Of the many strange things I have done in my life, one of them was deciding to live in Roosevelt Island. I did that for a year and every morning, the strangeness of that place grew and every evening I wondered why is it that a place can make you feel that way. A small island across the East River on the side of Manhattan, where no cars are allowed and the whole width of the island is 240 meters and length of about 3 km, it is owned by the city of Manhattan but feels like worlds away.
On the way to Dayangjie, the central home of the Yiche people, a branch of the Hani ethnic minority that settled in Yunnan about 1000 years ago, we met this child and grandparent. The Yiche people wear conical hats in black and in white and are known to have some of the stranger customs among the Hani people. The ‘lihhahha’ or marriages in their language of the Yiche people are arranged by their parents when they are very young, when the bride-price is paid. After the marriage the husband and wife don’t live together, but with their own parents. The wife, however, must visit her husband every twelve days until giving birth. During this period of lihhahha the wife has the freedom to have sexual intercourse with any man she likes. This custom proves that there is so much more to learn about the people of the world and the way their lives are arranged and why. The more I see of this world, the less room I have for pre-judgment and the wider my mind must be opened.
Traveling the world makes you less and less surprised by odd customs, but I was first surprised to see water sold in plastic bags in Congo, and again various drinks packaged the same way in Philippines. It seems very practical to drink from the bottom of a plastic bag and much easier for shopkeepers that don’t want to risk losing unreturned bottles 🙂
Do you remember the movies we saw about the future, where everything was glowing with strange lights, the sky a strange shade of fluorescent green, people walking with strange electronic devices, humans strolling almost like robots oblivious of other earthlings around them, television screens with worlds flying floating on them on installed on almost everything including buildings and cars… well this future is here and it is in reality even stranger than that.
I remember seeing a movie that made a huge impact on me when I was younger, it was called “until the end of the world” with William Hurt. I never ever forgot that movie and it keeps coming to mind every so often. It had foreseen speaking navigation systems in cars, people recording their dreams and being completely obsessed with watching themselves over and over again on little screens… a strange movie predicting strange times. When I step back and look at our lives today, we are living these strange times, only they are much much more fantastical than what was predicted. I recommend seeing that movie again if you are into such films.