Monday, May 27, 2013

We Own the Night - Nike Run

Despite my other experience registering (and then not) for another women-only run, I registered for the  We Own the Night run.  Hosted/sponsored/set-up by Nike, it seemed like a great way to finish my time Berlin and up my running distance.  It's been awhile since I've done a 10K.

If I were to give this run a score, it'd be a 6 or 6.5.  Here are some of the factors:

Firstly, I lost my chip (which was a €6 disposable chip - another issue (disposable chip)) but was able to get another at the start; however, none of my data was recorded.  Now, if the young lady (makes me sound old) said something to the effect of "it won't work," then she should've directed me back to the chip dude, and I could've gotten my money back.  Instead I paid €12 for no data.  Although I wasn't doing this for a personal record, I'm glad I wore my Garmin, which provides time stats.

The course itself was pretty fun.  It went wove through the Strandband Plötzensee, which is basically a lake-side park, so there were dirt trails as well as some asphalt and concrete bits.  The trails, for the most part, were well-lit although there were some stretches where I was concerned about those coming behind me because there were no lights and it was dirt, which means uneven.  We also ran through some kind of military base.  While the run through the garages/storage hangers was cool - projected sound levels, different light installations, etc., - I could've done without the military "I'm on the lame" theme that was present on the helicopter landing pad - the sounds of helicopters, dry ice, and a spot light trained on runners from towers.  Suddenly the run went from "women on a run" to "women on the run."

There was only one water stop, at the 5K mark, and there were no porta-janes along the way.  Ever heard of "runner's trots"?  Evidently not.  Even though there were plenty of woods around, one would've been risking their own "private parts" since there were stinging nettles everywhere (I know, I ran through some).  Thinking about that now makes me cringe.  Yow!

And finally, post-run water and food.  The run started at 8:30pm, so most of us probably ate somewhere around 6pm.  By the end, I was hungry and thirsty.  But to get my water, I had to make my way through security (which didn't allow the ladyfriend entry), and I didn't even look for where the bagels and bananas were (and they probably weren't bagels and bananas, but you know what I mean) since the ladyfriend couldn't come with me (!).  I ended up getting a Snickers bar at the gas station as we made our way to the U-bahn, and yes, it really satisfies (in those kinds of circumstances).

One other note - it has long been a part of my runner's belief system that you do not wear the t-shirt for the run you are doing while you are doing the run.  In other words, finish the race, and then wear the t-shirt.  But in Germany, it seems to be different.  I asked an ex-pat runner about this, and she said that she'd also noticed that a lot of people wear the t-shirt on race day like it's some kind of uniform.  While I like the t-shirt, I still say "no."  Run the race, wear the t-shirt.  Not at the same time.

Nice t-shirt, though.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Camp Bacon! Powered by Pork!!!

Oh. My. God.  How I wish I could go to Camp Bacon.  Alas, we won't be back from Berlin yet.  And "powered by pork'?  Got to be one of the best mottoes ever!
This also reminds me of my favourite Croatian saying that my father told me (he's not Croatian but lived there for many years):  The only good chicken is a pig.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mixing In a Little Art

Please take a moment to check out the online art show, Enact.  The ladyfriend created a piece for it, featuring yours truly.  Scroll over the images to find her name - Liss Platt - to see it.  It involves currywurst.  Really.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Essaouira - Cat Heaven

(Be warned - this post is about cats and lots of them.  If you're not into them, wait for the next post.)
There are cats all over Morocco, but the cats in Essaouira were some of the healthiest we'd seen.  They don't seem to belong to anyone in particular, but the ample fish in the garbage seems to keep them robust.  The following images were just some of the cats we saw.  There were more.

And on the stop between Essaouira and Marrakesh, we saw these cuties...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Oh Essaouira!

We've been in Essaouira for the past five days, and it's been fantastic.  Not only is the weather milder than it was in Marrakesh - between 20 - 25C with strong sun and cool breeze - but the entire vibe is different.  People seem friendlier and more relaxed.  Even the medina is less aggressive when it comes to the sales pitches although once you're in a shop, good luck extracting yourself without making a purchase.  We've been pretty lucky with our shopping experiences (yes, multiple ones) although the guy who wanted us to buy the camel leather bag thought we were cheap.  Needless to say, we don't own a camel leather bag.

On our first day, we walked along this beach.

I ran along it today.  I'm talking heaven.
A demonstration of the strong wind.
Our first two nights were spent in the Ryad Lyon-Mogador, in the centre of the medina.  We had a great room (the Saffron Room), which was really nice - a little sitting area with a loft bed above it.  They also served a great breakfast every morning on the terrace.  We would definitely stay there again.
You'll notice a lot of scarves - both of us are suffering from a need for a haircut.
Some patternwork for Karen

"A" is for...Ali!

After we made it down the mountain in one piece albeit with screaming quads, we met our driver at a restaurant where we had lunch.  There seems to be quite a bit of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" among tour providers.  The food was fair, but we were hungry so it solved an immediate need - nutrition; however, we decided that we didn't need any additional stops on our way home (I believe there was a "visit an authentic Berber house" stop planned, which falls under our idea of prurient tourism).  The driver asked if he could give his "cousin" a ride into town.  While we thought that "cousin" was just code for "friend," we didn't care.

And then we met Ali.  Talking with Ali was the highlight of our trip.  He also worked as a mountain guide (I have the feeling there'd have been less touchy-touchy if he'd been our guide) and had lived his entire life in one of the Berber villages in the mountain.  He spoke excellent English, which he'd learned from tourists along the way.  Later our driver told us he also spoke French and some Italian in addition to Berber and Arabic.  Nonetheless, Ali claimed he was uneducated.

He spoke eloquently about the way over-exportation of things like argan oil, oranges, and sardines had made them too expensive for Moroccans.  He worried about the over-investment in tourism, citing the construction of numerous golf courses (it's a desert climate) and its impact on water availability for local people.  He explained the ridiculousness of the "camel" rides offered along the route - firstly, the animals weren't camels, they were dromedaries; and secondly, they weren't indigenous to the area (they come from the Sahara), and the rocks hurt their feet so they could only walk the 100 or so metres off the side of the road.  He told us how the French brought the willow trees to the area and that you should never sit under a willow tree for a picnic without an umbrella or some kind of cover because there are microscopic bugs that drop down from the tree into your food and can make you sick.  We learned more from Ali in an hour than we had in the three days we'd spent in Morocco so far.

We felt extremely lucky to have had that time with him.  The ladyfriend would like to make a documentary about him.  I don't know if that will happen, but our visit with him is something we're unlikely to forget.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Awful and The Awesome

It's probably better that I'm writing this post in Essaouira instead of Marrakesh, where I'm much more relaxed and, quite honestly, less traumatized.  Yes, big word, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's go back to Marrakesh.
The souk at quieter moments
On our second day in Marrakesh we took some new friends from the riad to the Artisan Ensemble.  The souk in Marrakesh itself is a good time for many, but I found it a bit harassing - I don't need people clamouring for my attention (and money) as I walk by.  If you actually stop and look at something, let alone touch it, it's all over.  They're going to be on you like a cheap suit.  At the Artisan Ensemble, every craftsperson is vetted, and you're ensured that the items are indeed made in Marrakesh (as opposed to China - no lie).  Also, it's pretty much a no-haggle zone so people pretty much let you look without stalking you.  Don't get me wrong, I like to drive a hard bargain, but sometimes I just want to pay a good price and walk away having both me and the seller feel good about the exchange.
View from the roof terrace restaurant of the Maison de la Photographie
Three of us went on to the Maison de la Photographie which houses a great collection of early images of the Moroccan people.  It's really hard not to get taken in Marrakesh and as we walked, a young man offered to guide us to the museum.  We kind of knew better but no one made a move to refuse his "help."  It turned out that we were really only 100 feet of so from the museum, but he took us up and down these alleyways, making it seem like it was really far.  Of course, then he wanted money.  We gave him 10 dirham, which is about $1.00, so in the end he really only screwed himself.
I had decided to wear my Patagonia dress - comfortable, flattering, and cool (temperature-wise).  I did not think I had dressed provocatively (I'd seen lots of tourists in questionable outfits already) - it was just a sleeveless dress that fits.  Now I know my tattoos are of interest to many and that in and of itself does not bother me, but when it leads to what I'd call unwanted attention, it's a different story.  It's hard to really communicate, but I have to say that that day in Marrakesh - where we went to the Artisan Ensemble, the Maison de la Photographie, and then out to dinner in the "new" part of Marrakesh - was the first day that I blamed myself for the almost constant negative attention I received.  Yes, I was blaming the victim - me.  By the end of the day I could not get back to the riad fast enough.  The level of sexual harassment was traumatizing and quite honestly, I understand the burka.  The men were pigs.  Yep, those are strong words, but even as I write this post, I feel anew the trauma of the whole experience.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Midnight at the Oasis

 Greetings from Morocco!  The ladyfriend and I decided to go to Morocco instead of Scotland after reviewing temperatures and weather reports for Scotland in May.  So we're in the land of 99F/36C weather- sunny and hot and totally working for us.
The door to the Artisan Ensemble
Ceiling (duh) detail
Marrakesh is unlike any place I've ever been.  It really feels like a foreign country in ways other places - France, Germany, Japan, Iceland - haven't.  Yes, I feel like I've never traveled before.  It is a bit overwhelming and sometimes intimidating - lots of people trying to bargain with you, get you into their restaurants, run you over with their scooters.  I'm sure it's what New York City might feel to some.  We haven't taken pictures at the market yet in order to avoid being nickel-and-dimed for the privilege.  We're working up our nerve.  Rest assured, there will be a full market square report including our "henna bombing" incident. 
Josephine, the riad's resident turtle
We're staying in a lovely riad (Riad al Karama) in the medina where one can get a bit of peace and break from the heat.  At night we sit up on the rooftop terrace and listen to the call to prayer.  The last call of the day is my favourite - one voice rings out from a tinny loudspeaker and then others join it, each seemingly with their own message.  And then, one by one, they stop until there's one last call from way out in the medina and it's (relatively) quiet again.
One of the views from the terrace
Another terrace view

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Knife - In Bremen

As previously mentioned, the ladyfriend and I took a 'road trip' to Bremen to see The Knife.  The boy had seen them the last time they toured, some seven or so years ago, in NYC and had nothing but great things to say about the show.  We knew we had to go, and when every other venue was sold out (Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover, etc. etc.) Bremen was it.

The show was great and pretty much unlike anything either I or the ladyfriend have previously encountered.  Firstly, it started with "Absurdist Aerobics," which pretty much lived up to its name.  I'm not sure Germans are the best crowd for this, though.  But there were definitely many who were following the 'instructor' and getting warmed up for the show - physically and politically.  (The Knife and their politics really work with my recent posts).

Then the show began.  In addition to Karin and Olof, there were five other performers.  Oftentimes they all just danced to the music; other times, there were different performers "singing" the songs.  I'd say that almost all save for two or three songs were from their new album, which we bought in the vinyl (hurrah!) and CD combo pack.

(Note - these little videos are loud, so turn your volume down.  They were shot on an iPod Nano - explains some of the 'quality.'  Also, they're less illustrative and more expressive - you'll get what I mean when you watch them.)

Perhaps the best, and craziest, thing was the fact that the show ended without the audience really knowing it.  During the course of the evening the band had left the stage for five or ten minutes while music played in their absence.  At the end, it took the ladyfriend and I about half an hour, and a beer, to realize that, "Hey, they're breaking down the stage.  The show is over."  But the party continues, and I think that was the whole point.