Read even more tales on Suzan's eons.com blog, GlobalGyspyGirl.

    • Raving About Goa: A New Year’s Tale

      Suzan Crane revels in the full-blown hurricane of New Year parties sweeping through her small Indian town. (Originally published in Untamed Travel, February 2006)

      The New Year has dawned and I’m still awake as the sun paints a rosy hue on the horizon. New Year’s Eve in Goa is amped up to 11 and only the lonely dare to call it a night before the following day.  My village is packed, not a room to be had, traffic clogging up the narrow arteries running from the bus stand to the beach. It is hectic and noisy and, although good for business, it is not good for the soul.

      The sand is littered with beach beds. Trash is strewn about and few say hello because few know each other anymore. The freaks have come to roost but they are now commingling with – dare I say it? – package tourists. What is becoming of this fine hippie village? “It’s over,” many long-termers gripe, unaware that the latest edition of Lonely Planet India now cites Village X as “the place to go” in Goa.

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      Mud Pai

      Just past dawn on Saturday, August 13th, Suzan Crane was awakened to find her stilted wood bungalow swimming in the river and a house floating downstream. Over the following few days, she pitched in with the relief effort and spoke with other survivors and volunteers about the worst floods to drown Pai in 40 years. (Originally published in Untamed Travel)

      JOHN KELLY, English expat resident of Pai, whose house was destroyed:

      “I woke up at around 7am with my roommate Dan knocking on my door. When I put my foot out of bed it was met with about one inch of water. I then opened my bedroom door and within a second I was nearly chest high in water and mountain debris, tree branches, etc. There were seven people in the house, including a one-and-a-half-year-old baby. In the background you could hear people screaming outside. When I opened the door the first thing I saw was Aor holding her baby, chest high in water, crying, and in shock. I took the baby from her and battled my way through the water to the other side of the room, forced a window open, because by this time water was coming in through the window, then sat on the window ledge and put the baby over my head to safety on the rooftop. That’s when I became aware of all the stuff happening throughout the village because of the view from the roof. I was joined by Dan on the roof only to witness a complete huge wooden house drift past where our back garden used to be.

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      Reflecting on India

      Suzan Crane looks back on her years spent living and traveling in India with all of its maddening and inspiring contradictions. (Originally published in Untamed Travel, April 2006)

      If the Creator was on acid, India might well be the manifestation of his/her hallucination. A collage of contradictions, a patchwork of cultures, castes, languages, religions and morals, India is like a huge department store boasting a bedazzling array of products – turn in any direction and the view changes.

      Simultaneously confusing, exasperating, exhilarating and inspiring, this is a disparate nation of wealth and poverty, puritanical values and devalued life; where the cow is honoured and woman often dishonored; where sati and wife burning – although illegal – still occurs in remote villages; where a baby in her mother’s arms has already learned to proffer an open palm to extract rupees from a passerby; where tourist babas beg and sexual repression provokes widespread homosexuality and an alarming number of rapes. It is the country that gave the world Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and Amma, “The Hugging Mother,” where Bollywood stars stroll the red carpet while the homeless and infirm carpet the streets. It is a country of gurus and baksheesh-induced officials, hi-tech and low income, a country where Goans and Kashmiris don’t consider themselves Indians and where it sometimes feels as though you need a passport to cross state borders, so diverse are the dialects, geography, clothing and lifestyles.

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      Life During Wartime

      Suzan Crane finds herself enmeshed in the safety net of Tel Aviv during the recent spate of violence between Israel and Lebanon, but then the net is torn asunder. (Originally published in Untamed Travel,  November 2006. Photo by Rafi Frankel. )

      “Tel Aviv exists in a bubble,” my friend Rei declared as he darted out the door to visit his brother in the hospital. Israel’s war with Lebanon was about two weeks old and Rei’s younger brother had been injured. But aside from the ubiquitous news reports, Tel Aviv seemed far removed from the battles raging in the north, only a few hundred kilometers away from the nation’s hip, modern capital. The wide Mediterranean beaches girding the city were still packed with sunbathers, Shenken Street still teemed with hungry shoppers, and the spirited nightlife continued even as towns such as Haifa and Galilee were getting pounded.

      Being in Israel at a time when Middle East tensions and global alarm were peaking was a surreal experience. Although harboured in the relative safety of Tel Aviv, I received a glut of emails from friends and family imploring me to “get out”. It would’ve been stupid to explore the rolling hills and verdant valleys of Israel’s northern region; but I did get to behold the aquamarine buouyancy of the fabled Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth above the water’s surface – and the sacred relics and biblical sites of Jerusalem.

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      The Hard Way is the Only Way

      Visiting the Middle Kingdom, Suzan Crane finds China full of rewards for the traveller possessing the daring of the fox, the patience of the tortise and the bowels of the elephant. (Originally published in Untamed Travel, September 2006)

      A spray of garish neon welcomed me to China, a detonation of colour, flashing lights and pageantry assaulting the senses. Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, resembled any Chinatown in the world, but was no dime-store imitation, no emigrant-ghetto in San Francisco or Kuala Lumpur. This was the real thing, China in all its vivid, vibrant glory. I was enthralled and a bit intimidated by this Asian behemoth, a less well-trodden and more challenging destination than some of my previous travel trails. Although fascinating, a scenically splendid land steeped in culture, history and heritage, China was – and remains – one of the most exhausting and maddening countries on earth. A mangled web of contradictions – at once rigid and linear, chaotic and frenetic – where queues are nonexistent and humanity melds into a mass of flailing limbs and pulsating bodies, it is a country where manners are misplaced and restraint and personal space are alien concepts.

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      Women Wronged

      Will the forced sterilization of Tibetan women result in the end of the race?  This is but one of the serious questions examined by Suzan Crane in this report about the grotesque violations of women’s rights in Tibet.(Originally published in Untamed Travel, September 2005)

      You don’t have to be as politically aware as Richard Gere to be unsurprised by the most recent U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004 which found that Chinese authorities in Tibet “continued to commit serious human rights abuses.” Less well known and more shocking is the way that Tibetan women (girls of four and nuns of 40) are regularly wronged – sterilized, forced into prostitution and routinely abused on a daily basis.

      In an oral statement delivered at the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in April 2005, Dr. B. Tsering Yeshi, addressed these violations. Despite the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), which affirmed women’s rights as an inalienable part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, she asserted that “violence against women continues in its worst forms such as honour killings, genital mutilation and systematic rape of women… some endorsed and enforced by the state. Violence against women becomes a two-fold challenge when women are discriminated against because of their gender and race.”

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      Borneo Beckons (At Home with the Headhunters)

      Suzan Crane journeys through the wetlands, forests and mountains of one of SE Asia’s last great hideouts for nature and wildlife. En route she stays in a longhouse with some of the few remaining hunters and gatherers and gets caught in an elephant stampede. (Originally published as At Home with the Headhunters in KLM Airline’s inflight Holland Herald, February 2005DOWNLOAD)

      I am hot, sweaty and itching like a dog with fleas. The insidious little creatures known as sand flies have marked their territory on every inch of my body. Slipping and sliding down steep muddy embankments, progress impeded by fallen trees and the aggressive attacks of prickly skinned bushes, we venture deep into the bowels of Malaysian Borneo’s primeval rainforest.

      “I take you to a hidden paradise,” Jok, my Kayan driver, says as we walk further into the bush. Then I see them, barely visible amidst the dense jungle foliage: several primitive dwellings constructed of ragged tree branches and torn bark welded together by thin strips of rattan.

      Intentionally eschewing the well-trodden tourist track I have collided with an extraordinary parallel universe.

      Curious eyes and toothless smiles greet our arrival at the camp of this small group of Penan nomads, the most remote of Sarawak’s 27 indigenous tribes and amongst the last remaining hunter-gatherers on earth. In an archaic world where time has no meaning and people don’t know their age, daily life consists of simply finding food: blowpipes with poison darts to hunt wild boar, monkeys and mouse deer; bamboo baskets to collect sago, their dietary staple.

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      Gypsy Castoffs

      This interview cost Suzan Crane 200 rupees and a couple of sweet lassis. Nothing comes for free when dealing with the Gypsies. Some call them cheats. Others appreciate the fabled legacy of these artistically gifted and long-persecuted nomads. (Originally published in Untamed Travel – October 2005.)

      Supari is beautiful and exotic. Long black hair frames hypnotic dark eyes and a beguiling smile that reveals gold-flecked teeth. She may be 20, but is not sure as there are no birth records. She is poor as the dirt on which her family lives in tents outside the holy city of Pushkar in Rajasthan, India. “All gypsy people very poor,” she says in English. “When we work, we get food. No work, no food. Only sitting.”

      Nathori, her niece, is around the same age and equally exquisite. They wear vibrant floor-length dresses and head scarves and are fully bejeweled: silver glimmering on fingers, ears, and around their necks, wrists and ankles. Nathori sports a traditional jhumra and muter, an ornate headpiece connected to chandelier-shaped earrings. Each boasts small tattoos on hands or arms which will often also be embellished with elaborate henna designs. “We think very beautiful,” Nathori says.

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