A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Being Peace near El Vendrell, and a Conflict Zone Reporter in Calafell

A typical hilltop castle on the way to El Vendrell

A Roman arch in the median of the highway!
 The best thing about having a host waiting for me at the end of the day is that the walk, interesting though it may be, is usually far less interesting than the people I am about to meet.
Take in case Ramón, my host in a village near El Vendrell. At 22 years old he decided he was going to learn how to play the very complicated Indian drum called the tabla. Learning something like the tabla is not the same as attending djembe workshops; it is a lifetime endeavour. In India Ramón sought out and found a tabla master who took him as a student, and for seven months he was immersed in, not only tabla techniques, but the whole of culture surrounding the instrument, from Sanskrit to Yoga to Ayurvedic medicine.
He returned to Catalunya, feeling he needed a break from this immersion, but was soon back again for more. Since then, he has been in India several times, once living on an ashram where he practiced the tabla all day, every day. He now continues his study of the tabla with a teacher in Italy whom he visits once a month.
Meeting Ramón was like meeting the personification of peace, but one might expect a person who has lived on an ashram for so long to be calm and gentle. So imagine my surprise when the local guitar-playing friend he had invited to his house was no less the personification of peace than  Ramón. His friend, Enric, is in a street theater troupe (as is Ramón now) and not only a guitar player but a vocalist as well. It was his birthday that day, and their idea of a birthday party was a vegetarian dinner and a performance of their music which combines the Indian tabla's exotic sounds with the Western guitar. The birthday gift, in the end, was mine, as I listened, or rather blended with the 'peace music' my two friends produced. I gave both of them information on Masterpeace,  and they may make their 'peace music' a part of Masterpeace's efforts. I hope to see them in Cairo!

My host in El Vendrell, Ramon, on the tabla drums, cheerfully tolerating my jamming on his one-stringed Indian instrument 

Ramon and Enric making the most sublime music I've heard in a long time
 The next day a short walk brought me to Calafell, where I met my next Couchsurfing host, Lídia and her parents. While Lídia contributes to the peacebuilding effort through her work as an independent journalist, she radiates, not tranquility, but pure energy. She works with a partner for a Panamanian news agency that gives them the liberty to report on whatever they see fit to report, and they usually find themselves in conflict zones like Libya and Sudan. Lídia is home with her parents for a while, but only because of visa problems related to her next trip to India, where she may find herself in Kashmir. As independent journalists, she and her partner often find themselves having problems the big news reporters don't have, such as visa problems, confiscated cameras (in Algeria) and having to couchsurf for a bed (in Libya). On the other hand, there is nothing to compromise their integrity.
 Meanwhile, Lídia is taking a break from conflict zones by taking photoshop classes, self-defense classes (she did Brazilian jiu jitsu in the past) and cheering for FC Barcelona, or whoever opposes Real Madrid. To have a look at Lídia's reporting, see 'Canal de 2 the parrot' on Youtube. See you, Lídia!

The amazing Lídia and her equally amazing parents

The Roman fort in Calafell

Tarragona: Walls that Speak of Peace, Nikki and Company, Castells Et Al

Walls that speak of peace, in Catalan, entering Tarragona

Tarragona´s Rambla

The Roman ampitheatre by the sea

My host Nikki on the left, and her friends (and mine), Patricia and Alícia, having a look at the petitions (and other things)

Science teachers Alícia (from Catalunya) and Patrícia (from France), who gave me great support. Many thanks, friends!

Where gladiators once battled in Tarragona

Tarragona's cathedral

The Catalan flag, on the left, and Tarragona's flag on the right. The flag in the middle is for an association of Castells (human towers)

Nikki, my host, an independent English teacher and highly competitive padel player. She was also very supportive of my walk, and is now a good friend. Thanks Nikki!

Traditional dancing on the Rambla, on St Jeroni's Day

I found this statue of a castell very impressive...

...until I saw this...

...and this!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What is the Connection Between Cambrils and the Algerian Sahara?

 At twenty years old, Agata, my host in Cambrils, might seem like the average university student. She studies incessantly, having chosen Biochemistry to be her major, and when she can take a break, she enjoys going out for a beer with her boyfriend, Alex.

But while many people spend their holidays in places like Ibiza, Agata usually goes to Saharan Algeria with her mother, Misi, to help out a refugee family from Western Morocco. This annual 'holiday' has Agata and Misi living in harsh conditions while they help to support a family that has long been accustomed to life in the Sahara Desert. Agata's family helps out further by paying to have a daughter from the refugee family come once a year to visit them in Cambrils. Over the years, they have become close friends.

A typical house

The fishing port
 Agata's father, Ilde, is a private Mathematics teacher, and her mother is a social worker. We talked quite a lot about the lack of social justice that so often leads to conflict, and about the complicated situation in Palestine.
Meanwhile, both Agata and Misi feel that what they do for the family in the Algerian desert is little more than a patchup job that does nothing to solve the problem. But any act to alleviate suffering is the right act, and would that more people had the compassion and sense of social justice this family has.

A traditional dining room

The amiable citizen who invited us in to see his traditional dining room

Alex and Agata add a little life to the wall where Cambrils' leading citizens were hanged after the town had offered armed resistance against Napolean's troops

Agata's parents,  Misi and Ilde
Alex, who is also a man with a social conscience,  and Agata

From Miami Beach, Through the Delta, to Miami Beach

Platja Miami, near St Carles de la Ràpita

Into Delta de L'Ebre

The canal going through Amposta

Amposta, on the Ebro River

Following trekker's route GS92 along a canal in the delta

A friendly farmer who told me to take all the oranges I wanted from his grove

Back to the sea on GS92

Yeah, yeah, yeah

More of GS92, which was beautiful, but not ideal for an overloaded, middle-aged pilgrim

L'Hospitalet de l'Infant, or maybe L'Almadrava, someone help me out here!

My camp 20k south of Cambrils

A fellow wayfarer heading south and west, back to Extremadura

And Miami Platja, south of Cambrils

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Just What is 'Peace', and Can Peace be Made? Your Response Requested

Almost everybody claims to want peace. Nations have conquered other nations in the name of peace, and violent riots have often been the result of peace protests. There are many different ideas of just what peace is, and how peace is to be achieved, from the idea that peace can only be achieved through the threat of violence, to the idea that peace can only come from within oneself, and cannot be 'made'.

I would like to know how you define 'peace', and whether you think peacemaking is possible.

Peñíscola to Catalunya

Peñíscola in the distance...

...and close up

My host Silvia in Vinarós. Silvia works in the Tourism office in Tortosa, and she gave me the best maps I've had on my journey so far. She also gave me accurate and detailed information on the best way to walk into Catalunya from Vinarós.

Making the crossing into Catalunya

A wonderful symbol of peace; a Franco-era coastal defense fortification, toppled into the sea