Archive for January, 2009

Searching for a Tree Kangaroo: To the Highlands

I got up to the New Guinea Highlands through a friend at Divine Word University, the local college that housed us for the first few nights in New Guinea before we shipped off to Karkar Island. I had gone back sporadically to work on a a project and, when I got potassium poisoning, had befriended an associate professor named Sam, who was from a village in the Highlands.

After finishing up at Karkar some of us went to crash with Sam at his house at the University. Sam and the others wanted to stay there to watch a Cultural Show, but I was eager to get going to the Highlands. One of Sam’s students instantly made that happen, introducing me to Daniel, who was from a village near the town of Minj, in the Western Highlands Province, and was willing to take me up to try to find a tree kangaroo as long as I paid for both of our ways up. I was more than happy to do so.

tree_kangaroo2Danny was a short, stout, really muscular guy, characteristic of a Highlander. Danny spoke a bit of English, but by that point I spoke a bit of Tok Pisin (Pidgin… Coolest translation: naked = ass-nahthing), so we mixed it up. We caught a “bus” at 7:00 am that next morning, which was really like a really big VW van. And they packed it as much as they could, mixing in tons of food in addition to people. Three guys operated the bus. One drove, one sometimes slept (they alternated), and one just stood in the doorway shouting Hagen! Hagen! Hagen! (a city in the Highlands the bus was eventually headed to) at everybody he’d see on the side of the road.

After 12 hours of bus ride we got off in Minj, a small settlement about 45 km east of Mt. Hagen. Danny quickly introduced me to is tribesmen, one of whom told me about a spot where he’d take me to see some Raggiana’s birds of paradise once we got off the mountain. Danny pointed to the mountain we’d be climbing. It looked far. Damn far.

We got a lift in a pickup truck up the initial road, which was the absolute bumpiest, most pothole-filled dirt roads I had ever been on. And the pickup truck broke down twice, but that was actually below the usual over/under.

Finally we arrived at a village where we got off. Danny quickly bought some sweet potatoes and raw peanuts at an ad hoc market that formed in the center of three clans’ (factions within a tribe) different villages. I took some pictures with the people (they loved pictures), got to see a Cus-Cus a hunter had caught and they were holding a cage (for either an important feast, a bride price asset, or something they could give in reconciliation of a tribal conflict), and talked tree kangaroos with one of the villagers.

I then met the villagers that would go with Danny and me up the mountain: Thomas, Kiuau, and David…

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Searching for a Tree Kangaroo: To the Highlands

I got up to the New Guinea Highlands through a friend at Divine Word University, the local college that housed us for the first few nights in New Guinea before we shipped off to Karkar Island. I had gone back sporadically to work on a a project and, when I got potassium poisoning, had befriended an associate professor named Sam, who was from a village in the Highlands.

After finishing up at Karkar some of us went to crash with Sam at his house at the University. Sam and the others wanted to stay there to watch a Cultural Show, but I was eager to get going to the Highlands. One of Sam’s students instantly made that happen, introducing me to Daniel, who was from a village near the town of Minj, in the Western Highlands Province, and was willing to take me up to try to find a tree kangaroo as long as I paid for both of our ways up. I was more than happy to do so.

tree_kangaroo2Danny was a short, stout, really muscular guy, characteristic of a Highlander. Danny spoke a bit of English, but by that point I spoke a bit of Tok Pisin (Pidgin… Coolest translation: naked = ass-nahthing), so we mixed it up. We caught a “bus” at 7:00 am that next morning, which was really like a really big VW van. And they packed it as much as they could, mixing in tons of food in addition to people. Three guys operated the bus. One drove, one sometimes slept (they alternated), and one just stood in the doorway shouting Hagen! Hagen! Hagen! (a city in the Highlands the bus was eventually headed to) at everybody he’d see on the side of the road.

After 12 hours of bus ride we got off in Minj, a small settlement about 45 km east of Mt. Hagen. Danny quickly introduced me to is tribesmen, one of whom told me about a spot where he’d take me to see some Raggiana’s birds of paradise once we got off the mountain. Danny pointed to the mountain we’d be climbing. It looked far. Damn far.

We got a lift in a pickup truck up the initial road, which was the absolute bumpiest, most pothole-filled dirt roads I had ever been on. And the pickup truck broke down twice, but that was actually below the usual over/under.

Finally we arrived at a village where we got off. Danny quickly bought some sweet potatoes and raw peanuts at an ad hoc market that formed in the center of three clans’ (factions within a tribe) different villages. I took some pictures with the people (they loved pictures), got to see a Cus-Cus a hunter had caught and they were holding a cage (for either an important feast, a bride price asset, or something they could give in reconciliation of a tribal conflict), and talked tree kangaroos with one of the villagers.

I then met the villagers that would go with Danny and me up the mountain: Thomas, Kiuau, and David…

New Gulliver site design!

Here at the Gulliver offices we’re very excited to announce the launch of a new design for the Gulliver website.   The new design is based on tons of great feedback that we’ve been getting from our users since we first launched in November.  Some of the biggest changes we’ve made include:

* Making it easier to refine your study abroad search results to see only those approved by your college/university.

* Opening up the “Prepare to Go” section to unregistered users – now everyone can use our proprietary country guides to plan their trips! picture-41

* Simplify the “Plan Your Trip” section to make it even easier to pick your study abroad program and get ready to go.

We hope these changes make your experience on Gulliver even better.  We’d love to know what you think!  Send your comments, questions, problems, suggestions, etc. to feedback@gullivergo.com.  We take your feedback very seriously – share your views and help us make Study Abroad as easy as possible!

Finally, stay tuned for further site updates from us in the coming weeks.  We’ve got some pretty cool stuff in the works that we can’t wait to show you!

Bikes, Steppes, Inner Mongolia, and Insurance

A few hours ago, I was sitting around brainstorming for this post and my mind quickly wandered to my college years and some of the crazier trips I’ve made.  A few of them were interesting, to say the least, so I was more than happy to take over the Adventures Abroad thread while Andy is away.

At this time several years ago I was applying to summer internships abroad programs in China.  Most summer programs have deadlines in February and March so this time of year is crucial if you’re looking to go abroad.  Anyway, having studied in China the summer before and wanted to return, I figured a little bit of work would truly immerse me in a way that classes never could.

Vast and Beautiful (minus the town)

Vast and Beautiful (minus the town)

One weekend, some friends and I decided to visit to Inner Mongolia and meet up with a group that takes biking tours of the steppe.  The overnight train deposited the group in Hohhot, the capital of the region, and we all took a bus out to the lodge.   While my friends found breakfast – a traditional meal of goat cheese and organ stew – to be pretty repulsive, I love eating local fare and was quite pleased.  In fact, I love sampling foods so much I never say that I have “visited” a locale – I say that I’ve “eaten through.”

After breakfast we started the bike journey and made our way through the countryside.  In the afternoon, we encountered a problem.  My friend Will had fallen off his bike and cut his cheek on a rock.  First aid kits were pulled

Cows and livestock everywhere

Cows and livestock everywhere

out  and he was patched up, but everyone seemed to forget where we were: the Inner Mongolian Steppe.  The ground was littered with more manure than the local dog park.  To be safe, we put our trip on hold and headed back to the city so Will could be checked out at the hospital.  Any possible infection in his cheek was annihilated by a dose of antibiotics, and his study abroad health insurance covered it.

Our Yurt

Our Yurt

I guess the moral of the story is to be sure that you have health insurance when you’re studying abroad.  Students are adventurous; it’s what makes our experiences in Inner Mongolia and Papua New Guinea that much more interesting and memorable.  But you never know when you might inadvertently fall off your bike and cut your cheek on a manure-covered rock in the rolling steppes of Inner Mongolia.  For those and other crazy events – serious and not-so-serious – it’s great to have backup on hand.

Going Abroad with the US Government

So far we’ve mostly been talking about undergraduate study abroad programs and opportunities, but there are also abroad opportunities for other age groups as well.  Though we are catering to undergraduate students at the moment, Gulliver is also very interested in helping older and younger demographics enjoy work and study abroad.  We’ve been thinking about the various outlets for these age groups and a few interesting opportunities keep popping up.

The first is the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program.  Sponsored by the US Department of State and administered by several well known program providers – including AFS, American Councils for International Education, Concordia Language Villages, and iEARN-USA – the program provides scholarships to students who will be studying languages important to future US diplomacy.  Languages approved for the program include Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Russian and Turkish.  This opportunity is incredible!  550 scholarships are offered and eligibility is standard (US Citizenship, 15-18 years of age, and 2.5 GPA or higher).

I am particularly interested in this program given my own study abroad history.  After taking Mandarin classes in college, I decided to spend one summer studying in China and another summer working there.  Chinese wasn’t offered in my high school, and I wanted to learn, but financial constraints meant that I was not able to study it at the time.  A programs like this would have been world changing for me.  So hopefully, this blog can help spread the word a bit and give other interested high schools students a leg up in their language goals.

US Embassy, Berlin, Germany

US Embassy, Berlin, Germany

So high school and college students are catered for, but what about recent grads.  Yes, there are Fulbright Scholarships and other opportunities, but I personally would be looking for something different.  Something involving work.  Something a bit more adventurous.  This passing interest made a recent New York Times article catch my eye: “Hiring Window Is Open at the Foreign Service.”  Wow!  The Foreign Service!  Something about the Foreign Service shouts adventure and though I know postings in certain countries could be boring, I also know there is definitely more than a little part of me that finds it exciting.  Alas, the Foreign Service might not be for me, but a few readers out there might find this opportunity to be their cup of tea.  So if you want to get posted around the world, meets lots of people, and get involved in diplomacy, this might be an opportunity for you.


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