How To Have Good Luck Around The World

llama fetus Do you carry a lucky penny or have a rabbit’s foot attached to your key chain? For some new ideas on how to keep your luck running high, here are good luck rituals from around the world.

Bury A Llama Fetus In Bolivia

Walking around the Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia, you’ll see myriad mummified llama fetuses. These aren’t just for decoration, but are actually a good luck charm from ancient Andean culture. Before a new house is built, a llama fetus is buried under the foundation to help give the owners good luck.

Paint Your Door Red In China

In China, it is thought that painting your door red is not only welcoming, but will also bring good fortune and happiness. In Feng Shui, it is believed the door is the mouth of the house, and a bright red color can draw positive energy to the home. There are many other rituals for good luck in China, such as keeping a paqua, or small octagon mirror, above the bed or by the front door to keep bad energy away from your home and out of your dreams. Moreover, having a water source on the property is thought to bring wealth and happiness.

pots and pans Throw Your Old Appliances Out The Window In Italy

Traditionally, throwing your old appliances, clothing and housewares out of the window on New Year’s Eve in Italy is thought to bring good luck for the future. According to Walks of Italy, the thought is that you are letting go of the past and ridding yourself of any negatives you may have experienced. While the custom isn’t practiced by everyone anymore due to safety reasons, there are those who are still keeping the tradition alive for the country.

Some other good luck practices in Italy include tossing coins on the floor or under your bed, exchanging sweets on New Year’s Eve and lighting a Christmas log on the last day of the year to ward off evil spirits. Additionally, at weddings the groom will often carry a piece of iron in his pocket during the ceremony to keep evil spirits away, while the bride may rip her veil a bit to bring the couple good luck.

Toss A Baby From A Temple In Southern India

Yes, you read that right. In southern India, it is an age-old tradition to toss a baby off a 30-foot temple balcony, to be caught on the ground by a giant blanket. The ritual is said to bring the newborn good luck. According to Ian Garland of the Daily Mail, the practice was banned by the Indian government in 2009 but returned in 2012 to the Nagrala Village, as many locals believe it is their religious duty to carry out the ceremony.

A less shocking ritual in India is people exchange sweets for good and prosperity when they visit a home during a festival.

bedHave A Young Boy Roll In Your Bed Before Your Wedding In Singapore

In Singapore, there are many good luck traditions that revolve around weddings. First there is an chuang, or the setting of the bed. Before the wedding, a prosperous man will come to help determine where to place the marrying couple’s bed. A young male relative will then come and roll on the bed, to bless the couple with fertility. Foods like green beans, red beans, oranges, dates and other fruits are then scattered around the bed for good luck.

There is also shang tou, or hair combing, that takes place on the eve of the wedding. The hair of the marrying couple must be combed four times, usually by a female relative. The first round of combing represents the continuity of marriage, while the second stands for a harmonious union into old age. The subsequent stoke is a blessing of fertility, and the final combing is a wish for prosperity in a long-lasting marriage.

Wear Yellow Panties On New Year’s Eve In Colombia

While it may sound funny, Colombians like to ensure good luck for the entire year by taking some precautions on New Year’s Eve. They first ensure good fortune by wear yellow underpants. And to help bring even more luck, they consume 12 grapes at midnight on the special day. Additionally, Colombians don’t “pass the salt” to other people, as they believe this brings misfortune.

chameleon Burn A Chameleon If You’re Unmarried In Morocco

For unmarried women in Morocco, it is often believed that burning a chameleon in a glass will erase their bad luck, and increase their chances of getting married. Likewise, before a wedding ceremony the groom will often send his bride-to-be gifts, such as boxes of milk and Henna plants, to bring good luck for a happy and successful marriage. Also in regards to weddings, the woman getting married, who is traditionally expected to visit a hammam to be purified, will be soaked with water seven times by her close girlfriends, in order to bring good luck to her new life.

It’s not just brides and grooms who participate in good luck rituals. If you have a turtle in your garden or your home, and you keep it, you will also be brought good fortune.

Carry A 5-Yen Coin In Your Wallet In Japan

While 5 yen ($0.06) may not sound like a lot of money, this coin, pronounced “go-en” in Japanese, is close to the pronunciation for the words for destiny, karma or good luck. It is also the only coin with a hole in the center, making it easy to turn into a charm. In Japan, many people carry it in their wallet or purse, or wear it on a ribbon or chain for good luck.

Another way to procure good luck in Japan is through Daruma dolls. The papier-mâché figures are egg-shaped, and bare the likeness of Bodhidharma, the monk credited for founding Zen Buddhism. The dolls are sold with blank white eyes, and locals will add the first pupil when a goal is set and the second when a goal is achieved. Moreover, the dolls are considered a symbol of good luck by the Japanese.

tattoo Get A Tattoo In Tahiti

The word “tattoo” actually comes from the Tahitian word tatu, so it’s no wonder that this form of body art is so important to the culture. In fact, getting a tattoo is a ritual to bring luck and protection, as the tattoo represents your history, family background and often includes symbols that represent good fortune.

Another good luck ritual in Tahiti occurs during a wedding ceremony. This is when the priest will offer a blessing with a sacred auti flower and coconut milk. While doing this, the priest joins the bride and groom’s hands together and reads from a certificate of tapa cloth, usually made from a hibiscus tree.

Hold Lead And Boiling Water Over Your Head In Turkey

In Turkey, one way many people rid themselves of bad omens is through the ritual of lead pouring. To begin, the lead-pourer melts a tablespoon-sized piece of lead in a pan, while the person who is looking for good fortune sits with a cloth on their head for protection from the hot metal. From there, a small pan of boiling water is held over the person’s head, while the liquid lead is added. Most times, a prayer is chanted during the ritual. When the lead hits the water, it immediately turns solid, absorbing the person’s bad omens.

Another good luck tradition is to visit a special church that is open for just one day a year: April 23. Aya Yorgi, a Greek Orthodox church, receives hundreds of people on that day annually. These visitors tie multi-colored threads to trees at the bottom of the hill leading up to the church, in an attempt to bring good fortune.

baboon Wear Baboon Skin On Your Head In Tanzania

According to Fair Travel Tanzania, who kindly interviewed the Hadzabe tribe in Tanzania, Africa, there is a ritual performed to help hunters who do not have luck catching animals. First, the elders advise them to wear baboon skin on their head and body, while putting beads on their shoulders. This is done at night, either under a baobab tree – the most sacred tree for Wahadzabe – or in the camp where they live. The whole community participates by singing and dancing and smearing the unlucky with herbal medicine to clear their misfortunes. Then, elders take the bows and arrows of the participants to bless them: “Haine (or God bless) these bows and arrows and make them shoot better,” is repeated over and over again. The unlucky also get to chew herbal medicinal plants, and should be good and ready for hunting the next morning.

Play Traditional Instruments For Friends And Family In Aruba

In Aruba, they try to ensure good luck for the new year through a ritual known as Dande. The tradition has been going since around 1880, right after the slaves were liberated. Groups made up of five or six people visit the homes of their families and friends, wishing these loved ones good luck and happiness for the upcoming year through music. Traditional Aruban instruments, like the tambu, wiri and raspa are played, along with the cuarta, guitar violin or the accordion to produce the upbeat rhythms of Dande. Lyrics for the songs usually incorporate well wishes for each person present. After the music is over, the head of the household will offer the performers a drink. What’s really interesting is the tradition is very local to the culture, as no other islands in the Caribbean participate in Dande.

[flickr photos via Michah & Erin, somegeekintn, Joelk75, Tambako the Jaguar, NH53]

10 reasons to visit Kanazawa, Japan

artOne of the most overlooked destinations in Japan is Kanazawa. Although it is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, many tourists have not heard of the city or use it only as a quick stopover to other places. In reality, Kanazawa has a legacy in the arts, a rich cultural heritage, and many unique offerings that can’t be found anywhere else in the country. To help you learn a little more about the area, here are 10 reasons to visit Kanazawa, Japan.

A vibrant art culture

Kanazawa has a long history as a town of artisans, originally invited into the area by the Maeda clan during the Edo period from 1603 to 1868. Some traditional art forms still found in the area include:

  • Lacquerware and maki-e, which is lacquerware decorated with gold leaf or gold powder. You can see an example of lacquerware, created by artist Masaru Nishimura, above.
  • Pottery, including suzuyaki, a naturally occurring black “glaze” on pottery, and kutani-yaki, a five-colored glaze painted in flower and nature patterns
  • Silk weaving thanks to the production by silkworms that live in pairs in the same cocoon
  • Kaga yuzen silk dyeing, which involves the complicated but beautiful processes of pattern transfers, paste coating, coloring, steaming, and rinsing
  • Kaga-nui embroidery, the delicate stitching technique used to create kimonos
  • Zogan wood inlay, where different materials are laid on top of one another
  • Mizuhiki craft, which is comprised of paper-string weaving

One of the unique aspects of Kanazawa’s art culture is that there are so many types of local art and artisanal crafts in a relatively small area. If visiting the region, one good idea is to visit a studio and see a craftsman at work, which you can learn more about by clicking here.High gold leaf production

Kanazawa literally means “gold marsh,” and 99% of Japan’s gold leaf is produced here. In Ishikawa, gold leaf has historically been used to decorate artisanal crafts, particularly lacquerware, since the sixteenth century. Both the gold leaf and lacquer industries in Kanazawa boomed during the Edo Period (1603 to 1868) under the Maeda clan of daimyô (feudal lords), who encouraged the development of artisanal crafts in the region. Kanazawa gold leaf was used to repair the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto in 1987, and Marie Antoinette reportedly owned lacquer boxes and small objects from Japan decorated with gold leaf produced here. Gold leaf can also be used to decorate textiles and to gild Buddhist altars, and edible gold leaf can be found on local cuisine.

fishing Eco-friendly fishing opportunities

Teichiami, or fixed-net fishing, began in the seventeenth century and is still practiced in several areas of Japan, including Kanazawa. The nets, which never change position, stretch over 300 feet in diameter and are composed of several compartments. Fish enter through a hole that stretches many yards below the surface and are led through a maze of progressively smaller compartments until they reach “the vault,” which is the smallest compartment located at the end of the net. Fishermen visit the net each morning to pull up the fish.

Although commercial in scale, the practice is sustainable because the catch’s volume is determined by natural migration patterns instead of aggressive trawling. Furthermore, because migration patterns are seasonal, so is the catch. Like fruits and vegetables, the fish caught varies throughout the year: spring is known for squid, summer sees much mackerel, the fall catch has katsuo and giant squid, and winter is the season for Ishikawa’s famed buri – large yellowtail prized for their fatty flesh that many argue rivals even the finest tuna. If interested, visitors can opt to ride on the boats and try the fishing method for themselves by contacting Discover Kanazawa. In addition, you can watch a sushi chef prepare your catch before you enjoy it with a sake pairing.

Sacred mountains

The area surrounding Kanazawa is very mountainous. Mount Hakusan in southern Ishikawa is one of Japan’s three sacred mountains along with Mount Tateyama, in the neighboring Toyama prefecture, and Mount Fuji. Hakusan, whose name literally means “white mountain,” rises to 8,865 feet. The summit remains snowy throughout the year, and the mountain was once revered as the dwelling place of the gods. The Shirayama Hime Shrine, located in Hakusan City, is the main shrine of over two thousand Hakusan Shrines throughout Japan, including several near the summit of the mountain. From a practical standpoint, Hakusan protects Ishikawa from the typhoons that sweep along the prefectures south of the mountain in the late summer. There are some excellent hiking trails in this area, now designated as a national park, and the flora and fauna from late spring to early fall are especially beautiful. To learn more, click here.

foood Raw cooking

Kanazawa’s location between the mountains and the sea provides the area with a variety of delicious ingredients. The seafood – particularly the oysters and the winter yellowtail – is considered the best in Japan. There are 15 designated heirloom vegetables known as Kaga yasai, which include varieties of squash, cucumbers, potatoes, field greens, and herbs. The area is also home to many nihonshu (sake) breweries, which use the fresh water from Mt. Hakusan to create their unparalleled products. The local rice, particularly the koshihikari type, is prized throughout Japan. Sea salt is harvested from the shores of the Noto Peninsula using traditional techniques unique to the area, while more recent culinary endeavors include dairy farming and grape cultivation for winemaking. With the bounty of the fields, sea, and mountains, Kanazawa has a lot to offer visitors looking for fresh culinary experiences.

Beautiful landscape

Kanazawa is located in central Ishikawa between the Sea of Japan and the Northern Japanese Alps. The mountain range in the South of the prefecture and the rocky terrain of the Noto Peninsula in the North made the region historically difficult to access. However, during the reign of the Maeda clan from the late 16th-to-mid-19th centuries, present-day Ishikawa became one of the richest provinces in Japan, second only to the capital city of Tokyo. Rich in natural resources, the landscape boasts not only the sea and mountains, but also quiet bays, lush forests, expansive plains, and robust rivers.

museum The famous 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

The main reason that people visit Kanazawa is to stop by the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum aims to connect the region with the future of art by showcasing the “richly diverse art of our times [that] cuts across genres and transcends barriers of time and space.” People can expect pieces relating to the area of Kanazawa, newer works that propose new values, and art that can be used as a reference point for these values. Some current exhibitions include: The Swimming Pool, Blue Planet Sky, and Green Bridge.

There’s a well-preserved samurai district

Kanazawa’s samurai district is of particular interest as samurai families of varying ranks lived together in the same area. Kanazawa was spared from bombing during World War II, so the samurai residences, most of which are now private homes, remain intact. An excellent example is the Nomura House, now a museum open to the public. Although their garden is small, it contains all of the requisite features: waterfall, koi pond, stone lanterns, bridge, and pagoda. There is also an uguisubako (nightingale dovecote) displayed indoors, so the birds’ enchanting songs can be enjoyed. During winter, the mud walls of the houses are protected with komokake straw matting, making the area especially picturesque.

geishaThe city features the only active geisha district in Japan other than Kyoto

There are three historic teahouse districts: Higashiyama Chaya-gai, Nishi Chaya-gai, and Kazue-machi. All were created in the 1820s to regulate the entertainment and pleasure trades. Because the city and region were not damaged during the war, many of the original buildings have been preserved and restored. One can experience the architecture of the area with museums, geisha entertainment, or by visiting a restaurant or coffee shop housed in one of these structures. If you want to explore one with a local guide, Discover Kanazawa offers experiences with select teahouses in hopes of introducing visitors to this wonderful part of Kanazawa’s culture.

You can take part in special cultural festivals

There are numerous festivals and traditions to take part in during a visit to Kanazawa. First, there are the Kiriko Festivals. Kiriko are heavy rectangular lanterns made of wood and washi paper. The lanterns tend to be 3 to 16 feet high, built onto wooden carts or shouldered by festival participants who carry them through town streets – and sometimes into rivers and the sea. Typically held in July and August, these festivals are unique to the Noto Peninsula.

Kanazawa and Kaga in the southern region hold their own famous festivals from June-September, including light-ups, historical reenactments, dancing, fireworks, and a wide variety of lively rituals to pray for a good harvest of crops and fish. Abare Matsuri (the “fire and violence” festival) is perhaps the most famous due to wild ceremonies that include precariously maneuvering kiriko floats around bamboo stalks topped with blazing stacks of hay, and then smashing them in the river.

Another famous festival is the Hyakumangoku Matsuri in Kanazawa. The event takes place the first weekend of June and celebrates Lord Maeda Toshiie’s appointment as daimyô (feudal lord) of the Kaga province and entry into Kanazawa Castle in 1583. The festival is celebrated with a parade reenactment of residents in period costumes who march from the station to the castle. Hyakumangoku refers to the one million koku of rice that the domain was worth, which was about 5 million bushels. After sundown, hundreds of lanterns made of Kaga yuzen dyed silk are sent out to float on the river.

Volcano grounds jets in Indonesia

Flights between Singapore and several Indonesian cities, including the capital Jakarta, have been grounded due to the latest eruption of Mt. Merapi. The volcano has been erupting for two weeks and has killed more than 130 people and displaced two hundred thousand.

Several airports have closed and while the ash cloud has affected international flights, domestic flights are continuing as normal. So far the suspensions of flights are up to the individual airlines, but major carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa and Cathay have chosen to play it safe.

Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes in the Ring of Fire, a giant arch of tectonic activity around the Pacific. Back in 2006, an eruption displaced tens of thousands and prompted local villagers to try animist rituals to placate the volcano’s spirits.

[Image courtesy user Tequendamia via Wikimedia Commons]

Finding the expat community and what travelers can learn from them

No matter how well-traveled you are, moving to a foreign country and living as an expat is a whole new ballgame. Your priorities and standards change, and hours that you may have spent as a traveler in a museum or wandering a beach are now spent in as an expat search of an alarm clock or trying to distinguish between eight types of yogurt. You become like a child again: unable to speak in complete sentences, easily confused and lost, and constantly asking questions.

Enter the experienced expats who can help navigate visa issues, teach you dirty words in foreign languages, and tell you where to buy pork in a Muslim country. Finding the local expat community is not about refusing to integrate or assimilate in your new country, but rather meeting a group of like-minded people who understand what you are going through and can provide a bridge to the local community and culture.

So what can the traveler learn from an expat? How about where to buy souvenirs that are actually made nearby and well priced, restaurants not mentioned in any guidebooks, bizarre-but-true stories behind local places and rituals, and inside perspectives on community news and events? And those are just the Istanbul bloggers.

Read on for tips on finding the blogs and a few of the must-reads for travelers.Where to find the expats:

  • Expat forums such as ExpatFocus, InterNations, and Expat Blog are good starting points for finding and connecting with expats, though some forums may be more active than others.
  • Local English-language publications: Many big cities have a Time Out magazine in English and local language, often with frequently-updated blogs or links to other sites. In Istanbul, the newspaper Today’s Zaman has an “expat zone” full of useful articles.
  • Guidebook writers are often current or former expats, so if you read a helpful guide or travel article, it’s worth a Google search to find if they have a blog or Twitter account.

Some stellar expat bloggers around the globe:

  • Carpetblogger: sarcastic, insightful blogger based in Istanbul but with lots of coverage on Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Indonesia. Stand-out post: expat guide to duty free shopping.
  • Miss Expatria: prolific writer and instantly-loveable American in Rome, a joy to read even if you have no plans to visit Italy, but you might find yourself buying tickets after reading about her life. Stand-out post: Italian idioms.
  • CNNGo: great round-up of finds in Asia from Bangkok to Tokyo with everything from restaurant reviews to a look at Tokyo’s elevator ladies. Stand-out post: Japan’s oddest vending machines, a favorite topic of Mike Barish, who has chronicled some of the vending machine beverages for your reading pleasure..
  • Bermuda Shorts: Enviable (and crushworthy, too) travel writer David LaHuta covers all the goings-on in Bermuda and all things Dark n Stormy-related. Stand-out post: name suggestions for new Indiana Jones movie set in Bermuda Triangle.
  • Fly Brother: Series of funny and poignant misadventures in Brazil and around the world from the African American perspective. Stand-out post: how an afternoon of seemingly simple errands can take up to seven hours.

The next time you plan a trip abroad, consider reaching out to a fellow American (or Canadian, Brit, etc.) for some advice or even a coffee meeting (assuming you aren’t a total psycho). I, for one, am happy to offer Istanbul tips and tricks, and I’d be even more amenable to helping a traveler who comes bearing Boar’s Head bacon.

Any expat blogs you follow or travel tips you’ve learned from them? Expat bloggers want to share your websites and your insights for travelers? Leave a note in the comments below.

“Bizarre Foods” on the Travel Channel: Season 2, Bolivia

Location: Bolivia, highest and most remote country of South America. Home of naturally freeze-dried potatoes, the Andes, llamas galore, and a fondness for cooking EVERY part that’s at all edible.

Episode Rating: 4 Sheep Testicles (out of 4) using Aaron’s system from last week’s recap.

Summary: My immediate response to this “Bizarre Foods” episode was “Yep, Bolivia is definitely on my go-to list.” In between relishing dishes of animal innards, host Andrew Zimmern traveled widely tossing in cultural tidbits between sampling mostly soups and dried meat. The significance of llamas, bowler hats, witch doctor rituals, women’s wrestling and a traditional feast rounded out Zimmern’s eatfest.

First stop, La Paz, the world’s highest capital. Beforehand shots of sheep and lambs prancing on Bolivia’s high altitude plateaus indicated dishes to come. Here, markets are places for wandering and sampling. Zimmern bought salted pickled pigs feet straight off. The lamb jerky, he liked, although the hair still on it gave him pause. He described it as “Hard as rock… it tastes like the pile of hay the lamb sleeps on.” Perhaps, skip that and try Mocochinchi, a drink also called booger juice. Zimmern said the light peanut version tasted like peanut milk.

The food markets reminded me of Asia where choices can be overwhelming. When deciding which stalls to dip into, Zimmern suggests looking at the cook and seeing which stall looks nice. That’s worked for me.

At La Casa de los Pacenos, Zimmern feasted on: 1. Lamb kidneys–“Wow! could have used a good soaking in milk;” 2. Tripe–“as clean as any I’ve tasted, one might think it’s cold slaw”; and 3. Penis soup. Bull penis soup to be exact. “Ya have to like the rich chunky texture. . . richness of bone marrow and texture of a pear.” Well, okay if you say so. Imagine the chopping–or not.

For llama brains with tongue, sauteed in garlic sauce, Zimmern went to an artsy looking restaurant, Pronto Delicatessen. “You could put the garlic sauce this guy makes on an old tennis shoe and it would taste good, ” Zimmern proclaimed. Frankly, I’d stick with the fish served with lime called Carpaccio de Ispi.

Other Bolivian food tasting locations:

Yapacani, Santa Cruz where at a small Mom and Pop type place, Pop’ll head out the back door to kill dinner. How about well cooked armadillo and feral pig? Achachira, a fruit similar to mangosteen looked delicious, and, according to Zimmern, is indeed.

Altiplano –Up in these mountains the signature dish is naturally freeze-dried potatoes, a process that takes several days and involves skinning them by walking on them with bare feet. The result isn’t pretty and tastes earthy, but they’ll keep for 25 years. I loved this segment the best. The family featured was very sweet–the type who calm jangling nerves just by being around them.

Lake Titicaca–At the feast of Altiplano, Zimmern waxed poetic about the Quinoa dumplings, trout and corn. The landscape was gorgeous–and the feast a worthwhile stop.

Unusual cultural detail: At the Witches Market in La Paz you can get your fortune-told with cocoa leaves and buy fixin’s for a llama fetus offering. Burning one of these brings good luck.

For more episode details, Andrew’s blog can fill you in.