I have travelled widely in my time. I have spent a year backpacking in Europe, including time behind the iron curtain, lived and worked in Borneo, been to Asia, spent months travelling India, been to the USA and back to Europe again, but, I am ashamed to admit, visiting an indigenous community in my own country has been, with the exception of India, not quite culture shock, but very much out there as an experience
I expected it to be vastly different to my own existence in this country, though much like I had seen on the TV as an engaged viewer and a past student of indigenous history at university. But, even though I had all this knowledge, I had no idea what to do and what to say, who to talk to and where to put myself.
Thankfully I had help in my sister-in-law, who interestingly is a recent migrant from France, not local at all. It does not escape my notice that the person who acts as my guide happens to be from somewhere completely different, but I wonder that maybe this makes accessing indigenous culture so much less complicated than for the guilt ridden overly sensitive 'Balanda' like me.
Having someone show me the way opened up a path to the kind of experience and slivers of understanding I always wanted. It was thrilling and something I am so very thankful for. We went to a few ceremonies, there are a lot this time of year, where we were welcomed warmly and not considered the intruding voyeurs as I had always assumed to be the case. I met some great women who took the time to teach me about what I was seeing.
So on top of the wonderful time on holidays with family I love, full of the usual highlights of a holiday in the warmth of the tropics, I had a cultural experience I cannot wait to repeat.