Positive Negatives: Some Thoughts Aloud

Dora is a Dog, not a Furbaby

Dora and Liezl Shnookal

This is my dog, Dora. I have two dogs, but it’s Dora who is always by my side. While Chomsky is off searching for a special stick, Dora’s gaze is generally fixed on me. She follows me everywhere. Now that she’s old and her sight is fading, she often walks so close behind me that if I stop suddenly, we collide. This makes me laugh, and I tell her that I don’t want to take on the role of a seeing-eye person, for a blind dog. Dora happily wags her tail in response. She loves it when I talk to her, although of course she recognises very few words. Even smiling at her is enough to start her tail wagging. She’s such a sweet dog.

Dora originally came from an animal shelter. I had to go through an “adoption” process before I could claim her as mine and bring her home. It’s now common practice for us to “adopt” our pets, as if they are children. Somewhere along the line, society’s attitude towards our pets changed, and turned a dog from being described as “man’s best friend” into somebody’s “furbaby”. In a way, I understand the reason for the shift. For by equating the bond with an animal to a parent-child relationship, it’s given a significance that is not always acknowledged. But in spite of adopting Dora, I don’t refer to myself as her mother. And when I look at her, I don’t see a surrogate child. I see a dog.

As I write this, Dora is snoring loudly on her bed near my chair. But Chomsky is alert, on the look-out for a possible invasion of his territory by the dogs next door. He barks and Dora wakes up. It’s time to take them for a walk.

Tolerance in One Country, Intolerance in Another

clothes in Morocco

Nobody told me what to wear when I was in Morocco. I could wear whatever I liked, it didn’t seem to matter.

In July 2018 I stood in Marrakech’s crowded bus station and looked around. Morocco was the first country I’d visited with a predominantly Muslim population, and I was curious. I tried not to stare at the assorted mix of people surrounding the bus that was to take us from Marrakech to Essaouira. It was holiday time and Moroccan families were fleeing the heat for a holiday in Essaouira, a small seaside town. There were many women in full-length clothes and headscarves, their faces alight with excitement as they talked and laughed with their families. Other women were wearing burqas and although I couldn’t see their faces, their excitement about their holiday was just as palpable. I surreptitiously admired a couple of men in long white caftans and struck up a conversation with a Danish guy who was travelling with his family. His three teenage daughters were wearing such skimpy shorts, that when the oldest girl bent over to pick up her bag, it was impossible not to notice her exposed bottom cheeks. I considered mentioning this fact to their mother, who was wearing longer baggier shorts, but decided against it. Really, it was none of my business.

Back home in Australia, I remembered those young Danish women in their shorts when I heard about Denmark’s new law that bans women from covering their faces. I imagined the international outcry that would surely follow if Morocco enacted a ban on shorts, and refused to allow those Danish girls to wear what they wanted to wear. I find it ironic that we are always so quick to champion a woman’s right to wear what she wants to wear (and condemn any man’s interference in this freedom), and yet a so-called progressive country can legislate to take away this same right. In Morocco I can wear whatever I like but in Denmark I can’t!

Friends Upstaged by a Selfie

upstaged by a selfie

Sometimes there is a special moment in time that needs to be recorded; certainly this is how my two new-found friends and I felt one evening. I had met Blai (a musician from Mallorca) and Victor (a musicologist from Hong Kong) at Fez’s music festival and together we had just shared a spectacular concert by 3MA (a trio from Mali, Madagascar and Morocco). On a complete high, we had each bought a copy of their latest CD and managed to score a photo of the musicians with us, holding their CD.

As we made our way back through the narrow streets of Fez, we laughed about the 3MA trio and the trio of us, enjoying the difference in our nationalities and our serendipitous connection. Blai mentioned that he’d recently completed his own CD and back at his hostel, offered to give Victor and me a copies. We were thrilled and of course wanted to mark the occasion with a photo of our little trio, this time with Blai’s CD!

We asked the guy at the hostel’s reception to take it and Victor handed him his phone. The above photo is the result: - one that features a stranger, while my friends and I are in the background, not even in focus! The guy took a selfie! I don’t think he realised that it is actually possible to take a photo without being in it! Anyway, we did eventually get the photo we wanted, after some instruction.

But I still keep this photo, as a reminder of a really special time with two wonderful new friends, and how a stranger made us laugh even more. Even now, this photo makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it.

Photos before Selfies

Tres Hermanos

I love this photo, taken by Salas in 1961; it captures so much. It’s of course a photo of three very famous men: - Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Che Guevara. But when I look closely, I also notice that here is a younger brother looking reverently at his older brother, and here are a couple of comrades deep in discussion. This photo gives us an insight into the interrelationship between these men. Even its title “Tres Hermanos” (“Three Brothers”) adds to our understanding.

But just for one silly moment, imagine if this photo were taken today. No doubt, it would be a selfie. We would have an image of three men, facing us as they look into a camera lens, instead of interacting with each other. Their different expressions and stances captured so beautifully in Salas’ photo would be missing, replaced by the usual, uniform selfie smile plastered on each of their faces. This photo would tell us little beyond the fact that these celebrities had been together, somewhere and at some particular point in time.

This photo reminds me of all we have lost in the selfie pandemic!

© Liezl Shnookal 2020