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April 2009 - Issue 5 - Middle East


•The Tourism Police and General Jon •Ordinary People •Featured Projects

Nb ‘Keeping it real!’

Contents (3) routelog Middle East (4) The Tourism Police and General Jon (5) Ordinary People (6) Nobody Climbs Alone (7) How to Live without a Fridge (8) A Little Wrinkled (9) Funity Editors: Jon Earle and Aukje van Gerven Content Editor: Amanda Gomm Assistant Editor: Angus Argyle Contributing writers: Andrew Coffey, Andrea Peloso, Robin Bond Contributing Photographers: Amanda Gomm, Jon Earle, Aukje van Gerven

Letter from the Editor Dear Newsbeet readers, Welcome back to another edition of Newsbeet! In this issue, Jon and Aukje reach the Middle East! Two writers explore and philosophise about life’s many questions and the courage to following your personal path. And, another writer explains how she has successfully unplugged herself from an energysucking kitchen appliance and provides a few easy steps to how we may follow suit.

Website Launch... Coming soon We are very proud to announce that will be released online shortly. Taking a physical break from The SLOW Journey, we plunged head first into a long and intense cyber-journey, bringing beetroute to life into the virtual world. ‘Edutainment’ is a genre that we shall continue to explore, and we are looking forward to share this journey of discovery with you. Once The SLOW Journey is rounded off, we already have some great edutainment stories in the pipeline. We are offering limited, advertising space on both the up and coming website and in future issues of Newsbeet for the remainder of 2009. So purchase a piece of joy, the sustainable sunlight in your life, the whipped cream on your fat-free cake and be one of the first to purchase premium, advertising space. Email us at for more information Thank you all for being a part of beetroute’s journey. We very much enjoy having you along, to share this unique ride.

Jon and Aukje.

We constantly seek contributing writers and photographers for Newsbeet. For more information, please email Enjoy! Your Content Editor, Amanda Gomm

Cover Photo: Earle, Sailing the Nile on a felucca

What is

routelog - Middle East


A slow journey to: Ÿ Practice being true Ÿ Learn about sustainability Ÿ Share this knowledge with others



Jordan ‘A taster of ‘The SLOW Journey’ – Jordan!: Trailer (1min)

A sample of our HD material, plus a short story of beetroute so far… (10mins)

Egypt a raw and real account of the team’s journey through Egypt (10min)

Ÿ Kms Travelled: By bicycle: 1425 kilometers. By truck, bus and

taxi: 400 kilometers. Ÿ Water in Plastic bottles consumed: Many, we were feeling very run down and needing a stable and safe water supply once we arrived in Egypt. Our total in Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Syria however is 2 L. Ÿ Lowlight: We were shocked to have a masked motorcyclist grab Aukje’s back panniers and bum in Syria. This was inappropriate and foul behaviour. The feeling of utter helplessness underscores how vulnerable we are as cyclists. Ÿ Highlight: In Jordan, a new team member joined beetroute for two weeks, Rien, Aukje’s father. We also enjoyed the warm hospitality of Hami, Ahmed and the rest of their family.

‘The Tourism Police and General Jon’ -


After visiting Mt. Sinai and St. Katherine’s monastery in Egypt, Aukje and I returned to the car park to await a ride back to our hostel for the night. It was a bitterly cold evening. Although our hands and throats were momentarily warmed by steaming cups of black tea and mint, the cold bit into our bones. I wandered the car park shaking my arms and legs in an attempt to keep warm, but it was not working. Coming around a corner, I crossed the entrance to the “policed area”. I peered into an open door and saw three men sitting in the small room with only a desk and a chair designated for each officer. Two officers huddled around a glowing electric element while the third sat behind the desk looking over some books. The room was toasty warm, which I envied.

The man gestured for me to sit down but when I politely declined he repeated, “Please, please.” Well, I did not wish to be rude, so I sat myself down on the wooden chair and enjoyed some of their warmth that I had earlier envied. On the table in front of me sat a police beret. I picked it up for closer inspection. One of the officers, out of the corner of his eye, noticed my curiosity and looked on with a smile. “Put” he said and lifted his hand to his head “put” he repeated. Well, one cannot disobey orders so I placed the black felt beret on top of my head and before I knew it, all three officers were standing at attention in front of the desk. They saluted me shouting “Yes, General Jon”. One even handed me his pistol, but this offer was quickly declined.

Regardless of that envy, I quickly turned and walked away. Over the past few weeks, Aukje and I had encountered many of these police and their ‘tourist-manner’. Our experience had taught us that the best strategy to avoid their extra hassle and long waits was to smile, answer their questions correctly, await the green light and get out of there. Just as my back was turning around the corner, I heard a deep voice call out from the room, “COME!” I stopped and wondered if they had meant... me? “Come!” the voice said again and the only words I could say to myself were “Uh-oh... what have I done?” Sheepishly, I turned the corner and reluctantly entered the room. The gentlemen looked at me and naturally got the formal question “Where are you from?” out of the way. I calmly answered New Zealand and waited to see what would come next. I observed that the man behind the desk was writing in a logbook. He seemed to be making note of how many people had entered the area and from where. I peered over and asked how many people had entered St. Katherine’s monastery that day. He had a hard time understanding my question at first, but after a few mimed attempts and smiles he shocked me with the answer of more than 2000 people through the gate that day!

What a wonderful moment! The three officers bent over in pain from their fits of laughter. I started banging my finger on the book ordering “Passport! Give me passport! Where you from?” It was fantastic to see the human side of this initially stern group of officers and share a joke. After they all photographed me with their mobile phones, I took off the beret and went back out into the cold. This time I had a ‘be true’ feeling buzzing throughout my body to keep me warm. * Tourism Police monitor visitors and provide valuable safety for them.

“In training: the next generation to come through.” Photo: Earle

‘Ordinary People - Aukje The Middle East... A geographical plot of land with a rich history and a diversity of cultures packed within it. It is quite sad that as westerners our main exposure to this area is restricted to sensational news in our televisions shows and newspapers restricted to television and the daily news We miss out on truly understanding the day-to-day life in this region. After nine weeks spent in this area, travelling from Egypt to Syria, I can’t call myself an expert in Middle Eastern culture, but I can, with certainty, say that we, in the west, should not be referring to these countries and cultures as one united ‘Arab world’. Yes, the majority of people are Muslim, and yes, they speak Arabic, and tend to eat falafel along with kebabs and flatbread. But, for every one of their commonalities you can find an equal number of distinct differences. Most people who have never set foot on Middle Eastern ground tend to think of this region as one big battleground. We hear the name ‘Lebanon’ and follow it with the word ‘War!’ Hear ‘Syria’ and reply, ‘Axis of evil!’ The truth is quite different. In reality, the political situations in many of these countries are subject to change. The situations differ from region to region, city to city and, sometimes, even village to village. While cycling and exploring, Jon and I have seen bombed houses in Israel and designer jeans on village boys in Lebanon. There have been heavily veiled women in Egypt and plainclothed working men in Syria. Life for the majority of the population in the Middle East is just like life for the majority of people in the western world. We all stumble out of bed in the morning to brush our teeth, go to work or school, enjoy conversations with our local grocer, have a family meal, watch TV, and go to bed. Ordinary people. Sure, maybe their political views are different, their culture is, their ideas are… but still... ordinary people. I was struck most by a TV program that happened to catch my eye through the window of a café in Sinai. Remember the group of popular musical artists called U.S.A. for Africa

working together to raise money for a good cause with the song “We are the World” in 1985? Well, here was the Middle East’s compliment to such a song, playing on an Arabic channel. Singers from Jordan all the way to Iran had joined together and recorded this song to protest violence, and specifically, the recent fighting between Israel and the Palestinian territories. The footage they displayed was intense. In between the mixed segments of famous musicians were scenes of crying babies, mothers, grandfathers, injured and dead men, guns and mortars, but also a plane crashing into the Twin Towers and abuse in the Abu Graib jail. It seemed like footage from every Arab-related conflict during the past 10 years. The people sitting in this cafe, tourists and Egyptians alike, were staring at the screen. I was once reminded that it doesn’t matter if you are an American or an Arab, it is difficult to avert your eyes from so much cruelty, violence and grief. Whether you are Iraqi or British, civilians getting hurt in a conflict that they did not ask for is painful to watch. We are not each other’s enemies, no matter what our governments may say. We are all just ordinary people.

‘An ordinary mum with her baby in Hebron, a conflict zone.’ Photo: Van Gerven

‘Nobody Climbs Alone’ - By Andrew Coffey As I take a final step upwards, the summit rounds over, and everything is now below me. The darkness above is speckled with brilliant stars, and the city down at the foot of these mountains gleams in shimmering orange and red. It occurs to me, I am alone on this mountaintop, in the silence of the night. It is completely incredible to suddenly hear nothing all around you. The silence is deafening. The mind is drawn outwards into the night seeking some remnant of folks and friends. If you sit still long enough though, the silence stops. The world begins to come alive again. The trees shake their limbs, and the snow falls to the ground with a sifting slide. A cool breeze whistles past your ear, singing off the top of your open water bottle as you replenish. A world filled with wonder, and it barely notices me sitting here having a sip. We are so vain. This mountain stands so strong and proud, mighty and stable, but always shifting, gradually wearing away in small shards, and yet it stays put. We struggle to find ourselves, lost amongst this myriad of mental arithmetic, social algorithms, and sexual cynicism. We surf along, sinking as we swim. We seek refuge wherever safety seems to send us, and so, we miss some spectacular scenery. If you take the less worn trail, where safety is uncertain, we see so much more. And, if we survive, we sail on to surer shores – but only to cast off again into the unknown.

So we learn not to get too excited, not to skip steps, and we keep strong in spirit, and laugh along with the mountains and the molehills. We are all one, chuckling together, and my steps quicken with our soul’s rising song. Without noticing, we step forward, and suddenly, we are on top of the world. It is here that I find myself finally. And along comes the answer to my question. We might not all climb mountains; but we all push forward until we can push no longer, and we are nothing if we do not strain, struggle, and persevere - the sedentary life is stagnant and solitary. If we strive, we find solace, sensitivity and companionship. We find ourselves, and what we all share. In silence, these mountains speak to me. Softly, we must tread these slopes, so we may keep strong in spirit, sound in judgment, and safe in uncertainty. With the clouds above, and the world below, we keep ourselves in true perspective. While our time is brief upon this earth, we climb our mountains in search of authenticity; and along the way, lend your hand without reservation, because nobody climbs alone.

Next time, the mission is different. I have a question for the mountain on this occasion. And so, I climb. One foot in front of the other, that’s how you do it. Occasionally, I must use my hand for balance, but the going is good, and I make quick work of the first peak. Onwards and upwards as always, there are two more to go, and the same on the way back. I will hold my tongue until the true top, but my legs begin to tire, and my breathing becomes laboured, so at the second summit, I rest and recall my purpose. Many mountains like to fool you. You see the top, clearly it stands just over the next rise, and so you rush ahead, in anticipation. Your heart skips a beat as you reach the crest, and a new summit looms majestic in front of you – nature’s funniest joke. Smiling again, you pick yourself up, and one foot in front of the other, push on.

Photo: Amanda Gomm

‘How to Live Without a Fridge ’ - By Andrea Peloso I first lived without a fridge as a student in Paris. Because of the abundance of local markets and bakeries, I hardly even noticed its absence. Years later, back in Canada and feeling that life had become too complicated, I thought unplugging my fridge might be a simple way out. Running such a huge machine, larger than a coffin, just for myself and my two-fistsized stomach suddenly seemed more bizarre than convenient. I have now been living without a fridge for two years. If you want to live without a fridge, all you have to do is unplug. Your fridge can be immediately converted into a storage unit right where it is. The lower portion can create space for your cupboard by holding canned and dried food, herbs, teas and spices. The upper portion makes a practical cupboard or can be filled with snow or ice and used as a cooler. With the hum of the fridge’s motor finally still, you will be amazed at the peace and quiet you bring to your home.

The summer months can be a sweet time to go fridge-free. Local produce is so fresh and plentiful that it will last longer than food shipped from abroad. Eating locally in the age of peak oil is best for farmer, earth, and consumer alike. Fresh berries, corn and small cucumbers can all be canned for a great yearround supply of local produce with no freezing needed. Using ingenuity rather than energy adds a kind of adventure to everyday life that we seldom get to experience anymore. In giving up my fridge, I have gained a greater sense of connection to the ingenuity of my ancestors. I have a peacefulsounding home, a low electricity bill, and a deeper sense of harmony with the changing seasons.

Most foods can last for a considerable time without a fridge. Cups of herbs or greens in water are a cheerful but constant reminder of the passage of time. Root vegetables, onions, peppers, and zucchini stay true. Eggs last for weeks. Somehow I had equated the existence of my fridge with the natural life of my food, but really, the fridge is a steroid - it can keep food fresh for a very long time, but why not just eat the food in a somewhat shorter time? I’m vegetarian, but dairy and meat are both to be treated with care. Use milk and meat the day you buy it and try to keep it cool. Cheese and dairy lasts overnight in a Ziploc bag in cool water. In winter, these will be fine either in your garage or mud room, or in coolers that you fill with snow. One of the biggest drawbacks of not having a fridge can be summed up by my friend Albert’s question: “But what about ice cream?” Indeed, what about ice cream or a cold beer? Albert’s solution was to use his non-heated mud room in winter and a very small fridge for the summer. This can also be a great option - either reducing the size of your fridge, or choosing to unplug during certain seasons.

Big Chill Pink Fridge

‘A Little Wrinkled’ - By Robin Bond My childhood ambition went from being a brain surgeon, to an archaeologist, to a writer. I had realized early on that I couldn’t stand the sight of blood, and I despised getting dirty. So, I opted for a career where I could change my mind as often as I pleased. I could be dirty, whilst remaining clean, and I could perform brain surgery without any credentials. As we all know, time passes all too quickly and often, we find ourselves lost amongst the memories of a place we once knew. Along with our aging minds and faces, sometimes our dreams become wrinkled and old. We begin to look around at our friends, or our co-workers, or random strangers in the street, and we find ourselves asking, “How did I get here? Is this where I am supposed to be? Did I make the right decisions?” It’s an inevitable part of human nature, the ever-growing feeling of failure, of not being enough, of not having enough. The question is, what is enough, and how can we be sure that we have reached that point? How mature can our laugh lines become before it’s too late to iron out the dreams we have thrown in the closet like dirty laundry? At 16, when most are experiencing the dramas of high school or their first drive in their old-but-new-to-me car, I was changing soiled diapers, and nursing my brand-new baby girl. Thoughts of becoming a writer were still vivid and fresh in my mind. I knew that one day I would accomplish the completion of my novel, and that it would sell like hotcakes. I could then finally say, “I am a writer.” Years passed, high school finished, and it was time to make a choice for college. It wasn’t a question. Journalism was my first choice, and of course it should have been. I was on my way to becoming an established writer and living my dream. You can imagine my disdain when the rejection letter made its way to my mailbox. I fell to the floor in utter shock. This was MY dream, how could they stop me in my tracks and say no when I was so close? I went on to study criminology at a local community college, and work at the Criminal Courts. I continued to write my novel, and scribble poetry on random pieces of paper throughout my home. My dream was still there, but it was slowly fading. During this time, I met and fell in love with my soul mate. At 23, I gave birth to our son, and only 18 months later, we welcomed another beautiful little boy. I was home now, chasing after two toddlers, and helping to ensure my daughter was growing to become a respectful and strong young woman - a woman who would never give up on her dreams.

I finally completed my manuscript, and began to write for a small newspaper. It wasn’t much, but it meant I could be home with my children, and continue to do what I loved. Ten months ago, I became pregnant once again. As my belly began to expand, people began to share their own fears and thoughts on what had become my fourth pregnancy. “Are you nuts?” “Have you lost your mind?” “What about your career?” “How are you going to manage?” Even strangers on the street felt it was their duty to explain how crazy they thought I was, and give me a look of sympathy as they passed. I wondered to myself what they could possibly be talking about. I enjoyed ever second of my hectic life. I woke up and looked forward to baby talk and my messy house. I loved sitting in the park and watching my angels fly through the grass and giggle. I couldn’t imagine my life without my children. Three weeks ago, I gave birth to the completion of my family, another healthy little girl. As I stared into her eyes in the hospital, my life began to flash before me. At home, along with my now torn and tattered manuscript, and my book of meaningless poetry, sat my family. The man I adore, my inspirational ten-year-old daughter, my two rambunctious toddler boys, and here in my arms my new gift from the Universe … Then, I was asked to write an article for this magazine. Someone who thought I was at least a half-decent writer thought of me for this spot in Newsbeet. My spot. I am not the famous writer I had hoped to become, but I AM a writer. All this time I have been hoping for the career of my dreams. I had neglected to realize I had been living my dream all along. Amongst the craziness, amid the hustle of what has become my life, I am more than what I ever dreamed I could possibly be. Not only am I a writer, but I am a chef, I am a doctor, and I am a psychiatrist. I am a vet, I am a counselor, and I am an artist. So, when you begin to ask yourself how you got where you are, or whether you have achieved what it was you thought you were meant to achieve, take a step back, and actually look at your life. The iron you need is probably not much farther away than the dream you have thrown in the closet. It may even be right there beside it.


WARNING The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, recently issued this bulletin: In light of the rising frequency of human/grizzly bear conflicts, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, and fisher(wo)men to take extra precautions and keep alert of bears while in the field. "We advise outdoor enthusiasts to wear bells on their clothing so as not to startle bears that aren't expecting them. We also advise outdoor enthusiasts to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear. It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoor enthusiasts should recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear manure: Black bear manure is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear manure has little bells in it and smells like pepper.� mustsharejokes

Next Issue ... June

Photo: Van Gerven, Syrian men during the “Day of Ashura” in Damascus

“"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

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Newsbeet Issue 5 Middle East  
Newsbeet Issue 5 Middle East  

Featuring: 'Nobody Climbs Alone' by Andrew Coffey; 'How to live without a fridge' by Andrea Peloso; 'A Little Wrinkled' by Robin Bond