When I saw that our new prompt was "neighborhood" the first thing I thought of was the neighborhood where I grew up in Idaho, USA. It was truly the epitome of the 1950s television sitcom neighborhood, except that the houses were smaller, post-war bungalows that all looked the same. It was a neighborhood of stay-at-home Moms and hordes of kids playing hide and seek on summer evenings, and sliding down the nearby sledding hill in the winter. Moms traded recipes and Dads left early and worked hard all day to come home to a tasty meal and an evening of black and white television. I'm not kidding or being ironic--that was my neighborhood, and what I thought the word "neighborhood" meant. As an adult I have come to know that neighborhood is a different kind of place everywhere you go, but there are concepts that tie them all together. Usually kids and families are what make a neighborhood, whether in the mountains of South America, the jungles of Africa, the green valleys and open plains and sandy beaches, or the great cities of the world. I am fascinated with the differences and charmed by the similarities. Of my favorites, one of the most interesting are the medinas of Morocco. These are the old central cities, preserved as they have been for thousands of years, still alive and thriving. In the city of Fez the medina dates from the 9th century and contains the oldest university in the world, buildings that have been there since its beginnings and it continues to be a neighborhood of families and businesses that thrives in the midst of a much larger and more modern city.
Inside the walls of the medina is a maze of narrow passageways, so narrow that no cars or trucks will fit.
Down those little passageways are homes,
with market areas,
and open public areas with little passageways taking off in all directions.
As Americans we find this a very foreign kind of neighborhood, yet we saw life happening in the same ways life happens everywhere. Children play, people meet and visit and share food and drink, business is transacted. People fall in love, marry and become old, all within those walls. Outside the walls the city moves at a faster pace, but the medina is a neighborhood, much like any neighborhood.
I have not yet decided what I will make to portray "neighborhood", but I look forward to seeing what our international group will show us about the neighborhoods they see and experience.