t feel like an idiot on the cruise... didn't have time to get visa for India, so I was notified I would be trapped on ship till Malaysia -yikes.
Boarded ship - biggest mass of English speakers I have been in since 2009 -very strange I could understand everyone - I had never taken a cruise, and after poverty-living in Morocco, this was wacky overkill luxury.... a silly display of overabundance..... But at the same time I really enjoyed the spectacular menus of foods I had not eaten in several years.... I had my first steak (Morocco has meat, but since the animals hang in the open air at the butcher shops - and was more expensive than in the US) - first sushi -first great martini - etc... and enjoyed talking to folks .... The cruise was weird to me - I was never bored or lonely, yet I think I will not repeat the experience unless I was going with a partner who REALLY loved taking cruises...
The trip was 12 days - Oman was the first stop on day 2 - I elected to relax on ship rather than buying a visa a pending a few hours in a part of the world I felt already a bit fatigued with...and after 6 days at sea, we got to Cochin, India. I would have liked to visit, but India visas require time and planning...at least a week, and since I was in Dubai only 4 days, I d
idn't have time to get one. Apparently, the Indian government thinks all Americans want to move there or sneak in, so they make it difficult - The US must have gotten them mad at us for some reason.....Anyway, 2 more days on ship while it parked there -actually, not a problem - the ship was more like a city, so no lack of things to do - I just relaxed, ate like a piggy, and took it easy.... Then about 3 more days at sea to Malaysia.
Malaysia stop 1day - Kuala Lampour . Took my first "excursion" by mistake... wanted to take the self guided tour so I could connect to internet and find hotel in Singapore - tomorrows final cruise destination for me.... but instead was loaded on a bus with 60 fellow cruisers to "experience" Malaysia in 6 hours.... OK, I thought - lets see what happens.... 30 minutes at Batu caves . famous Hindu shrine ... not much time to climb the 285 stairs dodging thieving monkeys in the crazy heat with tropical humidity, but hey - I had a look at something I wouldn't probably have spent hours visiting... I just missed the highpoint of the excursion when a monkey grabbed a lady's iPad out of her hand and apparently ripped the device up with its very strong little hands... disappointed I missed it. Later, 30 minutes at world's tallest tower - another thing I would have passed on, had I been on my own....a few minor sites later and a 2 hour traffic jam on the bus back to the boat.....giving passengers the the full rights to crow about travelling to the Batu caves "when we ravelled to Malaysia" in their cocktail party conversations from now on..... By the way, have I told you about the time I was in Malaysia, doing some travel?...... yikes,but it gave me insights to a style of travel I had not seen from this perspective. So, I ask myself - and you - just what IS travel?
The last stop was Singapore for me - the ship continued on to Australia via China...
Singapore - 2 days in the "little India" part of town.
Flight to Phuket, Thailand -I think nov 25.
So - since Thanksgiving time to April I have been in Thailand, mostly in Koh Samui in a bungalow on the beach. My days are non-productive, save for reading the stash of books on my Kindle, doing some email snd following news - I am a bit of a news junky and the most informed non-voter you will meet. Daily beach time, massages, Thai street food, I must return to visit my brother in NY state soon - We plan some road trips and time together, since his cancer recently returned and his treatment ends soon - hopefully.