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Sahara Travel Forum Topics specific to North Africa and the Sahara down to the 17th parallel (excludes Morocco)
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  #1  
Old 27 Jan 2004
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Donnez moi un stylo

I don't know if this has been discussed before or even if it's the right forum for this, but I feel the need to vent.
Let me explain; I've just finished three months crossing Morocco by bicycle, overall an overwhelmingly positive experience.
However, it seems that many years ago some philanthropic travelling type decided it would be a great idea to hand out pens to children, presumably motivated by the impression that it would help their education. This has caught on so much that in many areas of Morocco the standard greeting by a child to any foreigner is 'Moosoo, donnez-moi un stylo', with occasional variants on the theme; 'donnez-moi un bonbon', 'donnez-moi un dirham', to the no-nonsense 'donnez-moi quelque chose' (give me something)!
Cyclists are peculiarly vulnerable to the consequences of this. We move slowly and are completely exposed; when surrounded by a crown of expectant kids we can't just wind up the windows and move on. And obviously we can't be carrying bulk packs of pens to hand out.
It's usually not difficult to deal with, usually, but takes a few minutes of explaining that no, you don't have any stylos or sweets or money to give them and no, they can't have your spare tyre or water bottle or pump. But it becomes grinding to have to pass through village after village just to run the gauntlet of dozens of children chasing you demanding things. And it's heartbreaking to see an eight year old, sometimes with a 2 year old strapped to her back, spotting you from a distance and doing the hundred yard dash from her home to the road, just to greet you with the inevitable outstretched hand and demand for a stylo. And in extreme cases frustrated expectations can lead to stone throwing.
I have the impression of well meaning but misguided overlanders doling out pens and sweets from the back of their 4 by 4's, like some berserk Santa Claus; apparently the Paris-Dakar crowd are especially guilty of this.
Now consider what your opinion would be of strangers coming to your neighbourhood and, however innocently, handing out pens, sweets and money to your own children. There is, I think, a passage in 'Sahara Overland' that recommends giving pens as a reward for taking pictures of children. Sorry, no. Apart from the dodgy ethics and double standards (again what would you think of the same behaviour in your own country?), this simply makes many places no-go areas for photography.
Really people, you're not helping, at least not in the way you imagine - what do you think happens to all the pens doled out? Here's a clue - the resale value of a Bic ball-point is 50 centimes.
If you truly want to help then there's no short cut - get involved. Go to the local schools, talk to the teachers and ask them how you can help; the one's I've met haven't, for instance, complained of any lack of pens. Even better, ask permission to address a class, explain to the children what you're doing, talk about your country, show them that tourists are more than pen and sweet dispensers. If you don't have the time then spend a bit of money and satisfy yourself that you're helping the local economy. But please, leave the pens at home and stop turning the nation's children into beggars.

Tom Platts-Mills
Nouadhibou, Mauritania
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  #2  
Old 27 Jan 2004
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I couldn't agree more! We too have been on the recieving end of stones because of other travellers senceless giving away of pens, candy and even balloons!
The whole thing just promotes begging, and makes things worse. It might make things "easy" for the party giving away stuff, but is simply irresponable, and creates nations of beggers who think that the "european" is a wandering moneysack...

Erik D.

www.dunia.no

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  #3  
Old 27 Jan 2004
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I've found that a good plan when faced with the ubiquitous request for a stylo/cadeau/bon bon etc is to say you don't have anything (easy if youre on a cycle or m/c) and then ask them to give you a stylo/cadeau/bon bon. They usually find this quite funny and always give up on you as a lost cause!

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  #4  
Old 27 Jan 2004
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I agree too !
Morocco is the worst country of North Africa about this point and it's sure that tourism ( and tourists ) is the most important reason about it .
But what we can do now , except boycott Morocco?
It is often impossible to explain to these kids that givin' nothin is the best attitude for them .
I think the only solution is in hands of authorities of this country : It was the same situation in Marrakech 10 years ago : impossible to visit the town due to "guides" and so on .
Now the police has done some action and you can visit Marrakech by yourself but I'm not sure that this action is the best one for the population of Marrakech ....
RR.
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  #5  
Old 27 Jan 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by andybee:
I've found that a good plan when faced with the ubiquitous request for a stylo/cadeau/bon bon etc is to say you don't have anything (easy if youre on a cycle or m/c) and then ask them to give you a stylo/cadeau/bon bon. They usually find this quite funny and always give up on you as a lost cause!

A good phrase to know is 'Walloo out-ha', which apparently means 'I've got nothing to give you'. If nothing else it gets the children laughing at your ham-fisted attempts at Berber.
And yes, once you get through the 'Give me...', 'No....' formalities, Moroccan children are as funny as kids anywhere.

Tom Platts-Mills
Nouadhibou, Mauritania

www.popadd.com/tomthepom

[This message has been edited by tomthepom (edited 27 January 2004).]
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  #6  
Old 29 Jan 2004
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A few years ago, when arriving with the convoy from Morroco into Nouadhibou I watched a fat European stand on the steps of his truck and throw hundreds of pens, baloons, small toys and sweets into the street. The resulting bedlam was horrifying to behold - dozens of screaming, fighting, children all but killing each other to grab the goods. I have travelled extensively in Africa and rarely seen a more disgusting and degrading illustration of BAD tourism. Had I had a gun in my hand at that moment ....
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  #7  
Old 30 Jan 2004
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I enjoyed reading that lot and totally agree. the worst I've ever had was 10 days in Ethiopia. one time, I stopped in the middle of nowhere and by the time I'd removed my helmet, I had a baby shoved in my face and the family crowded around the front of the bike insisting (not asking) that I feed them. so, being a gent, I rode off without swearing at their belligerence.

earlier in my trip, I had been verbally attacked by a white, Zimbabwean farmer who was screaming at me to stop European food aid. he insisted that we'd create "a nation of beggars like Ethiopia", he said. "you ####ing Europeans think you know best and have to interfere, but you're just ####ing up Africa". stunned, I rode on and later saw the wisdom of his words.

beautiful countries. both of them.

"just say no"
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  #8  
Old 30 Jan 2004
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Last new year we spent hiking through the High Atlas, crossing it from North to South via Jbel Toubkal.
It was my thirth time in Marocco and the begging seems to be getting worse.

I also notices that it occures the most along touristy routes / tracks / pistes. Guess why...
The further your of the beaten track the less you'll come across kids asking for 'stylo', 'dirham',...

Tourisme is keeping these kids out school. Wich is about the worst you can do for a country. It is one of the worst cases of irresponsable tourisme as far as I know. The more this happens, the more the kids will keep begging and stay out of school. It is a lucrative way of income since for them, and not many people seem to realise this, since most of the time they sell the stuff they get.


Still is a great country, it won't keep me from going there.


The remarks about Marrakesh are true. Three years ago the Souks in Marrakesh were an adventure to go into. This time around you can actually walk through them without being pulled into a shop or so.


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  #9  
Old 30 Jan 2004
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I agree totally with this thread,
most of the begging children only sell the stuff, why go to school or farm all day long like your dad when you can beg for easy rewards,

after the last stage of this years Dakar at the pink lake we followed a French Renault back-up truck back to Dakar centre,all the way through the small lanes that where very busy, they threw endless goods from the window, pens, notepads , calendars, tee-shirts and more the fights and mayhem that followed the truck was like the wake on a boat, we had loads of problem avoiding small children frantically running towards 24 tonne trucks, not something I would like for my children.

it seams cruel not to give to small helpless looking children, but it doesn't help them when they are grown up or thier country either.

BD
team la de da de dakar

we built a drinking well at the Kunti Kinti upper school in the Gambia and addressed all the children about working hard for a better education, the Gambian children returned this with very polite and intelligent conversation, very rewaring I must say.
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  #10  
Old 6 Feb 2004
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It is a real shame, and Dakar crews are possibly the worst culprits from what I have seen (having been on the Dakar this year).
The unfortunate thing is that with the Dakar travelling so fast, and crews filled to the roof with things (mainly food) that they either don't need or actively want to offload - the easiest way to avoid the hassle they are inevitably actually creating is to distribute the junk.
Trucks are often worst because they are high enough to avoid the mobs of hands coming through the windows, but all are effected by the inevitability of the traffic following nearly the same route.
Our vehicle this year had as much damage from stones thrown when we did not stop as it did from the actual event - the scars have to be seen to be beleived - but then the wreckless attitude of the Dakar route (despite the efforts of organisers) is perhaps another topic...
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  #11  
Old 10 Feb 2004
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After all..a surely better method to help was used by my friends in Tunisia & Algeria ; pens and paper went to the local schools...
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  #12  
Old 17 Feb 2004
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I do absolute agree on the proletarian behaviour' of the 'dakar crews', it is really a serious problem, and it is really terrible, the effect on even 'lower levels of consciousness' is great, I was sitting in the local restaurant in the middle of main street- Tozeur/Tunesia, while Italian 4x4's hit that street with 70 km per hour, Italian flags where put out of the cars if it were a football game, it was absolute terrible, it was really really terrible..., everybody thought the same thing at the same time, this is not okee, 'we' have to do something about this.
What do you think ?
Tim
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  #13  
Old 11 Apr 2004
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Todays begging kids are tomorrows border guards / police trying to screw you for obscene amounts of money.

I wouldn't believe that people could be so stupid and narrowminded as those who indulge in this kind of thing if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes and then heard them try to justify it.
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  #14  
Old 13 Apr 2004
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Whilst I find it as annoying as anybody, I'm not sure how often the 'cadeaux' demanded are 'obscene'. It's always good to keep in mind the relative value to them and us of the USD50 - or whatever.

It doesn't justify it, but it helps to keep things in proportion.

Your taxes at home don't pay his wages - you pay the official at Dover (amongst others!) at the end of each and every month.

Sam.
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  #15  
Old 25 Apr 2004
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I would certainly regard 200 euros per vehicle as obcene, which is the amount some border guards have demanded. Likewise Guides on the Atlantic route are now demanding 15o-250 euros per group for 2 days work. I don't know what that relates to in local terms but I suspect it is several months average pay. On the subject of relative value your absolutely right. A small amount to us is a large amount to the locals, and there lies another problem. If not even that many people give out what seems like relatively small amounts of money you can cause significant distortion of local economies. Also why go to work (and produce actual wealth for the economy)when you can earn more by begging?
I have no real objection to rewarding such things as help or assistance (although it was noticably lacking from the Morrocan who nearly wrecked my vehicle when I gave him a tow) but rewarding begging is wrong by virtually any argument I can think of.
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