All posts filed under: Culture

south africa culture, mamelodi south africa

Bittersweet Feelings in South Africa’s Mamelodi Township.

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, the whiff of gently spiced curries floats through the streets of Mamelodi. Men from the township chat jovially under a wooden shelter, drinking beer, taking turns to stir the large metal pots on the open fire. Cow heads, they tell me as I look curiously, reminded of open-air communal cooking in India, though you seldom find men taking charge here. From a narrow street ahead, reggae music pours out, calling me towards it, towards women chilling in the outdoors over beer and gossip, dancing, playing pool! This is no party, just their only day off work. And so what if most of them are domestic workers with meagre wages, they sure know how to have a good time. I awkwardly smile at first, wondering if I am intruding. But the awkwardness melts away quickly in their jokes, and turns to hugs when they hear I’m from India. Take a picture of us, they urge me, so you can show your people how we live here; I oblige, for we can sure learn a thing or two …

mopin festival, galo tribe

The Mystical Ways of Arunchal Pradesh’s Galo Tribe.

I will never forget that moment. In the house of the village pradhan, I sat with the who’s who of Arunachal Pradesh, sipping apong from a bamboo stem. My empty tummy grumbled as our gorgeous hostess appeared with a tray of starters. At first glimpse, the food looked gray, finely chopped, hairy. What is it? our troop asked in unison, all seven of us curious visitors, here to celebrate the biggest festival of the Galo tribe – the Mopin. RATS. My jaw dropped. Someone spilled their apong. Rats? RATS? Mopin is a time of delicacies, so rats were followed by flying squirrels, pig blood barbecued in a bamboo stem, and finally bear meat. I was glad my vegetarian taste buds had consumed enough apong, a mildly potent homemade rice brew, and were too intoxicated to react to the surprising menu. Also Read: In Photos: Hiking from Darjeeling to Sikkim Arunachal Pradesh, tucked away remotely in the northeastern Himalayas of India, surprised me in unfathomable ways. From the moment we crossed the mighty Brahmaputra on a ferry and drove across the nameless border from Assam into Arunachal, a raw, …

chocolate making costa rica, costa rica off the beaten path

The Secret Lives of Costa Rica’s Chocolate Farmers.

An old dug-out wooden canoe waited for me on the banks of Yorkin River. Two cowboy-like young boys, dressed in vests and gum boots, greeted me with wide smiles and is-be-shkena. Dusk was fast approaching, so I had little time to voice my apprehensions. For an hour, we manoeuvred rapids upriver with an old motor and a wooden stick, slowing down to a crawl at narrow bends, tilting almost 60 degrees when sharp rocks rose from the river bed, nothing but dense forests on either side. My pumping adrenalin washed off the nervousness of being somewhere so remote, alone, in a country I had set foot in only two days ago (Read: Costa Rica Wasn’t The Country I Imagined). As night descended and finally on land, I lugged my backpack and followed my new friends into the home of the Bribris – one of the last remaining indigenous communities in Costa Rica. Deep in the rainforest, without electricity or connectivity, far from civilization as we know it. The boys made way for Don Guillermo, the head of the clan, to receive me. I expected him …

Costa Rica wildlife, puffer fish

Costa Rica Wasn’t The Country I Imagined.

Costa Rica wasn’t part of my original Central America travel plan, because it seemed to be part of everyone else’s. I imagined this little country to be overrun by tourists and expats, and its culture to have been eroded by tourism. After all, it’s the only country in the region which has been extensively written about online. Turns out, I was wrong. I made a short two week trip to Costa Rica, while waiting for a friend to join me for a long trip through Nicaragua and Panama. And I instantly fell in love. The Pure Life Pura Vida isn’t just Costa Rica’s tourism mantra. It really is how locals greet each other in the hinterlands! I’m yet to meet a people who live more in tune with nature in their daily lives. I’m yet to visit a place that is as developed and connected, yet so wild and pristine. The country welcomed me with a green carpet of swaying fields in hilly San Jose. The blue hues of the Pacific Coast called out to me as I cycled along its small villages. …

A Glimpse of Antigua, Guatemala.

In my first tryst with Latin America, I’ve found myself joyfully lost amidst the cobblestoned streets and quaint colonial houses of Antigua in Guatemala. I feel like I’m still in a dream, as I gaze out at the surrounding volcanoes while lying on a hammock from the rooftop of my bohemian apartment. I’ve had conversations entirely in broken spanish, indulged in hand-rolled corn tortillas stuffed with frijoles (black beans), sipped some of the world’s finest coffee, marvelled at the colourful traditional dresses worn by many Mayan women, and well, quite simply fallen in love.

Romania life, Romania culture, Romania people

Romania, You Can Fool The World With Your Smiles, But Not With Your Heart.

Romania had one hell of a way to welcome us. We had dragged ourselves out of the flight after 20 hours in transit, when 3 burly ashen-faced men stopped us the moment we stepped into the airport. Passport, they demanded. Confused and intimidated by these casually-dressed men, we dug around in our bags. A little police badge on their belt was our only solace. They examined us well, comparing our passport photos with our faces for what felt like an eternity, and finally let us enter a country that would stop us from judging people by their stern expressions and lack of smiles.