The women of Chicabrava Photo credit: Chicabrava
You are built not to shrink down to less, but to blossom into more. To be more splendid. To be more extraordinary.
To use every moment to fill yourself up. – Oprah Winfrey
A few months ago, I got an email that set in course an experience that would teach me a powerful lesson on overcoming my fears. It was an invitation to attend a press trip to experience and review Chicabrava, an all women’s learn to surf camp in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. I read the email with both the usual excitement I feel when learning about a new opportunity to travel as well as slight apprehension about what I would actually be doing on the trip: Learning to surf.
I consider myself a very adventurous person who has traveled to over 40 countries, many of these trips solo, and has pushed my body and soul to the limit by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking the Himalayas, tandem hang-gliding in New Zealand and diving in the Great Barrier Reef. But surfing? Now that is something I had never tried…
“Moro, moro,” I say in OtjiHimba, smiling into the smooth ochre-covered face of the Himba woman as I shake her hand, gripping her fingers by curling mine in, and shake once more.
She’s beautiful, her dark brown skin glowing red from the grounded ochre stone made into powder, mixed with cow milk fat (the mixture is called otjize) and applied to the entire body for beauty, sun protection and skin health. She’s wearing her hair dreaded in thick clay ochre with it loose at the ends — symbolizing she’s gone through puberty, otherwise she would have two plaits of braided hair styled forward on top of the head, or one if she were a male. There’s a decorative erembe crown crafted from cow and goat leather on top meaning she’s married for at least a year or has a child, as well as decorative beads on her ankles lined with two leather stripes, signifying she has two children. She’s topless, her breasts hanging bare, though on her neck is a large shell necklace meant for beauty and on her waist is a calfskin skirt.
“Where are is your boyfriend?” she asks, with my guide George translating.
“At home,” I say.
Many of us who grew up in Western countries were brought up to believe in a very narrow definition of beauty, and the media pounding us with images of skinny, fair top models with long hair hasn’t helped. But really, what is beauty? The Mursi people help us redefine beauty — a multi-faceted word which can mean different things to different people.
Mursi woman wearing the clay plate she is most famous for in Minisha Village
Determined to grasp the concept a little better, I decided to set out on a journey to the Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia where the Mursi reside to find out more about what beauty means from the women who are most famous for wearing clay plates in their lower lips. It took me a couple of days to reach the Mago National Park — home to their villages. Considering Ethiopia’s very rich historical and cultural heritage and stunning natural landscapes, every second of the trip was worth it.
Natural landscape around Arba Minch
In Arba Minch, I met my driver and local guide, Solomon Gezu Haileameriam – the young and ambitious founder…
I have always been a fan of speaker and author Mallika Chopra
who spoke on our TEDxBerkeley stage in 2013
, an event I co-curate every year. Her most recent book, “Living With Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy,” (gotta love the name)
takes you on a journey of Mallika’s personal path to intention through trials and tribulations in order to get to that life balance she was (and we’re all) striving for. She talks of her own insecurities as a mother, and tips on how to become more focused and present in your life.
She is also the founder of Intent.com
, a website and app focused on personal, social and global wellness, a personal passion of mine. Her goal is to harness the power of social media to connect people from around the world to improve their own lives, their communities and the planet. She is speaking at the Watermark Conference
for women in the Silicon Valley Bay Area, an event I plan to attend this year. This year’s event
has a fabulous line-up of inspiring and thought provoking women (and even a few men), so be sure to…
I love conferences and events solely dedicated to women, especially those where mentorship is part of the value-add, whether that be from listening to inspiring powerful women’s talks throughout the course of the day or networking with women going through similar issues you might be facing at home or at work.
I’m new to learning about the Watermark Conference
for women in the Silicon Valley Bay Area and plan to attend this year. At last year event, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who’s now in the race for the White House, delivered a keynote address to thousands of attendees.
Keynotes this year include Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive
, TV personality, comedian and author Mindy Kaling
, Sama and Laxmi founder Leila Janah
, Soccer Superstar Abby Wambach
and Entrepreneur John Jacobs
. The conference has networking, professional development, inspirational panels and keynotes. More details can be found on their site, including speakers, sessions and bios on the keynotes: https://www.watermarkconferenceforwomen.org
. This year’s event will be held in San Jose on April 21, 2016.
Watermark offers Community & Connection, Info & Inspiration, Motivation & Momentum….
so you can Discover What You Want & Achieve It!
It reminds you of the ocean, perhaps those bands of colour off the coast of Okinawa where the ocean abruptly moves from the transparency of glass to deep and dark blues. Or maybe the snowy cap of Mt. Fuji set against clear skies. The cloth in front of you is a product of indigo dyeing and so it makes sense that your mind would leap to such beautiful, distinctly Japanese sights. You can see the telltale marks of centuries of Japanese craftsmanship. But, if you were to hold it in your hands you would realise it’s more than that. Japanese it may be, but it’s something more now. Tougher, more durable perhaps? The dye is as long lasting as ever but this material might be a bit stronger than average, as Catherine Quinn of Mottainai told me,
“the linen, is really hard-wearing and that is really important to me, the idea that you know it’s not gonna wear away quickly.”
Catherine works out of Conway Mill in Belfast, appropriately it’s an old linen mill, refurbished in 2011 and home to a variety of artists. On its top floor these days, when she isn’t dashing around the rest of
Coming across a herd of goats perched on a tree on your way to work can seem surreal, but not in Morocco. Dotting the semi-desert region in Southern Morocco is the Argan tree, which for centuries has been the source of life for the country’s Berber population. Goats brave their way up the tree’s gnarled and thorny branches to forage for its olive-like fruit, the very crop that nowadays dominates much of Morocco’s rural economy.
Argan oil is the latest fad in the cosmetic world, but Moroccan women have been applying it to their skin and hair long before it appeared on our supermarket shelves. This honey-colored oil with a nutty flavor is yielded from kernels found inside the Argan fruit. Traditionally, it was always produced by the delicate touches of the Berber farmers, however the world-wide demand for the product has forced the manual methods to give way to contemporary mechanical extraction tools. Its popularity also poses a threat to the already endangered tree.
In light of this growing hype about these products, women-run Argan co-operatives in Morocco have been employing sustainable measures to protect the Argan tree and the thousands of women who work in the industry.
Let’s face it — half the beauty of any country is in its people. Vietnam is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The people are genuine, kind and present. They live for today, and hold their communities tight. Vietnam’s in the midst of an exciting and historic time, with one of the fastest growing economies in East Asia and plans to be a developed country by 2020.
As a woman, I take special note of the role women play in societies I visit. After returning from Vietnam earlier this year, it was clear that the women are driving much of this financial change and globalization, but continue to face serious economic and social inequalities themselves.
This woman breaks for a few moments in a small alley to escape the harsh sun and busy streets of Hanoi.
About 60km southwest of Hanoi, a young woman was rowing myself and five other travelers in a rowboat down Yen River to Perfume Pagoda. Motorboats passed us frequently driven by men, while the rowboats keeping our pace were only…
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