Posts Tagged:

Africa

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 153974
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-11-29 12:43:44
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-29 19:43:44
    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_153975" align="alignnone" width="1080"] Photo by Christy Sommers, Madagascar Summer Program.[/caption]

 

ESSAY BY MICAH LeMASTERS

Follow the trade winds southwest out of Indonesia, keeping the Indian subcontinent to starboard, and you will eventually find Madagascar, adrift, at the edge of the Indian Ocean. It floats alone, a dust-red crescent moon, stretching nearly a thousand miles from north to south. Traveling from the central highlands to the coast, one is never quite sure whether the massive island is drifting slowly westward toward Mozambique or slipping slowly south and away from the great African continent. It is known for its astonishing endemic flora and fauna and, of course, as the only place on earth where lemurs live in their natural state.
If you want to travel to Madagascar to “save the lemurs” then you should have come 20 years ago.
If you know anything about Madagascar, it probably has something to do with the eponymous animated film series or, more likely, the lemurs—the most endangered primates on the planet and the principle force driving the Malagasy tourism industry. The situation for these prosimians is so dire that scientists estimate up to ninety percent of the population could face extinction within the next 20 to 25 years. If you want to travel to Madagascar to “save the lemurs” then you should have come 20 years ago. Madagascar has a single digit percentage of its original forest left and that number is shrinking by the day. Generating tourism dollars or publishing spectacular photographs may buy lemurs some time, but it won’t prevent their extinction. The challenge is much greater than a marketing campaign can solve. In order to stave off extinction, Madagascar—a country with a per capita income around $450 dollars, approximately 30 percent less than North Korea—needs to provide viable alternatives to impoverished farmers who have few options to generate a meager subsistence other than clear-cutting forest timber to sell as charcoal.
Unless significant and strong action is taken to stem the upsurge in unsustainable and illegal logging and exploitation of other natural resources, the ultimate risk may be irreversible loss of forest and biodiversity for Madagascar.
According to USAID, “The illegal export of...threatened and endangered species that are found nowhere else on earth will result in the loss of globally renowned biodiversity. Unless significant and strong action is taken to stem the upsurge in unsustainable and illegal logging and exploitation of other natural resources, the ultimate risk may be irreversible loss of forest and biodiversity for Madagascar.” Although Madagascar is listed as the seventh poorest country in the world, the travel and tourism sector contributed $1.16 billion to the economy in 2014, one-sixth of the country’s revenues. Tourism isn’t suffering from a dearth of funds, the people of Madagascar are. The problem is economic inequality. According to the World Bank, 99 percent of Madagascar’s population lives on less than four dollars a day. Poor policy has led to mass poverty, and the resultant desperation has led to the destruction of critical ecosystems.
Tourism isn’t suffering from a dearth of funds, the people of Madagascar are. The problem is economic inequality.
A small cadre of both amateur and professional scientists and intrepid explorers spend thousands of dollars to travel across continents to see the few remaining lemurs that still live free and wild in the dwindling forests of the Red Island. These people touch down in the dense, polluted air of Antananarivo clad in adventure-grade pants, floppy-brimmed hats and vests made to hold rolls of film no one has carried in years. They are whisked from the tiny airport in air-conditioned 4x4 trucks and set off on a small predictable loop that takes them to the few well-known spots where they stand a reasonable chance of seeing what they came to see.
A person traveling to Madagascar for the sole purpose of seeing a lemur runs the risk of missing an incredible number of amazing things
A person traveling to Madagascar for the sole purpose of seeing a lemur runs the risk of missing an incredible number of amazing things that can’t be found in the dwindling forests. They will miss the inviting smell of rice cakes cooking in an early morning market. They will miss the singsong of an excited seller loading unsold bread at the end of a long day or the choke and cough of an ancient taxi running out of fuel on a steep hill. They will miss the way the sun slides across a terraced rice paddy as a day quietly  ends. They will miss the warm embrace of a sincere handshake. They will miss the taste of too much sugar and condensed milk in the tiny cups of coffee sold on the back streets of Antananarivo. They will miss the heavenly taste of freshly fried bananas. They will miss long afternoons chewing sugarcane under the shade of a small tree. They will miss the loom of ancient baobabs in the distance. They will miss the warmth of burnt-rice tea. They will miss the excited laughter of children racing water carts down the dirt-and-stone roads of some forgotten highland village. They will miss the scent of saltwater and the sound of a traveler’s palm bending in the breeze. They will, almost undoubtedly, miss the actual essence of what it is to be someplace as preternatural and wondrous as Madagascar. The problem is that Madagascar’s chances to attract attention, international aid and tourism dwindle with each passing year, and each year fewer lemurs remain in their natural habitat. Sadly, most people who make it to Madagascar end up missing the real beauty of the place. And in missing the beauty, they miss an opportunity to learn about and draw attention to the conditions and factors that are perpetuating irreversible harm to the fragile ecosystems that support the last remaining lemur populations. What the tourist or scientist misses on the preordained journey is tragic because it neglects the human factor. To neglect the human factor is to ignore the agent singularly responsible for the extinction of the lemurs.
To neglect the human factor is to ignore the agent singularly responsible for the extinction of the lemurs.
Madagascar, like so many countries in the world, is infinitely more important and fantastic than we think. As Westerners, we tend to push our own values and expectations onto the places where we travel, and because of this we tend to build a very narrow and unstable idea of what a country should be and what it should offer us. Long before we board the plane, we tend to decide what an experience should look and feel like. We imagine photographs of dirt-stained farmers and coy children half-hidden behind open doorways. It is unfair and unsafe to allow a place as unique and beautiful as Madagascar to be pigeonholed as some sort of tropical bazaar or uncanny nature park. It is home to around twenty-five million of the most welcoming and compassionate people on the planet. People that will, without fail, invite you into their homes to share whatever they have (although often they have next to nothing) with you. A few months back I was traveling from the capital city of Antananarivo to Lac Aloatra, about 250 kilometers away. A friend of mine heard I was going that way and came over to ask if I would get her a couple of fish from the lake and bring them back for her. In making the request she held up her right arm, bent at the elbow like a Hula dancer, to indicate that she wanted a fish at least as big as the distance from her elbow to the tips of her fingers. I agreed to keep an eye out for some nice fish and bring them back for her. While I wasn’t crazy about the idea of hauling any number of fish 15 hours from Ambatodranzaka to Antananarivo without a cooler or ice, I did wander through a couple of fish markets just to see what was available and maybe snap a picture that could serve as a surrogate gift. I immediately noticed a lack of fish and when I asked around I quickly found that the lake had been drying up at an alarming rate and that huge parts of what used to be open, fresh water, were now just a mixture of muck and silt run-off from the deforested hillsides. My friend, who lives just a few hundred kilometers away, had no idea that what once was Madagascar’s biggest freshwater lake and the center of what was referred to as Madagascar’s “rice bowl” is but a glimmer of what it used to be. Similar stories can be told of the beautiful remnants of forest that streak down the eastern coast of the island and the bizarre and unique moonscapes of the western deserts. Madagascar’s unique beauty is slipping away and not many people seem to be noticing. If you ask a Malagasy person what is unique about their country, they will tell you about their beautiful forests and their lemurs. They are proud of those things and rightfully so. However, Madagascar is losing huge amounts of forest every year, most lemur species are near extinction and too few realize it. One of the best things that can be done for the lemurs and forests of Madagascar is to create space and opportunities for people to truly understand and appreciate all of what the island has to offer and not just the few things that we expect it to provide for us.
One of the best things that can be done for the lemurs and forests of Madagascar is to create space and opportunities for people to truly understand and appreciate all of what the island has to offer
Frankly, there is more at stake in Madagascar than the prolonged existence of the lemurs. Madagascar, like a ship caught in a storm, wildly sliding down the face of a churning wave, is jettisoning its last few precious resources in hopes of keeping her bow pointed into the wind and sea. Madagascar, an island in distress, is frantically holding on, tossing endangered species and precious hardwoods overboard in desperation, because there seems to be no other way to stay afloat.  
MICAH LeMASTERS is a former Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar and led the first Dragons summer course in Madagascar. He graduated from IU with an MA in Education. Read more about Micah.
[post_title] => Don't Save the Lemurs. The challenge in Madagascar is much greater. [post_excerpt] => "As Westerners, we tend to push our own values and expectations onto the places where we travel, and because of this we tend to build a very narrow and unstable idea of what a country should be [...] Madagascar, like so many countries in the world, is infinitely more important and fantastic than we think." READ MORE... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dont-save-the-lemurs-the-challenge-in-madagascar-is-much-greater [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-29 12:54:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-29 19:54:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 18 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 1 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 18 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 675 [name] => Map's Edge Newsletter [slug] => mapsedgenewsletter [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of Dragons Map's Edge Newsletter [parent] => 0 [count] => 14 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 14 [category_description] => Archives of Dragons Map's Edge Newsletter [cat_name] => Map's Edge Newsletter [category_nicename] => mapsedgenewsletter [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/mapsedgenewsletter/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Map's Edge Newsletter )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 153730
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-09-27 11:32:46
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-27 17:32:46
    [post_content] => As a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, I grew quite fond of mealtime. Each afternoon and evening, my host family and I would gather around a large silver bowl placed upon a plastic mat. Squatting in the shade of the wide green arms of a mango tree, we scooped delicious fistfuls of savory sauces and white rice into our hungry mouths. Meals were completely satisfying. In my reflections, I realize that I was being nourished not only by the food, but also by the company I kept. Meals were a communal pause in our day, often followed by napping, drinking sweet mint tea, and braiding hair.

Upon returning to the States, I processed  my experience in Senegal by attending West African cultural events, printing myriads of black and white photographs, and cooking Senegalese food for friends. One of my favorite dishes to make was mafé gerte, or Senegalese Peanut Sauce. Simple yet scrumptious, this dish has served as one of the bridges between my Colorado mountain life and the years I resided in a round, earthen hut, gathering each day for the ageless ritual of sharing a meal.

Mafé Gerte

[caption id="attachment_153727" align="alignright" width="401"] Mafé Gerte pictured. Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal.[/caption]

Ingredients

  • Onion (1 large white)
  • Garlic (1-2 cloves)
  • Sweet potato (1 medium sized)
  • Carrots (2 medium sized)
  • Potato (1-2 medium sized)
  • Cabbage (approx 3 cups)
  • Habanero pepper
  • Oil of your choice (2-3 tsps)
  • Peanut Butter (½ cup to 1 cup depending on preference for thickness)
  • Tomato Paste (2 tsps - helps cut the sweetness of the peanut butter)
  • Water or broth (a bullion cube in water works well)
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper (Lots of it! A few tsps)
  • Cayenne (A pinch)
  • Rice
This dish is traditionally made with goat meat, which can be added with the onions if you prefer meat in your sauce. Directions:
  1. Cook rice while preparing sauce.
  2. Sauté onion in oil on medium heat until golden.
  3. Add vegetables including garlic, sweet potato, potato, and cabbage and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 4-8 cups of water or broth (depending on how thick you like your sauce.)
  5. Once water is boiling, add peanut butter, tomato paste and spices.
  6. Turn to a low simmer and cook until sauce is reduced and vegetables are cooked (10-20 minutes).
  7. Serve over rice and enjoy!
Make sure you remove the habanero pepper so someone doesn’t get a hot surprise in their mouth. In the village, the pepper is passed around and dabbed on each person’s portion (it’s that hot!) Bon appetite! Ps. Do you have a favorite recipe from your travels that you'd like to share? Share it with megan@wheretherebedragons.com  
CO-DIRECTOR OF ADULT PROGRAMS
  [post_title] => Recipe for Senegalese Peanut Sauce Mafé Gerte [post_excerpt] => Upon returning to the States, I processed my experience in Senegal by attending West African cultural events, printing myriads of black and white photographs, and cooking Senegalese food for friends. One of my favorite dishes to make was mafé gerte, or Senegalese Peanut Sauce... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => recipe-for-senegalese-peanut-sauce-mafe-gerte [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-27 12:09:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-27 18:09:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 11 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 11 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 153724
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-09-27 11:04:44
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-27 17:04:44
    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_153725" align="aligncenter" width="431"] Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Program.[/caption]

  

As I meander down a sandy path in the Senegalese neighborhood of Yoff, I hear someone shout, “Kai Lekk!” I look up knowing that this familiar Wolof phrase meaning “Come Eat!” is in fact an invitation. A smiling face glows at me from a circle of people who are gathered around a silver bowl, their right hands beholding greasy rice. They are participating in an ageless afternoon African tradition of gathering amongst friends and family to enjoy a home cooked meal. In this case, they are eating my favorite, thieboudienne, Senegal’s National Dish, which consists of a scrumptious mélange of cooked vegetables, spicy stuffed white fish, and rice cooked with tomato paste.
thieboudienne, Senegal’s National Dish, consists of a scrumptious mélange of cooked vegetables, spicy stuffed white fish, and rice cooked with tomato paste  
[caption id="attachment_153726" align="alignleft" width="420"] Plates of cheb (rice), by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Program.[/caption] In any language in Senegal you will find the same message to come eat called out time and time again.  In a country where people have so little in terms of material items, where the entirety of a person's belongings can sometimes fit into a recycled aluminum can trunk, it shocks me that generosity and hospitality are offered without hesitation.  A personal example that elucidates this happened over a decade ago. In 2006, I was guiding a group of a dozen adventurous Dragons students through the rolling green hills of southern Senegal. We wanted to explore this seldom-visited nook of West Africa on foot in an attempt to witness and experience rural life first hand. One particularly beautiful afternoon, we came upon a remote village of earthen round, hobbit-like, thatched roof huts perched in a cluster amongst a vibrant parade of rainy season greenery.  Weary from a day of hiking uphill under the relentless West African sun, we stumbled towards the Chief’s abode to inquire about lodging. Without missing a beat he exclaimed, “Bismililaye! You are welcome to stay in my village but you must be my guest!” With his large smile and readiness to share, he exuded terranga, a Wolof word roughly translating to outrageous hospitality. [caption id="attachment_153727" align="alignright" width="408"] Mbouille & friends with plate of Mafe Gerte. Photo taken by Babacar Mbaye.[/caption] For me, “Kai lekk” and terranga are Senegal’s national pride. I’ve spent 18 years now traversing the Atlantic at any opportunity that arises to find myself in a country I continue to find a delightful amalgam of the challenging and the inspiring. On the one hand, I struggle with the oppressive heat that inspires rivulets of sweat to run down my stomach, the piles of trash on the urban beaches, and the barefoot children in tattered clothes with outstretched tomato paste cans begging for a sugar cube or a few coins. On the other hand, I am moved by the Senegalese ability to laugh, to be adorned in vibrant colors, and the way a stranger is called over to take a handful of rice or share rounds of sweet mint tea with neighbors.  Through the trials and joys of nearly two decades of a tumultuous love affair with Senegal, she has been my greatest teacher of gratitude, generosity, and the enormous potential of the human spirit. If you’d like to experience the way of Senegalese hospitality and eat delicious thieboudienne while you’re at it, consider joining us on one of our West African adventures. For adults, warm up from winter this February on our Music & Mysticism trip. For students, we offer In The Shade of the Boabob Tree, a 4-week summer program, and Rhythms of Senegal, a vibrant gap year semester program in West Africa.   

Ps. If you'd like to know how to make a simple and incredibly delicious Senegalese staple, read how to make the peanut sauce Mafé Gerte!

CO-DIRECTOR OF ADULT PROGRAMS
[post_title] => “Come Eat!” The Senegalese Culture of Hospitality [post_excerpt] => "We stumbled towards the Chief’s abode to inquire about lodging. Without missing a beat he exclaimed, “Bismililaye! You are welcome to stay in my village but you must be my guest!” Read more... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => come-eat-the-senegalese-culture-of-hospitality [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-27 12:05:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-27 18:05:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 153313
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-07-03 12:23:51
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-03 18:23:51
    [post_content] => 

WORDS by MOHAMED ARGUINE

IMAGES by SHINO YOSHEN

Years ago, when I was approached to lead Dragons first summer course in Morocco, I found myself considering who should join us on our trek in the High Atlas mountains. I contacted five local guides, all of whom were very fit and had years of experience. Among them was a man named Ben M’barek, and from all I had heard, I was hoping he would accept the invitation. I was looking for one of the guides to provide more than just loading his mule from one campsite to another, setting up tents, and serving food. I was hoping to find someone who would reflect the cultural traditions, ethnic diversity, and character of Morocco—someone who would embody the spirit of our mission and our values.

THE EARLY LIFE OF BEN M’BAREK

Ben M’barek was born in the village of Boutaghrar, a tiny hamlet at the northern edge of the Valley of Roses, on October 1948. His father was one of the first men in the village to immigrate to France in the late 1940s, and he ultimately married 15 women and fathered 33 children, leaving Ben to live with his mother.
Long days of solitude on the mountain slopes appealed to his restless nature. He would come back home tired and reflective, but brimming with his love for poetry and local music.
M’barek’s mother, Touda Hmad Ait El Qaseh, was as committed to her children as she was connected to nature. As a single mother, she would leave home early in the morning to help wealthy families from the village and neighbors in their fields—anyone who needed help collecting grass for their animals and irrigating their crops—for a few vegetables in return. On the best days, she would return home with a cone of sugar for the family. Ben M’barek never forgot the sacrifices his mother made and, as she grew older, he insisted that she live with him and his family. She lived with her son until 2008 when she passed, having lost her sight three years earlier. Ben M’barek never went to school, nor did any of his eight kids. He considered school a luxury reserved for fortunate families, so when he was young he worked in the fields like his mother and found side jobs on construction crews. Later on, he worked on and off as a sheep herder for fourteen years and found it to be more to his liking. Long days of solitude on the mountain slopes appealed to his restless nature. He would come back home tired and reflective, but brimming with his love for poetry and local music.

BEN M’BAREK AS AN ARTIST

Ben M’barek first discovered his passion for poetry and music at the age of seven. He found no greater joy than attending weddings in the village, particularly because he was allowed to perform ahidous, a traditional Berber folk dance from Morocco’s Middle and High Atlas Mountains. Ahidous is, in fact, the only dance or musical style performed at village weddings across the region. People sit in a large square—women on one side and men on another—leaving the center of the square open like a dance floor for anyone who wants to perform. Male drummers sit in rows singing while women repeat the lyrics, and there is a master of ceremony to manage the floor and organize the groups who wish to perform.
word of his talent had spread across the region and it was said that any wedding Ben M’barek attended was likely to be a great success and attract hundreds of people
It was during celebrations like these that Ben M’barek’s skills in poetry, dancing and drumming found a stage. Even at a young age, his remarkable range made him a complete artist in the eyes of many and he started to attract the attention of people in the village. He had a very lively imagination that enabled him to excel in a number of genres—from romance, religion and humor to history and social criticism. Before long, word of his talent had spread across the region and it was said that any wedding Ben M’barek attended was likely to be a great success and attract hundreds of people. In time, Ben M’barek became one of the most famous ahidous performers in the region of Imgoun. He and his band started to receive special invitations to weddings and local gatherings, where they became known by local authorities, who then invited them to perform at national concerts and religious celebrations. These would mark the first time M’barek accepted compensation for his music; until then he had typically refused money because he considered adihous a performance emanating from the pureness of his heart. Music and poetry were what kept him alive and young. In 1986, Hassan II, King of Morocco, made a trip to the remote southeast of the country and passed through Kelaat M’Gouna, the Valley of Roses, and Ben M’barek’s home. His visit was a major event in the region. Local authorities went from village to village searching for the best folk dancers to perform for King Hassan II. Ben M’barek was chosen as a member of a group of eight men and women and told to prepare them for the event. He entertained the king and his retinue throughout the week and the performances were very well received. Afterwards, M’Barek became even more respected among local authorities and they began requesting him for more events. Ben M’barek’s life changed dramatically, and he soon found himself performing at large gatherings and weddings across Ouarzazate province. Invitations started flowing in from other places, much further away, some even from non-Berber speaking regions like Casablanca, Marrakesh and Tangier. Although audiences could not have understood his lyrics or comprehended more than a few words of his language, they were nevertheless drawn to the authenticity and traditional movements of his dances. During these concerts, he would instruct his band to play handmade drums and ask that performers respect a traditional dress code that reflected their Berber identity. In 2009, after the death of his best friend and companion of over three decades, Ben M’barek decided to retire from ahidous. His friend’s name was Ahmed ou Daoud and, next to Ben M’barek, he was considered the second best drummer in the region. Some even considered him more talented in the genres of love and romance. Neither Ben nor Ahmed ever showed any inclination toward competition; on the contrary, they performed together in a harmonious way that was noted and respected by everyone. Whenever they performed together, the event would attract masses of people. Ahmed ou Daoud’s death left Ben M’barek in such despair that he did not perform for over a year. And it took considerable persuasion from supporters before he agreed to perform again. When he returned, he made changes to the group and brought in new performers, incorporating several young male and female dancers. He also decided to be more organized, and Ben began acting as their manager.

BEN M’BAREK AS A MOUNTAIN GUIDE

Boutaghrar, Ben M’barek’s village, is a picturesque canyon-oasis situated at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, where a maze of herders’ paths lead up toward the higher peaks. Working as a trekking guide was a source of income for some in the community, but at the time Ben M’barek had never considered doing such a job. He was blessed with knowledge of the mountain trails and a pleasant personality, but he never attended school nor did he speak any language other than Tamazight, the ancient language of the Berber. Until then, he had spent his days working in the fields, herding and performing poetry and ahidous in the evenings. He wasn’t a mountain guide.
he enjoyed the curiosity of the hikers and their interest to learn more about him
Ben M’barek was approached by a friend who was preparing to take a group of French hikers on a week-long trek through the High Atlas Mountains. Ben M’barek did not know all the little hamlets nor had he memorized the winding paths or best places to camp, but he knew the way and the trip was a life-changing experience. He felt appreciated by the tourists, physically challenged, at peace out in nature and, on a deeper level, he enjoyed the curiosity of the hikers and their interest to learn more about him. Every day after hours of trekking, Ben M’barek would take out his drum, sit on a rock and start playing whatever came to mind. He never thought his songs would attract the attention of tourists who didn’t understand a word of the Tamazight language. But they asked him what the lyrics meant and to teach them how to dance. With the help of one of the main guides, Ben M’barek explained the themes of his poetry. The guide explained that M’Barek was singing about his love for the High Atlas Mountains and that he hoped not to see what might be hiding behind them. The oxygen of his life, its meaning, flows down from the peak of the highest mountain to his soul through the drops of rain and flakes of snow—pure and white as his heart, and imbued with love for this region, which to him is heaven on earth. He also sang about his mother and how he missed her on the days when he was away from the mountains. He wondered how some people who leave Morocco for Europe or the United States deal with homesickness and being absent from their loved ones.

BEN M’BAREK AND HIS DRAGONS LOVE STORY

Dragons first Morocco course in 2007 included a five-day trek starting in Tabant in the Azilal region and to Boutaghrar, my small village at the very northern opening of the Valley of Roses winding around 4,071 meter M’goun, the third tallest mountain in Morocco. Upon the finalizing the itinerary, I called Ben M’barek hoping he would be available to accompany us on Dragons’ first trek in the High Atlas.
He knows the paths and water springs and nomadic herders.
“You’re the first person from Boutaghrar to bring a group of tourists and they aren’t even French!” he said. “I have other offers but since you reached out to me personally, and we are from the same village, I will be happy to go with you. I danced at your mother’s wedding and I know your family very well, so we’ll not talk about compensation. My team and I will help the first international guide from Boutaghrar!” Over the years, Ben M’Barek has become one of the most experienced guides in the region. He knows the paths and water springs and nomadic herders. He is also a committed educator. He has taught Dragons students Berber folk dances. He has taught them poetry. He has shared the essence of his imagination with great love, energy and ambition and became an integral part of the Dragons experience in Morocco. From 2007 through 2010, he led trips with unfailing energy, ingenuity and affection. And when Dragons reopened the Morocco summer course in 2017, Ben M’barek was ready to come back and join us again. After discussing the idea of interviewing him for an article in Dragons newsletter, Ben M’barek opened his heart and house to me, and introduced me to his family with same generosity he has always offered. It was a great honor to be welcomed into his modest home and meet his wonderful family. As lunch was being prepared, Ben M’barek introduced me to his wife, Zahra Alili, who is around 65 years old. He told me that leading Dragons trips has helped him build a better house, buy new furniture and feed his children and grandchildren. His family feels indebted to Dragons for their better life. But I assured him that it is Dragons, and myself, who are indebted to M’Barek for wisdom and hospitality he has provided us.
MOHAMED ARGUINE is a longtime Dragons instructor having worked the first Morocco summer course in 2007. After moving to the US where he received his Master’s from Brandeis in Sustainable International Development, he worked for the Peace Corps and then the United Nations Development Program both in New York City and globally. Mohamed recently led Dragons inaugural Madagascar semester program.
[post_title] => The Beat of a Different Drum: An Interview With an Amazigh (Berber) Poet — A MAP’S EDGE FEATURED STORY [post_excerpt] => When I lead Dragons first summer course in Morocco, I found myself considering who should join us on our trek in the High Atlas mountains. [...] I was hoping to find someone who would reflect the cultural traditions, ethnic diversity, and character of Morocco—someone who would embody the spirit of our mission... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-beat-of-a-different-drum-an-interview-with-a-berber-poet-a-maps-edge-featured-story [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-08-02 10:16:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-02 16:16:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 11 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 11 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 675 [name] => Map's Edge Newsletter [slug] => mapsedgenewsletter [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of Dragons Map's Edge Newsletter [parent] => 0 [count] => 14 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 14 [category_description] => Archives of Dragons Map's Edge Newsletter [cat_name] => Map's Edge Newsletter [category_nicename] => mapsedgenewsletter [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 153098
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-05-16 09:37:05
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-16 15:37:05
    [post_content] => 

We are so excited for our current #worldofdragons instagram takeover hosted by a very special and multi-talented member of Dragons community: Christy Sommers. For those who don’t know her, you’re in for a treat. Here’s her introduction and one of her images and captions from the week. Head over to Dragons Instagram feed to see the rest!

“I’m Christy (@talkingcentipede), and I led my first Dragons program nearly a decade ago—the first ever West Africa semester in Senegal and Guinea in the fall of 2008. At the time, I thought it would just be a one-off experience, and that I would then go into the career in international education policy that I had been planning on. Why am I still here? Well, the shortest answer to that question is Liz Connor and Mbouillé Diallo, my co-instructors on that fateful first course. Liz and Mbouillé modeled a life approach centered around building compassion and connection and a deep understanding of the world. Learning alongside our awesome group of students, the course of my life shifted in a new direction. I fell in love with experiential, cross-cultural education as a means of constantly learning about and engaging with some of the most fascinating places in the world. Since then, I’ve worked for Dragons as an instructor on our courses in Senegal, Madagascar, Rwanda, India, and Nepal, and as an administrator in the Dragons office managing programs in those countries.”

Here's Christy's fourth posted image and story behind it:

Captioned: "Dragons student Felicia Jing learns how to weave tradition baskets on our course in Rwanda in 2013. Over the course of those 6 weeks, we explored 3 national parks, climbed up a 12,000 foot volcano, gawked at Rwanda’s spectacular wildlife and beautiful vistas, spent time in a rural homestay in my co-instructor’s home village, heard the stories of Congolese refugees, participated in Rwanda’s monthly community work day, visited NGOs working on everything from wildlife conservation to peace and conflict resolution, and so much more. After all of this exploring and learning, there was a lot to reflect on. Each of our students remarked that Rwanda wasn’t like they had expected; there is just so much more nuance than we are able to imagine before we experience a place first-hand. Even my Rwandan co-instructor remarked that working as a Dragons instructor has changed his perceptions and understanding of his own country through facilitating learning for our student groups." *This is the fourth post of the #worldofdragons takeover by @talkingcentipede.

Head over to Dragons Instagram feed to see more posts by Christy Sommers!

[post_title] => Christy Sommer's Takeover of Dragons Instagram Feed [post_excerpt] => We are so excited for our current #worldofdragons instagram takeover hosted by a very special and multi-talented member of Dragons community: Christy Sommers. For those who don’t know her, you’re in for a treat. Here’s her introduction and one of her images and captions from the week... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => christy-sommers-takeover-dragons-instagram-feed [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-16 09:37:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-16 15:37:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 18 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 18 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons_instructors/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 654 [name] => Mixed Media [slug] => mixed_media [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 654 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [parent] => 0 [count] => 28 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 28 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Dragons Instructors ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 152545
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-02-16 11:03:38
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-16 18:03:38
    [post_content] => 
...this country has great wealth that goes way beyond economics.
This new year, I’ve taken a lot of time to explore Dakar, and I wanted to share some of my stories with you. Some experiences have been profound, some not. Some fun, some uncomfortable. Sometimes I do touristy things like a local, sometimes I do local things like a tourist. This is (arbitrarily) the first of my Dakar travels. The unfortunate background to our first tale is that Sophie had to leave Senegal early. In light of this, during one of our days off, we decided to take an adventure, exploring a side of Dakar we hadn’t seen before. This included going to the wonderful Espace Maam Samba, a fairtrade boutique associated with an NGO that seeks to revitalise Senegalese villages faced with desertification (Berte, one of our instructors, works with the NGO). There we bought some gifts and spent a little while chatting with the women working at the boutique. After spending a little too much money, we headed towards the sea, trying to figure out how to get to the Ile de Ngor. We walked down some small sandy alleys, tall houses on either side, asking for directions on the way, and just as we were getting skeptical we saw a stunning beach brimming with pirogues, busy with fishers, tourists, vendors. [caption id="attachment_152546" align="alignnone" width="854"] Photo by Benjamin Roberts, Princeton Bridge Year Senegal Program.[/caption] We stood for a moment, stunned by the array of colours, the sheer quantity of boats and the beautiful view out to the island and beyond. And as we stood, a pirogue floated calmly towards the shore, then suddenly a flurry of activity as a large group of men and women, previously sitting untroubled on the beach, leapt into action, hauling the boat onto shore and examining the catch of the day. Having soaked up the atmosphere, we returned to our mission, crossing to the island. As we walked along the beach, I found myself hauling a boat on to shore; it felt only natural as it landed right in our path. Continuing on, we found a man selling return tickets to the island, and as we sat waiting for the boat to come, we saw a few groups of foreign tourists come and take private boats to the island. Sophie and I preferred to wait for the cheaper, more communal option. That gave us time for a little chat with a sunglasses seller called Babacar, who impressed us with his English as we impressed him with our Wolof. Eventually the pirogue came, giving us the cue to don our life jackets and scramble in. Not wanting to get in the way, I hopped on and made my way to the back so that others could come aboard. Once I was seated, I realised that I had lost Sophie (not the tallest among us), for whom the high-sided boat was not so easy to climb as it was for me. Fortunately someone more considerate than myself helped her clamber up, and the boat began its short yet exciting journey to the island. With our feet in the sand on the other side (and a rogue sandal rescued from the quietly thieving tides), we sought to explore. Wary of an offer of a ‘free’ guided tour, we decided to find our own way around the small island. It wasn’t long before we bumped into a local artist. Though we were at first wary, we engaged openly with him, and I’m glad we did so, as we ended up spending a long time talking, with him telling us about the island as well as his home in the southern Casamance region of Senegal. As we parted, he gifted us bracelets, telling us that though he may not travel far, his art will. I assured him that we take his name with us, and reccomend his traditional art to our friends. Barely ten paces along the island and we felt it rude not to chat with a lonely artist at work. After a brief chat about music of all types, Senegalese mbalax, disco, reggae, we took a seat at the tip of the island, looking out to the humblingly vast ocean. Dakar being the westernmost point in mainland Afro-Eurasia, the atlantic here feels particularly vast: sitting there on the Ile de Ngor, only the ocean kept us from being on the beaches of Honduras. At the same time, it really is a world away. There on the cliffs of the Ile de Ngor, with waves crashing on the rocks beneath us, was a spot ripe for reflection, and we sat there for a long while. Eventually came time to move on, and we took a stroll around the picturesque island, taking in some incredible buildings, one house covered in seashells, a Christian school that looked like Noah’s Ark, and many less incredible but still beautiful creations. [caption id="attachment_152547" align="alignnone" width="755"] Photo by Benjamin Roberts, Princeton Bridge Year Senegal Program.[/caption] Eventually came time for our return. We sat on the beach, waiting for the next pirogue to come, eating beignets (a wonderful doughnut-like treat). While not all of my time here is spent going on fun adventures like this one, I have found them to be perhaps some of my most valuable time in Senegal. Seeing the beauty of the world is a treasure in itself, and I encounter a lot of thought-provoking experiences, good and bad. The space that these adventures have given me simply to think has been so far priceless. Days like this one make me realise all that Senegal has to offer. Often in the West, there are incredibly simplistic views of Africa, not helped by some of the de-humanising ‘humanitarian’ advertising campaigns we see. But this country has great wealth that goes way beyond economics. It’s in the art, which abounds in quantity and beauty in Senegal. Even the buses here are a psychedelic explosion of colour inspired by some of the country’s richest and oldest cultural traditions. It’s in the folk traditions that have been built up and preserved for centuries, underpinning community life and providing wisdom from generations past to generations present. It’s in the landscape, from the plateaus in Thies that emerge from nowhere and disappear just as quickly, standing over vast flat plains; to the lush, green waterfallls that dot the mountains of Kedogou; as well as the peninsula of Dakar, where we were sat. And of course, the intrinsic wealth of everyone here. This is a wealth that we have all had the benefit of experiencing in our homestay families, as we are welcomed with open arms, and we encounter it on the street so often with all the incredible people we meet. All of these experiences mean that by the time I leave Senegal, I’ll be a lot richer than when I came.

Read MORE from the Princeton Bridge Year Senegal Yak Board.

  [post_title] => Yak of the Week: Dakar Travels [post_excerpt] => Seeing the beauty of the world is a treasure in itself, and I encounter a lot of thought-provoking experiences, good and bad. The space that these adventures have given me simply to think has been so far priceless. Days like this one make me realise all that Senegal has to offer. Often in the West, there are incredibly simplistic views of Africa, not helped by some of the de-humanising ‘humanitarian’ advertising campaigns we see. But this country has great wealth that goes way beyond economics. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => yak-week-dakar-travels [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-16 11:11:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-16 18:11:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field )
1 2 3