Thursday, October 7, 2010

A "New" Instrument

Call me a dork, but I'm always intrigued by how instruments change over time and across cultures. Last summer while in Heidelberg, Germany, we heard a mesmerizing "new" instrument.

The instrument originated in the Caribbean, where it was a steel drum. The Swiss inverted the shape, made some adjustments, and created the Hang.

If you've never seen Steel Drums, check out this video I found on YouTube:

Rooting for the Bulls!

Last summer’s European road trip took us to Arles, France, which is a dumpy little town on the Mediterranean coast of France that houses quite an impressive array of Roman ruins. The town’s tradition twice each week is the Bull Races, housed in a Roman-era coliseum. 
From Bull Races

The coliseum is much smaller than the coliseum, but almost more delightful because one can wander the levels and the circular network of paths intended to facilitate the safe movement of thousands of spectators.
From Bull Races

And of course, one can sit on the old stone seats to take in the show.
From Bull Races
I was apprehensive about going to Bull Races, for I didn’t want to see animals being harmed. Apparently, though, this kind of race is different. The bull appears, a bit riled up, and 9 young men must get close enough to remove a small bow from the antlers of the bull. If the bull does something exciting, he wins the sounding of Carmen. Excitement builds when the men jump high, when the bull jumps the protective inner ring, or when the bull rips apart the fence. We found ourselves rooting for the bulls, over and over again.

From Bull Races

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


We visited a little town called Chefchaouen. It’s nestled in the Rif Mountains of Morocco. 

We went there during Ramadan, which is a month-long holiday in Islam in which people fast all day (no food and no water) and feast at sundown. This helps people to remember to be thankful for what they have, and empathetic toward people who have less. 

Here’s a photo of people waking early to buy all the food they need for the nights’ feast. Notice the people crowded on the right- they’re buying onions, peppers, and all kinds of other vegetables and fruits. The woman carrying the buckets is dressed differently than people in a big city like Casablanca; her straw hat is especially regional. Notice little blue poofs on it. 

From Chefchaouen
Not everyone in Chefchaouen has an oven in their home. A friendly host took us to this public oven, which was busy with hand-prepared food from all over town. 

In the old part of the city, called the medina, you can wander around a maze of little streets, all blue. Some blues were so bright it hurt my eyes!

From Chefchaouen

People are friendly- they greet you, invite you over for an evening of Gnawa music, or let you just shop without hassling you too much.

I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was!

From Chefchaouen