This past September I was able to visit Bhutan (the land of thunder dragon) with a short side excursion to Nepal. Read more
This past September, I was able to witness the Goroka Sing Sing in Papua New Guinea. It is quite a spectacle; ethnic groups from across the Highland provinces come together at Goroka to preform traditional dances and dress in traditional costumes. After spending several days in and around Goroka, I traveled to an isolated region of the East Sepik Province on the Karawari River. The only way to get there, reasonably quickly, is by a chartered flight that lands on a grass covered landing strip carved out of the jungle. The people of this region have an incredibly interesting culture. It wasn’t too long ago that the coming of age rituals required boys to participate in head-hunting raids and drink the brain soup made out of their victims. I finished my stay in Papua New Guinea in the Southern Highlands province, near Tari. This is the home of the Huli Wigmen. The Huli are known for their wigs, yellow face paint, fierce tempers, and the bird of paradise feathers they wear on ceremonial occasions. How many people can say they have visited a wig making school run by a Huli shaman? Although Papua New Guinea has a reputation of being a dangerous place, it is really only the cities and the villages that are near to the mining and liquified natural gas projects that have serious issues. Once you get away from these area,s the people are friendly and very interesting.
On my way home I stopped in Sydney for a couple of days. It was nice but not nearly as interesting as Papua New Guinea.
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This past January, I visited Ethiopia to celebrate Christmas in Lalibela and witness the Timket festival in Gondar.
Unfortunately, for many people the name Ethiopia summons visions of famine and starvation, rather than its long interesting history and diverse cultures. I started my trip in the Tigray region of the Ethiopian Highlands. Tigray is famous for its “Cave” churches. These churches are often located up high on the side of cliffs and offer spectacular views. As interesting as the Tigray region was, nothing can compare you for Lalibela at Christmas. Although the churches carved directly out of the bedrock are spectacular, it is the white clad pilgrims and the reverent atmosphere they create that make Lalibela truly special. Although, Timket is also a religious festival it has a much more youthful and energetic atmosphere, filled with singing, dancing, and frenetic movement. My visit to the Omo Valley really demonstrated Ethiopia’s amazing cultural diversity. A visit to the tribes of the Lower Omo Valley is as close to time travel as you can get. The people here are semi-pastor and many live a lifestyle that has not changed in thousands of years. Often the only technology you can see are Ak-47’s and the occasional cellular phone.
I recently returned from an amazing trip to Myanmar. I know that Myanmar has gotten a lot of bad press. Although the repressive government is making incremental improvements, it is far from being acceptable. Despite the impoverished and repressive conditions the people of Myanmar are incredibly friendly and the country has great sites to visit.