2016 Australia and the Far East

Australia and the Far East

It seems crazy that it is now August before I feel able to write my first blog of the year! But then…it has been a somewhat crazy year.

Starting in January with an adventure to Australia and the Far East, I came back with scarcely time to wash clothes, repack and be ready to join the UK Active Citizens Team for an International Study Visit to Morocco.

New Year is not an ideal time to arrive in Bangkok…traffic approaching the Grand Palace region was at a standstill, all traffic lights were permanently on red! The taxi crawled along at a snail’s pace when able. At last I spotted a road name I recalled from a vague mental image of the hostel map, I asked the taxi driver to stop and let me out. With the help of directions from tourists and local people I eventually found my destination… the Baan Dinso Hostel. There were street markets every night until I left…but the hostel…more like a boutique hotel…was situated in a quiet cul de sac.

From the busy bustle and noise of Bangkok, I ventured north to the quieter city of Chiang Mai…travelling on the overnight train. This was an amazing experience in itself…but terminated abruptly in the early hours of the morning. There had been an accident at the next station on the line…so everyone had to leave the train and complete the journey  by bus. The YHA was off the beaten track and in a relatively quiet neighbourhood…apart from the barking of dogs, which took some getting use to.

Memories of Thailand include dragons, temples, tasty street food, elephants and an unexpected stunning interactive contemporary art exhibition.

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Singapore was hot and humid, but with an efficient modern metro system and air conditioned malls, it was an inspiring place to visit. At an exhibition ‘The Future of Us…I found myself caught up in the enthusiasm of its inhabitants planning for a better, brighter, more sustainable future.

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Melbourne is one of my favourite cities on the planet. I always enjoy helping the Vintage Men’s Group with their stall at Midsumma Carnival…a somewhat bigger version of Stoke Pride. Imagine my surprise when this year, the group bestowed on me the status of Honorary Life Membership. Giving a helping hand, is something that comes naturally…it is what I was taught by my parents from a very early age. At the end of my stay in Australia, I went up into the Grampian Mountains to stay at Halls Gap. Amongst the many joys of this hidden gem of a place, the thriving communities of kangaroos right at the back of the hostel provided endless moments of pleasure.

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British Council Active Citizens

The British Council Active Citizens Programme was designed with young people in mind. It was totally appropriate that the UK team for the International Study Visit to Morocco in February should contain a number of older people. Unfortunately, no allowances were made to the demanding schedule whatsoever for us oldies. Nonetheless, we kept up with the fittest and youngest. After visiting Marrakesh and Zagora and meeting such warm friendly people on both sides of the Atlas Mountains, I can honestly recommend this stunningly beautiful country as a destination to explore.

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Who are Active Citizens? They are individuals across the world who want to make a difference in their community. During the week-long course, participants share skills, knowledge and experiences from their local communities. They take part in workshops, community visits and political and civic engagement. Powerful bonds formed between the participants often lead to collaborative social-action plans. Find out more here

Apart from the breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife, what affected me most, was the genuine warmth of the welcome we received in small villages, where a huge effort had been made. People seemed truly grateful that individuals from across the world had come to take an interest and encourage their social actions to improve the lives of local children, women and communities. So many things that we take for granted like water, public transport, equality…are issues that demand the combined efforts of dedicated Active Citizens to achieve. We were impressed by the success of many projects we visited.

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About Maurice Greenham

Musician, writer, student, art lover, global traveller. Gay man living with HIV for over 34 years...and enjoying life in my 70s. Speak Spanish, French and German as well as English. Although German was the language I studied most recently, it is the one with which I have most difficulty. Competent pianist and becoming more competent as an organist. Normally sing tenor in a choir, but can also manage bass parts. Had a successful career in professional theatre which I loved... until it ended with enforced retirement because of an AIDS diagnosis in 1994 when I was given 6 months to live. Before that worked in education as a teacher/lecturer in music and drama.
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