The currency of trust

27 10 2015

Who do you trust? Only your closest family and friends? Everyone until they do something to lose your trust? Our elected politicians?

I’m usually the type of person who trusts almost anyone, unless there’s a good reason not to. In addition to being an idealist, I attribute this mindset to refusing to live in fear…and rarely watching the television news. I worked at a bakery where we regularly gave people IOUs and allowed people to send payment in the mail, and they did (usually along with a thank you card). I attended a small university where we’d leave our laptops in the library when we went to the cafeteria for dinner. My undergrad research suggests that I’m in the minority.

In 1960, 58% of Americans agreed that most people can be trusted, but by 1993, this proportion declined by a third to 37% (Putnam, 1995). Social trust is considered one of the four dimensions of the broader study of “social capital,” along with informal social ties, formal social ties and norms of collective action (Liu and Besser, 2003). Social capital encompasses the features of social organisation that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit (Putnam, 1995). While social capital contributes to safer, healthier, more civically engaged communities, Putnam argues that it is on its decline. One of his explanations is greater mobility, or the “re-potting hypothesis” meaning that if we disrupt our roots, it also disrupts our acquisition of social capital; when you move, you basically start at zero.

In the past 10 months, I’ve been moving around quite a lot, so I could only expect my trust bank account would be quite low. When you are a stranger and are surrounded by strangers, and you are taught not to talk to strangers, there is no reason for trust to be pre-existent or for there to be even much potential for it to grow, because this would require talking to strangers. But when trust does emerge, it is a delightful surprise that has enriched my travels.

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Tea and tajine

22 09 2015

As I sit in Marrakech on my last day in Morocco, too hot to move anything more than my hands, I’m thinking about my last 6 weeks in this crazy country. I think it has been the most “different” place I have traveled, in comparison to the culture I grew up in. As a solo Caucasian female (three characteristics that make me stick out in the crowd), my travels have been far from easy and have required constant diligence. But with this experience, I leave Morocco tomorrow with much more than the 10 kg carry on that will be on my back – figuratively and also probably literally, but hopefully Ryan Air doesn’t notice the latter.

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What is a dromedary anyway?

2 09 2015

I arrived in Fes, Morocco about three weeks ago. Dropped into what one guidebook described as an “assault on the senses” – brightly coloured textiles, ceramics and leather wares, often indistinguishable food smells, sometimes the smell of urine from the tanneries, horns honking and people yelling in an indiscernible language, or worse, calling out to you in hopes of luring you into their shop. At first glance, it looks dirty and chaotic. My stomach remained unsettled for the first week, and three weeks later, it still gets unsettled from time to time, like today. Fes, in particular, is notorious for its confusing, disorientating medina – the old city which consists of a network of narrow, winding streets and alleyways. The culture shock arrived in full force, then gradually dissipated as I eased into the discomfort of this unfamiliar place and way of life. In Fes, I enjoyed having my skin being scrubbed like a dirty floor in a public hammam, learning about leather tanning with a visit to the tanneries, getting lost in the medina, learning to eat Moroccan style – with my hands, learning how to properly brew a pot of mint tea and cook couscous, and enjoying panoramic views of the city from the Merenid Tombs.

Mohammed helped us navigate the countless medina streets. Here is a local uses donkeys to transport goods - a familiar sight.

Mohammed helped us navigate the countless medina streets. Here is a local uses donkeys to transport goods – a familiar sight.

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