Algeria – Marhaba – Welcome!

Algeria – Marhaba – Welcome!

href=””>NAMAYA & ALgerian Friends

We are in Algeria since the beginning of January. Over the past few months we have been traveling in Dominican Republic, England, Wales, Sicily, Malta, and we are here in Algeria doing some peace arts community building workshops. We will be in Morocco for February, back to the DR, and then on home to Vermont in March. Some of your have been following us on Facebook at Namaya Art Rat and Vermont Poet, we will continue to post as best we can. We are having too much fun to write all of this down. This has been an enchanted journey of great learning and discovery. It is a time to play, create new art work, perform, and meet many wonderful new friends on the road. I had been wanting to do this since before the Arab spring.
We have experienced so much kindness, love, and charity in our time here in Algeria, and during our travels. In Algeria, strangers appearing out of nowhere to help us, and our host family here always gracious and kind. A little bit of Classical Arabic goes a long way, and a smile and a handshake go a longer way to open doors around the world.
We arrived at 4 in the morning in Algiers and our host insisted on picking us up. We would have taken a hotel for the night. We stayed at our friend’s family home outside of Algiers. The heart of the Lahrech family life is in the kitchen, and we all gather together for meals in the kitchen, chatting in Arabic, French, and a bit of English, a little Russian, and every so often a splash of Italian and Spanish are thrown into the mix! The Dad is Doctor Ali, mom is Madam Saryiah, and their children Lamia, Waled, Hicham, Chakib, are fabulous fun. International, love goulash! Two of the kids are young adults are fluent in English, French, Arabic, and Russian. The others only three languages.
We are laughing and talking about life, teaching, schizophrenia, family, and life. A joyful bunch of fun! My French is still dodgy but adequate, my imperfect Arabic makes people laugh but gets the message across, and it is a fantastic way to spend January!
Yesterday, we were at the beach with a group of 20 something young Algerians. What an incredible joy! The vision, the smarts, the excitement of youth, and their wonderful sense of fun…was pure delight. And I even taught them the song “Wild Thing” and songs from Namaya. I will have to post the video. I was even trying to teach the cops, “Wild Thing”! but they were skeptical.
In my writings and stories in the past I have spoken of my journeys living and working in Islamic countries, and having traveled the length of the Islamic world from Morocco to Indonesia. I have consistently been met with kindness and courtesy. .. It grieves me to see the violence and madness consuming Yemen, a country I had called home. Several years ago before the revolution I spent several wonderful weeks traveling in Lebanon and Syria, and was warmly welcomed. Here in Algeria, I am experiencing this same sense of welcoming. I embrace the power and beauty when religions embrace our common humanity and celebrate our diversity

Algeria During the time of Charlie Hebdo
The Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris has exploded across the world in the past week while we are in Algeria on a community arts peace building projects around Algeria. We are all appalled by this madness. The general word from most people is, “This has nothing to do with Islam. This is haram, a religious forbidden.”

A few days ago we took a taxi into the down Algiers, and the driver said that there was going to be a demonstration. It was a protest of hundreds of men and women in traditional robes and chanting, “Je Suis Muslim” It was a response to the Je Suis Charlie in Paris.
We kept trying to get away from the crowds, up one side street and then another. Then the police started firing tear gas. Though we were at a distance we could smell the acrid smoke and heard the rifle shots. We could not find a taxi and they were all getting away from downtown as fast as they could. We finally went up one side street and there was a taxi office. It was a dark and dank office, and the man hearing my American accent spoke to us in English. He and his brother could not get a taxi to pick us up, and so they drove us in their personal cars. The older brother said, “Don’t worry there is no charge.”
I would have paid twenty euros to get out of the area, and we were grateful that this young man was giving us a ride to the other side of Algiers. He unfortunately did know the area but he used Algerian GPS and asked people for directions. When we arrived at home we offered him a generous amount and he refused. He said simply, “You are a guest and it was a pleasure to help you.” The only thing we had was a peace bracelet which he accepted. We thanked him profusely.
This is the bottom line, and traveling to more than 100 countries, and throughout the USA. Yes, there is such madness in the world, but there is so much beauty. One of the great beauties of life is the kindness, charity, and love we have seen demonstrated time and time again.
Let us define our lives, our spirituality, our love for the earth, joy of family and community by the deeper faith, and that is the faith of our common humanity.
To our friends back home, thanks for taking care of the cats and the house! And to our friends here in Algiers, thank you all for making us feel very welcomed and at home.
. Let the good times roll on!

Lamia & ZoeNew Friends

Casbah Algiers – A day in Algiers
The Casbah, the fortress, the citadel of Algiers unfolds and unravels

Conversation with an Algerian couple at dinner last night. So I posed a question, as we discussed the role of men and women in Algiers.
I said to the guy, “You would be willing to stay at home, raise the kids, as long as your wife was rich, beautiful, a sex maniac who would ravish you when you she got home, and would also ensure you had a large TV for the soccer games?”
He said, thoughtfully, sounds great, but we should really have a bottle of wine together and talk this over more.
Great conversations last night, wish I could have recorded them: What is the future of Algeria? What is the future direction and hope? Then the conversation quickly degenerated into a discussion of relationships. And the strange twist of phrase, “his babies.”
Hmmm, the richest part of this journey here is not so much the magnificent buildings, the history, it is, as it is often around the world, the amazing conversations over dinner and tea. People hearing my American accented Arabic and French, strike up a conversation in English. Though the US government is widely reviled around the world, people still view America with its music and culture as this amazing place. Though I do not really see myself as an American, I am more of an international citizen even with my modest language skills. People are consistently hungry to talk, share ideas, yes and in some cases really talk about the Charlie thing.
I wish I could take my video around with me and record these conversations. There is a great deal of kindness, caring, and curiosity. Today, people we barely knew took us out to dinner, “You are guests in our country and we liked talking to you.” As I have written before, in this age of such divisions and strike, it is vital to talk to people, to listen, to have some tea, share a meal, and have a good laugh. This is the healing that needs to happen. Though I am a very imperfect, irreverent cross cultural ambassador, I am having a hell of a lot of fun.
I have often thought I had a career as an international comedian, but I have discovered it has nothing to do with my sense of humor it is, the way that I mangle my languages causes fits of laughter…. Gee…I thought I had a great career. Well I will just have to rely on my poetry. Algiers, a place of continual surprise, kindness and yes, a hell of a lot of fun. Thank you to the many people who are making this such a rich and joyful experience

20 January 2015 Tuesday- The caring web if Friends and strangers
Yesterday we spent part of the morning working on our workshop in the desert. I appreciated the slower part of travel. Not the rush to visit this or that, the Slow and easy part of the day. I woke up early, first to prayer call, and then fell back to sleep. A cup of coffee, some yoga stretches, a half hour of guitar, an hour or so of writing, and I am feeling in my groove.
Morning sounds of a rooster, prayer call, the blight of car sirens intersperse the morning calm, children

Children Laughing in School Yards

In the many, many places we have
Seen around the world, the sound
That is most consistent is the sound
Of children’s laughter in school yards.
Whether in Macau, Bali, vennares,
Sanna, Cairo or here in Algiers you
Could not distinguish the sounds of
Girls and boys playing and laughing
In the school yard.
Imagine if we could take that common
Language of fun and play, and continue
To bring it forward…to our adult years?

Instead of the voices of conflict and war,
What would be heard is the voices of
Children, people, laughing and playing/

Imagine the difference

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