Thursday, December 31, 2015


Sarah and I have been day-tripping to various old stuff from London. Namely, Oxford and Cambridge.

Monday found us exploring the architecture of one of the world's oldest universities alongside Effy. Given the reality of term holidays (from the university) and an observed bank holiday (most folks had Monday off in lieu of the weekend Boxing Day), most things were closed. We did, however, manage to show off some beautiful buildings to Sarah.

 We also frolicked about the botanic gardens, where we found some live mistletoe.

And one thing that wasn't closed was a coffee shop operating on the site of the world's oldest coffee house...its youth dates to 1650!

After a day 'off' on Tuesday in London exploring the British Museum and Winter Wonderland, Wednesday saw us in my favourite of the two unis.

Cambridge never fails to be beautiful. Even in the pouring grey rain.

For this trip, we were abandoned by Effy (who's off in Scotland for Hogmanay) but managed to find Arielle, a Fulbrighter from Morocco who is visiting for the New Year.

Again, much of our day was spent taking in old buildings, narrow lanes, and fabulous turrets.

We met up with a Marshall mate of mine, who very kindly took us inside his own college to see their beautiful courtyards and common rooms. And then just casually, we found Stephen Hawking's office.

We also found gifts from the city bearing Sarah's last name.

 And Arielle rebelled from all this shop nonsense by pretending to be a sloth.

All in all, a rather lovely few days.

And now...we are quickly approaching the end of 2015. Happy New Year, everyone!!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the girls in England! We did, in fact, leave Spain in order to be back with my British family for the holiday. We proceeded to try and be as Christmasy and Londony as possible.

Sarah strolled around the Christmas displays at Harrod's Department Store (not pictured, as I skipped that part of the day in favour of some errands) and then saw the holiday decorations at Covent Garden.

We then set off to do something I have intended for ages and never quite managed before: ice skating at Somerset House. It does not get much more festive than outdoor skating with carols playing in the shadow of a giant, baubled tree!!

Just in case we were lacking lights, we then walked along the Southbank. Sarah had her first mulled wine. And then cruising around Leicester Square, we somehow tripped onto a carousel.

Christmas Day itself was much more calm and people-focused. Opening presents with a five-year-old is a delight. And family dinner is a giant riot when Eamonn cooks his first goose!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I gave Sarah a whopping 36 hours in England before I got her back on a plane. (To be fair, she made the most of it, nipping off to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour and getting the chance to tour Hogwarts in the snow during their 'Fire and Ice' show!)
But off we popped to Barcelona for a few days of warmer weather...and the hilariously fun thing that is Catalonia at Christmas.

Let's talk about a caganer. The caganer in a Nativity scene is shown...umm...defecating. Actively. In the corner of the natavity. The name literally means the 'crapper' (and I'm censoring for language...feel free to imagine a more colourful word for that idea, which is the properly literal translation). A peasant wearing a red barretina and smoking a pipe has his trousers down, his bare backside up in the air, and a pile of poo below him. In modern interpretations, political and social commentary leads artists to include various public figures and ideas.

I truly am not sure what to say. Other than that the sheer diversity of figurines they have now made for tourists...including the Queen, Hello Kitty, and C3PO, is worth at least an hour of entertainment.

And it doesn't even stop there! The poop lives on! Each household's Tió de Nadal is a magical (again, I censor) pooping log. The log is 'fed' for the weeks leading up to Christmas and then is told to...erm...empty its...bowels? (Do logs have bowels?!) It poops out candy for the children.

Effy found no end of amusement from these cultural customs. Especially when she found the song. Here, I am not going to censor. It simply does not have the same ring when I do. So here you are:

Shit, log, 
shit nougats,
hazelnuts and mató cheese,
if you don't shit well,
I'll hit you with a stick,
shit, log!

There are some more familiar sights as well.

But even their holiday lights remind you of the fact that you are in Spain. One must not forget Picasso!

Since you're also on the Christmas sangria? Naturally!

And that, my Christmas in Catalonia.

We did, in fact, do some things other than contemplate festive fecal matter.

We saw la Sagrada Famíia, a Roman Catholic church designed by Antonio Gaudi that honestly has elements reminding me of a fairy princess castle:

I much prefer his Park Güell, which is really quite magical:

Barcelona's own Arc de Triomf, a much redder and slightly smaller but still absolutely gorgeous arch, was also a favourite:

And apparently London's iconic 'Gherkin' skyscraper apparates to southern Spain on a regular basis. The Torre Agbar marks the beginning of Barcelona's tech quarter.

Finally, the whimsical delights of bubbles from street performers never fail to bring a smile.

Today's life lesson from Becca:
Jump for joy.
Reach for beauty.
Celebrate the temporary.
Let your feet leave the ground.
In the air, in the moment, in the splendour, in the exuberance...there you are truly living.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Back in Britain

I have safely returned to London. 

Thoughts immediately upon returning to England:
"Oh. It's raining. Right. It does that here."
I hadn't seen rain in 7 weeks at that point. Turns out I hadn't really missed it. ;)
But it's actually freakishly warm for December here. Absolutely no chance of snow, methinks. Tragedy. 
Bringing a bit of Christmas cheer, though, is my mate Sarah who has just landed at Heathrow from America. She hasn't been to the U.K. in years. We are plotting various British holiday festivities. London's Christmas markets and ice rinks had better watch out!

There is also a certain cinematic event to distract us from thoughts of rainy Christmas. 
The day I landed, I headed straight to campus from Gatwick Airport. One of the Geography Department's research groups was hosting a festival quiz; I arrived late looking rather bedraggled and handed out hugs and presents from Morocco. After a quick trip to the pub (where I had proper British chips and ketchup, and it was oh so good), I snuck away with a mate to see "Star Wars". 


I won't say too much more about it, because you either don't care, have seen it and thus echo my variety of extreme emotions, or are desperate to make it yourself and are thus desirous of spoiler-free zone. 

But. That happened. 

As did a long overdue reunion with a certain young person. Iorwerth and I had a lovely evening Friday night while his mum and dad went to a work Christmas party. 

And finally, the reunion with my oven and vanilla. Baking in Morocco, especially in a kitchen you're just visiting and thus not stocking up, is simply not the same. Ingredients aren't equivalent. I baked, but it was not standard Becca quality. First thing I did upon waking this morning was bake some chocolate chip cookies with which to greet Sarah at the airport. 

And the Tube is pulling into Terminal 4 now, so off I head...happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Paradise Valley

By and large (and contrary to what it probably looks like from my Facebook feed), the majority of my participatory ethnographic fieldwork with Dar Si Hmad has involved working in an office from 9am-8pm every day. I've been helping build their social media presence, update their website, and create curriculum for their Water School.

But. Fieldwork cannot be all work and no play. In the name of science, of course, one has to encounter local recreational options.

Enter Paradise Valley. Waterfalls, small rock pools, and oasis-esque views in the High Atlas Mountains on a section of the Tamraght River. Absolutely gorgeous.

I went last Monday with my housemate Lieze, who had never been, and then again this Sunday with Effy, my cousin who is visiting. We dragged along a bunch of friends from Dar Si Hmad - including one Agadir native who'd never been before!!

The highlight probably included my first ever proper cliff jump. Tragically, I don't think we got any properly amazing pictures...but I have many eyewitnesses prepared to testify to my 10-ish metre fall and flop in the water. Fairly small, but not bad given it was my first time!! And that was the highest ledge I was seeing any of the local boys jumping from, so I consider it a win for the day.

A few scenes of the Valley and my enjoyment of it:

Isn't it just oh-so-ugly here? ;)

Lots of fish friends in the natural rock pools

Team Dar Si Hmad at  Paradise Valley!

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Water School!!!

I realise that my blog has been one big brag about Dar Si Hmad lately...but that's because they're really fantastic and I'm having an incredible time doing fieldwork with them!

My doctoral research is exploring how Dar Si Hmad engages with natural resources to build peace in creative ways, locally and internationally. I am intentionally throwing a wide net with how 'peace', 'peacebuilding' and 'conflict' are considered, wanting to include intercommunity relations and tensions as well as international ones. Through the fog project and its spinoff focus on women's capacity building, Dar Si Hmad is addressing some interesting gender aspects.

One of the organisation's coolest projects combines my favourite things: the environment, water, education, girls' empowerment, and rural communities. Check out Dar Si Hmad's Water School:

The theme of this year's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign focuses on education. I wrote a piece for Dar Si Hmad highlighting how co-education, especially in rural areas with a focus on STEM subjects, helps to break down sexism and encourage young people to engage with each other as equals. See more fabulous photos from the Water School and read about girls and microscopes: