A year ago…

Yes, a year ago, we got on a plane that took us far far away, on an amazing journey. I can’t believe how fast time has gone. So, today is the perfect day to announce the creation of an exhibition about this trip around the world and all the myths and tales we heard along the way. It will be shown at the end of September in my hometown in France, and kids from the local school will come see it. I’ll have some time with them to chat about the trip and everything else, I’m so happy!

So, here’s the poster, I hope you’ll like it (even though it’s in French!).

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Kumara.

Do you remember the legend of the potato from the Bolivian stories we’ve heard in La Paz? Yes, this one:

The Sapallas were a peaceful and prosperous people who were invaded by the belligerent Karis, enslaved and reduced to misery. Choque, a young descendant from the last Sapalla cacique refused to acknowledge this state of things and cried out for help from the father of the gods, Pachacamac. He heard young Choque’s petition and showed him some seeds from a plant unknown to men of that time, telling him to plant it and eat its roots, but never touch the sprouts, flowers or leaves, as they were poisonous. The Sapallas did as they were told, but the Karis found the new plantations, confiscated them and ate everything the plants produced, except for the roots. As a consequence, they became ill and debilitated, prompting the former slaves to rebel against them and expel them from their land. The new plant was then considered as a divine gift, and called papa (potato).

SOURCE

Well, it seems like the maoris have one too, to explain the origin of one of their most basic ingredient: the kumara (a kind of sweet potato). This important ingredient is no ordinary food. It is said that the god Rongo-Maui went to heaven to see his brother Wahnui, guardian of the kumara. Rongo-Maui stole the divine food from his brother, hid it in his clothes and came back to earth to his wife, Pani. Very soon after, Pani got pregnant, and one day, she gave birth to Kumara. That’s how the sweet potato, so important for the Pacific people, was given to men on earth.

Hey, when you think of it, this story reminds us a lot of how Prometheus stole the fire, so important for mankind, from the gods, no?

The unexpected.

Yes, I had never thought that one day, I would end up in Malaysia. Until a week ago, all I knew about that country was that the capital city was Kuala Lumpur, and the few things you can learn from The Garden of Evening Mists, a novel by Tan Twan Eng I read back in Bali. Let’s face it, I’m not sure I know much more today, but I’ve now seen a few things here. So, what have I learnt?

– KL is an enjoyable and multicultural city, full of life, with some amazing architecture (the Petronas towers are quite a sight at night), beautiful temples and mosques, quite easy to walk through despite the crazy traffic. The gardens are very relaxing, Chinatown never sleeps, and you can find a theme park in Berjaya Times Square mall. There are so many different types of food due to the mix of cultures you’ll wish to be able to eat every two hours (and it’s cheap). Beer (and alcohol in general) is very expensive though… Germans are very sad here! (Kidding, but there’s a lot of them here – as everywhere else in the world – and I had a lot of fun with a few of them over the past days).

– Taman Negara means “national park” in Malay. And it is the oldest rainforest in the world. And it rains a lot there. But I took a very good walk through the jungle, climbing down rocks, trying not to fall, gripping on slippery ropes … I ended up covered in mud (and leeches, yuk), but it was worth it. I’m happy I followed Dave and Tom’s – whom I met in Bali – advice to go there!

– Nestlé cuts down the trees to grow palm trees. Not good.

– The Batu Caves are incredibly impressive. And normally full of quite aggressive monkeys. I’m glad I only met 4 of them!

– In Malaysian trains, it is forbidden to fly a kite, to kiss in public, and there are coaches exclusively reserved for women.

– if you wanna have a good look at the Petronas towers, don’t go up the KL tower: you only see one of them from the side. I didn’t do it, we went to the roof top bar of the Regency hotel with two Germans, and it’s the same view. Expensive cocktail, but according to them, the best toilets they’ve ever been to!

– And finally, if you want to send packages back home, it’s very cheap, if you can understand how the general post office works. I spent one hour and a half to send two boxes, going up and down and right and left… Maybe I was not really awake. But the girl at the info counter was really nice and helpful.

I’m going back to Singapore tomorrow. I don’t know what I’ll do there, but I’m sure I haven’t seen it all.

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