decipherment – The analysis of documents written in ancient languages, where the language is unknown, or knowledge of the language has been lost.

Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.  ~Paulo Coelho

One thing I love about my job is having the opportunity to travel to and live in different countries long enough to really grow in my understanding of that country, its culture and history to how it has changed throughout history to form its present state of being.

My current position still has me traveling to different countries, but the time frame of staying is likely to be from a few weeks to a few months tops.  This puts a significant amount of pressure on my nature to find ways of gaining the 2-3 years of knowledge and experiences about a country into a shorter time-frame.  This will require me to find more spontaneous and eclectic ways to gain deeper insights.  Though decipherment refers more specifically to the written language, I like to think of it as an all encompassing visual, written, oral, and textile experience in a country.

Country 1 – Doha, Qatar

Lucky for me I am currently working with a group of girls that are as incentivized as I am to see as much of a country, as quickly as possible, from every angle and time period that we have here.

First idea – (not mine) take the metro.  Find your way from point A to point B with minimal knowledge of where we were going or what we would end up doing.  Brilliant that led to so many questions that we had to pick apart to fully understand.  A super insightful way to begin to understand how a country operates.  Destination – National Museum.

So you think you can understand something if you just look at the pictures.  Also, all directions were in both Arabic and English.  Easy peasy .. right?  First off, the yellow picture above was mistaken for an alien .. possibly part of a police force.  Apparently that just means train.  Uh.. duh..  I knew that.. … …

We bought general day pass tickets to use the train.  We get to the metro loading dock and have an option to go into the “standard”, “gold” or “family” doors.  Hmmm.. well.. we are friends but not family.  The gold door was obviously not what we paid for so it seemed “standard” fit the bill.  Except.  Only men stood at this door.  Nope. Not standard.  We followed a group of women into the “family” train.  Phew.. we made it.  Super clean and very quiet.

Then we arrive at the National Museum stop.  I could have spent half a day just walking around the outside of the building.  Just like many buildings in Doha, incredible architecture.  Multi-layered.  Reminded me of a Dr. Seuss book but in an incredibly subtle and balanced way.

The Importance of Architecture
At its roots, architecture exists to create the physical environment in which people live, but architecture is more than just the built environment, it’s also a part of our culture. It stands as a representation of how we see ourselves, as well as how we see the world.

All of this.. before we even enter the museum.  Due to a significant amount of construction going on around the city and at the museum, we were told that a fairly large part of the museum was closed.  We debated going in but then thought that as long as we were there we might as well see what we could see.  I am so glad we did.  From the moment we entered the museum, the mood was set. Music, lighting, audio and visual effects, that set the stage for an emotional journey.  Surprising as this was not my heritage or my country.  The setting was alive and vibrant in every area we entered.  Starting with this stark video image (mixed with many others) on the first wall.

“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter – in the eye.” – Charlotte Bronte

“Where words are restrained, the eyes often talk a great deal.” – Samuel Richardson

“The eyes shout what the lips fear to say.” – William Henry

“When a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes.” – Victor Hugo

Anyways – So many quotes about eyes.  But there was so much more to see.  There was a movie playing in one area that I wanted to just sit and watch. Only music, no words, but the size of the screen and the images presented so clearly told a story that words were unnecessary.  At the end of the museum as we were about to leave, we were invited to visit the “special” room that consisted of glass beads and sculptures hanging from the ceiling that changed colors based on the music being played.

There were so many other installations within the gallery that included a children’s section that we took over and completely enjoyed, old cars, old phones, clothing and jewels from different eras, and interviews from the people associated with creating and building Doha.  Absolutely amazing and enlightening.  A must stop and see if you ever make it to Doha, Qatar.  So many more pictures but really, I’m going to let you discover this when you take the plunge and travel here.

In every country and region, there are practices and ways of living and culture that have been handed down from ancestors. Naturally, I feel that these should be respected. Shinzo Abe

Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures. Cesar Chavez

Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future. Albert Camus

Diverse cultures: Understanding Culture; Disdain for Culture and the road to Fascism;The Value of Acceptance: Saying ‘Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything’; Around the world in 182 days: Namibia; Is it hard to make friends in a new country?; Lessons from Taoism: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times; Five Life-Changing Gifts of Travel; Tote Bag and Other Thoughts;  Give Peace a Chance;The Greatest Invention: A History of the World in Nine Mysterious Scripts; Acceptance;  A Guide to Belgium’s Customs & Culture

Naija Style

Even as the archer loves the arrow that flies, so too he loves the bow that remains constant in his hands.     Nigeria

Make no mistake, I get it, weddings around the world can be amazing, glorious, inspirational, and even horrible.  But weddings in Nigeria are sensational and chaotic things.  I have been fortunate enough (and honored enough) to have been invited to another wedding in Nigeria of one of my colleagues.  Wow!! Just pure fun.

The color, the chaos, multiple photographers, kids, dancing, eating, matching clothes…


The kiss..



welcome.. the bride and groom….


Other cultural posts about heritage

YorkCastle, Rantings, Petroglyphs, roaming, patron saints, Morya, legacy, hotdogs, blarney, irene, Unsung 

Twisted – – Just a little


Bored on a Saturday afternoon?  What do you think of doing?  I’m sure the first thing you thought of was NOT to go watch a a stadium setting..surrounded by hundreds of people you don’t really know. Or maybe that is the first thing you thought of….


During my first visit to Pashupati, I was amazed at the colors, the sounds and the smell of the area.  Pashupati is a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati River.  Every day families can be found with their deceased to this edge of the river here to be cremated.  It is my understanding that after the cremation, the ashes are buried nearby the temple area.


Many westerners however, visit simply to witness the open air cremation ceremony. During my first visit, every area available was being used.  This past weekend I had a guest in town and we decided to visit the area.  There is a part of me that felt it was a little disrespectful to watch people cremate their family members but it is such an interesting cultural experience.  Only Hindus are allowed in the temple area so you are really watching from across the river and are not interfering with the process.


People who have money are able to hold their ceremony in a very central spot right on the water.  There appears to be only one cremation at a time happening in this area.  The ceremony is well attended and the body is strewn with beautiful flowers.

People without money are cremated in a more crowded area with similar fanfare but a little less grand in style.

We stood on the opposite banks for some time watching the process as well as watching the people who were watching the process.

This was not the first cremation I had seen in Nepal.  When I first arrived, circumstances brought me very close to a cremation in a very different location.  It was interesting how all of life went on around the cremation area.  There was a woman washing her laundry in a doorway behind me while children played ball and animals ate grass very near the cremation site.  When the body was placed on the stand and wood and flower were placed on the body, the children stopped playing ball for just a minute and stood about 4 feet from the body.  They watched the process for about five minutes and then went back to playing ball.  It was amazing and interesting how death played a role in their every day lives and how close this culture is to death in comparison to my own.  It was odd and comforting all at the same time. It was very natural.

Every culture around the world has their own way of dealing with death.  One is not better than the other and it’s all what you grew up with.  Still it is very interesting to me.  A few more way for you to think about.

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

The way we grieve, commemorate, and dispose of our dead varies greatly from culture to culture, but some traditions really take funerals to the next level of macabre. Here are 10 of the most bizarre death rituals the world has ever known.

1. Endocannibalism

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

For some cultures, the best way to honor the dead is by eating them. Referred to as “endocannibalism” by stuffy anthropologists, these “feasts of the dead” are a way to forge a permanent connection between the living and the recently deceased. It’s also a cathartic way to express the loathing and fear associated with death and its tragic aftermath. Some anthropologists have suggested that endocannibalism is something the dead would have expected from the living — a final gesture of goodwill to the tribe and family. Though no longer practiced (at least not that we know of), cultures who engaged in endocannibalism included the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea and the Wari people of Brazil.

2. Tibetan Buddhist Celestial Burials

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

But why nourish yourself with the flesh of the recently deceased when you can use it to feed wild animals? Such is the thinking of Tibetan Buddhists practice ritual dissection, or “Sky Burials” — the tradition of chopping up the dead into small pieces and giving the remains to animals, particularly birds. Sometimes the body is left intact — which is not a problem for advantageous vultures. While this may seem undignified and even a bit disgusting, the ritual makes complete sense from a Buddhist perspective. Buddhists have no desire to preserve or commemorate a dead body, something that is seen as an empty vessel. Moreover, in tune with their respect for all life, Buddhists see it as only fitting that one’s final act (even if committed in proxy) is to have their remains used to sustain the life of another living creature; and in fact, the ritual is seen as a gesture of compassion and charity. Today,over 80% of Tibetan Buddhists choose sky burial, a ritual that has been observed for thousands of years.

3. Suspended Burials

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

The mysterious Bo people of the Hemp Pond Valley in Southwest China’s Gongxian County flourished for millennia before they were massacred by the Ming Dynasty over five centuries ago. Today, the Bo are almost completely forgotten, save for the dramatic hanging coffins they have left behind — a haunting array of wooden caskets that extend from the rock face to a height of almost 300 feet. Located just above the Crab Stream, the 160 coffins were placed along the cliffs and within natural caves, with some resting on wooden posts that extend out from the cliffside. The precipice itself features many murals that are painted with bright cinnabar red colors, many of which depict the lives of the Bo people. Today, the locals refer to the long-lost civilization by such names as “Sons of the Cliffs” and “Subjugators of the Sky.” But why they interred their dead in this way remains a complete mystery.

4. Sati

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

Though now (mercifully) banned in India, Sati was a funerary practice in whichrecently widowed women immolated themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre. The custom was seen as a voluntary act, but there were many instances in which women were forced to commit Sati — sometimes even dragged against their will to the fire. No one is certain how the ritual got started, but one suggestion is that it was introduced to prevent wives from killing their wealthy husbands (typically with poison) and marry their real lovers. Another possibility is that it was seen as a way for a husband and wife to enter into the afterlife together so that they could thwart opportunistic female angels. Interestingly, India was not the first and only culture to adopt the tradition. Other ancient societies that practiced something similar to Sati included the Egyptians, Greeks, Goths, and Scythians.

5. The Viking Funeral

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

Hindi women clearly had it tough — but so did the slave girls of Viking noblemen. According to the historic account of Ahmad ibn Fadlan, a 10th century Arab Muslim writer, the ritual following the death of a chieftain was exceptionally brutal. Once dead, a chieftain’s body was put into a temporary grave for ten days while new clothes were being prepared for him. During this time, one of his slave girls would “volunteer” to join him in the afterlife; she was then guarded day and night and given copious amounts of intoxicating drinks. Once the cremation ceremony got started, the girl went from tent to tent to have sex with every man in the village. As the men were having sex with her — or what today we woud call “rape” — they would say, “Tell your master that I did this because of my love for him.” Following this, the girl was taken to a tent where she had sex with six Viking men, was strangled to death with rope, and finally stabbed by a village matriarch. And for the coup de grace, the bodies of the chieftain and slave girl were place onboard a wooden ship that was set alight. The Vikings did this to ensure that the slave girl would serve her master in the afterlife, while the sexual rites were a way to transform the chieftain’s life force.

6. Ritual Finger Amputation

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

As if the death of a loved one wasn’t traumatic enough, the Dani people of West Papua, New Guinea also had to cut off their own fingers. This seemingly severe and incomprehensible ritual applied to any woman related to the deceased, as well as any children. The practice was done to both gratify and drive away the spirits, while also providing a way to use physical pain as an expression of sorrow and suffering. To perform the amputation, fingers were tied tightly with string and then cut off with an axe. The leftover piece was then dried and burned to ashes or stored in a special place. The ritual is now banned in New Guinea, but (as this image shows) the effects of the practice can still be seen in some of the older members of the community.

7. Famadihana

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

The Malagasy people of Madagascar have clearly never heard the phrase, “Rest in peace.” In an effort to hasten decomposition — what’s seen as an crucial step in the ongoing process of getting the spirits of the dead into the afterlife — the Malagasy dig up the remains of their relatives and rewrap them in fresh cloth. Afterward, the Malagasy then dance with the corpses around the tomb to live music. Called Famadihana, or “Turning of the Bones,” the ritual has been around for three centuries — one that the local Christian churches are doing their best to stamp out.

8. Mortuary Totem Poles

10 Bizarre Death Rituals from Around the World

Totem poles are a fixture of the American Northwest and the Haida people, but there’s more to these icons than meets the eye. Normally, the remains of a deceased Haida were thrown into a mass pit where they were scavenged by animals. But the series of events following the death of a chief, shaman, or warrior were considerably more intricate. In those cases, the body would be crushed to a pulp with clubs so that it could fit into a small wooden box the size of a suitcase. Following that, the box would be placed atop a special mortuary totem pole in front of the deceased’s longhouse where the icons acted as guardians for the spirits’ journey to the afterlife. Visiting missionaries were often taken aback by the practice, mostly on account of the lingering smell.

9. Australian Aboriginal Mortuary Rites

The best part of an Aboriginal death ritual is that family members get to keep a souvenir afterward — namely the bones of the deceased. Following the demise of a family member, the body was placed atop a raised platform and covered with leaves and branches where it was left to decompose — a process that often took months. In some cases, the liquid from the decaying corpse was collected and rubbed over the bodies of young men to pass on the good qualities of the deceased person. After, the bones were retrieved and painted with red ochre. The bones were then either placed in cave or inside a hollowed out log. And in some cases they would be worn by relatives for up to a year. Some tribes also refused to utter the name of the deceased and completely disregarded any property they left behind. The entire ritual was way to ensure that the ego component of the deceased’s spirit didn’t get too comfortable hanging out with the living.

10. The Zoroastrian Funeral

Zoroastrians have a thing with dead bodies, what they see as something that defiles everything it touches, whether it be the ground, clothes, people — and even fire. The funeral gets off to a rousing start by having the corpse cleansed in unconsecrated bull’s urine (which can only be done by a specially trained member of the community). Once “clean,” the corpse is laid in linen and visited twice by the “Sagdid” — a dog that can cast away evil spirits. After mourners visit the corpse (touching is strictly forbidden), it is placed on top of the Dhakma, or “Tower of Silence,” where the Zoroastrians remove the clothes using tools (the clothes are later disposed of as they’ve been defiled). Following this, the body is quickly devoured by vultures. The entire ritual is done in this way to ensure the minimal amount of harm and injury to the living.

Just a random video I like to close off this post.

Other twisted posts.

  1. The Ambitious Drifter
  2. Points of view
  3. Broken Light
  4. Bumblepuppies
  5. Life in the Foothills
  6. About one thing
  7. Ohm Sweet Ohm
  8. Snow Partridge
  9. Steve Says
  10. Roland’s Photo Blog
  11. Arresting Imagery
  12. Tish Farrell
  13. Freddy’s Photo Project
  14. Canadian Travel Bugs
  15. Writing Between the lines



Dance as an expression


While taking some guests through different areas of Kathmandu we got split up while touring through Patan Durbar Square.  We had agreed that if  we did lose each other on this visit we would meet up in the main entrance of the square.  Of course we got separated.  As I wound my way through the back roads I ran into this two person dance team.  What a treat.  I hope you enjoy.

Dance is the hidden language

of the soul

of the body. ~~Martha Graham

The dance can reveal everything mysterious that is hidden in music, and it has the additional merit of being human and palpable. Dancing is poetry with arms and legs.  ~~Charles Baudelaire

Other posts that represent dance from Where’s your Backpack’s weekly travel theme:  Dance and Daily Post Theme : Moved by Music

  1. Miami Vice: Definitely Miami and ‘Cry’ | It Rains… You Get Wet
  2. dance | photo theme hop
  3. Kicking up your heels. | Chronicles of Illusions
  4. Wake Me Up | Stacy’s Flutterings
  5. Travel theme: Dance | So where’s the snow?
  6. WWC: Moved by Music | Under the Monkey Tree
  7. Travel Theme: Dance | LoganBruin–An Unauthorized Autobiography
  8. Driving Through a Hurricane | Mary J Melange
  9. Travel Theme: Dance | Its In The Picture – 365
  10. Moved by Music | The Urban Dr. Mom
  11. Travel theme: Dance | Figments of a DuTchess
  12. Weekly Travel theme: Dance « Leya
  13. moved by music | band of color
  14. Travel Theme: Dance | Wind Against Current
  15. Dancing with abandon in Sedona | Travel with Intent
  16. Travel Theme: Dancing | Canadiantravelbugs’s Blog
  17. Adolescence | K beezy is viral
  18. Ailsa’s Theme: Dance | Travel Monkey
  19. Travel Theme: Dance | Healthcare Updates
  20. Weekly Writing Challenge- Moved By music | sassy&classy
  21. Weekly Travel Theme: Dance | Northwest Frame of Mind
  22. 5-3-13 Travel Theme: Dance | The Quotidian Hudson
  23. sonic tonic | nanopod: hybrid studio
  24. Save the last dance for me | Le Drake Noir
  25. TRAVEL THEME – DANCE | Dear Bliary
  26. Travel Theme: Dance | A Gringos life in Cusco
  27. I Hope You Dance | The Retiring Sort
  28. Weekly Writing Challenge: Moonlight Serenade | Spiritual Biscuits
  29. Travel Theme: Dance | patriciaddrury
  30. travel theme: dance | whatever a moon has always meant
  31. Moved by Music Memories | Kansa Muse
  32. Travel Theme: Dance | Transplanted Tatar
  33. the power of inspiration | ramblings
  34. Travel theme: Dance | no step too loose
  35. Dance Three Ways | dadirridreaming
  36. Travel Theme: Dance | a hectic life
  37. Moved by Music: DPChallenge | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
  38. Travel Theme: Dance | MythRider
  39. 5 Songs That Can Get You Through The Dark Days | dark circles, etc
  40. Travel theme: Dance | Stefano Scheda
  41. WWC: How I Have Been Moved By Music
  42. Travel Theme: Dance | Edge of the Forest
  43. Dream With Your Feet! | The Urge To Wander
  44. Travel Theme: Dance | Paths Unwritten
  45. Dance (Travel theme) | pdjpix
  46. TRAVEL THEME: DANCE | Francine In Retirement
  47. Travel Theme: Dance | Something for Pok
  48. Travel theme: DANCE of the FLOWERS | Serendipity 13
  49. Travel Theme: Dance | A shot of espresso.
  50. Travel Theme: Dance | American Gypsy Gibberish…
  51. Travel Theme: Dance | Postcards from
  52. Travel theme: Dance | Ain’t Mine No More
  53. Travel Theme: Dance | Pictures for Froghopper

Just People – Still Shots

What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?

I was talking a few weeks ago to a friend of mine from the states.  She asked me about the photographs I had taken of bodies being burned in cremation at the Bagmati River.  Her response was, “How sad!” I asked her why it was sad and told her it was just the custom in this country and was actually a custom in many cultures.

Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture.

We are all guilty of it.  Even when we think we are not doing it.  We all judge other people’s actions and attitudes based on our own “schema” or standards. It is all based on how we are raised and the values we are taught.

I am also guilty of it.  As I take the pictures I take, I sometimes laugh to myself and wonder what the people are thinking when I’m snapping their photos. Photo’s of them doing dishes, laundry or even bathing themselves in the street or their front yards.  It’s always interesting to me, but really it is just people being people.  I can’t imagine someone walking by my house and snapping a picture of me at my sink or worse, in my bathroom.

I try to be respectful and ask if I can take the photo or at the very least try to to be discreet when I am shooting.  I love pictures of people doing things in their natural environment.  I’m not fond of posed pictures.  The following pictures are all randomly shot but I like them because they are just people, being people.

I took Ailsa’s Travel theme “Still” this week and sort of changed it to fit my own idea.  It’s people who are already in a still and pondering pose, or people who are in complete action frozen still by my camera.  I hope you enjoy.

Just some people in Nepal