Iftar kitchen with Moroccan Youth UK

One person who has been breaking his fast with Moroccan Youth UK since the beginning of Ramadan is this wonderful man below. Every evening he leaves by praying that God rewards all those who have supported the Iftar kitchen and hopes that they find their reward on the day when it matters most. This project has only been made possible due to people’s support and care for one another. I have seen countless people donate their money, food, time and effort towards the service of others. Young people have volunteered every single night of this month to prepare and serve food, choosing to celebrate wonderful occasions like passing their A-levels volunteering than at home with friends and family. Women sit for 5 hours cooking food for the night- hunched over bowls of soup and kneading dough. Young children put chairs away and clean for up to 2 hours after iftar to get the centre ready for the next day. People knock on the door and leave behind food.

There is a Hadith whereby the Prophet’s wife Aisha once gave items to charity and she told the Prophet she gave away everything but left one date for their household. At this point the Prophet corrected her, saying that in actual fact she had kept everything, and only gave away the one date. The meaning behind this is that all your good work, your charity, your service towards others- it matters. It matters both in helping those in need in this life and it matters in helping you in the hereafter.

Thank you all for your support.

To find out more about the charity, visit http://www.moroccan-youth.co.uk

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Welcome to Hotel California

San Francisco. A week. February 2013.

My first and only exposure to the great US of A was San Francisco, and wasn’t I glad I chose such a place to go. The weather is beautiful, the people are friendly and the place is vibrant, warm and buzzing all at the same time.

Things seemed to take a turn for the worst before I even got there however. My friend and I researched a couple of hotels, chose one and I asked my friend to go ahead and book. Turned out, the hotel was a chain and the one she booked was located in the Tenderloin. We didn’t quite understand the significance of this until we got to the top of the road marked Tenderloin and saw a large number of shady characters dotted across the entire street, as if a video game and the aim was to dodge the obstructions. When locals asked us where we were staying and we replied ‘the tenderloin’, their responses were thus ‘ah the ol TL eh’ and ‘the tenderloin? ok so what you need to do is you look em in the eye, and you say no!’. Suffice to say, we spent the week either getting cab rides back to the hotel when we were out late or looking left and right and then literally legging it down the street till we reached our hotel. This hotel was also our first experience of completely bypassing free breakfast. When we were told that breakfast gets set up in the reception area by way of paper lunchboxes filled with a milk carton, an apple and a pastry, we decided to hit up the local bagel places instead.

If you come to the US, you are there for a number of reasons- but eating is definitely one of them. Strangely we didn’t make it to an in-and-out (I know!) but ate a plenty of sourdough bread, clam chowder, bagels and pancakes. Our first night involved a short and jetlagged trip to Chipotle where we attempted to eat burritos bigger than our heads and due to the weight,  meant we were like animals to a trough- bringing our heads down to the basket (a basket, not a plate!) to eat. I also feel I need to mention the Honey Dijon Mustard Crisps, because I couldn’t get enough of that sweet and sour mix.

Thankfully the dodgy hotel experience only added to the adventure. This is some of what we got up to the week we had in San Fran.

Mission district and Balmy alley

This area is absolutely worth a visit due to the incredible Murials and wall art – amazing political and social statements made and some were very moving. There was one piece of work relating to Travyon Martin and you could definitely feel the raw emotion portrayed from the drawing. The area has a big hispanic community and a lot of the murials in spanish, related to ‘home’ and had spiritual undertones.

Cable car-ing it to places

We cable car-ed it up to Lombard street (the Whirly road) and walked around the area to get to Coit Tower. Though San Francisco is incredibly hilly, and many a break is recommended, the neighbourhoods are so picturesque to just walk around.

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I also highly rate the metro ‘BART’ system as it is excellent and easy to use. For the most part we just used this or the cable cars to get around (definitely go on the cable car at least for novelty!). You can also walk a lot in San Francisco but as mentioned, there are hills, and plenty of them.

Fisherman’s Wharf

We didn’t get to Alcatraz but you can spot the island from the pier. Pier 39 also has some sea lions, but not sure what the fuss was about really. However, fuss is completely agreed on the seafood front by the pier- eat, eat, eat!

We found ourselves making our way to this area on more than one occasion. One time was to visit the Ferry Building Marketplace which then turned into an evening walk across the whole pier singing the Spice Girls and other songs about girl power. Another time, we found ourselves by the Ferry Bulding where a planned Valentines Day Pillow Fight was about to commence. Initially excited, we very nearly considered the option of purchasing a pillow off some opportunists and joining in the fun. However, this idea lost weight as soon as we saw a man approach the gathering holding on to a very soiled looking pillow. We watched for a short while as people began hitting strangers with their pillows- in silence might I add. We disappeared soon after.

Green parks

San Francisco’s parks are beautiful with lovely views of the city such as Golden Gate Park and Buena Vista Park. The area around Buena Vista reminded me a bit of Camden (for my London readers!). We also walked around the neighbourhood in Ashbury- clearly one of the poshest ends in San Francisco!

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Biking through the Golden Gate Bridge

One incredible experience was biking through the Golden Gate Bridge from Embacadero and through to Saulsalito- a very quaint small town on the other end of the bridge. We spent a couple of hours in the town, ate pizza and then took a short ferry ride back to San Francisco .

College campuses 

At the time, we were still (kind of) recent graduates fresh out of the university scene and curious to visit other campuses. We visited Berkeley and Stanford (Palo Alto)- both really relaxing afternoons and a nice train ride away from the city.

Yosemite

This is at least a full day trip and definitely worth the time to see. The mountains and scenery were mind-blowing and one of my absolutely favourite nature highlights thus far. A bunch of tour companies operate day trips so worth researching the most convenient one for you.

So does San Fran live up to its lovely weather, lovely people, lovely food, lovely scene stereotype? Yes, absolutely yes.

*All photos in this post taken by my travelling buddy Sana Badri- photo credit due to her and her handy camera 😉

 

Just write

I am taking part in the #photo365 challenge on instagram in a bid to try and consciously reflect on my day. I really hope to think about what and why I post certain photos and what it means (there will always be the odd day-I’ll call them my cheat days).

Below is my day 10 (today). Here is to writing more, both for people and for ourselves.

Not so much a resolution but a call to change, I have an ongoing goal to just write more. Granted, this goal started a couple of years ago, and I have continually faltered. I only really enjoy reflective writing or writing with a ‘purpose’, I don’t much enjoy writing about things that are of no interest to me, for instance. This presents a number of pressures and often, I decide I’ll leave it for another day.
Recently in conversation with a friend, I asked her why she doesn’t write online anymore, her response? ‘I still write, but I now write for me’. Woah. I always saw writing as a form of expression, a voice, a chance to feel present, to connect with others. I forgot about the most important thing; writing is always for an audience and allows for a voice to be heard, but the most important audience to hear that voice, is yourself.
So pick up the pen, make as many scribbles, spelling mistakes, inarticulate ramblings and not yet thought out de constructed thoughts and see yourself, only yourself.

Good company

I (re) learnt something important. Friends are not individuals you love and cherish because they share the same interests as you, the same faith or even the same aspirations. You are inclined towards them because they understand your values, respect your hopes and dreams (and the inconsistency with which it might change), know the importance that something may play in your life and support you towards it, especially when you falter.

I have a beautiful ornament at home that a friend gifted me with from at least 7 years ago. It is a jewellery holder in the form of two hands together with palms facing  upwards, similar to how hands look while in Muslim prayer. I cherish this gift, not only because it is both practical and lovely, but also because my friend (who does not share my faith) brought it because it reminded her of the Muslim form of prayer and she thought I too would like it because of that.

Another instance is more recent, of recent travels with another school friend. Muslims who are practicing, pray 5 times a day and while travelling, I sometimes found it difficult to make some of my prayers on time. After a while, my friend questioned me on my ill timing, and with every excuse I gave, she found a rebuttal for it. From that day onwards while travelling, her words inspired me to persevere harder to make my prayers on time.

These experiences, alongside others make me think of the importance of good company and companionship. Each person in a friendship is able to remain true to themselves, feel comfortable around one another, and support the other in living a meaningful and wholesome life that is right for them, as well as holding them to account when they fall short of living out their own values.

Jeju Island- the hunt for oranges and abalone porridge

Jeju Island is a £25 single plane journey from Busan (or Seoul) and a feast for the eyes for those who want natural landscapes and greenery. I also wish to recommend a family run hotel (this is absolutely not sponsored)- Hotel Haru. The family who run the hotel were so accommodating and kind, and offered us a ride back to the airport. When my friend got bitten by a mosquito outside, they were quick to bring out a miracle roll -on that relieved the spot. The hotel is situated in the centre of town and I would recommend checking them out.

You need a car in Jeju. The island is large, and the only way you can travel to different sites is by car or bus. There is no metro and sites are not near enough to each other for you to cycle or walk around. What I would recommend is taking the bus where you can, then checking out what you want to see in Jeju and hiring a private taxi for the day to take you round. Please note, however that day tours will only do a section of the Island (North, South, East or West) so either take a number of tours or choose what you would prefer to see. We chose a South Island tour when we took a taxi which the Hotel recommended. Another tip, is that you can hire either English speaking or Korean speaking drivers with English speaking being more expensive. We went ahead with a Korean speaking driver and it was absolutely fine. Universal smiles, finger pointing on maps and hand gestures need no translation.

As part of the tour (10.00-18.00), we visited:

Cheonjiyeon Waterfall and Seonim Bridge.

There are three waterfalls, each requiring significant effort to get to. The view once there were spectacular. The Bridge is also well known due to the nymphs carved on either side.

Jeongbang waterfall

Next stop was another waterfall where the water flows straight into the ocean. There is a 23 metre drop and the view is magnificent.

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Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff

These cliffs were spectacular, and against the deep blue sea, the view was stunning.

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Soesokkak estuary 

After a spot of Abalone porridge for lunch (delicious and definitely a must eat), it was on to the estuary. I was keen to jump on a see through kayak and paddle through the water, but alas a long waiting list meant we had a quick look around instead, watched others on the boat and moved on to the next spot.

Jeju folk vilage

The final spot we requested to visit as part of the tour was the folk village, which in hindsight I would have liked to spend more time in. The village details rural Korean life as well as showcases ancient traditions and customs. You could easily spend a long afternoon wandering around.

Apart from the sites from the private tour, we also visited:

Manjanggul cave

These lava caves contain one of Earth’s largest lava tubes and it was simply mind-blowing to walk through it all. The cave went on for ages, to a point where we had to return back to base as we couldn’t tell how long it would take to continue to the end.

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Parks 

Hiking up Mount Hallasan was wonderful. Granted, we only attempted the shortest and least steep hike path, it was a joy to be amidst nature and the view at the top was fantastic. There are a number of hiking paths you can take depending on fitness ability and willingness, taking between 1 hour to 6 hours.

We also visited Halim Park. While it was nice to walk around the reptile house, bird house, insect house and cactus house, the scene wasn’t really for me. I much prefer being in the actual outdoors!

Beaches 

I fell in love with Hamdeok Beach. The sand was pristine and the ocean colour was almost transparent. We arrived around sunset and the moment was just breath taking.

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Hyeopjae Beach is more ‘famous’ than Hamdeok Beach but I can’t really say why. The beach was more crowded, the ocean wasn’t as alluring and I much preferred Hamdeok as a result. There are plenty of beaches for you to take your pick from so do have a look out and do your research. Our short stay meant we could only pick so many places to visit.

And that concludes the end of my 3 day stay in Jeju and this Korea series. Along with Seoul, I would 100% recommend this Island and a longer stay than 3 days. The only thing to bear in mind is that you definitely require transport to get around and that sadly Jeju oranges are only in season from November.

Other posts in the series:

Korea-general thoughts

Seoul Searching

Fishcakes in Busan and Gyeongju