Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

Just in time for the next arrival – Barbie finally getting real about body image

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Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.51.24 pm

Mark’s son will shortly be entering fatherhood for the first time!   Very exciting times, and we wish them all the very best with their birth of their little one.   To celebrate, I thought I’d give a wee update on Mattel and their recent move to make Barbie more “realistic”.   I really love the fact that Mattel finally succumbed to consumer pressure to introduce more realistic body shapes into their line.   It has only taken them 57 years, but power to the people!   Wonderful to see consumers voting with their wallets, and equally good to see businesses savvy enough to realise what will keep the dollars coming into the door – give the consumers what they have been asking for!

Finally, the Fashionista’s line for 2016 includes different skin tones, body types, eye colours and hair styles.   Wow.  Imagine that!  Dolls that start to look a little bit more like the wonderful wide world out there!   Go figure!  Nice to see some options that aren’t blonde haired and blue eyed.  NOT that there’s anything wrong with being blonde haired and blue eyed!  Someone has to be in the minority!  ha ha ha.

We have no idea if the newest arrival is going to be a girl, or a boy, and their gender will not matter at all, if s/he wants to play with a Barbie doll.   But if we ever do give the new addition a doll, it will be a great feeling to be able to get one that maybe even looks a little bit like the child!   How cool is that!



Written by Mar(k)

February 12, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Barbie and Body Image

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Dolls should come in all shapes and sizes.  L to R:  Traditional Indian Hindi doll, Filipino "Imelda" doll, Ghanaian beauty in traditional attire

Dolls should come in all shapes and sizes. L to R: Traditional Indian Hindi doll, Filipino “Imelda” doll, Ghanaian beauty in traditional attire

As Mark now has a granddaughter, we are starting to think about the kind of toys that we might consider buying for the little one as she grows older.  Neither of us are fans of “gender specific” toys generally; and Barbie is a classic one that is strongly related to the whole “pink-ribboned, blonde, blue eyed” experience that we don’t really buy into.  Not that there’s anything wrong with playing with dolls!  (or with blonde hair and blues eyes, for that matter!)  No doubt child psychologists have done the appropriate studies that demonstrate the numerous capacity building activities that imaginative play can bring.  And it may well be that Mark’s granddaughter one day plays with, and enjoys – dolls.   But we will likely NOT be the ones giving her the traditional version.   Our choices come from a variety of places, some of which we thought we’d share here:

1.  The “default” Barbie is unrealistic, and probably doesn’t help young girls in their quest to be “beautiful”.  ALL young girls are beautiful, in all their amazing shapes and sizes, colours, and interests.   In this well written article, one of the concerns raised is that girls as young as five are expressing a desire to be thinner!   What is that all about??!   Not something we want to be encouraging, so no, thanks Mattel, we won’t be buying one of your Barbies anytime soon.

2.  There’s a whole world out there:  Only about 2 percent of the world has blonde hair and blue eyes.  There are a LOT more darker haired, darker skinned people, and there always will be!   We like the idea of having a doll that is more natural looking, and in today’s population, if that doll was to more closely mimic world wide trends, it would certainly have dark hair, dark eyes, and not traslucent skin!   We LOVE the doll that is the highest seller in Nigeria, for example – called the Queen of Africa.  Check it out here. Now THAT’s our kind of doll!   What we like about it mainly, is that it is reflective of the women in that region.  Fabulous.   But also great to have such dolls in places like Australia, where young kids can see that dolls (and people), come in all colours!

3.  What’s wrong with Normal? We don’t really buy into a doll that has a body shape that, statistically speaking, fewer than 1 in 100,000 adult women would have.  But one initiative that we DO like is the new “Normal Barbie”.  We think she looks great, and has average women’s proportions.  She is called the Lammily doll, and she just seems to make more sense.  Call us crazy.

4.  Or for something a little bit different: Finally, we personally don’t have any issues with ANY children playing with dolls.   Girls, boys, whatever.  It’s PLAY.  Imaginative play.  Which is a good thing.  Which is why we also don’t have any issues with this Transgender doll.  We seriously don’t think kids give a brass wazoo about whether their doll has “girl bits”, or “boy bits”.  The idea seems to cause the parents way more grief than the children!   So just on principle, we kinda like it!

Would love to hear about your thoughts on this issue!   (Oh, and for the record – yes – I played with Barbie when I was younger.  And no, I don’t feel overly psychologically damaged from doing so!  But it is nice that times have moved on, and we now have choices.  Choices are a good thing).

Written by Mar(k)

January 23, 2015 at 7:58 pm

What is a Good Life?

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Mar(k) are recently back from a six week trip that saw us immersed in life in Myanmar (Burma) and southern India.  Undoubtedly one of the trip highlights was a two week “study tour” which focused on visiting a number of development initiatives in the Karnataka and Kerala states in southern India.  This trip was facilitated by Community Aid Alliance, which was a forerunner to the Oxfam Australia we know today.  We were really impressed with the quality of projects that we saw;  all being run by locals through small NGO’s.  Also inspiring were the people who have dedicated literally decades of their lives helping others.  It was truly inspiring, and did give us food for thought about what it means to have a “good life”.

These fabulous women were pilgrims to a Hindu temple we visited.  Enjoying the good life!

These fabulous women were pilgrims to a Hindu temple we visited. Enjoying the good life!

So over the next number of posts, we will be focusing on highlighting some of the experiences and stories that we would like to share as a result of our “What is a Good Life” tour.

As we do that, and as many of you would already know – the issues of development are complex.  If there were easy answers, far greater minds than yours or mine, would have already solved the global issues of poverty, sanitation, health, education, etc.   So for today, we would just like to leave you with some food for thought about where our clothing comes from:   more likely than not, from a developing country.  There are no easy answers, and this short video highlights the complexities of the garment industry (particularly in Bangladesh).  Watch the one with Jasmine at the front – it is definitely worthwhile, and we would welcome your comments!

The short video also highlights some more of what we will be discussing this year on our blog;  the concept of minimalism.  The concept of enjoying experiences, rather than mindless consumption.  The joy of a human BEING, rather than a human DOING.  More conscious living, so that we can leave the world just a little bit better than the way we found it.   Who knows?  Maybe this is the way we can find our own “good life”.   Stay tuned!

Written by Mar(k)

February 6, 2014 at 9:41 am

The Joys of Travel – Loving the Unexpected, and laughing at it!

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Hello everyone!   We are finally getting our feet back on the ground after an amazing 4 months away!   We love to travel, and I think one of the surest signs of a great holiday is when you come home, but you could have easily kept going!   Yes, it is great to be in your own bed at night, etc….   but I always feel a bit sorry for people who say, “Oh, it was a great holiday – but probably a bit LONG”  (or something similar).   What constitutes “too long” is obviously different for everyone, but the Shox’s know that this three month round the world trip was a good length of time!

The more we travel the world, the more we realise how little we have actually seen!   But every additional trip brings us a slightly better understanding of how life is for other people who also inhabit this awesome planet.  We love the fact that we get to experience new things, try new foods and appreciate the cultures of others.  And of course, when you travel, things don’t always go according to plan!   That is definitely part of the appeal, I think.   I love how that tests your inner fortitude, and how it can strengthen your relationship with your partner!   Some of our best memories are from things that didn’t quite happen they way they *should* have, but seem quite funny later on!  A great example of that was our final night in the Philippines…..   we were with our dear friend Shirley, her husband Raul and their daughter Leyra.  We had planned a “special treat” at a hot springs resort that wasn’t too far to drive to the airport on our final day.  What we quickly realised when we got there was that it was a resort that catered almost exclusively to the middle class, male businessman from…. Korea!   It was quite surreal.  We had overweight, shirtless men walking past our table, as we silently ate our Korean meal…. who then filed off like ants into the same pool we were heading into.   We coughed our way through their smoke filled haze, but were strangely fascinated by their choice of fashion accessory!    More than half of these guys chose to wear their towel on their head…. but not just DRAPED on their head… oh no!   they somehow rolled and shaped it like a pair of EARPHONES (???) or perhaps Micky Mouse Ears.   It seemed strange to have them marching beside us, enroute to the pool…. but what was even weirder was that they continued to wear these fashion accessories IN the pool!   Wonders will never cease!    ah, all part of the joys of travel!

We aren’t sure if they are Mickey Mouse ears, or stylised headphones…. either way, it was pretty far out to see!

Written by Mar(k)

October 4, 2012 at 12:19 pm

The Importance of the Chieftancy

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dignitaries wait for the arrival of the Vice President at the TENI launch

One of the things that is immediately apparent here is how important the chieftancy structure is to Ghanaian life.  The respect that is accorded to the chief and his sub-chiefs is immense.  When one goes to “communities”, it is customary, respectful and necessary to greet the chief before any business gets done.  One of the ways of showing respect to the chief, at least here in the Northern Region, is to bow slightly, as you can see from this drummer who is kneeling as he drums to show respect.

The drummer at the front is paying his respect to the chief by kneeling or crouching down

At a recent opening of an educational project that VSO is involved in, the Vice President of  Ghana officially launched the TENI project (Tackling Education Needs Inclusively).

the Vice President of Ghana opened the TENI project

It was a great demonstration of the blend of political power through the VP and the traditional respect of the chieftans.

Traditional  Ghanaian dancers were called upon to dance and entertain the masses as we waited for the Vice President to arrive.  In addition, the loud speakers broadcast the “praise singers”,

Praise singers - their job is to literally sing the praises of the chief

who sing the praises of the head chief.  It was very loud, and went on for a long time!   But the respect afforded the chief was also very apparent.

at important events everyone puts on their best outfits -all the men looked great in their smocks

Written by Mar(k)

July 6, 2010 at 10:14 am

The Hairdresser who makes Housecalls…

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Recently Mar enjoyed an at home beauty salon experience. Amelia, who has her hairdressing shop across the road, was quite happy to mak ea house call, as it were. As always, a simple event turned into a bloggable experience!

Amelia arrived with two children in tow – 7 year old Deborah and Deborah’s 9 month old brother. I directed them into the lounge room – the plan being I would sit at the dining room table to be “coiffed”, while the kids played nearby. Having already washed and dried my hair, I was ready for another braiding experience.

I had stepped into the bedroom to grab something, and by the time I got back to the lounge, Amelia was already midway through breastfeeding her youngster! He was a little nervous about his new surroundings, so was fussing a bit. Sister Deborah was sent across the road for a strip of cloth and everyone was happy once the baby was securely strapped onto Amelia’s back.

The braiding of hair required some ambiant music, and of course reggae is the undisputed favorite genre in Africa. So I asked Amelia who her favorite artist was. Predictably, she answered “Lucky Dube”. As a fellow African, he is still #1 over even Bob Marley! So, with Lucky playing softly in the background and young Deborah watching in wide-eyed wonder, we got on with the task of braiding a Mar’s hair!

The texture of a Mar’s hair is quite different to the average Ghanaian. Amelia quite aptly described it as “slipperier”. As a consequence, the braids will not last the usual three weeks that a local could expect. I am hoping for a week, if I’m lucky. Nonetheless, it is nice for a chance and I think we all enjoyed the experience for differing reasons!

Total time spent: ~ 1.5 hours
Total Monetary Outlay: 2 Ghanaian cedis (approx. $1.60 Aussie dollars)

Written by Mar(k)

June 11, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Another Hairy Experience

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With considerable urging and a gentle nudge Mark once more ventured across the road for a “hair cut”. Well, perhaps more correctly a “head shave”. None of this poncy hair styling for Mark, it was a “number 3” all the way round. He even bravely told the barber to fore-go any preliminaries with the scissors; just “get out the shaver and go for it” was his request! Once completed he was doused in methylated spirits, relieved of 1 Ghana cedi (80 cents) and sent on his way with the following result:

By Ghanaian standards he’s still a hippy, but I think you’ll agree he wouldn’t look out of place in Pentridge Prison or in the US Marines (ok, maybe he’s too old for the Marines…..).  Now just need to work on dreading up that beard….

Written by Mar(k)

May 14, 2010 at 11:06 am