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Posts Tagged ‘belonging’

Tibetan Karaoke

China is a land of a billion people and by western standards, a place of questionable social policies and social control. Venturing through China’s expansive southwest province of Yunnan, we encountered China’s most culturally diverse area in terms of number of minority groups, or people of non-Han Chinese origin. Many of the minorities we met offered us their ethnic identity as to distinguish themselves from the Han Chinese, displaying an evident division. A couple young men even described how they had recently been beaten up by groups of Han Chinese men.

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You have to understand the context. We are exploring the plain of jars, and about two meters to the left of my feet is a brick painted red and white. Along the white side – where I am standing – it is safe: de-mined and cleared of unexploded ordinance (UXO). A few meters to the right of me is a huge bomb crater (10 by 10 meters, maybe?). All of it, mines, unexploded ordinance, and bomb craters are the doing of Americans and the Secret War. (more…)

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Our “Laos Village Trek” evaluation form had questions about whether, in my opinion, there was lots of trash in the villages, whether any villagers had asked me for money, whether there had been sufficient drinking water, and whether I had consumed any wildlife. But it was the implicit assumptions of the following question that really made me blush… (more…)

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This was written in mid-January, when I first arrived in Bangkok from Kolkata, before flying to Burma.

Preparing myself mentally for Bangkok, I thought: I am not ready for the hyper-modern critique that this place will demand. To go from India and Bangladesh to Bangkok is too big a leap, too many eons of wealth, technologies, too big of a shift of position vis a vis Western culture.

Now I am here, and I am overwhelmingly preoccupied with the food. New flavors lurk everywhere, and so far they enthrall me. Noodle and lemongrass soups with fish sauce, chillies and sugar, squid on a stick with spicy and tangy sauces, fruit with sugar and chillies on top, Thai coffee, condensed milk in a good way, seafood a delight. Here is an adventure of unfamiliarity. (more…)

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In Chittagong, we decided to do things a little differently and take a bit of a leap of faith. As we are leaving the Buddhist temple in the city, a young man approaches us and introduces himself as Sanjoy, a student who rents a small room in the temple complex as he pursues his studies in English Literature. His home is in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a Buddhist and tribal area where we want to visit. He says he works as an occasional tour guide for the region.

Although we usually are hesitant to use guides, there is an immediate positive connection with Sanjoy; his sincerity is palpable when he says he felt close to us as we were sitting in the meditation hall. We have lunch and plan with him, he helps us get permits, and a few days later we are on our way to his stunning, hilly home town of Banderban. (more…)

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Sikkim is more impacted by a newfound tourism bug, but the land and the lives we see in it are pretty incredible. I love the breeze, the dozens of prayer flags, the hilltop gompas, and the paths that lead off and upwards into unknown hideaways.

Michele and I ended up in Yuksom by accident, a fortuitous shared jeep appeared, so we went wherever it was going. The village is the trailhead for the trek toward Kangchenjunga, so it gets a particular brand of tourists that leave a specific mark. Most notably, children here ask for candy, so I must believe that someone is giving it to them. (more…)

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What a change to enter the Himalayan foothills of North Bengal and Sikkim. In Darjeeling, what refreshment to see women carrying out their daily lives in public, moving and interacting freely. People seem very sincere and forthright here. Unlike elsewhere in India, there are no touts, nobody asking for our money. As a rule, people help us honestly even when blurring the truth could lead to their own profit.

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