Thursday, August 30, 2007

To give or not to give

After all these years, I still struggle with how to respond to people asking me for money. Whether it's a street child selling over-priced tissues in Luxor, Egypt or some of the local characters in Glebe needing a few bucks to visit family - I never seem to get it quite right.

Pete has the benevolent benefactor approach, which argues that it's rude not to be generous when we are so lucky. The other point of view argues that this is naive, and only creates or encourages cycles of dependance. Having worked in international development for the past few years, I know all the arguments about supporting projects that have a long term goal, whether it be microfinance for sustainable livelihoods or educational opportunities for children.
I do support these initiatives, but it doesn't stop some people falling through the cracks and coming up to me asking for money. I have realised that whether I choose to give or not I won't make a significant difference to that person's past or future. But I can respond with respect and integrity to the humanity of the person and maybe change their outlook for that day. The best part of this trip has been the people and the unexpected adventures. Rather than jumping from air conditioned bus to air conditioned hotel, I have found myself amidst it all - haggling for a better price, joining in a game of backgammon, picking up a bit of arabic and being led astray in the local souq (markets).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Backpacking again for the first time

After finishing up my time at QUNO, I have spent the past two weeks making my way down the coast of Italy to Rome. The beaches definately got priority, and were a much-needed way to wind down after the final weeks of work. One thing I found was that travelling (or backpacking more specifically) for the second time doesnt make me an expert. I am kindof learning afresh how to travel - on a slightly larger budget, and with another person instead of by myself. Being almost a decade older also means that I am learning how to travel a bit more ethically and with the experience I have from the past ten years, instead of as a recent university graduate just figuring out who I was. It has been good, but I think we are both ready for Egypt, and Kenya, and the chance to volunteer our time rather than the past fortnight of hedonistic beach indulgence!!