Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
The article begins:
To kick off our year-long trek through Southeast Asia, my husband and I spent two months exploring the Indonesian island of Bali with no set itinerary. While in the town of Ubud, home of the Balinese royal family, we saw that the Puri Agung Ubud were building a bade (cremation tower) and an enormous twenty-foot papier-mâché bull for a cremation ceremony for Prince Tjokorda Putra Dharma Yudha, so we decided to attend.
Locals line the street to catch a glimpse of the procession. (Photograph by Lisa Niver Rajna)
Johnny, a dive master and member of the local band, T-WRECK, told us we were lucky (b-ungtung in Balinese) to see such a large ceremony — or to see one at all. The last royal cremation occurred two years ago. Many of the locals we befriended in the diving meccas of Amed and Tulamben explained that they could not afford to attend but would have loved to join us on the big day.
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November 16, 2012 | 10:13 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
"I did this to myself," I mumbled. I kept thinking, "This is my fault. I am stuck on this bike in this heat in Bagan to celebrate my big birthday. I chose this. I must be crazy." I wondered, "Why am I torturing myself? Are we having fun yet?"
George, my happy husband, seemed so calm and collected on his bike. I wanted to be an intrepid traveler and young at heart but turning 45 made me wonder: "Am I too old for adventure? Do I need to get off the road and settle down? What will the next five years bring?"
Certain birthdays give us the chance to take stock. Have we met our goals? Where are we? As I map out where I want to go on this, my sabbatical year, I wonder in the next five years where will we go? For the last six years, George and I have talked about traveling in Myanmar together. Now we were here for my 45th birthday and I hated it. I hated the heat. The bike. Even myself for choosing this terrorizing trauma as a gift to myself.
Who would bike in 104 degree heat at midday to see old rocks? What had I done? It seemed smart back in Los Angeles when we met online. I first saw the Schwedagon Pagoda in 2001 during a 50-day cruise from Athens to Bangkok. Seeing the Schwedagon Pagoda at sunset and then at night is one of my most special and enduring memories from seven years of working at sea like Julie McCoy on "The Love Boat."
FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT on the HUFFINGTON POST: CLICK here to read the full article and see all twenty photos!
November 13, 2012 | 4:03 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Bali to Thailand on Air Asia
Video: Bali to Thailand on Air Asia
Our two months in Indonesia went almost as quickly as this video of the flight from Bali to Phuket, Thailand on Air Asia! The islands of both countries are so beautiful. We spent July-August 2012 in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia and September 2012 in Thailand. Our stories, photos and videos of both countries, the beginning of our year trip in South East Asia are available at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/ In October 2012, we were off to Myanmar. Where will we go next? We are not sure yet but likely we will fly on Air Asia. They have great flights at fantastic prices!
This movie is from our two-month stay in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia (July & August 2012) and our year TRIP in South East Asia, see all the videos from our trip.
August 31, 2012
November 5, 2012 | 3:46 am
Posted By Eva Rosales
“Everyone walks through life but it is those who look to learn from people coming from different walks of life that travel the farthest."
True learning for me is something that happens in gradual steps not something that I acquire at a first glance. For this very reason, when traveling to Iran became a possibility, I was ecstatic. All I knew of Iran at that time was that it lay geographically next to Afghanistan and that prior to the fall of the Shah in 1979, it was one of the most European minded countries in the Middle East. Its golden age of shaping foreign policy in the 70’s and its influence during WWII was something I had only had the opportunity to read about in textbooks. I only truly grasped how extensive and rich Iranian culture really is when I traveled to Iran. Far from its interactions with the Portuguese empire during the later part of the 18th century and its cultural peak during the Safavid Dynasty, I discovered an Iran preserved in time, an Iran that warmly offers a piece of its history and intricate social fabric in its people and in doing so bestowed a sense of immortality upon me.
Bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, Iran’s geographical setting boasts of the Zagros Mountains from north to south and its grain and wheat fields in cities like Shiraz. Its friendly population of a staggering seventy million demonstrates daily its respect and profound devotion to Islam in their everyday clothing. For one, all women must wear hijabs and long-sleeved shirts and pants. I, for one along with all the women who traveled with me on the plane, remember putting on my hijab five minutes before landing. At airport checks women and men always made separate lines. For me, this wasn’t strange because I had lived in the Middle East before; however I never had to wear a hijab. Honestly, I quickly forgot that I even had hair because I was more intrigued by sightseeing in Tehran. Not only that but I only ever saw my hair right before going to bed. Walking down Tehran at night was one of the most colorful scenes I witnessed. Women, especially young women wore colorful hijabs, ranging from blue to green and fuchsia. Something that also caught my attention while shopping was the fact that most mannequins in Tehran had band-aids on their noses- a sign that shows just how popular and prominent plastic surgery is in Iranian society. Likewise, the recurrent and intertwined symbolism of Islam is apparent in every crook and cranny in Iran. For one, the color green can be seen throughout Iran. Not only because the color itself symbolizes the power and importance of the Q’uran’s teachings but also because it is displayed in the colorful flags of local elections in various cities across Iran. This further shows how Iran like many Middle Eastern countries’ politics and religion are intertwined and are almost if not impossible to separate.
Look for Part 2-4 Mondays in November at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/
October 30, 2012 | 8:58 pm
Posted Richard Bangs
From Iguaçu I travel west over the Andes and beyond, over one of the emptiest stretches of water on the planet, en route to Easter Island, a fine dot on the map of the Pacific. If Iguaçu is full presence, Eastern Island is absence. Fretted by incessant winds, it is surrounded by a million square miles of open sea. And the nearest solid land you can see from here... is the moon.
This tiny rock in the middle of nowhere, on the way to nowhere, has bewildered and beguiled explorers, scientists, artists and visitors for centuries. But only its solitary stone sentries, some standing, some fallen, know the island's real story.
Wonder is what provokes through opposition of what makes sense, and so little makes sense here. It's a twisted plot that turns on creation and destruction; a whodunit; a cautionary tale... and one of the greatest unsolved riddles of all time.
Why did an ancient people erect the massive stone figures that haunt this remote island? How did they do it? And why did such an accomplished people nearly vanish into thin air?
Answers are as insubstantial as sand. The footprints of those who once knew have long washed away. Yet we are inexorably drawn to things we don't understand...compelled, by nature, to wonder.
Easter Island is a place to meditate upon mysteries. Nowhere can such colossal statues be found in such a small place in such great numbers created by so few people. It is the richest, most bewitching open-air museum in existence.
Many are familiar with the outlines of the story: Once blessed with bounty -- flocks of native birds, a forest of palm trees and a sea abundant with life -- Easter Island was, for a time, Eden-like.
Sometime in a period still uncertain, seafaring Polynesians, masters of wind, stars and current, set sail in outrigger canoes. Defying all odds, they crossed a vast void of ocean, until they bumped into this igneous spit, and then settled here, perhaps because of the fresh water source in its crater lakes. Over time, they carved and erected these great moai, the island's iconic, brooding statues.
Then suddenly, over the course of a few short hundred years, the society buckled, then collapsed. The population shrank to a shadow, leaving only the mute moai as witness to what had happened.
Anthropologists tell us the people who settled this island were Polynesian. Archaeologists tell us the moai were carved from volcanic stone. But no one can explain why the inhabitants spent so much time fashioning the statues, and moving them around like giant chess pieces... and why they toppled them when they were done.
The island received its cartographic celebrity from the Dutch sea captain Jacob Roggeveen, the first European to visit the island on Easter Sunday, 1722.
One sailor wrote of the huge stone heads they found: "all made with skill, whereat we wondered not a little."
Up to 13,000 people once inhabited the island, but by the time Captain Cook arrived in 1774, most of the land had been deforested, and only a thousand called it home. Like so many, Cook was amazed by what he found. "It was incomprehensible to me," he wrote, "how such great masses could be formed by a set of people among whom we saw no tools."
The extinct volcano Rano Rarku provided the volcanic tuff from which the island's almost 900 moai were chiseled and carved. Archeologists think it took 5 or 6 men, using hand tools, a full year to complete each statue.
But how did they move these monoliths, some standing thirty feet high and weighing up to twenty tons? Some suggest felled palm trunks acted as rollers as teams of hundreds pushed and pulled the statues into place. Others say they were walked, as movers might walk a large piece of furniture across the room. And there are those who believe there was no human assist at all, that the statues marched themselves across the raw-boned isle.
At Tongariki stands a line of giant Moai, one crowned with a massive stone headdress. The achievement of donning this fellow's hat might be compared with putting a man on Mars today. How did they do this? The only thing to do in the face of the incomprehensible is to wonder.
Most of the moai were felled for reasons obscured by the long shadows of time. Only recently have several been re-erected to their previous viewpoints, and the restoration work continues
Contact with the outside world was not kind to Rapa Nui, and in time the island seemed to shrink into itself. European ships brought slave traders and disease. Then there was the islanders' own undoing, still a mystery. But by 1860, just 111 people survived and today's inhabitants are the descendants.
After missionaries arrived on the island, much of the native culture was suppressed and, in some cases, erased, but since the 1960's Rapa Nuian culture has undergone a renaissance. The people of Easter Island today are breathing mana, or life spirit, into their native arts, language and culture.
Controversies still rage as hard as the sea into the cliffs on this three-million-year-old volcanic spit. Theories slip past like fish in flight.
Many guesses for Rapa Nui's early undoing have been hazarded: climate change, overpopulation, volcanic eruption, rat infestations, cannibalism, war. Though we continue to search for answers, it's the non-answers that needle and keep us wondering. Why is this important? Because knowing begins with not-knowing.
But while we fail to grasp the narratives long vanished, there is a yearning wonder in the attempt. Was what happened here a moment of dizzyingly singularity? Or is it a crystal ball to our own future? What are the costs of our own choices? What can we learn to avoid this fate?
In recent years, tourism has boosted the economy of Easter Island. But the people of Rapa Nui well know that if the number of tourists increases past a certain threshold, the island will once again have insufficient resources to handle the growth. The people of this island are no strangers to overpopulation, and its consequences, so great efforts are being made to keep this address sustainable, in balance, for locals and visitors.
From the moment visitors' touchdown, these efforts are noticeable. Even the offices of the island's leading airline are designed to be green and sustainable.
The newly built Hangaroa Eco Village is based on the Polynesian kainga, or village, integrating respect for the fragile lands of Rapa Nui with a laudable cultural sensitivity.
"On the entire surface of the island, there is not a tree that merits being called that," wrote naturalist George Forster, who accompanied Captain Cook.
No matter how the island's trees were lost--cutting them down to move the Moai, or for building, firewood and weapons, or from a plague of Polynesian rats arriving with the island's first settlers -- thanks to work from CONAF, The National Forest Corporation of Chile, trees native to Oceania are now being introduced in an effort to re-forest land denuded for centuries.
And so, the guardianship of this once-broken island seems in good hands now, its tonic of wonders intact, and sustaining.
The wind whispers here, like the voices of carvers past. All we are left with is the magnet of mystery, which pulls travelers to this powerful place.
The mysteries lay folded in wonder. The great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda wrote of this place: "And in this capital without walls made of light, salt, stone and thought, like the rest I looked at and left frightened by the cleanly clarity of mythology, the statues surrounded by blue silence.... Easter Island, where everything is an altar, where everything is an altar of the unknown."
The blind eyes of Easter Island watch our comings and goings, impassively, as they always have. Most gaze inward, toward the center of this island universe; but a few look out to sea, wondering, perhaps, what lies beyond. Can they as well see across time as space, and know what is coming in the Moai's future -- in our today?
The APT/KQED television special "Richard Bangs' South America: Quest for Wonder" is airing nationally now on PBS. See this link for air dates and info.
September 27, 2012 | 7:22 am
Posted Amy Sommer
On Saturday, September 29, 2012 KTLA’s “Career Day” will invite viewers in to science teacher Lisa Niver Rajna’s classroom and see first hand how she inspires her Kindergarten through sixth grade students by integrating science concepts in an engaging way that connects with our community.
Niver Rajna’s fourth grade students had a Question and Answer session with the director of "Trouble in Paradise" a film that documents how the inhabitants of this Polynesian island nation are dealing with the rising sea waters which will force them to abandon their homes in the near future. Several students were so inspired to help they had a weekend bake sale to raise money to help the Tuvaluans relocate.
Another example of Niver Rajna’s innovative approach to a holistic teaching of science involved her sixth graders participated in the 20th year of the OXFAM-Canada International Recycled Toy Competition. Her students who won the International Award are the first American participants in this student project.
Niver Rajna, an avid traveler who with her husband, George, run the global travel site, We Said Go Travel http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/, found out about the Oxfam Competition when they met the founder of the contest hiking Sri Lanka’s Ella Gap. Niver Rajna always brings her travels into the classroom and she is gathering more material during the 2012-2013 school year while she travels in Asia during her sabbatical.
During her travel year, the teacher and traveler invites everyone to be involved in her latest philanthropic venture: 45x45. The goal of this venture is to create awareness for the plight of the Darfur refugees. In the 45 days before she turns 45 she is raising money to assist 45 families receive Solar Cookers from Jewish World Watch. She is already half way to her goal having raised funds to help 23 families. For more information on this project: www.wesaidgotravel.com/we-said-do-good
Niver Rajna is a 2012 presidential nominee for excellence in math and science teaching, and has received rewards and accolades from political leaders including United States Senator Barbara Boxer and City Council member Eric Garcetti: http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/accolades
Niver Rajna has been to over one hundred countries and is a member of Traveler's Century Club and it is by sharing stories of these adventures with her students that she inspires them to learn geography and be global citizens. Her choices for Science Fair projects are also influenced by her worldly view a dozen of which are featured on www.sciencebuddies.org.
Being able to explain the Ho Chi Ming Trail, all about Nomads and Gers in Mongolia, as well water issues around the world with both photos and video from her personal perspective engages students of all ages. Find out how Lisa Niver Rajna does it on KTLA Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 1:00pm.
September 5, 2012 | 8:19 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Sept 3, 2012: Forty-five days before I turn forty-five, I am asking you to join me in donating to Jewish World Watch (JWW) for the Solar Cooker Project to help forty-five families. I hope to find at least forty-five people willing to donate $5 to $45 (or more) in honor of my forty-fifth birthday so I can share my gratitude about all the good things in my life.
$40 will provide one family with two cookers and with $1800 we can outfit 45 families. So if 45 friends each donate $40 I can provide 45 families with safety, security and solar cooked meals!
I have worked with JWW on several projects and their motto: “Do not stand idly by,” inspires me. I hope that together we can help many families no longer fear going out of the refugee camp in search of firewood and fuel and into the dangers of gang rape and death. After a long journey full of peril from Darfur in Sudan, people arrive at the camps in Chad traumatized having lost home, family members and any concept of safety into a bureaucratic jungle with only tarps for creating a “home.” Having given up my home by choice this year to travel with my husband, I hope to help others feel cared for no matter where they rest their head.
Please use this link to donate www.solarcookerproject.org
Note that your donation is in honor of Lisa Niver Rajna and JWW will keep track of the money we raise together! Thank you for making a difference today.
More information at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/we-said-do-good
August 20, 2012 | 6:52 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
I keep saying. “RELAX and see what happens!”— but when my laptop busted in Bali I was so not calm. I actually felt ill and really thought I might throw up. I knew that taking so many different kinds of electronics in a backpack on a trip with so many islands could pose problems. I knew to buy an external harddrive. I investigated cloud drive back-ups. I thought I was prepared.
On Day Five of my one-year adventure, I was not in any way prepared for my Macbook Air to break down. I turned it on and it should have worked, especially since this was the first week of our journey. We were at the Lovina Bali Beach Cottage, a steal at $38 USD, in Lovina, a sleepy town. The breakfast by the pool was relaxing and they gave us hard-boiled eggs instead of scrambled, and nasi puti (white rice) instead of toast. I love the sliced fruit and rest of my favorites: watermelon and pineapple. I even ate the papaya. I had great books on my Kindle and was enjoying relaxing by the pool reading. We strolled on the beach, found great places to eat, and listened to live music. How could it happen that the laptop would just die so quietly!
I felt greedy. We did not have free wi-fi at this hotel so I got inspired to get a USB hub modem. A shop in Kuta had a global one but we did not want to return there. One shop in Lovina had an Indonesian model and the other shop (this is a small one-street town) only had a used one that was international but the owner did not really know how to use it. His friend came to the shop to help and teh device still did not work. I was lazy and did not uninstall the hardware and then turned off the laptop. Later, it only showed the “gray-screen” with its spinning wheel of death.
If only I had left it alone, maybe it would still work. We tried several ideas. George looked up help for me on the Internet on his iPhone. I tried to restart, I tried to SMC and PRAM all to no aval. I freaked out. We went back to the shop and put the USB drive back in to see if the laptop would pull itself out of its zombie mode. Sadly, I wanted to cry because maybe I had ruined my biggest toy so early on in our travels.
I emailed a few tech-savy friends for help. I appreciated everyone who took the time to email me suggestions. I Tweeted and I Facebook’d; I was appalled. What would I do now? I read a lot of books and got lost in them to try to calm myself down. A friend sent the email of her emergency mac consultant who promptly wrote back to me and said, “You need to go to a shop.” I thought, “An apple store? There is not even a supermarket here, let alone an apple store.” As we left Lovina, we stopped in Sinaraja, a larger place and went into an internet café and a computer sales shop that sold mainly HP. The nice man told me, “You need the Apple store. There is one in Denpasar.” I felt better that at least there was one on the island even if that store was nearly five hours away by car. I had thought I might have to wait for Bangkok, Thailand but now I had hope that someone somewhere on this island would resurrect my laptop like a Phoenix it would rise from its zombie ashes.
We had a great tour on the way to Tulamben. It was about $6 more to go by private car than take the group bus and we got to see the Beji Rice Temple and Air Sante (a natural cold water spring)—-and we stopped to check on the laptop.
So I relaxed somewhat. We spent five days in Tulamben where we snorkeled the USA T Liberty, Drop off and Pinnacles. We stayed at the Paradise Palm Beach Hotel –see our video of what a $17 hotel on agoda.com looks like!! I did not appreciate the day that ants ate my vitamins—on our last trip, rats ate had been the main critters to gobble them. Maybe that is a sign, not sure of what.
I lived without my laptop but hoped it would work again. George played two nights with the band, T WRECK (see the video!), which was great. I have posted one video so far of the band playing but have more videos in the wings. We made a website and video for the incredible Puri Madha Beach Hotel. I really enjoyed my time in Tulamben.
I think I may have actually needed the break from the laptop and the website. It was a mad rush before we left the USA. I had two weeks from the last day of school until we got on the plane. In that time, we moved out of three school sites (one for me and two for George), sold both cars (thanks Doran), fixed up our condo for our new tenant, moved out of our condo (for the fourth time in about as many years), packed and re-packed our backpacks and said a few more good-byes.
I found a savior to fix my laptop but will tell all the details next time. Suffice to say—I am BACK!
July 21, 2012
More Indonesia tales at www.WeSaidGoTravel.com