I have long wanted to start writing about Kazakh customs and traditions. Someone will say that this is nonsense, a waste of time and nerves and a hobby of grandparents. I admit, I thought so for some time. My understanding of traditions and customs started when my parents needed to me to take them to various kinds of events, where they were invited to visit. And since it was not convenient for me to leave and then to comeback for them again, I stayed and sat at the table with the "adults." Today I want to tell you about the "Ace", which is a reception given a year after a person leaves this world and for the next three years and for round dates. It seems to be a sad excuse, but as it turns out nothing sad, but more light and emotional, when relatives and friends remember their close one. Guests tell funny stories about him and everyone laughs. Rarely, one lets a light tear. Ace is a semi-religious semi-traditional event. Since this is the worship of ancestors, it is forbidden in Islam, where only Allah is worshiped. Conducting the Ace proceeds from paganism, before the Arabs in the 7th century AD conquered the territory of modern Kazakhstan and imposed their religion on people lived there back then. But the Kazakhs, like many Turk people, have not forgotten their customs and continue to worship the spirits of their ancestors, while inviting Mullah from the mosque, that is, the representative of Islam. Kazakhs in general are very good "opportunists". The "program" of the Ace looks like this: If the Ace is held in a restaurant, the guests will gather at the appointed time and place. To be late for the Ace is not very good. This is the only event where Kazakhs are not late. A Mullah is always invited to the Ace, which begins with a prayer. Guests open their palms and read a prayer together with him. I want to say that representatives of other nationalities and religions are often invited to the Kazakh Aces. But all without exception are honorable guests and pray in their own way. Immediately after the prayer they proceed to the very "Ace", that is, to the meal. Ace is translated from Kazakh as "cook", "dish". An important part of the Ace is sacrifice (not in front of guests, of course). It's a ram or a cattle. Their meat is boiled and treated to guests. This leads to the exact translation: "to give Ace" - to cook and hand out meat. During the Ace guests speak not by invitation, but at will. This is not a toast. The speaker usually talks about what the person was, about his merits, where he was born and worked, who his children are. Friends, comrades talk about his achievements at work, funny stories, about how they spent their youth together. Mostly adults speak, young people keep quiet and listen. Interesting part of the Ace for me is the instruction of the mullah. He talks about surahs, the Koran, about the right and wrong. Mullah never calls for radical religiosity. More to the right way of life and thanksgiving to the Almighty. He explains things that are not obvious for not as much religious person as me. It is very interesting to listen to Mullah if the Ace is held at home in a narrow circle in a simple way. Usually it is called "tamak beru", which translates literally "to give a meal." So in this situation Mullah is more talkative and talks a lot about interesting things. Once the Mullah began his instructions and guests who listened attentively began to ask questions and a dispute arose between the guests and the Mullah. The guests are adults and naturally experienced and also know a lot about religious matters. Mullah was young and seeing that one cannot argue with "much knowing" guests decided to leave politely such a friendly company, referring to business. On some features of the Ace: women cover their heads (never faces) with a scarf, for men it is not obligatory. Guests are handed out small gifts: this is usually a shirt for men, young women are given handkerchiefs, and those who are older - cuts of material and a beautiful scarf. Particularly honorable guests leave the Ace with a jackets or chapan (Kazakh traditional outwear). Food on the tables must be distributed. It is believed that good wishes are distributed through handed out food, so the more is given the better. Well, this is my not very experienced vision of the Ace and I hope that it has brought to you a little piece of Kazakh culture.
A choppy four-hour boat ride from the southeast of Taiwan leads to a secret island. Its terrain is rugged and, at first, the island feels dark and mysterious. To visit, you must be brave enough to give up English, scale through steep mountainside jungles, and zip past radioactive terrain. It is Lanyu- one of the last displays of Tao aboriginal life amidst our ever-modernizing world. Lanyu is best-enjoyed side by side with locals- they know the island intimately and are weary at first of showing you around but, if you stay at least a few days, they may open up their lives to you. Lodge with locals at a homestay to be invited to traditional aboriginal meals and tour secret sights, unseen by non-locals. We spent our first night on the island watching the men gamble before they went night fishing. They offered us fish from the morning catch, and they read our palms. My hand outstretched, they studied the lines of my hand, looked at each other, and silently rolled away my fate- apparently, mine was better left unspoken. The next morning they made up for the mystery of my future with an incredible display of the clash between the past and the present. We explored ancient coral reefs that had crawled onto the shore over thousands of years. Towering ten and twenty feet above our heads, the jagged caverns would have been impossible to navigate alone. Our wordless guide knew each turn past various bright blue swimming coves and reassured us that the swimming blue snake we saw wasn't poisonous, but that he liked to bite. Transportation on Lanyu is only by scooters with which you explore roads framed by a buzzing tropical jungle. Trace the island's perimeter of jagged volcanic, steep, and ancient coral shorelines. In the southwest, drive by quickly- there is radioactive waste forcefully stored here. You won't forget- the locals remind you daily. You need a few days to enjoy the lush forests and vivid crystal-blue ocean waves and your scooter will get you everywhere. Try fly fish- the islanders traditional food and source of income. Each night the men go out to the ocean in their traditional Tao boats, with large painted eyes and colorful designs on either side, to return in the morning with a fresh catch. For less traditional recipes, order from the all-Chinese menus and use the pictures to help you order. This island is a treasure map. As if mother nature made the island to feed the imagination, you'll see enormous volcanic rocks like the elephant head, twin lions, lovers arch, and the open-mouthed dragon. Their outlines are so clear that it isn't difficult to see how all of these towering rock formations got their names. The stops are clearly labeled and each one is an adventure of its own. Get a 360 view of the entire island from the silent top of the mountain, 550 meters above sea level. There is a weather station that you can explore there. If you are lucky, the sky will be clear for you to catch the mysteriously elusive sunrise. One morning we woke up well before daybreak to ride up to the station and despite waiting for hours, the sunrise never came. You may not believe it and at the time, neither did we. Discover the hidden bodies of water at the top of Lanyu's mountains. Ride up a steep and winding road from the northwest of the island to a small pond and towering ivory white lighthouse. Avoid going just after rainfall as many trails meander through muddy and tangled tree roots. There is a moment on this trail where you may choose left or right. Turning left leads to a sudden drop off where a waterfall used to roar over the edge. Needless to say, turn right. Hike through the thick jungle to find a wide mountaintop lake. Locals swim here in the mornings. A few other tourists may arrive by the afternoon. Small monkeys play at the water's edge. The Tao aboriginal group can only be found on Lanyu. While the Tao traditions remain pure, the neighboring Green Island, Luda, has lost its aboriginal culture to the grasps of heavy tourism. On behalf of the Tao, this travel guide must remind you that this is not a vacation destination- it is a secret of humanity that has prevailed despite the modernization of the rest of the world. Ask the locals before taking pictures of boats, homes, and other locals. It is not recommended to stray from roads and well-worn paths as private graves are often unmarked throughout the jungle. Furthermore, the island is rich with the aforementioned dry waterfalls and sudden sheer drops that would be an unfortunate find for the careless wanderer. The Tao will remind you that they are fighting to defend their sacred traditions and the health of their land whether it is from encroaching tourism or from nuclear disposal. If we respect the breathtaking landscape and this unique culture, the island will receive us with open arms. Experience life as a local on the last Tao island. In this way, the Tao and their traditions may be preserved for many generations to come.