Travelling in time on the old moped

( Russia, 1990s )

* * *Photo by Dimych

We stopped for lunch not far from Balagoe – a small township located half way from St Petersburg to Moscow.

“Take care. There are lots of Gipsies living in this area. Don’t stare at them, otherwise they might think that you are ‘challenging’ them. They are very hot-blooded and quick to grab their knives and axes. A young lad from St. Petersburg was killed here last  year,” – said Ivan, unpacking the bag with our lunch.

“Why?”

“Well, this is a long story. Gypsy lads are not allowed to touch Gipsy girls until they marry them. They still have a tradition of hanging out bloodstained sheets after the first night, you see. And gipsy girls are not allowed to bare their bodies in public, even arms and legs. Only their faces can be seen. However before Gipsy lads settle with Gipsy girls they like having fun with local Russian girls, who are perceived as easily accessible. Look at the way Russian girls are dressed, exposing everything they possibly can. They like getting male attention, don’t they? Unfortunately they are playing with fire. As the result, from time to time Gipsy lads get into troubles with local Russian guys.”

“Gosh, sounds more like a story about wild beasts rather than human beings. And it is only 300 kilometers from St. Petersburg!!!”

Ivan was just about to take the last sandwich from the bag, when I quickly grabbed it and took a big bite.

“Well, we were much wilder ‘beasts’ in the past too. A few generations ago the bride’s virginity was a matter of communal importance in Russia and, until it had been confirmed, either by the finger of the matchmaker or by the presence of bloodstains on the sheets, the honour of her household would remain in doubt.” He gave me a wink.

“Yuck! This fact has never been mentioned in our school textbooks! I bet cows were treated nicer in those days than girls. At least, cows did not have fingers poked into their private parts.”

“And at the wedding feast guests sometimes acted as witnesses to the bride’s deflowering” – continued Ivan.

“What?!” – a peace of sandwich stuck in my mouth. “Right, I see. You are telling me all of this only because you want to get hold of this sandwich, don’t you? Don’t even hope – no matter what our ancestors did in the past, I am going to finish this sandwich.” I bravely took another bite and inspected my shabby jeans and short-sleeved top.

“Would you mind to take your shirt off?”

“Why?”

“Come on, take it off. Believe me, Gipsy lads won’t get into fight with me over your beautiful arms,” I put Ivan’s shirt on.

“Can I borrow your cap as well?”

“Go for it.”

I tucked my long hair under Ivan’s cap.

“Can I have a go at the steering wheel now?”

“Are you sure?” Ivan did not seem to trust my driving skills.

“Not, but just want to get a taste of it. Please.”

“All right. Just a little bit.”

We packed our bags and hopped onto Ivan’s moped. We did not get far, when suddenly the front wheel skidded and we both flew into the air.

“Ouch”, – something hot touched my leg.

“How are you?” – asked Ivan.

“Fine,” – I slowly got up off the ground, checking my bruised body.

“Look what you’ve done?” – Ivan was almost crying, inspecting his moped. I managed to pull out every single wire on it.

“And what on earth happened to you? Why did you drive it right into this heap of sand in the middle of the road?”

“I could not see it.”

“Why could not you see it?”

“Because I did not have my glasses on?”

“Where are your glasses then?”

“In my bag?”

“Why are they in your bag?”

“They did not look good with my new outfit.”

“What?” – Ivan gasped in disbelief.

“They did not look good with that cap.” …

( Photo by Sfa )

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Peace Tourism

“Travel has become one of the great forces for peace and understanding of our time… As people move throughout the world and learn to know each other, to understand each other’s customs, and to appreciate the qualities of the individuals of each nation, we are building a level of international understanding which can sharply improve the attitude for world peace.”

President John F. Kennedy

earth-in-our-handsw
From Tourism for Peace

Since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has celebrated World Tourism Day on September 27. Each year the World Tourism Day has a different theme:
2011: Tourism Linking Cultures
2012: Tourism and Energetic Sustainability
2013: Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future

I hope the theme of the 2014 day will be ‘Peace Tourism’ or ‘Tourism for Peace’.

Nuwan Herath provides a good overview if this relatively recent concept in his article “Peace Through Tourism”:

“Peace tourism intends to reduce root causes that create situations where violence has been perceived as inevitable. It is not a replacement for various other kinds of tourism practice, but is rather intended to be a facilitator to enhance sustainable development and positive peace through the tourism industry…”

It has been speculated that the industry will reach up to 1.56 billion tourists worldwide by 2020. With such a large number of people travelling around the globe, it is not surprising that scholars and other professionals involved in the tourism industry started looking at tourism’s potential for peace making. The major assumption behind the notion of peace tourism is that when people travel frequently all over the world, it helps them get to know new people, cultures, values etc. That experience is capable of increasing mutual understanding among people who have been living in diverse cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, such travel also benefits the host countries economically and politically.

However, there is an opposing view which claims tourism is not a generator of peace but a “beneficiary of peace.” Tourism is only possible in areas where peace is present; it is absent in war zones, and much diminished in areas of high conflict and tension. Additionally, tourism has been perceived as a way of exploiting local people and destinations through the “commoditization” of local cultures. This view identifies tourism as a new way of perpetuating western dominance in the developing world…

Each of these views holds some truth, one view being more accurate in some places, the other more accurate in others. A key question to answer is how the worldwide tourism industry could be redesigned to help sustain positive peace on all parts of the globe. A very challening question, but hopefully one day we’ll find a good solution for that.

Meanwhile let’s keep learning more about each other and our cultures while travelling the world – in real life as well as via the internet.

Global-Family
From Morocco Peace Tours

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