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Give back and get stylish for summer with LaLESSOs designs

Give back and get stylish for summer with LaLESSO's designs

One thing that I loved about being abroad was the fashion! So many clothes…so little time…and SOOO much cheaper than the U.S.

I received a few e-mails asking where I got the skirt I was wearing on my post about Newburyport’s Farmer’s Market the other day (here)…so here is a little piece about that skirt…my oh-so-favorite skirt!

sadly, my version of this skirt did not come with a pet a camel...

sadly, my version of this skirt did not come with a pet camel...

In a boutique store in Rondebosch, just outside of Cape Town, I discovered these fabulous  printed garments, that were all hand-made and gorgeously African.

A closer look brought me to realize that all of the fabrics were hand painted and contained traditional Indian and Kenyan “handkerchief” patterns and even incorporated Swahili sayings on the prints.

The prints are then hand sewn by local Kenyan women into these wonderfully unique dress, skirts…even bathing suits and ballet flats!!

ballet flats by laLESSO

ballet flats by laLESSO

Because the fabric is hand painted, every piece of clothing is 100% unique! The company was started by two young, fresh out of University women (one from Kenya and one from South Africa) who wanted to bring African style to the fashion forward world while giving back!

The company helps support the Eastern African cotton industries and local women financially.

They have been featured in every major fashion magazine, including Elle and Vogue…

Runway show: laLESSO

Runway show: laLESSO

Here are some pics from a fashion show on the British Vogue website of LalESSO…

For an interview with the owners on their design and style philosophy…click here

IMG_3882

wearing my favorite skirt...over one year old, and after tens of washes and wears...it's still as good as new!

I walked away the first day with this wonderful Kenyan skirt (above) that is soooo comfortable.My friend Lucy, and some other friends, also fell in love with their printed dresses and splurged as well!

I literally have worn that skirt at least once a week (minus the winter) since i bought it last Spring, and it has survived TONS of washes and being bleached by the African sun on an outdoor line while abroad…

I actually have the dress on the right and in a similarly colored pattern...the Salama dress...its the perfect beach coverup or dress for evening cocktails on the ocean/beach! I wear it ALL the time!

I actually have the dress on the right and in a similarly colored pattern...the Salama dress...it's the perfect beach cover-up or dress for evening cocktails on the ocean/beach! I wear it ALL the time!

I also purchased a short, kind of sassy darker colored skirt that is black and purple, while I purchased a a halter dress that is purple, cream and black. I actually wore the dress yesterday to Rockport, MA with my family for lunch, and received a bunch of compliments on it!

They even make these adorable terry cloth beach shorts!

They even make these adorable terry cloth beach shorts!

mix and match LaLESSO bikinis (for women and babies!) with other African inspired sustainable style items...

mix and match LaLESSO bikinis and dresses (for women and babies!) with other African inspired sustainable style items...

Here’s a little blurb about the company from their web page…

All Lalesso clothing is manufactured under strict and extremely conscious ethical conditions in our self owned workshop in Kenya, East Africa. All our employees are paid well above the average wage and are already benefiting not only their lives but the lives of their families and have been able to increase their standard of living considerably. Each ‘lesso’ or ‘khanga’ is hand washed in the Indian Ocean before being transformed into a Lalesso creation; this is an age old method of aiding the stay fastness of the dyes.

Please note that the colours and pattern designs on the ‘khanga’ or ‘lesso’ are all unique, the manufacturers produce five designs each week and after that the design is never produced again. What this means is that each piece of fabric in it’s respective print will most likely never be found in the same garment twice so please understand that if you like a certain print but it’s in the wrong size, I’m afraid it is not possible to order it in your size. The colours/designs shown are ONLY available in the sizes given.”

read more about laLESSO or purchase their garments at the link below...

read more about laLESSO or purchase their garments at the link below...

Buy clothes from laLESSO here

Note: shipping to the U.S. will probably take about 4-10 days, so practice a little patience! Of course buying clothing in South Africa for me was much less expensive and I even got my Salama dress on sale for the equivalent of $30. However, the dresses and other clothing usually run from about $40 to around $100, which still isn’t too bad considering it is handmade and goes to a good a cause…I suggest waiting for a sale, though!

Update: LaLESSO is actually launching at TOP SHOP in the Oxford Circus… hopefully they will be here soon!..check out their Facebook group here

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So you may have “bow hunting skills…nun chuck skills….” but what about Mongolian warrior skills…aka shooting a bow and arrow off of horseback while riding across the Steppes?

I didn’t think so.

Mongolian warriors were the fastest most tactful warriors in their time. Led by Genghis Khan (name given in 1189), who united rival clans , and by the mid 13th century,  the Mongol Empire extended from Beijing to the Caspian Sea.

TRain to be a Mongolian Warrior in Mongolia...for vacation

TRain to be a Mongolian Warrior in Mongolia...for vacation

Now you can learn what it takes to be a Mongolian warrior through Mongolian Warrior training….one word…AWESOME.

Mongolia, or “The land of the blue sky”, is one of the last places on earth where one can explore an untamed natural world in a dynamic landscape. Travel on horseback with nomads, who learned their skills from their ancestors, through ominous snow capped mountains, down through lush and calm green meadows filled with wildflowers and edelweiss, galloping towards a barren desert until you reached a pine-tree filled forest reminiscent of an Asian warrior film.

Mongolian lanscape...traditional Mongolian huts

Mongolian landscape...traditional Mongolian huts

Movie Still from Genghis Khan...filmed in Mongolia

Movie Still from "Genghis Khan"...filmed in Mongolia

A Mongolian travel adventure is responsible travel because it furthers the idea of “Fair Trade Traveling” by supporting the local culture, traditions and arts, while not exploiting it.

mongol warriors  (photo courtesy of nomad.com)

mongol warriors (photo courtesy of nomad.com)

BBC did a piece on this travel adventure entitled “Tasting Warrior Life”. Mongolia, as well as being great for adventurers, is a great place to show your support for the local flora and fauna which carries some rare animals…including the argali sheep, przhevalsky horse; Asiatic wild ass, wild camels, snow leopard and ibex. Dinosaur remains have also been found in the area!

A sample sleeping situation for one of the Mongolian warrior tours..they are surprisingly luxurious

A sample sleeping situation for one of the Mongolian warrior tours..they are surprisingly luxurious

Depending on the tour company you travel with, and how much you are willing to pay, groups can range from 2-12 people and are usually around 9 days long and cost around $2000, not including airfare.

Tours include an itinerary in which you are completely taken care of. Think of it as Mongolia’s version of a safari on the steppes.

Activities include, and are not limited to, learning how a warrior would live their day, riding horses and taking care of them at the end of the day, learning archery skills,  Mongolian cooking, taking part in Mongolian shaman ceremonies, Mongolian traditional songs…and…my favorite…learning Mongolian wrestling tactics and skills. Training progresses over time, and in between you travel to different parts of Mongolia, and can opt to visit museums and monasteries.

Nomad Tours does an expedition…click here
So Does Responsibletravel.com, who also donate to climate care for each person who signs up for the tours…click here

If you do not want to do a full tour, but want to stay at a truly Mongolian hotel that is only $60 per night…yes only $60 per night…try the Hotel Mongolia Resort (click here)

Hotel MOngolia at night...looks like a minitaure Mongolian city...and operates like one as well

Hotel Mongolia at night...looks like a miniature Mongolian city...and operates like one as well

A Ghen Room at the Hotel Mongolia

A "Ghen" Room at the Hotel Mongolia

Entrance to Stone Ghen room

Entrance to Stone "Ghen" room

The Resort is equipped with all modern essentials but you will feel like you are stepping right back in time to the Mongolian empire…you even have your own “tent” which is actually furnished with a full bathroom.

Hotel Mongolia

Hotel Mongolia

Entrance to a Temple Room at the Hotel Mongolia

Entrance to a "Temple Room" at the Hotel Mongolia...

There are different types of rooms, and the most expensive (from $80) is the Temple Room located in the stone building.

Temple room at the Hotel Mongolia

Temple room at the Hotel Mongolia

The Resort is only 40 minutes from the regional airport and 20 minutes  from Ulaanbaatar city. It has facilities  and services that include a business center, restaurant, room service, pool tables, boating, archery, beach volleyball on the river beach, massage…any modern hotel amenity.

The Hotel strives to the standards of Fair Trade TRavelling by enhancing its guests cultural experience of Mongolia throuhg traditional performances and cultural experiences

The Hotel strives to the standards of "Fair Trade Traveling" by enhancing its guests' cultural experience of Mongolia through traditional performances and cultural experiences

For more information on the Hotel Mongolia...click the link below

For more information on the Hotel Mongolia...click the link below

For more info, click here

Now…If you are in the mood to splurge in your trip to Mongolia after a long hard adventure-packed tour through the Steppes…then you have to check out Mongolia’s premier luxury resortThe Terejl Rsort and Spa

Entrance to the Terelj Hotel at night

Entrance to the Terelj Hotel at night

The hotel is located next to the gorgeous Terelj National Park...where you can go hiking, horseback-riding, etc.

The hotel is located next to the gorgeous Terelj National Park...where you can go hiking, horseback-riding, etc.

The resort was recently named one of the top luxury hotels in the world. It only opened in 2007 and is the first luxury hotel in Mongolia. The design reminds me of a 19th century palace and yet fits well into the Asian landscape.

The hotel functions as any other luxury hotel, catering to every need (including pick up from the local airport and organized tours of surrounding areas of interest), and even has an outdoor wedding garden!

The resort has eco-friendly initiatives and “Fair Trade Traveling” initiatives that include utilizing local fabrics (like cashmere and camel hair) for its linens and decor, and employing local artisans to make furniture, sculptures and paintings for the hotel.

The Presidential Dining includes exquisite serveware...

The "Presidential Dining" includes exquisite serveware...

Suite at the Terejil

Suite at the Terejil blends traditional and contemporary elements as well as an East meets West design

Spa at the Terelj Hotel

Spa at the Terelj Hotel

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I watched ‘Casablanca’ the other night and my desire to travel to Northern Africa was reignited immediately. I also was in the midst of a girls’-night-in, consisting of homemade summertime facial masks. I thought to myself…hmmm…spa PLUS Morocco would be the ideal….and what do you know? One of the top Eco-Spa’s in the world is located right in Morocco.

Kasbah du Toubkal Mountain Retreat

Kasbah du Toubkal Mountain Retreat (photo courtesy of http://www.highatlasfoundation.org)

Tucked at the base of North Africa’s  tallest mountain in Morocco is the Kasbah du Toubkal Mountain Retreat.

Kasbah du Toubkal

Kasbah du Toubkal...I would love to wake up doing yoga on this patio..followed by some homemade mint tea...(photo courtesy of http://www.sawdays.co.uk)

The hotel is run by the owners and the local Berber community, a naturally eco-friendly culture. The hotel’s philosophy is centered around the preservation of the local National park and a partnership with the local Berber community (all of the employees are Berber as well).The hotel has successfully transitioned from a feudal homestead into a place of warm hospitality.

At the base of Mount Toubkal, your luggage is thrown on a mule and you hike up to your room, passing gorgeous local flora along the way.

The gardens of the resort create a quiet and all-natural oasis in the Berber region...

The gardens of the resort create a quiet and all-natural oasis in the Berber region... (photo: http://www.noflights.com/gallery/original/kasbah_garden_large.jpg click to enlarge)

eat outside...or inside in the hotels romantic restaurant and lounge...

eat outside...or inside in the hotels romantic restaurant and lounge... (photo: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3265/2491179793_2d2ed58bd5.jpg)

Upon arrival you are greeted with mint tea and cleansing rose water while the hotel is lit with candles and wood-burning fires…no wasting electricity here. The candles and fires allow you to enter a  timeless ambiance that many hotels only fantasize about achieving.

simple yet chic and authentic bedroom at the Kasbah

simple yet chic and authentic bedroom at the Kasbah...thatched ceilings, stone floors, linen bedding and Moroccan lamps lit with cream colored candles (photo courtesy of http://lh3.ggpht.com)

The doorway to the resort makes you feel like you are stepping back into a forgotten time and world....

The doorway to the resort makes you feel like you are stepping back into a forgotten time and world.... (photo: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/91/229468518_80b01b1ede.jpg?v=0)

The Spa-resort is famous for its trekking expeditions to the summit of Mount Toubkal and consequential authentic Moroccan spa experience.

The hotel boasts an authentic and yet private hamman experience (a cleansing and rejuvenating plunge pool), steam room and options for many spa treatments.

the authentic hamman at the resort...I could relax in there for hours after a long trek...or a long lunch...

the authentic hamman at the resort...I could relax in there for hours after a long trek...or a long lunch... (photo from media.expedia.com)

The hotel has won many awards due to its efforts to reach out to the local community and reduce its carbon footprint. Every guest is charged a small surcharge (5%) to contribute to a community hamman, irrigation systems and local communication systems. Sustainable and chic…I love it!

The hotel ranges from about $200 to about $700 depending on time of year and type of room.

For more info on trekking Mount Toubkal click here.

For more information on the Kasbah du Toubkal click here.

Now, of course, not all of us can afford to jet off to Morocco for the weekend, so stay tuned for a post on things you can do to create your own Moroccan spa at home this weekend…

fresh organic organges and view greet you each morning at the base of the mountain from a room at the Kasbah...

fresh organic organges and view greet you each morning at the base of the mountain from a room at the Kasbah... (photo http://lh6.ggpht.com)

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Although its more economical to use the mat from the local studio at class, or to buy a cheap mat from Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx, local studio mats can have up to 100,000 bacteria per square inch, and el-cheapo mats can sometimes be made from non eco-friendly materials, and be of el-cheapo quality.

Who needs a yoga mat? (photo courtesy of anneliesrigterphotography.com)

Who needs a yoga mat? (photo courtesy of anneliesrigterphotography.com)

Original yogis, and many to this day, in India didn’t (and still don’t) even use yoga mats…connection to the earth  and stability through bare feet are optimal for a deeper yoga practice. Story goes, that B.K.S. Iyengar was teaching a class in the U.S. when he was slipping all over the place. Suddenly a student handed him a non-slippery rug…hence…the yoga mat was born.

While in India, the ashram I studied at used simple rugs, these yogis are using something a little less conventional... (photo courtesy of incomingindia.com)

While in India, the ashram I studied at used simple rugs. These yogis are using something a little less conventional... (photo courtesy of incomingindia.com)

However, for the average Joe, me, a yoga mat is a great tool to gain stability and to create a non-slippery space for oneself, in a class, or anywhere you “lay your mat”.

Most yoga mats are made with PVC’s  (polyvinyl chloride) which is a highly toxic plastic to prevent slipping. However, there have been some pretty cool advances in yoga technology to make mats eco-friendly, biodegradable, less ‘gross’ (using microban technology), and non toxic ,while new sites are offering services in which you can design your own mat! (and it gets even crazier…further down in the post)

Yogamatic provides a custom design service…

Design your own inspirational mat...even with a photo...at YOGAMATIC.COM (Click here)...a little pricey...but I would love to take some personal time on a space thats personally inspired!

Design your own inspirational mat...even with a photo...at YOGAMATIC.COM (Click here)...a little pricey...but I would love to take some personal time on a space that's personally inspired!

Even celebs have joined the yogamatic craze....

Even celebs have joined the yogamatic craze....

For some sustainable yoga mat purchases…try Jade Yoga mats. They plant a tree when you buy one of their eco-friendly mats! Their Harmony mat is also one of the best around (although they are a splurge at about $60 a pop)! Click here.

Jade Harmony Yoga mats come in an array of colors

Jade Harmony Yoga mats come in an array of colors

These Chakra yoga mats below, are on sale at yogaacessories.com and are so unique! They feature the Chakras (from root to crown) on a variety of corresponding rainbow colors to help focus your energies, mind and spirit. They are also long at 72″ and extra thick at 1/4″! Click here to purchase at only $24.95.

Chakra yoga mat

Chakra yoga mat

To support a local business…for all you Bostonians…try a mat from Lotuspad in Cambridge…and they eve are developing carbon-free shipping solutions for those not in the area, and they do BIKE DELIVERY for those who are local! The mats are wonderful, as well!

Lotuspad yoga mats in Cambridge, MA (click here)

Lotuspad yoga mats in Cambridge, MA (click here)

These all natural yoga mats, below, from 3Guna Ayurveda are more for meditation, but they are super comfy-looking, fair trade and made with organic materials.

3Guna Ayurveda yoga mat

3Guna Ayurveda yoga mat

Some eco friendly yoga mats from bluelotus.com made form natural tree rubbers (click here)

Some eco friendly yoga mats from bluelotus.com made form natural tree rubbers (click here)

treehugger.com makes a wonderful eco mat as well! (click here)

treehugger.com makes a wonderful eco-friendly mat as well! (click here)

You can also personalize your yoga mat with self-adhesive mantras and designs from omtime.com

a variety of mantra designs adn inspirational mats that are PVC-free!  (matsmatsmats.com)

A variety of mantras and designs on inspirational mats that are PVC-free available at (matsmatsmats.com)

For some more cool yoga mat designs…try matsmatsmats.com (above)

Mats that look like grass...the kitchen floor....and even chocolate?

Eco-friendly mats that look like grass...the kitchen floor....and even chocolate?

These Plank Mats (above)make you feel like you’re doing yoga on the grass, shag carpeting,  a plank of wood…or even chocolate, yes…chocolate…not sure how I feel about them for my practice, but if you’re interested click here.

Some new innovations in yoga mats include…

1. This mat by Yoga Maendy…its 6′ x 6′ Microban square mat, so its ideal for partner yoga, experimenting so you don’t fall of your mat in more difficult poses, and for the extra tall person…like me! For more info…click here.

This giant Maendy Mat is a steal at $49!

This giant Maendy Mat is a steal at $49!

2. Really want a yoga island? Try this ROUND mat from Mandalyogamat.com.

These round yoga mats from mandalayogamat.com make you feel lke you are in your own sacred mandala, or lotus flower...

These round yoga mats from mandalayogamat.com make you feel like you are in your own sacred mandala, or lotus flower...

3. In the “You’ve got to be kidding me” category….Technology and yoga mats? Who would have thought…? These guys did…at Yanko Design some yoga loving techies invented a “Super Yoga Mat” in which the mat ‘unfurls’ from a metal tube that can play music or yoga videos right on the mat…for more info click here.

Yanko Designs Super Yoga mat plays yoga DVDs right on your mat!

Yanko Design's Super Yoga mat plays yoga DVD's right on your mat!

I don’t know about you, but over the years i have accumulated a slew of mats. After about a year of practice they can get a little grimy, and I am the victim of impulse buying when I see a new funky pattern that inspires me. I started keeping mats in emergency places…like they are fire extinguishers or emergency flashlights…one in my car…the corner of my room…by the back door to the porch…the garage…you know, just in case….its getting out of hand.

But what do I do with all the extra/old yoga mats? There is a solution!

The Boulder Mat company has a recycle program where you can donate your old mat and get a $5 discount on purchasing a new one! The company will donate the mat to charity or break it down and make a new one!

Recycle your mat with any of these ideas or at the website above!

Recycle your mat with any of these ideas or at the website above!

Gaiam has a list of 50 ways to reuse your mat here. Tips include sound proofing, tree ornaments, dog/cat food dish no-slip pads, lining kitchen shelves, donating to animal shelters, flower pot drainers, and even bases for a baseball game with the kids!

Some tips on Yoga mat etiquette when in a class or practicing at home…

1. Clean it with a natural cleanser after use! Bacteria and mold thrive on yoga mats… and let it hang out to dry afterward, especially after hot yoga. Wash your yoga rug (blanket) as well after every few uses and cleanse your blocks/straps with some non-toxic wipes/cleanser as well.But be careful to dry after cleansing…sprays can leave your tools slippery and therefore dangerous.

Here are some wonderful cleansers I’ve found and tried…

This Vermont Soap Yoga Mat Wash is great! Its certified organic and is under 10 bucks for 16 oz.! click here...

This Vermont Soap Yoga Mat Wash is great! It's certified organic and is under 10 bucks for 16 oz.! click here...

Stirlen makes a line of all natural cleansers that are biodegradable. Stirlen Chi spray has natural hormonizing scents and is also under $10....click here...

Stirlen makes a line of all natural cleansers that are biodegradable. Stirlen "Chi" spray has natural harmonizing scents and is also under $10....click here...

Happy Yoga Mat wash comes in wipes ad spray! Its organic/vegan, with refreshing citrus and lavender scents, and antifungall tea tree oil...click here...

Happy Yoga Mat wash comes in wipes ad spray! It's organic/vegan, with refreshing citrus and lavender scents, and anti-fungal tea tree oil...click here...

2. Do not step on anyone’s yoga mat but your own (except in couple’s yoga). Feet bring in toxins and dirt from the outside world and its not the nicest thing to step on a neighbor’s “private practice space” they have set up in class. Wash your own feet before practicing…remember you’ll go from Mountain pose at the top of your mat, to face down in the same place while taking a break from Bow.

Summer time...try to feel the sand between your toes...(photo courtesy of livebreatheyoga.com)

The most eco-friendly mat around...(photo courtesy of livebreatheyoga.com)

One more tip…since it is summer…try forgoing the mat altogether for one practice and take a step to be closer to nature by performing some poses in a flat and sturdy patch of grass or sand….its amazing!

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Malawi….”the Warm Heart of Africa”…
Kaya Mawa resort in Malawi...an eco-conscious fantasy

Kaya Mawa resort in Malawi...an eco-conscious fantasy

Well, the weather still has not let up and its making me long to go back to the wonderful, and much drier, Africa. One country I have always wanted to visit in Africa is Malawi…in South Eastern Africa nestled in between Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania. One may think that because it is landlocked it may not be an ideal paradise, but Lake Malawi (which provides a border between Malawi and Tanzania and Mozambique) makes any resort in that area feel like a beach paradise. It is also called the ‘Calendar Lake’ since it is 365 miles long and 52 miles wide.

The beaches are pristine, the people are warm and energetic, and it is an untapped paradise for water-lovers despite being ‘landlocked’.

To experience Malawi in true luxury form without making a negative dent, but rather a positive one in the environment and culture try staying at one of the top eco-friendly and sustainable resorts in the world….the Kaya Mawa.

Bathtub overlooking those crystal clear waters at the Kaya Mawa...a dream!

Bathtub overlooking those crystal clear waters at the Kaya Mawa...a dream! Every hut has its own bathtub with the same view, a huge mahogany bed and even the 'loo' has a view!

Im ok with this view...Kaya Mawa resort

I'm ok with this view...Kaya Mawa resort

one of Kaya Mawas premium Chalets in the evening

one of Kaya Mawa's premium Chalet's in the evening

spectacualr rooms! uber romantic at the Kaya Mawa

spectacualr rooms! uber romantic at the Kaya Mawa

Located on the Likoma Island of the northern part of Lake Malawi (close to Mozambique), this lodge is a step back into a undeveloped wonderland of flora and fauna. The island is only 17 square kilometers and you will stay in one of 10 stone and teak-framed ‘chalets’.

The huts and resort were built entirely BY HAND (there was no machinery on the island) with help by employment of local people (who speak with the Tonga dialect). The workers used the local landscape and resources (stone and natural cliffs) to build the resort into the island as naturally as possible.

SCUBA is the pristine waters of Lake Malawi...

SCUBA is the pristine waters of Lake Malawi...

The Honeymoon suite is even located on its OWN PRIVATE ISLAND!

get there by small plane...maybe not the most eco-friendly...but certainly makes you feel like youre in Out of Africa...and surprisingly not as expensive as you would anticipte!

get there by small plane...maybe not the most eco-friendly...but certainly makes you feel like you're in "Out of Africa"...and surprisingly not as expensive as you would anticipate!

Get to the resort by air (small planes in Africa are so much fun for a birds-eye view!) or by boat and arrive to pure relaxation or get started with their activities which include snorkeling, SCUBA, sailing, mountain biking, exploration to Mozambique, and visits to the local village of Nkhwazi to the school or even to the local dance bars!

If you want to look into how to offset your travel emissions from flying…click here.

Childrens choir at the local school

Children's choir at the local school

some other local children in front of the school..adorable!

some other local children in front of the school..adorable!

The resorts sustainability initiatives stem from its mantra “Maybe Tomorrow” (in local Tonga dialect). The management works in partnership with the locals to stem overfishing, improve the agricultural scene in the area by planting as much new produce as possible, not using machinery in construction, employing locals, and helping the local village schools with volunteerism and large donations (for purchases of football fields for athletic programs in the schools and other endeavors).

They even started an Island Child program in which one can sponsor a local child’s education, health care, etc.

Likoma means beautiful, from “silikoma” or “sweet land” and it certainly lives up to that name.

Rates range from a semi-affordable (relatively speaking) $180 (US) up to $430 (US) per night (for a the honeymoon suite). Definitely a splurge, but compared to other luxury hotels that aren’t as sustainable, I would say it’s a deal!

Although March is the prime-time for the rainy season, it should be dying down by now! Note: you will want to look into getting some immunizations and some Malaria pills before you head over, and there are many different options for travel/air carriers, so contact a travel agent who specializes in African travel for some advice or check out a “Lonely Planet” guide here from Amazon…or the Lonely Planet’s condensed version of Malawi on their website here.

Malawi was a British colony (many obviously speak English making travel easier) that gained independence back in 1964 but has struggled to develop a market economy and provide the proper health care for its citizens, struggling with infant mortality rates, malaria, HIV/AIDS, agricultural sustainability, improving environmental protection and increasing the quality of education for its densely populated citizenry.

Although celebrities (aka Madonna) have made adopting children from this country popular, I suggest a better way for feeling socially responsible: donate to the local schools when you visit (even just some school supplies we take for granted would help), or maybe spend part of your time on vacation volunteering at a local school if you feel moved to do so. You will be helping more than one child!

An image of the Gule Wamkulu dance (photo courtesy of farm4.status.flickr.com/3556)

An image of the Gule Wamkulu dance (photo courtesy of farm4.status.flickr.com/3556)

One thing that really draws me to Malawi is its cultural heritage and its focus on dance. Since I am a dancer, and have studied some African dance, it would be my dream to go to Malawi and study some of their traditional dances of their Bantu people that are performed at many rituals and traditional ceremonies. Some dances include the Gule Wamkulu of the Chewa people in which the members dance in elaborate costumes and even on stilts, while the vimbuza which is a healing dance performed by witch doctors to help patients of the Timbuka in northern Malawi.The government even founded a National Dance Troupe!

some volunteers from Luzicare (luzicare.com)...the nonprofit utilizes the skills of locals to help those battling HIV/AIDS, even those who are battling it themselves

some volunteers from Luzicare (luzicare.com)...the nonprofit utilizes the skills of locals to help those battling HIV/AIDS, even those who are battling it themselves

A friend from my alma mater, Colby College,  a few years ago began an organization to help children in Malawi called Luzicare. This unprecedented endeavor by a busy college student, Jamie Goldring, has helped to bring aide to thousands of people (particularly children) suffering from HIV/AIDS in the country. It is a remarkable effort that is really making a difference by a remarkable young man…for more information on his efforts click here.

For some more basic facts on Malawi from National Geographic…click here.

sunset over Lake Malawi (courtesy of newsimg.bbc.co.uk)

sunset over Lake Malawi (courtesy of newsimg.bbc.co.uk)

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