Anybody who knows me know that one of my favorite things to do is adventure travel, particularly visiting remote villages and getting to know indigenous people. I’ve been to many exotic places from Guatemala to Mozambique to Burma and had many wonderful encounters with people from very different cultural backgrounds. It’s always a learning experience.
Other obligations have kept me at home for the last few years but recently I came into possession of the required digital currency that would enable me – at least for a few minutes – to gain access to a unique and isolated tribe located in the 85253 zip code.
I know from my previous travels that the best place to start with a culture is the fresh food marketplace, which in this case is called Whole Foods. I drove around the central complex for several minutes unable to locate it, due to my mistaking the marketplace parking lot for a Mercedes dealership. Realizing my error, I quickly parked and walked inside.
I wasn’t sure how to dress so had I opted for standard business attire, hoping to blend in. Fat chance! As soon as I entered the luxurious central marketplace, I realized that this was a purely matriarchal society. Only women were present.
The women themselves are uniformly light complexioned and much like the Blue Hmong in Laos, they favor identical indigo uniforms which I am told are called “yoga pants” and are all meticulously crafted by a sacred artisan known as Lululemon.
Like the Akha of the Golden Triangle, they wear their wealth on their body in the forms of elaborate displays of jewelry. And just like the Akha, their preferred facial expression appears to be a fierce scowl, no doubt intended to discourage strangers from approaching them.
There were a few men present but they were obviously of lower caste, relegated to doing the work of the untouchables, lifting boxes, cutting meat and taking out the trash. Interestingly, much like the Pashtun of Afghanistan the men all had long beards and in sharp contrast to the women were both smiling and servile. I am told that the matriarchs do not mate with these lower-caste men despite their robust physical appearance except in unusual circumstances.
The marketplace itself was unusual, with an abundant display of goods that were both exorbitantly priced and appeared to all have medicinal qualities unlike very similar foods in nearby villages. At various points throughout the store, elderly women (Healers? Shaman? Witches?) held court, discussing the many benefits of their various magical products. They sold tea which “oxygenates the brain” and magic coffee beans which “eliminate free radicals” and “stop the aging process”. The matriarchs of the village take this very seriously and I would counsel you to do the same if you visit or you may find yourself seriously imperiled.
Unfortunately, my digital currency was only $30, and interestingly, this particularly village trades only in digital currency and my $30 wouldn’t go far here. It would perhaps enable me to buy a small jar of honey or a few organic melons. Several of the matriarchs saw me examining price tags and I began to get suspicious looks and a very uneasy vibe. This happened to me once in Momostenango, Guatemala and my partner and I barely escaped with our lives. I wasn’t taking any chances this time.
I quickly grabbed a small “special value” bag of |liver detoxifying chocolate chip cookies” for $9.99 and made a hasty retreat. Some villages are best left alone!