Monday, April 28, 2014

Could our kids survive this African Initiation?

I was texting with my oldest grandson—aged 19—while reviewing photographs from my first Senegal trip to study with the remote Bedik tribe. We were texting about using drugs and his plans for the next couple of months. He seemed so clueless about surviving, let alone thriving.

The photographs were of the Bedik in the tiny village of Iwol. I happened to be in the village while the 12 and 13-year old boys were in the first month of initiation. For one month, they run around the village in a very prescribed way from sunrise until sunset. I personally can tell you it was more than 110 degrees F hot.  The boys did get a short mid-day lunch break in the shade of a tree.
For one month of their initiation, these 12 and 13-year old boys run like this from sunrise until sunset through the village.
Then, after the month of running, the initiates would spend another five months in the bush by themselves, living on their own.  Occasionally, elders would visit each boy to give guidance and instructions on how to survive, understand their dreams and thrive.

When I asked Chief Keita why this initiation, he thought for a long time, then replied: "To learn the Secrets of Life."

No small task. This Bedik initiation was definitely not a classroom for the meek. This was not your fraternity drink-booze-until-you-pass-out initiation or the gang style shoot-another person test. Rather the Bedik want to test the boy's inner courage, to face their fears and to experience the mystical.

I could only imagine the thoughts that these Bedik boys experience during those six months of initiation. Then, while replying to my grandson's text, I tried to imagine him going through the Bedik initiation for six months.     What, no iPhone, no video games,.... no electricity?

Part of learning the "Secrets of Life" includes spiritual lessons.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Which is China's most scenic vineyard?

  Estate vineyard at Chateau Changyu AFIP Global Winery, one hour out of Beijing, China.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot noir vines in Jade Valley Winery and Resort  vineyard in Shaanxi Province, China.

Chateau Junding winery seen from estate vineyard, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.

Granite posts in vineyards of Treaty Port winery, Mulangou Village in the Shandong Province, China.

Estate vineyard at Treaty Port winery, Mulangou Village, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.

Shepherd drives his sheep up walls of Yellow River Valley canyon with vineyard (upper right by the tree) which supplies grapes to Grace Winery in the Shanxi Province, China.

Yes, the nuclear power plant does interfere with the view of this Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard. That's Bogda Peak in the Tian Shan Mountain range, a World Heritage Site, near Fukang, Xinjian Province, China. The grapes are for Citic Guoan Winery (formerly Suntime International Wine Company).

Growing grapes in villages like Beng (also called Bu),  have changed the whole economy of the region. While I think this could be  one of China's best wine growing regions, as you can imagine, transportation is an issue. That's the LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River roiling through in the Heng Duan Mountain Range, Yunnan Province, China. Oh yes, the grapes are for ShangriLa Winery.

This has to be some of the world's most rugged landscape to grow Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This slopping vineyard near Yunling (Yunlingxiang), above the LanCang River, provides grapes for ShangriLa Winery. This is in Deqin County, Deqen, northwest Yunnan Province, China.