Tuesday, November 4, 2014

MARRAKECH: IT HAVE NO FRIENDS IN DE SOUKS!: LESSONS IN CONSUMER EMPOWERMENT



“Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel's immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.

-Ralph Crawshaw





As I enter the narrow maze of shopping magic and temptation known as the souks of the Medina I   am not so gently beckoned into the stores to take a look or to “let money change hands”. 

I start to show interest in an item and ask for the price. Quickly I am told a very high price while the owner maintains a straight business like face. I do the math and realise that I am not willing to spend that much. As this thought process registers on my face the store owner drops the price a bit. The game has begun.

“This is way too much! Can you make me a better offer?” 
“How much would you like to spend…for example?” 

I see you Mr. Store owner, you are trying to pick my mouth! I quickly need to decide how much I am willing to spend, and then tell the vendor a lower price, so as to buy myself some leeway to negotiate. 

“ No, no , no …If i sell it to you at that price I will make no profit! How about we meet each other half way?” 

Although he has just promised me a mid way price between his asking price and my offer I am still not satisfied. I inspect the item a bit more closely, firstly to determine whether I really want it and secondly to buy myself some time to think. I make an offer below the mid range. 

“ I like your smile, I want to keep you happy, I want to make you a deal, but that is too low”

Hmm, the mamaguy start! I smile, not just because of the compliment but because this is just the sort of talk I would get at home in Grenada. That reminder of the commonality gives me a warm feeling. 

“It have no friends in de souks!”
 I can hear my Trini travel companion saying in my mind as she had vocalised so many times that week in Morocco.

“Make me your best offer. Give me a serious price” 

There I did it! I called him out and now I wait. He makes an offer and I offer him about 50 dirham less. He puts 20 dirham onto my last offer and starts to pack the item for me. I object, explain that I don’t  have any more money. That  I still have to buy lunch and dinner! I thank him for his time and begin to walk away. He follows me and makes a final offer, this time closer to my last offer. I look at the item again then agree to purchase it. By this time I am paying a quarter of the  first price. 

At first this system seems wildly arbitrary and unreliable! Does anything have a fixed value?  Have I just been tricked? Am I paying too much? Am I paying too little? (THE GUILT of exploiting Mama Africa! )  Could I have gotten it cheaper just a few stalls further? All these thoughts rushed into my head as i walked away with my new purchase. 

This system of haggling is not unique to the souks, it also applies to buying just about anything. By the time you part with your money you have to add an “energy expended in acquisition” worth for what you purchased. However, you have also gained a story. This system gives you the opportunity to interact with the characters in your environment. 


"So where are you from?"
"The Caribbean, Grenada"
He looks confused

"Columbia?"
Somehow Caribbean sounds like Columbia to a lot of people from Marrakech

"No, the Caribbean, you know Bob Marley?" 

"Ahhhh Bub Malayyyy, Jamaica?" 

"No but close enough. Have you heard of Kirani James who won the 400 meter race in the last Olympics" 

"No" 

I get a blank stare. The proud Grenadian in me is disappointed that they don't know our King Kirani.

A week later while I was in Barcelona I met two men from Rabat at my hostel ( Shout out Gracia City Hostel Posse… LOVE YOU GUYS). While on our way to Marbella Beach to a full moon party I asked about this strange system of exchange. This idea of wide gaps in value for the same item seemed like madness and at times even deceptive to me. One of them answered simply that the system of fixed prices is arbitrary. 

“Who is to say what the price should be?"   
He answered in a french accent

He was so right! If you and I can agree on a price we are both comfortable with then that should be the value. It takes into consideration all the circumstances. It is determined on a case by case basis. It leaves space for the consumer to negotiate a price she or he is comfortable with. 

How many times have you stood powerless (I know dramatic) wanting something and not being able to afford it? 

Or having to afford it knowing you really cannot?

There is usually no space to consider your pocket in the “normal” stores in the western world. It even prompted me to consider whether the set prices even have a reasonable co- relation to the worth of things? Or whether it was just like the “first price” I received in the souk? 

Can I tell you how many times I felt like throwing up my hands and giving the face of bewilderment for prices in Grenada recently? Do I have the forum to call out the store owner and say…Come on! Make me a serious price!? 





Monday, November 3, 2014

THE PRELUDE


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Day 1 in the Souks of the Medina in Marrakech

"People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them"
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist  

Earlier this year I read the Alchemist and it inspired me to pursue my “personal legend”, like the protagonist in the book, I have always wanted to travel. Shortly after finishing the book I had a dream that I would go to Morocco. It was one of those dreams that moves something within you. Coehlo having planted the seed of courage and my dream affirming the desire growing deep inside me I decided to hatch the plan to my international Soul Adventure. 
Just like Coelho promised the whole world conspired in helping me achieve that which I really wanted. Somehow I saved up enough money for to make the trek and found an equally enthusiastic travel companion. 

For years I have dreamed of a trip like this but somehow never really thought I would achieve it, who am I to get exactly what I want? To take that trip to a foreign land that dreams are made of? But I made it there and back, gathering stories and a better understanding of life. I know that sounds so pretentious…but its a true story and soon I will share it with you.  Stay tuned for my tales of Marrakech, Chefchaoune, Barcelona and Hamburg Soul Adventures. 

Peace and Bliss, 

Grenada Soul Adventurer 

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER WITH TEDDY

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Soul Adventurers....oh my dear dear Soul Adventurers 
I have have a treasure to share with you. Really, for all those who have been lurking on the art scene like yours truly, this is not a secret at all, but, for those who may be new to the island or  who are living under a rock I would like to make a Grenada Soul Adventurer introduction to artistic Soul Adventurer Teddy Dwight Frederick.

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From his collection "Opposite of Orange"
The story, nee the tale of the magical adventure goes something like this...
Last week Thursday I decided  to treat myself to a slice of Sweet Tradition's Outrageous Chocolate Cake (I cannot make these cake names up!). Carnival was over and I no longer was under the pressure to accomplish the less than enviable task of fitting into a rather sexy little number to jump up in Spice Mas 2014 (I was successful for anyone who wondered).
While sitting down and tucking into the said cake and F. Scott Fitzgerald's ' The Great Gatsby' simultaneously, Teddy walked up to my table. Teddy is no stranger but we are not exactly old friends either. I have spoken to him before since in Grenada people who agitate in similar circles sort of kind of give themselves license to interact freely as if we are companions.
What was initiated by a friendly 'hihowareyou' exchange evolved into him taking a seat. We began to chat casually yet not so casually, the conversation was so sweet I no longer need the said cake. I was now consumed in the business of something more nutritious, food for the spirit. 
One thing lead to the other and I asked him about his studio space that I had heard about. Chris and Lilo the dynamic artistic duo:Caribbean clothing designers and creators of the whimsical world of Art Fabrik,  his fairy artist good mothers as Teddy calls them, decided support Teddy's amazing gift by providing him with a space to create in. 
' Are you doing anything now? You wanna check it out?'.
My being could muster no single hesitation. I  packed up my cake and book and within 5 minutes I found myself immersed, not overwhelmingly so, in his work at the rustic, industrial looking studio.

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Teddy at his Studio Space on Young Street
We observed his work and chatted about his journey to and through art, about how he never used his engineering degree a single day, about his 'Blue Period' and about his 'no plan' plan for the future. Teddy is a conceptual multidisciplinary artist, his work is abstract and fresh. With his pieces he takes you on adventures into a realm his mind creates, he maintains what Asher Mains calls a narrative, and you cannot resist it's hoover like quality . Teddy gets intense, not overwhelmingly so, seductively so.

I have been to two of his recent exhibits  and what I appreciate is that on opening night he takes time to communicate with his audience just before he reveals his work. He tells us what has inspired the collection and what inspires him as an artist. Grenada holds a fertile energy for the creative soul. However, many do not have the luxury, under the pressure of the economic crisis, to digest or even view the work that brilliant creatives like Teddy produce. There are just more immediate concerns for the majority of Grenadian people (I will not apologize for digressing). Therefore it is important for the artist to gently lead his or her audience into the realm he or she has created through his or her work, and Teddy just gets that. 

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Teddy Explains on the opening night of "Opposite of Orange"

In his most recent exhibit:  'The Opposite of Orange' Teddy created a fresh blend of the various artistic disciplines: performance art, painting and photography to produce life like images of painted people that at first blush look like paintings. The majority of the pieces were blue, an homage to Picasso's blue period and Teddy's own past melancholy phase. He drew on the talent of member of the Writers Association of Grenada to narrate what his images evoked within them and adding a deeper dimension to his pieces. Teddy also gets that not everyone has the means to buy an original and so to facilitate those of us with the more  (eh hemmmmm) shallow pockets he sold post card sized reproductions of the pieces being exhibited with a narrative on the back.

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Small Post Card Reproductions from the Opposite of Orange Exhibit
After viewing some of  his work at the studio I instinctively pulled out the rest of my Outrageous Chocolate cake. This chance encounter had to celebrated with cake! One moment I was at Sweet Traditions trying to avoid eye contact with the other patrons and the next I was sitting on that exquisite sofa listening to Teddy practice cords on his guitar strung into a musical composition, all while sharing energy with him, with his creations. It is an alternate universe, a break from the monotony into a world created from ideas and emotions- Teddys ideas and emotions.  

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Teddy with his Fairy Artist God Mother 

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Out take from Floatography 



Teddy's Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheTeddydfrederick


GRENADA SOUL ADVENTURER: ASHER MAINS

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PROFILE
Name: Asher Mains
Age: 29
Heritage: Grenadian/Caribbean/ North American
Occupation: Artist
INTRODUCTION
“My goal is to cause people to be introspective and be empowered by a new paradigm of their reality.”
When I first met Asher Mains in person I was surprised at his relatively small frame and humble aura. When you think of his pieces like “Dreaducation” you don’t expect the soft spoken man I met.
After completing his Bachelor of Arts  in Intercultural Studies from Calvin College in  Michigan in 2006  he decided to undertake a program in Art Studies. He did so from  2007 until 2009 at Brookhaven College, Dallas, Texas. Mains chose Intercultural Studies with the vision of having a career in Anthropology. “It has always been a question of having a primary career and choosing Art as a secondary thing“. In the past he has done odd jobs like bar tending which he calls “revenue generators” alongside his art.  Today he is a full time artist, exhibiting his work in Grenada, Barbados and Shanghai, China.
WHY ART?
Mains tells me that he was always drawn to creativity. Access to material and growing up in a creative environment enabled him to express that.  He jokingly says that he hopes that he would have found his way to art even if that was not his reality. His mother (and fellow artist Susan Mains) may have influenced his genesis as an artist but their styles are very different.
CRITIQUE, FEAR and MOTIVATION
One critique he received while undertaking the Art Studies program was that there was not much of himself in his work. Mains is known to paint Caribbean influenced pieces. His earlier red yellow and purple Bob Marley portraits were a reflection of his own search for identity through art as a minority in the Caribbean.
A Grenadian ex-pat expressed confusion that Mains painted what she categorised as “Black Art” because the subjects of his work were of African descent. Mains explains that race is biological and ethnicity is a cultural perspective.  He identifies himself as ethnically Caribbean and his art is a reflection of that.
Fear of in inadequacy in making abstract concepts visual keeps Asher Mains on his toes. He feels that if an artist has the attitude that they arrived: that they are an artist and that all the work they have produced is great then he is concerned that that artist may not be open to growing in their craft
 STRUGGLE?                                                      
There is a struggle in managing perceptions and gauging how his art is understood by his audience.
EVOLUTION
Mains has explored and adventured into different styles of depicting the human likeness. He has evolved from his earlier red yellow and purple pieces, to the technique of dripping different chemicals over his work, to the use of his own stencils to create art.
He explains that in his dripping pieces he was excited by the idea of creating and destroying his work. He paints and then sabotages his work in order to create chaos, he believes that chaos takes care of itself, it is self sustaining. He has been critiqued as taking beautiful people and destroying them in almost a vengeful way in his art. This is far from his intent; it is done to show thebeauty in transience.  He enjoys exploring how paint and different techniques can affect his and his audience’s emotions. Experimenting with unexpected media such as wine, coffee and tea was a result of convenience which lead to innovation.
INSPIRATION
“If you are being honest or authentic you need to cite your sources”
 Mains says that art is inspired by the artists environment and what she or he is exposed to. Recently he has gone on a trip to Europe to see what he calls “the edge of art” or the avant garde.
CONFIDENCE
Apart from the idea that an artist must constantly be “afraid” that they are not communicating effectively with their audience,  from an official perspective he feels confident because he has studied his craft. He feels confident in his ability to produce, introduce his own work as well as interact with work of others. 
ADVICE
Be the first or be the biggest or be the best”
Mains would advise anyone who wants to pursue a career in art to expose themselves to a lot of art. Creating art on a small island is an advantage because it can be a microcosm for inspiration and innovation. There are a finite number of artists which facilitates an easy avenue for the exchanging of  ideas within the art community. To advance Art in Grenada, Mains says, we need to get out of the mentality that we paint sailboats and flowers exclusively.
It is an exciting proposition to him, to trade creativity, inspiration and innovative ways of doing things for money. Artists are in the work of immortality. In a cosmological sense Art has great purpose.
ART FOR MONEY?
 He does acknowledge that there is level of innovation that can suffer when you feel pressured to make work that sells, but also notes that there must be some level of practicality.
LEAVE GRENADA?
Mains did not feel like he needed to leave Grenada to become an artist, but, leaving Grenada has been important  for his growth in terms of the exposure.  It helps him to gauge what is trending and what you can get away with, and whether there is a market for the work. If the art falls outside of the boundaries of acceptability it may become more of a spectacle than art to be appreciated.
ARE YOU A GRENADA SOUL ADVENTURER?
His offering: Grenada Soul Adventurer as a concept has “multiple layers; adventures on a soul level or someone with soul who adventures”.
He does not have concrete idea of what it is, but, he understands it to be a feeling and Asher Mains believes he has that feeling.
Some Work from Asher Mains
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For more from Asher Mains:
Website: www.ashermains.com
Tumblr: www.ashermains.tumblr.com
Blog: www.ashermains.wordpress.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ashermains

SOUL ADVENTURER WISDOM: YOGA

Grenada Soul Adventurer in Chefchaoune, Morocco 

There is a measure of wisdom that can be acquired while Soul Adventuring.
I consider each yoga practice to be an opportunity to learn and grow, to adventure to the boarders of your comfort zone and push past them. It is also it is a time to be introspective and mindful. Here are a few lessons I learned while Soul Adventuring through Yoga that I believe translate into life lessons that I would like to share with you. 
1. Maintain a beginners attitude: This does not mean that you make excuses not to push yourself because you are a beginner.It is the attitude that there is always something to be learned and growth to be had.
2. Put on your blinkers: This one is tough because a lot of us are competitive and we stake our value on out performing others. Your yoga practice is just that, it is yours. You should only be focused on what is happening on your mat and/or the guidance that your teacher gives you or the class. You need to give yourself the space to accept where you are at and be inspired to grow in your practice. Don’t let the other yogis in the class who may have a deeper down dog or who are standing on their heads discourage you. Know that they have worked hard and stayed disciplined enough to reach to that stage in their practice and that with dedication and practice you too can grow deeper in your practice.
3. Focus or Loose Balance: The number one thing that is always said when leading a yogi in a balance pose it to focus on one point ahead of them. It is a matter of training your mind not be be distracted and to remain completely in the moment. It is similar in life, if we loose focus we begin to flounder and then the next thing you know you are flapping our arms just to stay upright and in some cases we find ourselves on the ground.
4. It is alright to fall: I am not saying to slack of because you know it is alright to fall. Give the pose all your focus and attention and try to maintain it as best you can with where you are in your practice. However, if after giving it your all you flounder and fall, it is alright. Just make sure that you reflect on what may have caused the fall and make a conscious effort work on your weaknesses until you fall less. Its most important not to beat yourself up about it, learn your lesson and move on!
5. Some days are just harder than others: I can’t tell you how often I have practiced certain poses and yet I still find myself straining to do them when at other times I have no problems. It could be that I am not focused enough, or that I have not practiced in a while or that my alignment is off or that my body is physically incapable of holding a posture that particular day because it is that time of the month and my body slightly weaker generally. Take the shitty days in stride knowing that on other days your practice flows almost seamlessly and that life is about the journey.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice! : You may have made so much progress in your practice but if you slack off for an extended period of time you will feel it. You will feel it during your practice and you will probably feel it the next day. Stay consistent and disciplined and you can reach all the goals you have set for yourself.
7. Practice for you! Do not practice to please or impress your teacher and your fellow yogis, its a personal thing and if your heart is not in it, or you are too focused on outside opinions you will not get all there is to be had from yoga. In life it makes no sense to do things for the good of others if it is not good for you. After one class I remember my teacher saying that if you yourself are not working on your own positive state of mind you cannot spread positivity (or something to that effect). It resonated with me because I feel as though we are often told to sacrifice our own bliss for the greater good or be labeled as selfish. It is not selfish to do things for own happiness!
You are limitless: To the none yogi some of the crazy moves we bust may seems life threatening or damn near impossible. What has kept me excited about the practice is that it has taught me that what seems impossible can be achieved through practice and focus and that I am limitless!
The lessons I learn or the moments of clarity I have during my practice are not limited to what I have shared. I am certain that new lessons will illuminate as I continue to practice. I am happy that I stumbled upon yoga because it has been a source of solace and peace over this past year. I am a firm believer in taking it to the mat, whatever it is.
If you are ever in Grenada and want to find a studio or teacher check out these places.
Grenada Fountain of Youth Yoga Studio in Grand Anse, St. George
www.yoga.gd (you can also find them on facebook)
Spice Harmony Yoga Studio in Calivigny, St. George
www.spiceharmony.org (you can also find them on facebook)
I want to extend heartfelt gratitude to my teachers Dawnelle, Mit Sukha, Maliaka and Kecia you are AWESOME!
Namaste

GRENADA HASH HOUSE HARRIERS

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Fellow Soul Adventurers!

Today I am going to tell you about something that has become a permanent fixture in my weekly adventuring: Hashing

For those of you who are not familiar with hashing it is a run, walk or crawl through the most breathtaking locations on the island. You will find yourself walking through, rivers, mud, dirt, people’s gardens, quarries, the demarcation of land and sea (and by land I mean rocks and cactus), rainforest, the beach and climbing mountains and running down hills all while following a paper trail that leads you back to your starting point. It takes place every Saturday at 4pm.

To me the most rewarding part (apart from the killer workout) is the views from the mountains that will send you into a state of deep appreciation for nature and its beauty.

They say hashers and alcoholics with a running problem. After a hash there will be a huge gathering where local dishes (or sometimes not so local dishes) are sold and drinks are consumed as the socialising continues while the music makes you sway your hips to the rhythm of infectious soca as well as a range of genres. The Grenada Hash Hound Harriers always have a special deal for Beers, sometimes 3 for 10 and on super special occasions 4 for 10 (that is 10 Eastern Caribbean Dollars), non alcoholic beverages are also on sale.

Hashing offers a good time for the entire family (including the doggie clan). If you have a particularly energetic pup of dog (read…I think my dog might be crazy) this provides great form of exercise for them to let off a bit of steam too.

There are usually two trails, a walkers trail (shorter but challenging) and a runners trail (long, difficult and sometimes requires a rope or some other mechanism to get from one point to the next). Occasionally there is short walkers trail that will be the least challenging in both length and terrain.

Hashers, like any other group, have their traditions complete with an induction ceremony and certificates which you can show off to your friends. It is a great way to spend your Saturday evening. Hashers are not only Grenadians but people from all over the globe who are either visiting or have made Grenada their home and make for excellent company.

The hash usually starts at 4pm but get there half an hour early to hear the announcements and special messages about the trail.

For those of you who do not drive and do not have a ride with friends or family, hashers usually do pick ups at a designated area for a particular time which is on the way to the hash.
Hash #786

Information about this Hash, upcoming Hashes and past Hashes (complete with pictures) can be found on their website :
www.grenadahash.com
And also their facebook page: