Friday, February 5, 2010

Best for getting lost: Fez

Every great city is entirely itself and nowhere else. At the same time, they're all like ... somewhere. Somewhere that doesn't exist. A Platonic copy, perhaps; an embodiment of the idea of the city, whatever that may be. Morocco has several versions – all different – but in the end Tangier, Rabat and Marrakesh seem to me just rehearsals for the world's great masterpiece, Fez. In particular, the Bali Medina, the walled Old City, of Fez. The traditional Great City – traditional now, in our post-Enlightenment eyes – is a place of visual harmony, of vistas and prospects, squares, spires and domes. Old Fez is the exact opposite. The alleyways of the medina are so sinuous, straitened and overbuilt that there is, quite literally, no view. You never know what is around the next corner as it tilts down towards the river. You barely know where the next corner is. There is no angle that can lead the eye upwards more than 30ft. The rooflines are a mystery. The medina from the air reveals nothing about the medina on the ground. The eye is made useless.

Instead, you navigate by sound and smell. The clangour of hammers on metal leads you into a narrow defile, where brass-beaters and tinsmiths bang their trade. Here a vegetable steam announces the dyers, the streets robed in scarlet cloth hung to dry. A haunting, literally faecal, fleshy, fatty, ammoniacal smell declares that the great and terrifying Chouara Tannery is nearby – but where? Through what doorway, along which grease-skittered cobbles, up which narrow stairs?

Stay in one of the many riyads in Fez – built for extended families, now often converted into guest-houses where you can dine under the open sky, rooms opening on to balconies overlooking the central courtyards – and ignore the threats of getting irretrievably lost if you venture into the medina. Hire an official guide if you want; go alone if you don't mind your sleeve being plucked every few yards by boys eager for dirhams. Be prepared to be cheated; the oud-wood oil the perfumer offers you will be Firmenich Oud Synthetic 10760E or Black Agar Givco from Roure if you're lucky, a frantically dodgy concocted base (smelling of santalone, maple syrup and old gas-pipes) if you're not. It doesn't matter; you don't know what real oud smells like anyway and nor do your friends. The soft wool djellaba, naturally dyed, will be spun rayon, unnaturally dyed, and anyway you'll never learn to keep the hood pointed up, like a Klansman or a wizard. Bear with it. The medina is not about you.

Kiwanis help school children in Vanuatu

"One man's rubbish is another man's treasure" is the order of the day in a Kiwanis New Zealand initiative that helps the children of Vanuatu.

The Kiwanis Club of Takapuna plays a major role in projects helping Vanuatu.

The latest project involved packing a 12-metre shipping container with old school desks, chairs, children’s books and other items.

Most of the old school furniture was donated by Takapuna Grammar School, after a refit of several of their classrooms.

Many books and other items were donated by North Shore schools and residents, while other items came from further afield.

There were around 30
Kiwanians, including eight from the Takapuna club, present to collate, sort, repack and stack into the container.

Organiser Ewan Beck says the turnout of helpers was the biggest ever and there was a wonderful atmosphere of fellowship and fun.

Home-baked goodies for morning tea and a barbecue lunch kept energy levels
up for the strenuous day’s work.

Kiwanis in New Zealand have been assisting the Port Vila Kiwanis Club for nearly 10 years .

Patsy Hill of the Taka-puna Kiwanis Club says about 100 tonnes of school furniture, computers, books and other items has been shipped to Vanuatu since the project began.

Between shipments Kiwa-nis club members collect items in their communities, accepting almost anything that is suitable for children’s learning requirements.

Kiwanis members are grateful for any donations that help the project – either monetary or items that are no longer needed.

• The Takapuna Kiwanis Club meets at The Birkenhead RSA, Recreation Drive, Birkenhead, on the first and third Wednesday evenings of each month. For more information call Patsy on 410-5631 or Tony, call 443-6223 or call 0800 Kiwanis (0800 549-2647.

Vanuatu: Dancing to the beat of an island haven

Chief Nelson is waiting on the beach. You can't really tell from this distance that the diminutive figure in a blue Hawaiian-style shirt with missing front teeth is the big kahuna at this village on the waterfront of a sandy bay so beautiful that in my eyes it blitzes the competition.

As our small cruise ship, the Island Passage, had motored closer to Asanvari Bay on the island of Maewo in the remote Vanuatu chain of volcanic islands, we had seen a glimpse of an idyllic golden sand beach flanked by steep banks of jungle tumbling down to the water's edge.

Then we had caught movement to the left of the sandy beach and realised this was Asanvari Bay's own spectacular waterfall, also right on the water's edge and, we found out later, a waterfall which is apparently inhabited by small, hairy, evil spirits.

Although no one admits to having seen one of the spirits, the word is everyone knows someone who has seen one.

Chief Nelson is not the only one keen to welcome us. It seems the whole village has turned out.

CCID: 27452
A string band is in full force to welcome us. There are a couple of guitars and a harp-type instrument of a single string and a bendy piece of wood.

Every now and then the band stops, then starts up again with the same thumping, twanging beat and young men singing in harmony "we welcome you, we welcome you, we welcome you, to Asanvari", then they start over.

This is the Island Passage's first tourist visit to Asanvari Bay and we are honoured to be receiving the full welcome.

After a while Chief Nelson gestures us to the yacht club. Did I say yacht club?

Turns out Chief Nelson is a bit of an entrepreneur and has built an open-sided yacht club, complete with flags from around the world, for yachties sheltering in the bay to come ashore for a cold beer.

The band starts up again and leads first Chief Nelson then the honoured guests (us) to the yacht club.

We sit in green plastic chairs arranged around the edge of the building with a bit of a tattered map of the world on the wall and the flags which on closer inspection look a little worse for wear but of which the chief is very proud.

The band strikes up another round of "we welcome you" and Chief Nelson keeps a keen eye on the singers for no missed beats.

Inmates: The Real Survivors on Vanuatu

VANUATU, Feb. 3 /Christian Newswire/ -- Crossroad Bible Institute is expanding its outreach in the islands of the South Pacific through its Australian Distribution Center. Field workers are providing CBI's program in two new island nations: Vanuatu and Tonga. In the islands of Vanuatu prisoners have been in a spiritual black hole for two years while the Tongan islands are embroiled in a race war.

Vanuatu became famous in 2004 when the reality show Survivor filmed contestants trying to survive in the wild, but right now people who are behind bars are the ones struggling to survive spiritually. The island prisons do not have any Bible study programs, church visits or chaplains. The inmates have been starved of religious instruction for the past two years. CBI will be the first to offer a solid curriculum for people yearning for salvation.

"The corrections officials are thrilled to be able to offer CBI's program to the prisoners," CBI president Dr. David Schuringa explained. "They have tried to set up religious services with little success in recent years, but they understand how vitally important a faith-based program is in an inmate's life and how it can increase their chances for success when released."

The Tongan islands have their own challenges: a race war is brewing between indigenous Tongans and Chinese businessmen relocating to the area. Many of the people behind bars are serving time for taking part in a violent riot that occured in recent years. Corrections officials hope a strong Bible study program can help promote forgiveness and tolerance so the two races can live together in peace.

CBI continues to be active on the Fiji and Solomon islands in the South Pacific as well. Field workers visited with students on Fiji and found that God is present and constantly promoted through song and discussion. Many of the prisons also display Bible verses on large banners outside the prison walls as a constant reminder that God is a vital part of the inmates' lives.

Crossroad Bible Institute is a prison ministry in its 26th year of operation. With over 40,000 students, Crossroad has ten international distribution sites with two more openings pending. CBI also offers a Bible study program for the children of prisoners. Go to for enrollment forms or more information. CBI's programs are provided at no cost to prisoners and their families

Govt signs $1.6m Pacific cricket deal

Australia has signed up to a $1.6 million cricket partnership program to build stronger communities in the Pacific.

The partnership, signed between the government, Cricket Australia and the International Cricket Council, is to run over four years and will focus on communities in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa and the Solomon Islands.

The program is part of the government's Australian Sports Outreach Program, which works with local authorities and communities to deliver sporting programs.

"Sport is widely recognised as a vital tool in building stronger communities, not least through providing opportunities for youth leadership and achievement," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement.

Mr Rudd signed the first partnership - which was based on football - at the Pacific Islands forum last year.

Agreements with netball, rugby league and rugby union are expected to be completed early this year.

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