Taiwan’s Musical Garbage Trucks

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Taiwan is a small and densely populated island. Many years ago, their waste disposal system was faced with a huge issue – the public garbage collection spots were overflowing, smelly and infested with rats and insects. The Taiwanese government rose to the occasion, coming up with a unique solution – musical garbage trucks.

Instead of having people dump their household waste at designated spots, a policy was created so garbage never touched the ground. In the new system, garbage trucks would pass through every street and people had to bring out their trash bags personally, to dump into the trucks. How would they know when the trucks arrived? Through music of course. For several years, the trucks have played the tune of “Für Elise” by Beethoven and “A Maiden’s Prayer” by Polish composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska. The sound of these tunes had city-dwellers emerge from their homes almost every night, with blue plastic bags filled with trash and another bag of recyclable waste, to dump into the truck.

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Szopka Making – A Colorful Polish Tradition

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The beginning of December each year sees the transformation of Rynek Główny (Main Market Square)  in the Polish city of Krakow, into a beautiful Christmas market. Arts and crafts, ceramics, sweets and more are put up for sale. Excellent food in the form of grilled oscypek cheese and Polish wine are available too.The szopka, a crèche competition, is of course the major event.

On the first Thursday of December, crèche masters from around Poland and other parts of the world display their szopki at the history museum in the Krzysztofory Palace. The winning models are placed on display throughout the Christmas season. The szopka is a traditional Polish folk art that has its origins in the Middle Ages. The tradition is a rich and colorful one, having evolved over the ages. The szopki depict the Wawel Cathedral, which is a part of Krakow’s Wawel Castle with a Nativity scene set inside its doors. Some of the models are as small as 6 inches while others are around 6 feet high.

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Buffalo Body-Painting at Unique Traditional Festival

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What started as a means to ward off intruders, is now a full-blown festival. The people of Jiangcheng County, China’s Yunnan Province, have their bulls painted and decorated by artists for a major event every year. The bulls are displayed in a riot of colors, painted with a variety of themes.

Traditionally, the bulls were painted by the Hani people of China in the belief that the practice would protect their village, mainly by preventing tigers from wandering into their homes. Of course, the threat of tigers and other man-eaters has reduced drastically in modern times, but the festival continues to be celebrated with much enthusiasm. The China-Laos-Vietnam Bull Painting Festival, as it is called, had 48 participating teams this year. The paraded bulls were hardly recognizable, covered in colors like bright blue, gold, yellow and red. But the paintings were far from abstract. The bulls served as a canvas for some real artistic talent, landscapes, portraits, and intricate patterns adorned their otherwise brown or white skin. Even the horns were covered with paint.

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Father Videotapes Children Coming Down Stairs on Christmas Morning, for 25 years

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Every family has its own traditions for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. Writer Nick Confalone recently shared on YouTube, a particularly endearing tradition followed by his dad during Christmas.

Starting in 1985, Nick’s father made home videos of his kids coming down the stairs on Christmas morning. He continued this practice for 25 years, chronicling the growth of his children over a quarter of a century. Nick recently edited the footage filmed by his father and posted it on YouTube. Apart from Nick and his sister, other members of the family are also seen in the video. Pets come and go, as do boyfriends, and you can clearly see how the kids evolve from little toddlers to teenagers and then young adults. Initially the kids are seen to be excited to find out what Santa Claus has left them under the tree. Nick is a cute kid making silly faces at the camera. As years go by, their reluctance to be a part of the videos is quite evident. Of course, Nick now considers the videos to be nothing short of magical.

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Tribe Practices Finger Cutting as a Means of Grieving

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In some cultures amputation is a form of mourning. This was especially true of the Dani tribe from Papua, Indonesia. The members of this tribe cut off their fingers as a way of displaying their grief at funeral ceremonies. Along with amputation, they also smeared their faces with ashes and clay, as an expression of sorrow.

It isn’t very surprising to learn that women were mostly subjected to this gruesome ritual. The religious beliefs of the tribe prompted this sort of ritual. If the deceased person was considered to be powerful, it was believed that their spirits would contain equal power too. In order to appease and drive away these spirits, several shocking practices were followed. Girls who were related to the dead had the upper parts of their fingers cut off. Before being cut, the fingers would be tied with a string for over 30 minutes. After the amputation, the finger tips were allowed to dry, before they were burned and the ashes buried in a special area.

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Bride Kidnapping – A Controversial Tradition in Kyrgyzstan

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Many women dream of being carried away on a white horse, by their knight-in-shining-armor. But what if the so-called knight turned out to be an abductor, forcing a woman to elope with him?

That is exactly the case with bride kidnappings that take place in Kyrgzstan, Central Asia. Parodied in the 2006 film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the practice is a harsh reality of the region, more prevalent in Kyrgzstan than Kazakhstan. In the film, Pamela Anderson was kidnapped by the main character for marriage. In real life unfortunately, the stories are never funny. Although precise statistics are unavailable, it is commonly believed that more than half of Kyrgyz wives are married in this manner. It is even seen as a matter of pride, a means for a man to prove his manhood. Often, the families of the groom participate in the abduction, they help in planning the ‘capture’ of their son’s would-be wife. A white scarf is placed, often forcibly, on the woman’s head, signalling her acceptance. Once kidnapped, the bride’s family urge her to accept her situation and her new husband, for fear that she would never find another suitable mate again.

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Mauth Ka Kuan – India’s Well of Death

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Circus shows have been getting censored, simplified and overall less exciting just about everywhere. Not in India though, that’s the place where the infamous phrase “death defying stunt” lives on through Mauth Ka Kuan, or the Well of Death.

Though originally performed all over the world, riding a bike on a vertical wall can now only be seen live in the “Land of contrasts” and it makes visiting the place even more tempting. The stunt is old so you’d imagine India’s bike riders have honed and perfected it to the highest level. Actually, the Well of Death – as the arena is referred to – isn’t just a marketing ploy.Riding on incredibly old bikes that haven’t seen maintenance since they left the factory, the Indian bikers ride with absolutely no safety gear at break neck speeds. The walls on which they ride are vertical and built from salvaged wood.

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Haenyo – The Diving Grandmothers of Jeju Island

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The Korean Jeju islanders have something to be proud of – their grandmas are divers. It may seem surprising, but for the people of the island this has been a way of life for centuries now. This tradition, once a thriving profession that drove the economy of the land, is in fact, now fast deteriorating.

To understand more about the diving grandmothers, we need to go back a few hundred years in Korean history. Jeju Island lies around 53 miles to the south of mainland Korea. Given the geographical location, fishing has always been the major occupation of this Island. The surrounding waters are rich in exotic sea food like octopus, conch, abalone and urchin.

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Ashes to Ashes? In Korea, It’s More Like Ashes to Beads

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As a result of changes in traditional South Korean beliefs, more and more people are choosing to have their cremated loved-ones’ ashes turned into decorative beads they can keep around.

10 years ago, 6 out of 10 Koreans who died were buried, according to Confucian beliefs to respect the dead and visit their graves. But, due in part to western influence, but also to a strong government campaign to convince people to switch to cremation, Korean culture changed drastically. In a small, densely populated country like South Korea, space is very important, so in 2000, the country’s government initiated an aggressive pro-cremation campaign that included pamphlets, radio broadcasts and press statements, This culminated with a law passed in 2000, requiring anyone who chose to bury their dead, to remove the grave after 60 years. Largely as a result of these facts, only 3 out of 10 Koreans were buried last year.

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Japan’s Pig Rodeo – Animal Cruelty or Just Plain Fun?

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Although pigs aren’t exactly known for their speed and stamina, the people of Mikame, in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture seem to think they’re the perfect animals to ride.

Ehime Prefecture has been known as Japan’s pork production capital for a long time, and 25 years ago someone thought it would be a great idea to celebrate by riding hogs in a unique event known as Pig Rodeo. Part of the annual Seiyo City Mikame Summer Festival, the crazy event has been a popular tourist attraction, but to most of the western world it remained a mystery until 2009, when a YouTube video was picked up by a number of media outlets. There was a lot of controversy surrounding pig rodeo, at the time, and someone even started an online petition to get it banned, but in the last two years there were hardly any stories written on the subject.

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In Indonesia Football Is Played with a Ball of Fire

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Sepak Bola Api, or The Fireball Game, is a unique game Indonesians play to welcome the month of Ramadan. It’s a lot like football only they have to kick a flaming fireball.

It seems regular football is pretty boring. At least that’s the feeling I get after discovering similar games like Footdoubleball, Cycle Ball or Burton-on-the-Water. The latest addition to the list of games that makes football look easy is an Indonesian tradition that had people kick a flaming football in celebration of Ramadan. It’s called Sepak Bola Api and is usually celebrated in the Yogyakarta, Bogor, Tasikmalaya, and Papua regions of the Southeastern Asia archipelago. Just like in the regular game of football, two teams of 11 eleven players kick a ball and try to shoot it in the opposing goal. But that’s easier said than done when playing barefoot and kicking a flaming ball.

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Japan’s Ear-Cleaning Parlors Bring Back Childhood Memories

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Japanese associate ear-cleaning with their childhood and many of them are willing to pay to return to those carefree days if only for just a few minutes. That’s what makes ear-cleaning salons one of the most popular businesses in Japan, right now.

Ever since Japan authorities decided to deregulate ear-cleaning as a medical profession, making it available without a medical license, hundreds of salons offering the service started popping up all over the country. The vast majority of clients are men looking to relax their minds after a stressful day, and travel back to the days when they used to rest their heads on their mothers’ laps for the occasional ear cleaning session. Three out of four clients claim it’s so relaxing they actually fall asleep while the kimono-wearing cleaners excavate the wax out of their ears. Some say their wives clean their ears at home, but it’s just not the same without the traditional Japanese style room and the tatami mats.

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Japan’s Anti-Groping Women-Only Train Cars

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Groping on public transportation is an international problem, but Japanese railway companies have found an effective way to stop it by introducing women-only train and subway cars.

It’s a known fact that Tokyo is overcrowded and that is most obvious during rush hour, when professional pushers shove people into train cars so the doors can close properly. Unfortunately this is the kind of environment where perverts thrive. Usually most people mind their own business, reading a magazine, checking their email or talking on the phone, but some men prefer to talk dirty to the women next to them and groping them. This kind of molestation or “chikan” as the Japanese call it, happens every day in Japanese major cities, and lost of women choose to be quiet and bear it, because of the way male-dominated Japanese society functions. But ever since Japanese railway stations introduced the women-only train cars, they don’t have to, anymore.

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The Camel-Riding Robot Jockeys of Arabia

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Camel racing is a really popular sport throughout the Arab world, and owning a heard of specially-bred fast camels is apparently considered a symbol of wealth and power. But it’s not the animals we should be talking about, it’s their weird-looking robot jockeys.

Obviously, robot jockeys aren’t exactly an integral part of the old camel racing tradition. In the old days, children and light young men were used to whip the camels to victory, but in recent years things had  really gotten out of hand, and crackdowns on the black market revealed around 40,000 kids from South Asia had been kidnapped or sold by their families to become, among other things, camel jockeys. Welfare organizations started reuniting the children with their families, offering them shelter and food until they could return home, but a solution to camel jockey trafficking had to be found urgently. The United Arab Emirates banned children under the age of 16 from competing in camel races, and a Swiss company called K-team realized the business opportunity and began creating light robot jockeys known as “Kamal”, in 2003.

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Forcadas – The Brave Bullfighting Women of Mexico and Portugal

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It takes a lot of guts to get in the ring with an enraged bull, even when carrying a sharp sword, but the forcadas (women bullfighters) are brave enough to take the bull head-on without any kind of protection or weaponry.

During the early days of bullfighting, the bullring had a staircase leading to the royal cabin, and a group of men called forcados was employed to make sure the bull didn’t go up the stairs. They used a long pole with a steel half-moon at the top, called a “forcado” (fork) to fight the bull, and that’s how they got their name. But nowadays they only use a symbolic forcado during opening ceremonies and historical demonstrations, as their main role in modern bullfighting is the “pega de caras” (face catch). The pega essentially involves challenging the bull with their bare hands and trying to win by immobilizing it.

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