Easter around the World

Easter around the World

With Easter approaching, we look at the traditions around the world and explore how different cultures celebrate this religious festival.

A traditional procession in Jerusalem

A traditional procession in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an obvious place to start; where Judaism’s Passover and Christian Easter come together for Holy Week. Good Friday is perhaps the most notable day, with a multitude of different nationalities flood the streets on Holy pilgrimage, making processions around the 14 stations of the cross where Jesus was crucified.

In Mexico, a pious celebration is also made with processions dressed in biblical clothing flowing through the streets, gathering at the cathedrals with floats carrying images of Jesus on.

Easter in Spain is particularly notable, as business comes to a standstill across much of the country slows to a stand still for Holy Week. The Semanta Santa is one of Europe’s oldest festivals and dates back to the 17th Century. To this day, the “penitentes” (penitent ones) wear the traditional robes  with cone headdress that creates a remarkable and haunting impression.

Easter in Spain: Penitents wear traditional robes called capirotes

Easter in Spain: Penitents wear traditional robes called capirotes

On our tour of Easter around the world, we couldn’t miss out Antigua, where they put on a colourful celebration for Holy Week each year. As in Spain and Mexico, the whole community get involved, spending days creating intricate “alfombras” designs made from petals and coloured saw dust – that carpet the streets. These are beautiful creations but fragile ones, made for the procession to walk over during the passion play, symbolically destroying the designs.

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Patience: alfombras take hours to create and moments to destroy

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A unique Uruguay development…

A unique Uruguay development...

A world-first in Uruguay… although a controversial world-first. Tabare Vazquez’s victory in the country’s presidential election means the governing coalition’s plan to create the world’s first state-run marijuana marketplace will now move forward. Unique Uruguay … an interesting move indeed; one that will position the region as the most liberal on the globe in terms of accessible marijuana.

Whether you agree with it or not, Uruguay itself is a fascinating destination – find out more here.

Holly Morris visited for Globe Trekker too…

The Adventurer’s Travel Health Guide – infographic

The Adventurer's Travel Health Guide - infographic

We know like us, you’re adventurers at heart. It’s obviously important to stay as healthy as possible while on your travels, and it’s for this reason we quite like this helpful travel health guide infographic which presents details on the bare essentials you may need, depending on which far corner of the globe you choose to explore; desert, tropical rainforest and tundra biome.

Take a look at it prior to your next trek around the globe, so you are aware of any potential pitfalls and how to handle each environment you’re exposed to.

 

Adventurers Health Guide

Credit: www.craigdonmountainsports.com

Feature image courtesy Creative Commons on Flickr

A Conversation With Globe Trekker Presenter Megan McCormick

A Conversation With Globe Trekker Presenter Megan McCormick

Whenever I need a little escape but can’t get out of town, I fire up an episode or two of “Globe Trekker” so I can live vicariously through the adventures of travellers like Megan McCormick. Since she started hosting the show in 1997, she’s taken viewers to the Greek Islands, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Micronesia, India, the Silk Road and a host of other exotic locales.

“Globe Trekker,” shown in the U.S. on PBS, is my favourite travel show because it focuses on real travellers experiencing slices of local cultures, not sightseeing. McCormick is my kind of traveller. Her enthusiasm for the places she visits is infectious and you can’t help but conclude that she’d be a fun person to travel with. She got the travel bug in college and has found a way to make a living out of her wanderlust.

McCormick has lived in three U.S. states plus Argentina, Japan, Spain and the U.K., but says she’s now settling down in New York. We spoke to her this week about her favourite places, how she balances family life with her nomadic lifestyle and how she landed her dream job.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Ohio but I was mostly raised in Florida. I first came to New York when I was 12 and I remember feeling this tremendous sigh of relief because I didn’t really fit in in Florida. I was this gawky, ballet-dancing geek who never went in the sun.

Megan-McCormick-in-PortugalWere you a traveler growing up?

I grew up with a giant map of the world and a subscription to National Geographic. That was my mom’s influence. She had this wonderful wanderlust but we didn’t have the resources to travel very much. I studied abroad in France and after I graduated (with a degree from Boston University in philosophy and political science), I taught English in Japan through the JET program. And that was my first foray into traveling independently.

That was in the mid-’90s after I graduated from college. Then I stayed in Asia and backpacked around the region for almost a year and then I moved to New York. I saved a lot of money teaching in Japan and my dad said I should save that money and come home, but I didn’t do that dad, I didn’t! It’s been very hard for me to grow up and settle down.

Do you have a family?

I do. I’m married with kids now so that’s changed a lot. I have an 8-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son.
My daughter traveled with me when she was really little and I just kept doing the show. My husband is in television as well, so we would alternate jobs to keep traveling. Then about two years ago, we alighted in Brooklyn and decided to put down roots here for a little while.

What does that mean?

I don’t know. It means we’ve stopped being peripatetic and moving from place to place. When “Globe Trekker” sent me to a location, especially in the early years, I was so excited; I would just stay. The crew would move on after we finished taping but I would stay. I was consistently away. In 2001, I was based in Barcelona and I thought I was missing too many moments in people’s lives, so I moved back to New York. Then I was in Argentina in 2008 for three years.

Megan-enjoying-a-sunset-camel-ride-across-the-Flaming-Moutains-Turpan

Wait a minute. I’m lost. Now you’re in Argentina? Your resume might be even more of a mess than mine.

I more or less backpacked most of the year until 2004 when my daughter was born, but I kept traveling for the first few years. In 2008, we went on vacation to Argentina for six weeks, but decided to stay. We ended up staying (in Mendoza) for three years but that wasn’t really the plan. That’s the beauty of working for yourself.

So how did you transition from backpacker to “Globe Trekker” host?

I had just moved back to New York and I was applying to grad schools for East Asian studies. I was a production assistant for “The News with Brian Williams.” I had some high level duties such as photocopying, ordering supplies and sending faxes. The whole time I was scheming to get out of there. I had a friend who was an actor and he saw this ad in an actor’s magazine announcing an audition for someone who loved to travel.

I’d never been on camera and had never been an actress, so instead of sending a headshot, I sent a collage of photos, kind of like an 8th grade book report. And I wrote a poetic, it’s-the-journey-that-matters kind of thing on the back of it. The director said she had never received a collage before and gave me an audition.

The first audition was great, but on the second one everything went wrong. We were wandering around Chinatown. A cat peed on me. I knocked over a fruit bin. I stumbled across a guy who was painting and he shouted at me like a crazy person and said I was stealing his soul.

It was a disaster but they called and said, “If you can leave in ten days, you’ll have one show and it’s in India.” This was in 1997. I think I’ve done 30-35 shows since then.

Do you know how many countries you’ve been to?

I should know that. My husband and I have a competition to see who’s been to more countries.

Who won?

He’s slightly ahead. He had some hard-to-get-to ones, which was very annoying. He did this great trip from Morocco to Mauritania, down to Nigeria. But I’ve done shows on six continents.

How long do you spend in-country when you’re filming?

We used to shoot for nearly three and a half weeks. But times have changed and budgets have changed. Travel has gotten easier. Now, depending on location, it might be two to three weeks.

And you take your family with you?

My daughter traveled with me until she was older. I’ve only done a few shows since my son was born. My husband would watch the kids while I was working but now he has a grown up job, so the kids stay here. Now that my daughter is in school the nomadic lifestyle is a little more challenging but I still go away every summer. I can’t stay still in the summer.

Megan Diving in MicronesiaOn the show, you stay in a mix of places. Sometimes it’s a $5 per night hostel, other times you’re in a really nice place, right?

It depends on the location. Generally we try to find unique places to stay that are affordable for most people. And those are usually the places that have the most character.

Tell me about one of the dodgier places you’ve stayed in?

A bed is a bed as long as there is nothing crawling in the mattress. I travel with a silk sleeping bag liner, just in case. But I did stay in a very strange, concrete hostel in the middle of nowhere in Inner Mongolia. The bathroom was outside and I went to find it in the middle of the night and I had to dodge two sheep and the bathroom was a hole in the ground over some pigs. There were pigs underneath; there were pigs! That was not a pleasant experience at all.

What are the countries you’re most passionate about?

I love Lebanon so much. And I’m also a big fan of Colombia.

What places do you recommend in Colombia?

I love cities, so I would check out Bogota and Cartagena. And from there, I would go to Santa Marta and then inland up into the mountains. If you like hiking, there is a five- or six-day hike into La Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City. You’re into the jungle and there are indigenous people there who are incredible. And then there’s a beautiful island called Providencia, just off the coast with great beaches.

When you get bad weather do you wait it out or keep shooting?

Sometimes we wait 5-6 days for it to stop raining; other times, we work around it. Ian Wright was in Ireland recently and he said it rained 24 hours a day for days, but they just kept going though. I was in Myanmar for the show about three weeks ago. It’s an amazing country that’s in transition. The people are so lovely. We were there for Burmese New Year. They celebrate by shutting down the country for five days. They have a water festival, where they spray people with water or dump buckets of water on people. You have to have rain gear on because you’re going to get wet.

How many hours a day is the camera trained on you when you’re traveling?

It’s not a reality show so the camera isn’t on me all day long. But we film from sun up to sun down.

Have they ever asked you to wear something or do something that was a little too hokey?

Yes! I would say the entire South-eastern United States program. I think I wore more embarrassing outfits there than everywhere else but it was fun. I was decked out in an antebellum gown walking down some stairs, a Civil War dress, and I was in a cotillion dress dancing with a 16-year-old.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m going to Hokkaido in Japan for “Globe Trekker” and I also tried to make my own program, “Sea Nation.” We had a 12-part series where we gave up our normal lives in New York to live on a boat sailing around the Caribbean. It was incredible! We went to 25 different islands and met people from all walks of life. It was 2008, right at the beginning of the economic downturn, and we explored the idea – what can make you happy besides all the things we think will make us happy.

Megan-ChinaYou did this with your kids?

With my daughter, she was 4 at the time. She loved it! My son wasn’t born yet. We were at sea for about four months.

The show was on the Discovery Channel in Asia and a few places in Europe but it never found a home in the U.S. It’s with a sales agent now, so maybe something will happen with it. But there are 11 episodes available online or you can buy the DVD.

Do you consider your job a dream job?

If someone is organizing an opportunity for me to travel and paying me a small amount of money, I will never, ever complain about that. It’s been such a gift. Even the worst days, the day when they made a left instead of a right and we had to stay in the car in a desert for 14 hours, you still get funny stories. I can’t argue with anyone who says it’s a dream job

by Dave Seminara
(Original article appeared in http://www.gadling.com/2013/06/24/travel-dream-jobs-a-conversation-with-globe-trekkers-megan-mcc/)

Bad Roads and Blue sinks

bad roads and blue sinks

After harrowing night drive over large mountain pass with bleary-eyed Kyrgyz driver who warned us against it (“roads bad!”), we arrived to no hotel.   Exhausted at 1 a.m. in a murky little border town that services trucks coming from China and heading West roughly along the same network of trade routes as the old Silk Road.  A grim situation I think you’d agree,  as we all silently contemplated a night in the bus. Finally, we found the Sunrise Guesthouse, and got a cot, and dropped unconscious.

I find that these shoots are filled with emotional and physical troughs and peaks….and sure enough the next morning we swing up.

Way up.

Awake to a stunning view of high-altitude peaks of China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. Do unusual opening piece to camera for show in front of a little blue outdoor sink… with China in the background.

Silk Road road trip part 2 begins!

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Holly Morris
Kyrgyzstan

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Bad Roads and Blue sinks

Bad Roads and Blue sinks

After harrowing night drive over large mountain pass with bleary-eyed Kyrgyz driver who warned us against it (“roads bad!”), we arrived to no hotel.   Exhausted at 1 a.m. in a murky little border town that services trucks coming from China and heading West roughy along the same network of trade routes as the old Silk Road.  A grim situation I think you’d agree,  as we all silently contemplated a night in the bus. Finally, we found the Sunrise Guesthouse, and got a cot, and dropped unconscious.

I find that these shoots are filled with emotional and physical troughs and peaks….and sure enough the next morning we swing up.

Way up.

Awake to a stunning view of high-altitude peaks of China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. Do unusual opening piece to camera for show in front of a little blue outdoor sink… with China in the background.

Silk Road road trip part 2 begins!

 

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Holly Morris
Kyrgyzstan

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En route from Istanbul, Turkey, to Bishtek, Kyrgystan With Holly

En route from Istanbul, Turkey, to Bishtek, Kyrgystan With Holly

The good folks at Globe Trekker HQ have asked me to do a bit of blogging while we are out here in Central Asia filming the Silk Road show. (Part of our Round-The- World-Series celebrating 20 years of Globe Trekker.)  So blogging is the plan; though the first rule of shooting – and travelling – is that few things go to plan. But that doesn’t mean they go wrong.

Flooded out of a story in Paraguay? – the waters part and deliver another we hadn’t even considered. Got a flat tire in a far flung corner of Turkmenistan? –  you discover some surprising magic just off the road side.  So check in here over the next few weeks for missives from behind the scenes, little known trivia about this part of Central Asia, and tales large, small – and mostly true.

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Holly Morris

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Krygystan - Holly

Presenter Zay Harding and the AHU VAI URI

Presenter Zay Harding and the AHU VAI URI, Easter Island

The Easter Islands are the most remote inhabited islands in the world, and famed for its Moai stone sculptures, hewn out of rock by a mysterious lost civilisation.

What’s The History here?

Throughout the last few hundred years there’s been a great deal of speculation about the origins of the civilisation that built the enormous statues with which Easter Island has become synonymous. Some have noted the similarity between the Moai statues and Inca stonework, and have surmised that they were built by people of Peruvian descent. Others have even gone so far as to suggest that the Moai were built by extra-terrestrials. The most plausible hypothesis, however, is that Easter Island was discovered by a small group of Polynesians in about 400 AD, whose fledgling civilisation developed in complete isolation for over a thousand years. These early settlers called the island Te Pito O Te Henua or ‘Navel of The World’.

We also can’t be sure of why the inhabitants built the Moai. It may be that they were representations of deified ancestors, who where thought to watch over the living. What we do know is that a few centuries after settlement disaster struck the Easter Island community. Whether caused by a population explosion, ecological disaster or cultural revolution, the crisis reached desperate proportions and the Moai were destroyed by the islanders themselves.

On Easter Day 1722 the island was ‘discovered’ by Admiral Roggeveen, who named it Easter Island. When the Europeans arrived in 1750 they found a primitive people residing among the ruins of a once great civilisation. The native population dwindled further as a result of disease and slavery, which the westerners brought with them, but since Easter Island was annexed to Chile in 1888 it has enjoyed a period of recovery.

Archaeologists set about reconstructing the ruined Moai monuments and trying to learn more about the culture which made them. More than 900 Moai have been found, and the sites where they stand are known as known as Ahu.

Easter Island Rocks!

Presenter Zay Harding in RANO RARAKU - Easter Island

Globe Trekker presenter Zay Harding in RANO RARAKU – Easter Island