As is evident in my initial posting, I have the travel bug, big time! I was once asked if I "wanted" to go to India for work-related purposes. My response? "Do you even have to ask???" I would have left yesterday if it had been humanly possible...
Having said this, my global exploration has also afforded me a prime opportunity to put my pencil to paper, scribbling down my observations and impressions on whatever soil I have been privileged to set foot.
Traveling has opened my eyes and begged me to ask the tough questions, as it is difficult to comprehend the diversity that surrounds us in terms of customs, traditions, and treatment of others (women and children, specifically) until you see it with your own eyes.
Two of the greatest -- yet to be answered -- questions are as follows: Is there a universal right and wrong? And, should there (in an ideal world) be a universal concept of social justice and equality in place, or do we have the obligation to respect and accept/embrace other cultures and their "traditions" whether or not we agree with them?
I spend a healthy (or so I have deemed it) amount of time reflecting on these past experiences, as they seem to prepare me for the future and my general outlook on the world and its people, and I would be honoured to share some of this writing with you.
Comments, questions, and debates are welcomed and appreciated. I would love to hear your thoughts and, if you have visited/lived in any of these countries, all the better!:
~ Istanbul, Turkey ~
"In the early evening, we tried to get off the rainy streets of Istanbul by attending the city's Grand Bazaar with over 4,500 vendors. Maneuvering around was like trying to make one's way through a very large and confusing maze -- every vendor sold the same merchandise, making it next to impossible to decipher between where you were going and where you had already been. I passed by the same vendors more times than I could count, and every time was though it was a first as they attempted to lure me into their booths. I don't think I have ever felt such an invasion of personal space as I had on this outing. Men cat-called left, right, and centre with no regard for appropriateness. They used any line that they thought might get them a second look including, but certainly not limited to, 'Ola Senorita, may I help you?', 'Hello beautiful, why don't you step into my shop?', 'Can I ask you a special question? Where are you from?' and my personal favourite, 'Do you need a boyfriend?' Demure, these men are not. I could not help but conclude that, had I been a man, I would have avoided all of these unwanted remarks and attention. My friend Lisa and I later debated about whether or not we, as North Americans, should attempt to 'offer' our Western values to other cultures; while we both agreed that, under most circumstances, such impositions would only be detrimental to other societies and cultures, both of us believe that the difference between right and wrong, with respect to human treatment, should be universal and the treatment of women in such a way absolutely borders on the side of wrong."
~ Marrakesh, Morocco ~
"Marrakesh was a 180 degree turn-around from Casablanca. This was one city with a lot of flavour! If you are going to try and picture it, you might want to think 'Aladdin' sans a midriff-bearing Jasmine. In Morocco, most women are clothed head-to-toe with hijab head coverings, revealing only their faces. This is not to suggest, however, that men run around the streets of Marrakesh letting it all hang out; But in public arenas, men outnumber women ten-fold, leading me to the conclusion that a woman's place in Moroccan society really is in the home. Many of the women that we did see were either street peddlers or beggars who used their little children as pawns for making money. It was a sobering sight. Amongst the backdrop of beautiful mile long palm tree lined streets, gorgeous homes, luxury riads (hotels) and colourful souks (markets) is a city wrought with poverty and destitution, seemingly affecting many of Morocco's women and children. As a Canadian, our dollar goes a long way with the Moroccan dirham so things are sickingly cheap, but for those who have nothing, everything is expensive and not easily attainable. Morocco's modernity thus becomes a facade; it is a different world, an old world where small trade is the primary means of making a living. You can see its progression but it is a slow and creeping process that will undoubtedly endure many bumps and grinds."
~ Delhi, India ~
"Working side-by-side with locals in Chennai and Delhi, it was fascinating to hear the varying perspectives about domestic violence and its root causes. In one village, a community about two hour outside of Delhi, we interviewed a group of men (young and old) who not only accepted responsibility for emotionally and physically abusing their wives, but also deemed it necessary in order to keep their women (who they believe are naturally prone to promiscuity) in their “rightful” place…in the home… away from others. If a woman was found sleeping when her husband returned home from manning the fields, she was beaten. And if she was not found at home in the first place, well…you can use your imagination. The women, in return, have accepted this fate for themselves and their daughters. In what seemed like a collective, unspoken agreement, they all laughed and shrugged their shoulders as if to say, 'This is the way it is and this is the way it will always be…' This archaic train of thought felt as though I had taken 1,000 steps back in time."