Saturday, July 05, 2008

Wyoming Rainbow Gathering. Photo by .
Wyoming Rainbow Gathering

Click here to go to a site listing people needing rides to Big Sandy and others offering rides. People from all over the country are posting on this board. If you need a ride, check here to find someone near you who is coming to Wyoming. Most ask you at least be able to help with gas money. Note: regular unleaded gas has topped $4/gallon at many stations in Wyoming.
Also check out the Craiglist Ride Board

No Spanging. Photo by Pinedale Online.
No Spanging
No Loitering-No Backpacks-No Spanging Signs are beginning to appear in Pinedale businesses that reflect a response to behavior of the newcomers arriving for the Rainbow Family of Living Light Gathering over the 4th of July weekend in the Big Sandy area. Shopkeepers are having increasing incidents of panhandling, shoplifting and loitering. In our area of a booming economy where there are more jobs available than employees, and where everyone seems to be always hustling to and from work, seeing people loiter and beg for money is very out of place here. “Spanging” for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is slang for asking for spare change. (pronounced "spain-jing", as in "spare-changing")

Pinedale Rainbow Town Meeting. Photo by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online.
Pinedale Rainbow Town Meeting
After a 3-hour town meeting at the Pinedale Library on June 19th, Rainbow Family members asked everyone to form a circle and join hands in a gesture of peace and friendship (and they all did).

Friendship Circle. Photo by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online.
Friendship Circle
At the town meeting in Pinedale on June 19.

Rainbow Disaster Relief. Photo by Dave Bell.
Rainbow Disaster Relief
After the Rainbow gathering, this Rainbow Kitchen bus will be headed out to do disaster relief, most likely in Iowa to help with the flood victim efforts. Click here for more of Dave Bell's scenic photos of the area, and more photos of the Rainbow Gathering from his Father's Day trip to Big Sandy (June 15, 2008).

YOUTUBE VIDEOS - Effects of Rainbow Gatherings on Local Residents
Rainbow Gatherings
Interviews with Business Owners


Sublette County


More Big Sandy area maps

Scroll down to the end of this page for related links to more useful blogs and websites with frequently updated info on the 2008 Wyoming Rainbow Gathering in the Big Sandy Opening. This page is a work in progress. Please check back for more updates. This page represents information and perspectives solely of Pinedale Online! We are long-time local residents and know the area well, but do not claim to speak for all the "locals". Please see the links at the end of this article for contacts for other local visitor information service providers who can also answer questions about the area.
Rainbow Family Gathering in Wyoming for 2008
Rainbows gathering at Dutch Joe-Big Sandy in the southern Wind River Range
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
Original post June 12, 2008 | Updated Saturday, July 5, 2008 __________________________________________________

Update Saturday, July 5, 2008, 9:10AM: Click here for an article about the July 3 clash between law enforcement and Rainbows near Kiddie Village in the Rainbow camp at Dutch Joe/Big Sandy. The Casper Star-Tribune is the state newspaper in Wyoming. Arrest leads to Rainbow riot (By Tom Morton, Casper Star-Tribune, Saturday, July 5, 2008)

Update Friday, July 4, 10:51 AM: Forest Service media release of July 3, 2008 incident at Rainbow Gathering at Dutch Joe/Big Sandy in Wyoming.

Media Release from the Rita Vollmer, Intermountain Region Regional Office Public Affairs Specialist for the Forest Service, Office: (801) 625-5153, Cell: (801) 791-2390.

Rock Springs, Wyoming (July 4, 2008) — Forest Service officers were patrolling the main meadow area of the National Rainbow Family Gathering yesterday evening. The officers made contact with a subject that would not cooperate and fled. The subject was apprehended; once detained other Rainbow participants began to interfere with the situation.

Officers began to leave the Gathering site with the subject and were circled by more Rainbow participants that began to physically interfere. Another participant was detained for physical interference.

Ten officers were escorting the detained subjects when about 400 Rainbows surrounded the squad trying to leave. More officers were requested to assist in the main meadow area. The mob began to advance, throwing sticks and rocks at the officers. Crowd control tactics were used to keep moving through the group of Rainbows.

"This lawless behavior is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it," Forest Service Director of Law Enforcement, John Twiss, said. "The safety of our employees, public and Rainbow participants is our number one priority and we will continue to protect everyone on the National Forest."

A total of five arrests were made in relation to this incident. One officer suffered minor injuries and was cleared by the local hospital. A government vehicle also incurred damage during the incident.

Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Highway Patrol and Sublette County, Fremont County, and Sweetwater County Sheriff Offices all responded to the Forest Service officers during the incident.

"The Forest Service Incident Management Team appreciates all of the help and assistance from the agencies coordinating with us during this incident," Incident Commander, Gene Smithson said. "It is important that we continue to work together."

Approximately 7,000 Rainbow participants have congregated in the Big Sandy area.

Related Links about this incident - Rainbow side:
"We The People Radio Network" – radio program audio broadcast file 1 (One hour audio file with first-hand interviews with Rainbows at the scene at the time of the July 3, 2008 incident)
"We The People Radio Network" – radio program audio broadcast file 2 (One hour audio file with first-hand interviews with Rainbows at the scene at the time of the July 3, 2008 incident)

Sunday, June 29 Update: We spent all day yesterday wandering through the Rainbow camp and talking with people there. There are currently estimated to be 5,000 to 6,000 people there now, with more pouring in every day. Click here for photos from the 2008 Rainbow camp near Dutch Joe/Big Sandy in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. (47 photos)

CLOSURE in effect for upper Big Sandy meadows/Lamreaux Meadows and part of Big Sandy Opening There is a new closure in effect for the Big Sandy Opening at the upper end of the road. Big Sandy Lodge, Big Sandy trailhead and campground are OPEN. The Closure was implemented by the Forest Service effective Friday, June 27 and is in effect "until rescinded." This is an Occupancy and Use Order imposed for public safety and resource protection due to the Rainbow gathering. Basically they don't want a lot of vehicles driving or people camping or trompling the wet meadows up there. Lamreaux Meadows is closed to camping except to persons with a permit specifically exempting them from this order (the Boy Scouts fit into this category for their project planned for the end of July). Camping prohibited includes overnight occupancy and temporary presence of camping equipment. There is a $5,000 fine for individuals, $10,000 fine for organizations, and/or imprisonment for not more than 6 months penalty associated with this closure order. More information available from the USFS Supervisor's Office at 307-733-2752 or Pinedale Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest at 307-367-4326. Barely noticeable flyers and maps describing this closure are posted wrapped around the posts on the cattle guard at the forest boundary entrance (You have to get out of your car and walk right up to them to see the notices. They are posted on the back side of the posts as you drive in. The closure area was not signed on the road as of Saturday to let people know it is in effect. There are many Forest Service people around who will probably immediately tell you to move if you're in the wrong spot.)

There are three entrances and parking areas into the Rainbow gathering area. The first entrance, on National Forest land just past the BLM boundary cattle guard, is intended for handicap parking. This is a longer walk in, but a less steep grade (you'll still be going uphill to get to the main gathering area). The second entrance is called Bus Village. This is a beautiful appx. 2-mile walk in through the forest, past numerous small lilly-pad filled ponds. There is one short section of very steep uphill on this trail. Take it slow if you aren't in the best of shape. Then the rest of the way is downhill. The third entrace, the "back door", is further down the main road. Parking isn't very plentiful and you'll end up being on a hill to park your car. We were told the hike in on this trail is less steep, but a bit longer and muddy.

Note: The Big Sandy road is very narrow in places. Please drive slowly and stay to the right, especially on blind corners. Also, watch for pedestrians, animals, people on bicycles, 4-wheelers and emergency vehicles. If you need to pull over, find a side road or a turn-out. There is a Rainbow information booth at the top of the big hill as you come into the area. They will answer questions and give directions. There is no parking within 20 feet of the road on the BLM portion of the road (it is signed where you can't park). Some people are parking and camping along the side roads and in the forest in this stretch. This is ok. It's further from the main Rainbow camp, but less congested. The BLM is strictly enforcing the 14-day camping limit. There is no camping or parking in the big open meadows south of the Forest Service boundary. BLM and Forest Service law enforcement officers are out in force on the roads patroling the area and enforcing regulations. We did not see any uniformed law enforcement officers at all in the Rainbow Camp all day during out visit on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 24 Update: The Forest Service is now looking for alternate locations for the 150 Boy Scouts who will be impacted by the presence of the Rainbow Gathering in the same location where the scouts had planned to do forest restoration projects. Read more about this story here: Bridger-Teton seeking alternate site for Boy Scout project due to Rainbow gathering. On Monday, one of the Sublette County Commissioners made a request for Wyoming Senator Enzi to look into the Forest Service management of the Rainbow Gathering at Big Sandy. Read more about this story here:
Sublette County Commissioner asks Senator Enzi to look into Forest Service management of Rainbow Gathering in Wyoming


Monday, June 23 Update: We've updated our info on mosquitoes, ticks and rattlesnakes. We also received an e-mail from one of the Rainbows on Sunday with more updates on the issue of moving the Rainbow Gathering which is assembling at Dutch Joe in the Big Sandy area of the southern Wind River Mountain Range. Because there is no central authority or person responsible for information distribution, we have no way to verify this information.

According to the e-mail from Rainbow "Ivy", a concensus was reached on Friday and reaffirmed on Saturday that no one is leaving the Dutch Joe area to move over to Snyder Basin in the Wyoming Range.

Below is more from her e-mail:

"They have spent the last 3 weeks setting up kitchens (about 10 already!) and building
gathering areas. The trail up the mouintain from Handi-camp (the nearest point you can park) is a strenuous 3-5 mile hike up the mountain. The main Bliss pit (Fire circle) near main meadow has been built that is large enough for 3 tiers of drummers, spectators, and dancers. Calm is setting up on a healing vortex, and trails have been blazed. Everyone has worked so hard and THERE IS NO WAY THEY ARE MOVING! Those present at main circle reached a concensous that because the Scouts won't be there till the end of July, the only Rainbows that will still be there are clean-up crew. IF the scouts encounter the rainbows at work, (Boy Scouts will be on the other side of the ridge) they may learn a thing or two about environmental restoration so no one believes it will be a problem.

They were VERY concerned about the internet postings new arrivals have reported stating that the Gathering is or will be moved. They were adamant about news getting to the outside stating that the posted Gathering Site near Big Sandy is the ONLY place the Gathering will be. A split Gathering is detrimental to the spirit of the Gathering and is NEVER an option! Split Gatherings happen when people on the outside become misinformed and begin setting up in a different place. Then TWO sites need to be cleaned and restored...not good!

Also, please let people know that the road in is very rough and you must be prepared to go about 20 MPH for about 40 miles! A car on a trip to town for supplies rolled yesterday, injuring the 3 young Rainbows in it. Everyone is OK but it was a reminder to not be in a hurry out there. Also, make sure your tires are in good shape and DO NOT ATTEMPT without a spare!!!!

Also, the trail in goes up dramatically for about 3 miles before dropping down to the first meadow, then there is a strenouse up-hill hike (about a mile) to main meadow. Others are camped even higher up in a third meadow. Be prepared for it to take up to 3 hours to hike in and in the dark, it is very dangerous. This is one of the longest trails into a Gathering people have seen so be prepared with time, water, and appropriate ways to pack your belongings in. Those heading in should plan to arrive at the trail head (about 2 hours from the highway) at least 3 hours before sunset.

The weather is warming up but do not forget that the nights are cold...layer, layer, layer! and yes extra blankets are needed."

Saturday, June 21, 2008 Update: We've added another link to another Ride Board. As for the question about possibly moving the location for the gathering, according to a June 21st entry on a blog for the Wyoming Rainbow gathering, the Rainbow family discussed the issue of their location in the Dutch Joe area of Big Sandy in the Wind River Range conflicting with a large Boy Scout gathering and project set to take place in the same area at the end of July. The main Rainbow event will take place July 1-7th. The concern is over people who decide to stay in the area for several more weeks who may be camped in the same area that was planned to be used by the Boys Scouts, who have had their project in the works with the Forest Service for several years. The Forest Service has asked the Rainbows to move their gathering to one of four other possible locations they feel are better suited.

Apparently there was no consensus on a decision on Friday at their Council. Some people wanted to move to Snyder Basin and plan to relocate there. Others said they definitely plan on staying where they are near Dutch Joe. According to the website, "…it will most likely not be moving completely."

Anyone still on the way can decide for themselves which area they wish to camp and go accordingly.

It is estimated there are over 1,000 people currently on the site, which is located near Dutch Joe Guard Station. The camp is approximately five miles away from Big Sandy Lodge and the wilderness campground and wilderness trailhead access. Gatherers park near the main entry road, then hike in a couple of miles into the forest to reach the meadows of the Rainbow site. Those going into the Rainbow Camp pass through a check station manned by the Rainbows where they can get directions and have questions answered. The Rainbows are not in the upper meadows of the Big Sandy Opening or in the trailhead campground area.

Another comment on the blog entry said that people on site are asking for extra blankets, sleeping bags and tents. Apparently many folks came unprepared for the cold night weather and some kids don’t have enough bedding. They ask for help from anyone who can assist with those needs.
Additional Notes: We spoke with Tim Lightner with Big Sandy Lodge on Saturday, June 21. He asked us to pass on that the Rainbow camp is several miles away from the lodge and not near the campground or wilderness trailhead. The lodge opens for the summer season tomorrow, Sunday, June 21, for cabin rentals, horseback riding, fishing and backcountry excursions. The road going in is dry to the top. Big Sandy Creek is running high with the start of spring snow melt. He said the snow is hanging on later than usual this year. Snow is still lingering in shaded areas and in the high country.The trail into the wilderness is not passable between Meeks and V Lake. The river trail is more open, but still has snow in shaded areas. It will be several more weeks before snow melts from these areas and the trails open up. Jackass Pass over into Cirque of the Towers is still covered with a lot of snow. The lodge still has some openings for cabin rentals between June 25 and July 15th. They have sporadic openings after that, so call to check and see if the dates you are interested in are available. Tim commented that the Rainbows he has met have been "polite, kind and friendly."
Trivia: The peace symbol turns 50 in 2008! The familiar "peace symbol" was designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom in Britain as the badge used by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain. In the 1960s it was adopted by the anti-war movement and the counterculture of the time. The symbol is a combination of the letters "N" and "D" for Nuclear Disarmament.
Thursday, June 19, 2008: Rainbows held a Town Meeting in Pinedale on Wednesday, June 19th in the Pinedale Library The purpose was to allow members of the community to have an opportunity to ask questions of the Rainbows about the gathering. Besides a number of Rainbows, also present were representatives from the Forest Service, Sublette County Sheriff Bardy Bardin, Sublette EMS medical personnel, Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman, Sublette County Sanitarian Keith Raney, Sublette Emergency Services, Sublette County Public Health, local citizens and media attended. Mark Rey-Under Secretary for Natural Resources (US Dept. of Agriculture) flew in to attend. Concerns expressed included impacts on the town and possible increase in crime, possible confrontations between Rainbows and locals, impacts to the environment, concerns over drug use and nudity, and conflicts with other people recreating in the area-including a group of Boy Scouts that will be coming at the end of July. One of the issues discussed was the possibility of moving the gathering location to Snider Basin in the Wyoming Range to avoid possible conflicts with the Boy Scout group event. The question will be raised at Council on Friday, June 20, to see what the other Rainbows think of the idea. The meeting lasted over three hours responding to questions. _____________________________________________

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do we find this place?
Hopefully someone with the Rainbow organization will post a good map to the gathering site. This place is remote and you’ll be driving down miles of back roads to get to it. Signs are located at the intersections, kind of out in the middle of nowhere. If you take a wrong turn you’ll travel a lot of miles before you figure it out. The best map we have at the moment is the one Big Sandy Lodge has posted for their guests to find them. (

From the south, you’ll go through Rock Springs to Farson, then hit back roads and follow the directions to Big Sandy Lodge. From the north, head through Pinedale on US 191 and turn east at Boulder and follow the signs to Big Sandy Lodge. Note that the last stretch of road is single lane in many places. There are turn-outs, but it is hard for two cars (or two RVs) to pass in certain places, so it's wise to pay attention to where those wider stretches are in case you meet a wide vehicle coming towards you from the opposite direction. You can make a little better time on the gravel roads coming in, but be on the alert for critters and be aware it is easy to spin out on gravel if you go too fast.

Your last chance for fuel is Farson and Boulder. We strongly recommend you fill your tank up before proceeding past those two towns. Be sure to have a good spare tire with you. (Updated Sunday, June 15, 2008)

Transportation - (Updated Monday, June 16, 2008)
We are rural and do not have much in the way of mass transportation. Drivers will encounter significant road construction in Rock Springs and along US 191 between Rock Springs/Farson/Pinedale. US 191 has extremely heavy truck traffic due to the gas field development in the area.

There are commercial airports in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jackson, Wyoming, and Rock Springs, Wyoming. Pinedale has a general aviation airport for small planes. Amtrak will get you as far as Salt Lake City, Utah. Rental car services are available in SLC, Rock Springs, Jackson and Pinedale.

Greyhound bus service stops in Rock Springs, Wyoming. There is no public bus service or shuttle north from Rock Springs, so you will need to either rent a car or make other arrangements from there. For more on Greyhound bus schedules, go to (Updated Monday, June 16, 2008 – Thank you to Karen Zirk for the update on bus info.)

In answer to Karin’s question about a local legal way to get from Rock Springs to Farson without a private vehicle: We STRONGLY DISCOURAGE anyone from hitchhiking from Rock Springs to get north to the Rainbow gathering site. Because of the natural gas activity boom in western Wyoming, there is incredible heavy truck traffic on the highway between Rock Springs and Pinedale. We’re talking big semi-truck traffic and lots of it. There is also road construction for 11 passing lanes being built in that stretch, so congestion and heavy equipment on the sides of the road related to that. We encourage travelers to make all efforts possible to find a ride or carpool to get up to the gathering site and do not try to bike or walk that stretch hoping someone will stop and pick you up on the way. It is an accident waiting to happen for any interruptions of traffic flow on that busy highway by adding in distractions due to people walking on the sides of the road. Please, please, please do try to find a ride. With all the traffic on that road right now it just isn’t safe for you as a pedestrian, or for the people driving on that road, to add pedestrian distraction traffic into the mix. We don’t have a better local solution to help you with transportation. There are lots of people talking on the blogs about carpooling, so hopefully some of you can connect that way to meet and ride together. Please try to arrange to find a ride that will get you all the way up to the gathering site.

More info on transportation (and lots of other local area info) is available from the Sublette Tourism Board’s website: (updated Friday, June 13, 2008)

Medical facilities:
The nearest hospitals are in Rock Springs and Jackson. Pinedale and Big Piney have medical clinics. They have regular hours weekdays. At other times, call 9-1-1 to get the Sublette County Sheriff’s office dispatch to report any kind of medical emergency. They will dispatch out an ambulance or whatever emergency service is necessary (ambulance, fire, search & rescue, deputy). Note that if you call 9-1-1 using a cell phone, you may not get the Sublette County dispatch office. From Big Sandy you might get a dispatch answer from another county, so be sure to be clear on your location before you call so they can figure out what service is closer and where to send emergency personnel out to help you.

Local services:
Depending on whether you’re coming from the north or the south, the biggest towns (last chance for supplies) will be Rock Springs or Pinedale. This is where to get groceries, topo maps, camping supplies, sunscreen, last-minute clothes, ATM/bank services. Pinedale has a population of about 1400 people, so we're not huge. Last K-Mart and chain stores are in Jackson and Rock Springs. Here are links to our local businesses. Also, more info about local businesses and services is available from the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center,,, 1-888-285-7282 (weekday regular business hours). We have a beautiful new visitor center in "downtown" Pinedale. Watch for the log building next to the Cow Mural on the north side of US 191/Pine Street as you go through town. They have bathrooms, free maps, lots of local info.

Pinedale is the location of the Pinedale Ranger District office for the Bridger-Teton National Forest for the forest map, guide books, information, etc for the Big Sandy area. Pinedale also is the location for the Sublette County Sheriff’s office and medical services for this area.

The last chance for gas, snacks or restrooms is in Farson and Pinedale. Emergency services will be at least an hour away from you once you leave the towns, so please stock up and make yourself and your group as self-sufficient as possible to keep yourselves sustained for at least 24 hours without help if you get stuck, a flat tire, or in some emergency situation. We have excellent emergency responders, but distance and rural roads makes response time take longer to reach people in trouble out in our rural areas. (Note, many of our fire, ambulance, and search & rescue emergency responders are volunteers from the local communities. They leave their regular daily jobs at a moment's notice when the tone goes out to respond to an emergency call. We know with this many people coming for the Rainbow Gathering that there will be an increased load on our local emergency response services. We just want to make you aware how much of those services here are provided by volunteers from our communities who have regular other day jobs and are not paid emergency personnell or staff. They are doing this as community service, with the support of their employers that they can just drop everything and leave when the call goes out for an emergency.)

Post Offices are located in Pinedale, Rock Springs, Farson and Boulder. (updated Friday, June 13, 2008)

Some important supplies not to forget:
Spare tire
First aid kit
Purification method for your drinking water
A good map of the area (DeLorme atlases are good)
Any medicines members of your party have to have

Bring warm clothing to layer, and extra blankets for your group. Temperatures can and do drop below freezing at night. Bring a sleeping bag rated for below freezing. Gals, if you get cold easily, wool socks, a comfortable sleeping cap and long johns will work well to keep you warm at night. We are high elevation and it is early spring. Our weather is very changeable, and typically on the "cool" side for those who are used to warmer climates. Typical temperatures are in the 50s to low 70s this time of year. Mornings are usually clear and calm. Clouds and winds typically pick up by noon and we can often get thunderstorms build up with showers and lightning in the afternoons. The high country can get snow showers. It’s best to bring clothes to layer. Have a warm jacket, hat with a brim, and something to protect from rain. (updated Friday, June 13, 2008)

Current Weather:
See the National Weather Service/Riverton page: We will post any weather alerts that come in from them that notify us of upcoming drastic changes in the weather such as severe thunderstorms, snow advisories, etc. The NWS is very good about keeping their webpage current with advisories about important weather changes. (updated Friday, June 13, 2008)

About drinking water:
Consider all surface water to be contaminated with Giardia and some other particularly nasty organisms that will make you awfully sick. Water from lakes or streams should not be consumed without first purifying it either by boiling or with purification tablets. As beautiful and clear as the water looks, it is not recommended to drink any surface water without pre-treating it.

Cell phones:
Cell reception is typically good in the main travel corridors, but can get marginal to non-existent as you move into the drainages and mountain areas where the signal gets blocked. Depending on your service provider, you may or may not be able to get a signal as you progress into the Big Sandy Opening area. Big Sandy Lodge, at the end of the road, has a satellite phone in case of an emergency. Union Wireless and Verizon provide local cell service. A reader wrote in to say they use Alltel cell phone service here and it has good local coverage also. If anyone living/working in our area knows of other service providers that have good reception here, please e-mail us and let us know what companies that are working for you and we'll update this section. (updated Sunday, June 15, 2008)

Are there rattlesnakes here? (Updated Monday, June 23, 2008)
We've never heard of any, but.... Big Sandy is in a transition area. Pinedale does not have rattlesnakes. However Rock Springs does and the east side of the Wind river Mountains do, so it could be possible. Further north in the Wind River Mountains and sagebrush plains, no rattlesnakes for sure. Update: The Zoonotic Disease/Adverse Health Events Report from Wyoming Regional Veterinary Public Health Coordinators for the week ending Friday, June 20, 2008 reported a possible rattlesnake bite to a human at Sweetwater County-Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County (Rock Springs). The individual was treated at the ER and is doing fine. (Updated Monday, June 23, 2008)

Ticks (Updated Monday, June 23, 2008)
Yes we have them and they will be out. Ticks are very small and can hide in the most obscure places. We recommend checking yourself for ticks before going to bed at night to remove them before them become embedded into the skin. Also be sure to check children and pets (don't forget the scalp and unmentionables). Ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. More info on ticks, Ticks and Diseases

Mosquitoes (Updated Monday, June 23, 2008)
Mosquitos will probably be out and could be quite bothersome. Bring your favorite repellant method. Mosquitos can be thick and voracious at times in the Wind River Mountains. We recommend having long-sleeve shirts and pants as a clothing option in addition to shorts and sleeveless tops. Those who choose to go all nude should be aware this decision may result in head to toe to everywhere mosquito bites. We recommend a mosquito repellant that contains DEET. West Nile virus has been reported in Wyoming already this year (

Big game you will likely see include deer, antelope and moose. Bears inhabit the area (both black bear and griz), but it is unlikely you’ll see one with all the activity going on. Still, we recommend keeping a "clean camp" and being "bear aware" when venturing out on trails. The area also has mountain lions. The most likely dangerous animal (in our opinion) you might encounter would be a moose. These animals look slow and awkward, but they can move very quickly and can be deadly. Give them a wide berth. Warn children to stay away from them and not approach, don't throw rocks at them. Please keep dogs under control and away from all wildlife.

Re wolves: Yes, there are wolves here, but we don't think that will impact you in any way, if for no other reason than them staying away from the sheer volume of people that will be in the area of the gathering. The wolves seem to be content dining on wildlife and domestic livestock. The advice to protect your children and dogs probably still is a good idea, just because you'll be out in the forest and there are plenty of the normal hazards that apply being in that setting. (updated Friday, June 13, 2008)

What about dogs?
Pet owners should be aware that their four-legged friends might encounter big game (deer, antelope, moose, bear) or smaller (but still potent) critters such as a porcupine or skunk. Dogs seem to gravitate to porcupines, whether alive or as a dead carcus. Porcupine quills can be very painful to remove for your pet's face, paws and other body parts, so we encourage pets be kept away from them.

Not sure what to tell you here. There are no nearby cliffs or caves to fall off of or into, however this is out in the forest. Kids can easily get lost or disoriented in the woods. Some folks have their young ones wear whistles as a necklace when they take kids with them camping. That way if the child gets lost, they can blow the whistle easier than yell for help. There are wild animals in the forest. The Big Sandy River may be fast flowing with spring melt, so children should be watched around any water. Be sure to put sunscreen on babies and small children. They can sunburn very quickly at our elevation with the thin atmosphere. We do not have poison ivy or oak here (to the best of our knowledge). There may be some stinging nettle in some locations.

The Upper Green River Valley is around 7,000 feet. The surrounding mountains go from about 8,000 to the highest of a little over 13,000 feet. For those of you coming from lower elevations, you may find the elevation will cause you to tire more easily and possibly even have some shortness of breath upon physical exertion. The elevation of the gathering site is around 8,500 feet. Big Sandy Lodge and campground/trailhead at the end of the road are at 9,085 feet.

Fishing Licenses:
Available in Rock Springs and Pinedale.

Where is the town of Big Sandy?
Contrary to what is still shown on some maps today, there is not now, and never has been, a town called Big Sandy. What is shown on the maps is just an intersection of two rural roads. There are no services there. If you're interested in how this came to be, ask and we'll explain it. It is a somewhat long, but interesting, story that has to do with rural post offices in Wyoming. The Green River Valley Museum in Big Piney has a wonderful book they recently put out that has more info on this topic. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from noon until 4:00 pm. Admission is by donation. Ask for "The Halfway Post Office" book (limited edition local book). (updated Friday, June 13, 2008)

Nearby attractions:
South Pass Historical Site
Oregon Trail (You'll cross it coming up from Rock Springs)
Lander Cut-off of the Oregon Trail (You'll cross it from Farson to Big Sandy)
Pony Express National Historic Trail
Museum of the Mountain Man (In Pinedale)
Yellowstone National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Bridger Wilderness
(updated Friday, June 13, 2008)

Your impact on other things going on in the vicinity.
There will be other people using the area and access road into Big Sandy. These include the guests of Big Sandy Lodge (located at the end of the road), hikers and back-country users going to Big Sandy Campground and trailhead, people fishing or hiking in the area, people riding ATVs or on horseback, vehicles hauling horse trailers, RVs or with ATV trailers. Please drive with care on the road and stay to the right on blind corners.

Complaints we’ve heard from the locals:
We understand that the comments below only apply to a select few people doing these things, but we want to pass along what we've heard in the way of activities that some locals aren't happy with. We ask that anyone doing these activities please not do these things without first obtaining the permission of the business or property owner.
- Panhandling in stores and harassing customers.
- Asking customers dining in restaurants for food off their plates.
- Going through garbage cans on private property.

Where can I get more information?

Pinedale Ranger District, Bridger-Teton National Forest
Office located in Pinedale, just east of Faler's/Ridleys grocery store (the store with the big fish on top). If you stop in there to ask for help or directions to get to the Rainbow gathering, don't be surprised if you get a bit of a cold shoulder. The Forest Service asked the Rainbows to moved the gathering and the Rainbows basically thumbed their noses at them and the whole Forest Service permitting process for use of the Big Sandy area. Some people are very unhappy about the way this has unfolded and consider it extremely disrespectful of the Rainbows to the Forest Service, with whom we have a very good local working relationship, and to the local and regional communities who regularly recreate in that area and who pride themselves that they do follow the rules on how to use public land in the consideration of others. They will of course help you, but realize that it's a bit arrogant to ask for the Forest Service to help you get to a gathering they have made it clear they prefer not be at that location. (Update added 6/25/08)

Sublette County Visitor Center/Chamber of Commerce
Log building in downtown Pinedale on main street, by the "Cow Mural"
Open weekdays, regular office hours

Sublette County Sheriff’s Office
(Police, Fire, Ambulance, Search & Rescue)
Located in the courthouse building in Pinedale
Non-emergency dispatch: 307-367-4378
Staffed 24 hours

Town of Pinedale - Town Hall

Pinedale Aquatic Center (pool, showers), 307-367-2832

Pinedale Online!
Office: 307-276-5699
Cell: 307-360-7689
Phone OK anytime, including evenings & weekends
Leave a message if we don’t answer right away.
Reader’s Comments:
6/19/08: Thank you for the very helpful information online about the Rainbow Gathering. It was awesome." – Chuck, Moran, Wyoming
6/18/08: "Thanks for the great info posted on your website to assist the Rainbow gathers." – Bill
6/18/08: "did you know about the boy scouts using the same meadow that the rainbows are going to use? they are taking down old fence in the meadow where the gathering will be, and are to be stationed out of the old dutch joe gaurd station. it hasn't hit many places yet, but apparently the boy scouts have that area reserved for end of july. .. it may mean that the rainbows may have to move the gathering, but if they do not fix the problem it may mean the forest service will start to write tickets for a non permitted gathering as well. lets hope for a move to an area close by so that the town still gets the business! could mean close to a million dollars in business. big amount for sure in jeapordy." – Mike
6/18/08: "Thanks for all the good Rainbow Family information! It helps to have solid and fair coverage and information for local folks regarding the gathering. I appreciate your efforts." – A.
6/17/08: "Thank you for your very informative and impartial page. The info will be useful to Rainbow and Local folks. Well done!" -Rick, New York Rainbow
6/17/08: "We have a summer home in the Big Sandy openings, at Temple Creek. How many of the Rainbow Tribe are you anticipating in the area. Also we need the phone number of the Sheriff's department….We appreciate the updates on the Rainbow's. The area is so very peaceful and beautiful. I pray it will remain that way....." B, Wyoming
6/17/08: "I have been going to Gatherings for many years, was at the Gathering at Snyder Basin in '94, and this is the first time I have seen a newspaper local to the Gathering site do anything quite like this. Excellent work! You might note by the reminder to travelers that they have a good spare tire that in '94 the Rainbows ended up buying every can of Fix-a-Flat in Sublette county. I'll be bringing my wife and two year old daughter to the Gathering this year. We should me up in your mountains....and well out of your town! weekend before the first." – J, Knoxville Tennessee
6/16/08: "Thanks so much for the positive website concerning the upcoming Rainbow Gathering. We appreciate the welcoming gesture and know that the shared experience will be enriching and full of magic for all of us. Thanks." – George
6/16/08: "I just read your rainbow page. Very useful and helpful. Thanks so much
for the information and the Wyoming hospitality." Mike, Buffalo, New York
6/16/08: "Much Love and thanks to Dawn Ballou (and everyone else involved) for
the great resource on this years national gathering... (I especially liked the youtube video with the local business owners!!! if there's more of that I'd love to see it!!!!) I hope 'yall are having fun out there! See you soon!... …I hope you get a chance to get out into the woods yourself... not too often you get to see something like this right in your own backyard! (if you do go, don't hang out near the front, get further into rainbowland, say the main meadow...there's nothing else out there like it." - David
6/15/08: Hello! My name is Karen and I have been to many Rainbow Gatherings in the past. I won't be able to make it to Wyoming this summer, but I recently ran across these excellent videos on youtube that might put some minds to rest, of those who live in Pinedale and are nervous about the hippies who are descending on their town! These are interviews taken of merchants in the towns closest to past gatherings, asking for their reactions to the Gathering and to how it all turned out in the end. I thought local merchants in Pinedale might like to see them." – Karen, California
6/12/08: "The rainbow family has arraigned for a town meeting to be scheduled on june 19th at the Sublette county library ....the time of the meeting will be 6pm....and all interested parties are encouraged and invited to attend....Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey.. well be in attendance along with members of the usfs incident management team...representitives from the Woming Governors officer and the Attorney Generals office are expected to attend as well....if possible can you put this information on your events list ....IM sure that many folks in your area will be interested in attending and communicating with the Under Secretary as well ask asking questions of the rainbows .regarding the gathering ....and let me take time to thank you for posting links to the many interersting and informative Rainbow web sites .....Ive been attending gatherings since 1984 and I have found that open and frank communication leads to a spirit of cooperation and creates a peacefull and successful gathering for everyone involved." – Gary
6/12/08: "I've been a member of the Raibow Family since I was a kid, and I just wanted to thank you for your very nice coverage of the gathering here this year. Far more truthfull, and less maliced, then what I hear other people saying around town. Thanks again." – Frank, Wyoming
6/12/08: "Great site! Made me even more excited to go to the gathering this year. They always pick lovely areas but your looks like tops! Question is: Can we expect cell phone coverage at or near the gathering site?... I am from New Jersey and not used to such niceness from strangers except maybe at the Rainbow Gathering! I have been poking around your website since I sent you the question . . . really nice community website! Thank you again!" - Jonathan

Human costs of new India rail link

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Agartala

Construction of the railway track in Tripura
There were 28 rebel attacks during the construction of the rail link

What are the human costs of building a railway link in one of India's most restive regions?

To begin with, 36 people - railway workers and security forces guarding the tracks - died in some 28 rebel attacks during work to link the north-eastern city of Agartala in Tripura state to the rest of the country.

That's not all.

A total of 67 people connected with work on the rail link were kidnapped by the rebels. Only 19 were freed after ransom payouts.

The fate of the rest is still unknown.


On top of all that, a raging tribal insurgency in Tripura has ensured that the $186m, 109km-long (68-mile) link took 15 years to build.

But by the end of June, the link will be complete and Agartala will become the second state capital of north-east India - after Assam's capital, Guwahati - to find a place on India's railway map.

Big network

Trains first reached Tripura in 1964 when the railway was extended to the state's northern business hub, Dharmanagar. Later it was extended further to Kumarghat.

"But it has taken more than 40 years since then to connect Agartala by rail," said Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.

In the last two years, Tripura's communist-led government has successfully contained the tribal insurgency.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared the railway link in Tripura a national project and more connections are planned.

Agartala station
The link runs to the Tripura capital, Agartala (Photo: Debiprasad Bhowmik)

Next on the cards is the extension of the railway from Agartala to southern Tripura.

FS Meena, chief engineer of the Northeast Frontier Railway, said work to build the 110km Agartala-Sabroom line would begin by January.

The project would cost almost as much as the one just completed to connect Agartala.

"After Indian Railways extends its line up to Sabroom, it would be very easy to connect with the Chittagong international port in Bangladesh, which is just 75km from there," says Manik Sarkar.

India recently signed a deal with Burma to upgrade the Sittwe port so that goods from Indian ports can land there and then be taken up to India's Mizoram state by river for onward shipment to other north-east Indian states.

"But if Bangladesh plays ball and allows Chittagong to be used for north-east Indian states, we will have an alternative access to the north-east from the Indian mainland," said Mr Sarkar.

The first train in the subcontinent ran on a 33km (21-mile) stretch of track from Mumbai (Bombay) to Thane in western India in 1853.

The first passenger train rolled out of the eastern city of Calcutta the following year.

Today, Indian Railways operate at least 11,000 trains every day covering 63,465km (39,435 miles) across the length and breadth of the country, making it one of the world's largest rail networks

Farmers caught in the poppy trade

By Kate Clark
BBC News, Afghanistan

Poppy field in Afghanistan
This year's poppy harvest was poor
Much of Afghanistan's Helmand Province is dependent on the poppy harvest - which locks ordinary people into a criminal economy and ends up funding Taleban insurgents, corrupt officials and drug traffickers.

"The Holy Koran hated our fields this year," was how one farmer from Helmand described just how bad the opium poppy harvest had been.

In May, farmers scraping the bulbous seed heads of their poppy plants, found low quantities of the milky white liquid that is opium dribbling out.

Bad weather, frosts and poor rains, meant the yield was way down.

The price of opium has also fallen, after years of bumper harvests flooding the market.

Taleban tax

After paying household and farming expenses, the farmer said, he had hardly broken even, especially after everyone else took their share, the labourers who helped with the harvest and the mullah who, in rural Afghanistan, is supported collectively by the congregation.

Helmund Province

Then there was the Taleban to pay. They take a tax, known as ushr, 10% of the harvest from farmers living in areas under their control.

It is a major revenue stream for the insurgency.

Finally - and these were the farmer's exact words - "the government takes away its share".

He was talking about local officials who demand bribes, in exchange for protecting fields from the yearly government campaign to eradicate some of the poppy crop.

These bribes can be sizeable. Last year, another farmer said, he and the 300 other families in his area collectively paid the equivalent of $50,000 (£25,000).

One farmer told us what happened when he did not pay the bribes.

It was 2007 and he had just got married. He had completed the legal ceremony, but was waiting for the harvest to pay the agreed dowry to the bride's father.

But the government eradication team chose to destroy his poppy fields.

He could not pay his father-in-law and so he could not take his wife home.

Missing wife

His story got worse. Taleban fighters took up positions in his village and fired missiles at Nato troops who retaliated with bombs dropped from the air.

Taleban (File pic)
The Taleban get much of their funding from the poppy trade

The villagers, he said, fled into the desert. By the time I met him, he had lost his crop, literally lost his wife - he did not know where she was - and he was living in a tent camp.

If the fighting diminished and he could get back to his land, he said, one year's poppy crop would solve all his problems.

Eighty per cent of households in Helmand are involved in growing poppies.

But it ties farmers into a criminal economy, one where their hard labour funds the Taleban insurgency, government corruption and lines the pockets of the drugs traffickers.

At the same time it is the one crop which allows people to survive in a war zone.

If there is fighting, you can always store your opium crop. It does not rot. It keeps its value.

There is always a demand for it. Buyers will come to your door.

Corruption claims

If you grow legal crops like fruit and vegetables, you have to contend with bad roads and chronic insecurity to get them to market and you need to get your crop past check points manned by corrupt police who tax loads so heavily, farmers say, it is hardly worth their while to grow them.

Taleban and officials are often mentioned in the same breath, with not much to chose between them

The police in Helmand have a reputation for bribe-taking, drug addiction and for being a major source of crime.

There are good officers among their ranks, but also allegations that some help run the drugs trade.

The ministry of the interior is currently overhauling the force, district by district, in an attempt to clean it up.

There is a new governor, with a good track record, who was refreshingly upbeat that he could run the province properly.

I also encountered the deputy minister for rural development, who was visiting from Kabul.

A lean, hard-working, chain-smoking man in smart embroidered salwar kameez tunic, he told me with energy and determination about his development plans for the province.

This year, there was also a concerted effort by the governor, the counter-narcotics ministry and their British colleagues to target the poppy fields not of the poorest, but of wealthy farmers, those who did not need to grow poppies to survive.

The eradication teams were even persuaded to destroy part of the crop of a big commander, a former police chief. It was unprecedented.

School's out

But on the ground, there remains deep scepticism about a state that behaves more often like a predator than a protector.

Taleban and officials are often mentioned in the same breath, with not much to chose between them, with the weariness of people trying to live between rival mafia gangs.

"Our village school is shut," one farmer said.

"We're not sure who closed it. The Taleban do shut down girls' schools and non-religious boys' schools, claiming they're un-Islamic.

"But the Taleban aren't present in our area," said the farmer.

"So maybe it was the government who closed the school after local officials stole the generator and the other equipment."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fresh record for Indian inflation

Indian petrol station worker
Reduced subsidies for fuel have increased inflation

Indian inflation set another record in the third week in June as prices of food, fuel and steel continued to rise.

Wholesale prices rose by a larger-than-expected 11.63% in the 12 months to 21 June compared with the same period the previous year.

The new record raises the chance of another interest rate rise, following two last month.

The inflation figure was up from 11.42% in the previous week, and is the highest since the series began in 1995.

Wholesale prices are more closely watched in India than consumer prices because the figures are published weekly and include more products.

Inflation jumped in the first week of June from 8.75% to 11% after the government reduced its fuel subsidies.

Interest rates will come under focus when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) holds its next rate-setting meeting on 29 July.

"The momentum in inflation continues to accelerate and that is a worrying sign," said Sonal Varma, at Lehman Brothers in Mumbai.

"We expect the RBI to hike the repo rate by 25 basis points at the July policy [meeting]."

Meanwhile, rising food and fuel price increases pushed the Philippines' . inflation rate in June to its highest in 14 years.

Acting socio-economic planning secretary Augusto Santos said "continuous price increases of cereals and fuel" had raised annual inflation in June to 11.4% from 9.5% a month earlier.

The new figure is the biggest since May 1994, when consumer prices rose 11.5%.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

US tastes Indian wedding spectaculars

By Brajesh Upadhyay
BBC News, Washington

Traditional Indian wedding in the US
More and more grooms are now arriving on fine white chargers

Traffic comes to a halt and heads turn when she walks down the street. A date with her can cost anything upwards of $8,500.

Young Indian men with deep pockets are queuing up for Minnie to realise their fantasies. Those who can't afford her settle for Sadie, Cindy or Penelope who cost about $500 an hour.

Minnie is an elephant and the other three are white mares rented out for Indian weddings.

The four-legged beauties are part of a booming wedding industry that caters to the ever-growing demands of rich Indians in the US.

'Huge cost'

Manan Shah had a childhood dream of taking centre stage in his marriage procession - or baraat - on an elephant.

He was inspired by the Indian blockbuster of yesteryear, Haathi Mere Saathi, a movie about a boy with elephants as friends.

A relative's wedding in India where he saw an elephant carry the groom to the bride added to the fascination.

"I knew it was almost a lifetime wish for him and so I decided to go for it despite the huge cost,'' says his father Suresh Shah, who has lived in the US for more than 30 years.

It's one business with indefinite longevity
Event planner Sonal Shah

Five or six years ago, it would have been an impossible wish to fulfil. But not anymore.

A few calls to the wedding planner and Minnie, a 3,175kg (7,000 pounds) grey Asian diva, is on her way to Washington DC from Connecticut.

"Elephants are the latest trend - and because there are not many around the demand is always high,'' says Sonal Shah, who runs an event planning agency Save The Date.

The cost of hiring an elephant can go up to $30,000 depending on distance - but people still seem to have the money to pay for it.

She says most of her Indian clientele wants bigger, better and more elaborate weddings.

"There's a great craze for new unreleased models of cars like Aston Martins, Ferraris and Lamborghinis for the baraat and I am also doing one where the groom will land on a helicopter,'' says Sonal Shah.

She has 25 such high-end weddings lined up for the year.

Bollywood inspired

No wonder Indian wedding planners have mushroomed all over the US. And so have supporting professionals like videographers, hair and make-up specialists, henna artists and so on.

The music and dance must also be Bollywood inspired, with specialist DJs and choreographers.

Elephant in New York
A few trunk calls and the elephant is yours for the day...

Kumar Singh, whose son was married recently, says 10 years ago it wasn't easy to get any of the accessories required for an elaborate Hindu wedding ritual.

"Now with a little luck maybe we are able to fire guns in the air the way we do it in India,'' says Mr Singh, who is in the auto and motel business.

Many of these wedding vendors are from backgrounds and cultures with no obvious links to Indian traditions and this growing industry has nurtured cross-cultural ties.

The Commerford family that owns Minnie has been in the animal attraction business for 35 years organising pet shows, pony and camel rides.

"It was last year that we got the first call for an elephant to be used in an Indian wedding and then we realised it was an exciting business opportunity,'' says Darlene Commerford.

The wedding was in New Jersey and the Indian family had a blanket made for Minnie which they gave to her as a parting gift.

'Wedding market boom'

Five years ago Midge Harmon, the founder of Harmon's Hayrides that now rents out white mares in Virginia and Washington DC, wasn't even aware of the Indian tradition of weddings where the groom makes a dramatic entrance on horseback.

Then, she only rented out cars for American weddings and did not have a white mare.

Now, she has three - Sadie, Cindy and Penelope.

"The demand has been huge and I invested in their training and even got brocades and traditional wedding attires for them from India,'' she said.

She has a better understanding of Indian traditions now and can differentiate between a Sikh and a Gujarati wedding.

"In fact, the handlers of these horses have a better understanding than me, as they are the ones who go to the weddings,'' she said.

But what is it that has triggered this boom in the Indian wedding market here?

Midge Harmon says the second generation Indians have now reached the marriageable age and there's a large number of young Indians who are in 20s and early 30s.

"They are Americanised, want to get married here but in the traditional ways and so the support facilities have grown to service them,'' she says.

And one things for sure. It's here to stay.

As Sonal Shah puts it: "It's one business with indefinite longevity.''

India truckers strike over fuel

Parked trucks at a terminal on the outskirts of Mumbai (Bombay)
The strike is beginning to affect food distribution

Nearly four million trucks are off India's roads after their owners began an indefinite strike to protest against rising fuel bills.

The soaring global price of crude oil has led the Indian government to cut subsidies and raise prices.

Truck operators say they have been hit hard by oil prices which have risen by 40% since the beginning of the year.

Trucks carry food and other essential commodities in India. The strike is likely to push up their prices.

'No loading'

Correspondents say that with 70% of goods being transported by truck across India, a prolonged strike will have a serious affect on the country's economy.

Truck driver in Mumbai
There is no sign of an early end to the dispute

Television footage showed goods that would normally have been transported by the vehicles being stacked at farmers markets, docks and warehouses.

"As of now, no orders are being booked, no loading or delivery is in progress," Mukesh Dave, the head of the lorry drivers' association in the western state of Gujarat, told the Press Trust of India.

Truck depots across the country were jammed with stationary vehicles parked in long lines throughout Wednesday.

"Because of the increase in the diesel prices our cost of operation has gone up, but the traders who send their stuff through us are not ready to pay more," truck owner Sachin Sehgal said.

Hundreds of protesters held a rally on Wednesday in the southern city of Madras, where there were also reports of panic buying of potatoes and other staple foods.

Analysts say that the dispute will add to double-digit inflation and slow down growth in India.

A similar week-long strike in 2004 slowed down the annual growth in industrial output to 7.9% from 8.4% in the previous month as the strike disrupted shipments.

'No choice'

Truck operators "have no choice but to stay off the roads", Charan Singh Lohara of the All India Motor Transport Congress told the BBC.

A worker cleans a truck in Allahabad, India, on 2 July 2008
Lorry drivers are also protesting against road tolls

"We are already running under huge losses. The cost of diesel is so high that we have nothing left to live on.

"The government must reduce the multiple taxes to compensate for the increasing cost of fuel."

Mr Lohara said the operators hoped to meet Finance Minister P Chidambaram to discuss their demands, but correspondents say no progress had been made in negotiations so far between the two sides.

The operators are also protesting against road tolls imposed by the government.

In June, India raised fuel prices by 10%, the second such increase this year, because of the rising cost of oil globally.

India imports nearly 75% of its crude oil requirements and controls the price of domestic fuel products to help contain inflation and protect the poor.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister TR Baalu urged the lorry-drivers to call off the strike.

He said the government was considering more tax relief for them.

Have you been affected by the strike? Are you one of the truck operators taking part in the strike? Send your comments using the form below

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

10 Japanese Customs You Must Know Before a Trip to Japan

Written by Turner Wright

Feature photo by kalandrakas. Photo above by kalandrakas

If you know these key Japanese customs, you’ll get closer to the locals and see beneath the surface of Japan.
1. Addressing Someone, Respect

Bowing is nothing less than an art form in Japan, respect pounded into children’s heads from the moment they enter school. For tourists, a simple inclination of the head or an attempt at a bow at the waist will usually suffice.

The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person you’re addressing.

The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person you’re addressing. For example, a friend might get a lightning-fast 30-degree bow; an office superior might get a slow, extended, 70-degree bow. It’s all about position and circumstance.

In addition to bowing, addressing someone properly is key. Just as a “Dr. Smith” might feel a little insulted if you were to refer to him as “Smith”, so would a Japanese if you do not attach the suffix “san” to their last name, or “sama” if you are trying to be particularly respectful.

Usually children are content with just their first names, but you can add the suffix “chan” for girls and “kun” for boys if you like.

2. Table Manners

Some simple bullet points here:

- If you’re with a dinner party and receive drinks, wait before raising the glass to your lips. Everyone will be served, and someone will take the lead, make a speech, raise his drink, and yell “kampai!” (cheers).

- You will receive a small wet cloth at most Japanese restaurants. Use this to wash your hands before eating, then carefully fold it and set it aside on the table. Do not use it as a napkin, or to touch any part of your face.

- Slurping noodles or making loud noises while eating is OK! In fact, slurping hot food like ramen is polite, to show you are enjoying it.

- You may raise bowls to your mouth to make it easier to eat with chopsticks, especially bowls of rice.

- Just before digging in, whether it be a seven-course dinner or a sample at a supermarket, it’s polite to say “itadakimasu” (I will receive).

3. No Tipping

There is no tipping in any situation in Japan – cabs, restaurants, personal care. To tip someone is actually a little insulting; the services you’ve asked for are covered by the price given, so why pay more?

If you are in a large area like Tokyo and can’t speak any Japanese, a waiter or waitress might take the extra money you happen to leave rather than force themselves to deal with the awkward situation of explaining the concept of no tipping in broken English.

Just remind yourself: a price is a price.

Photo by tavallai

4. Chopsticks

Depending on the restaurant you decide upon for that evening, you may be required to use chopsticks.

If for some reason you aren’t too adept with chopsticks, try to learn before passing through immigration. It’s really not that hard.

One false assumption among many Japanese that’s slowly being dispelled by time is the “uniqueness” of Japan. Japan is an island nation; Japan is the only country that has four seasons; foreigners can’t understand Japan; only Japanese can use chopsticks properly.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told I use Japanese chopsticks with skill and grace, despite the fact I’ve seen three-year-olds managing just as well.

If you’re dining with a Japanese, don’t be surprised if you receive a look of amazement at your ability to eat like a Japanese.

5. Thresholds

Take off your shoes at the entrance to all homes, and most businesses and hotels. Usually a rack will be provided to store your shoes, and pair of guest slippers will be sitting nearby; many Japanese bring a pair of indoor slippers just in case, though.

Never wear slippers when you need to step onto a tatami mat (used in most Japanese homes and hotels; the standard unit of measurement for area even today), and be careful to remove the toilet slippers waiting for you in the bathroom.

It is extremely bad form, for example, to reenter the main room of a house wearing slippers that have been running across dirty linoleum.

6. Masks

Photo by toestubber

SARS is long gone, though I did happen to see a “SARS Preparation Kit” during my brief stay in a Japanese hospital.

Nevertheless, sterilized masks, like the ones you’d see in the emergency room, are commonly used by salarymen, office ladies, and municipal workers to protect other people from their germs.

Rather sensible when you think about it, as masks do not protect the wearer so much as the ones around him. The reason could be anything from a slight cold to simply being worried about exposing other people; don’t let it concern you on your Japanese vacation.

7. Conformity

When groups of high school students in Japan were asked to identify the dangers facing children today, the majority agreed on the number one threat: individualism.

Japanese society is focused on the group. Western cultures are focused on the individual.

Does this mean that the Japanese are nothing more that worker bees in a vast hive of steel and concrete? Certainly not, but their presentation of such individual qualities are carefully calculated and given in doses.

Drawing attention to yourself as an individual is a huge no-no: don’t blow your nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on your cell phone in crowded public areas like trains or buses.

The main problem with this is that foreigners simply can’t avoid standing out; we stick out like sore thumbs no matter how long we’ve been here, or how much we know about Japanese culture and society.

As a result, being in Japan gives foreigners the status of D-level celebrities: you’ll get glances, shouts for attention, calls to have pictures taken with people, requests for autographs (happened once to me on a southern island), and overall just more awareness of being a “stake that sticks out”.

8. Bathing

Photo by meganscheminske

Public bathhouses are alive and well in Japan.

Sento, or neighborhood bathhouses, can be found from the largest area in Shinjuku to a small town on the island of Shikoku.

Onsen, or hot springs, are very popular as weekend excursion resorts.

Unlike in western cultures, the Japanese bath is used after you have washed and rinsed, and feel like soaking in extra-hot water for 10, 20, 30 minutes. It’s an acquired taste to be sure, but can be very relaxing.

If you happen to be invited into a Japanese household, you will be given the honor of using the bath first, usually before dinner. Be extra careful so as to not dirty the water in any way; the sanctity of the ofuro (bath) is of utmost importance.

Take the time to visit a sento if you have the opportunity. These are places without barriers, without regard to skin color, age, or language… well, they are separated by sex with the exception of some mixed-bathing areas.

Lying in the hot water and slowly listening to my heart beat slow down is a time when I feel most attuned to Japanese culture.

9. Speaking English
Japanese will generally assume you are a native English speaker until you prove otherwise.

Japanese will generally assume you are a native English speaker until you prove otherwise. Even during a short visit, you’ll see:

-A group of schoolchildren in neatly pressed Prussian uniforms walking across the intersection, shouting “Hello! Hello! Herro!” as they assess your foreign features

-A random person just walking up to you and asking “Where are you from?”

Friendly? Certainly. But I can see how constant celebrity status might get confusing or frustrating for travelers who don’t speak English.

Although you may speak some or fluent Japanese, the default language of choice is English. Many Japanese will insist on using their own English language ability, however limited, to converse with foreigners, in spite of the fact that the person on the opposing end may have more knowledge of the local tongue.

10. Safety

Every Japanese person I have met warns me to be safe in my travels, to take care of my belongings. Every foreigner tells me not to worry, nothing can go wrong, nothing will be stolen. This may be based on individual experience, but there are other issues:

- The fear of crime in Japan is high, especially among Japanese citizens.

- Murders happen. I repeat, murders happen. People are attacked, robbed, assaulted, raped, beaten, and swindled

However, Japan’s low crime rate is evident when you see businessmen who have missed the last train sleeping outside on a park bench, or a group of 5-year-old boys walking by themselves for over a kilometer to make the starting bell at school.

What not to take on your India trip

Tip of the hat to

What not to take on your India Trip
photo by babeinthewoods
Once, whilst in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh) I decided to shed some of my baggage. For three months I had been carrying around two ridiculously heavy sports bags and now one of them had to go. I resolved to fill one of the bags with my surplus items and unload the unwanted goods upon some grateful beggar. Strangely enough, on that particular morning I had difficulty finding a beggar, I must have been the only foreigner on the subcontinent wanting to be begged from – yet for hours none were forthcoming. When I actually encountered one, her hand extended in heartfelt supplication, she became strangely annoyed as I handed over my entire bag. Before the woman could remonstrate with me, I turned my back and fled.

My weighty predicament had, in part, been caused by bogus advice from a supposedly authoritative guidebook. It had instructed me to take such things as a spare sheet and a mosquito net – even a sink plug.

  1. Mosquito nets: should have been fazed-out in the early 20th century, along with wind-up gramophones and Penny Farthing bicycles. In one hundred Indian hotel rooms, from Goa to Guwahati, I rarely found anything to hook the thing on to, and when I did, I found that it obstructed the much-needed cool breeze from the ceiling fan, creating an uncomfortable pocket of warm air. I have visited over a dozen Indian states, and have never encountered mosquitoes in such numbers that they would interrupt my sleep (unlike my experiences in South America) and as for malaria prevention – there are better ways! Mosquito coils cost a pittance and are available everywhere. They can sometimes leave dryness in your mouth upon waking, but this is a small price to pay. Do not buy the fancy plug-in electric repellents from home as they do not work during power cuts.

  2. Sheets: A small minority of Indian hotels lack sheets and just provide mattress coverings. On the plains and coastal regions during most of the year, it is usually so hot that sheets are unnecessary anyway. Whilst in the hills and mountains, you don’t need sheets – you need blankets or sleeping bags.

  3. Sink and Bath plug: As for the lesser matter of a one-size-fits-all sink and bath plug - it’s equally pointless. People don’t take baths in a tub in India so, customarily, your hotel room will not be equipped with such a decadent foreign item. As for the sink, if there’s no plug – so what! In budget guesthouses it’s unlikely you will get a hot water tap (sometimes even if you pay for running hot water, you may not get it), so just let the cold water run. If that’s not good water conservation, blame it on the hotel.

  4. Expensive Lighters: Do not take an expensive or treasured lighter to India. They are not allowed on board Indian planes (unless in your suitcase) and Indian customs officials usually confiscate them - and probably do a profitable sideline in foreign lighters. If the customs officers don’t get them, a petty thief will, either that, or you will accidentally leave it in a bar or hotel room. One way or another, India will be the last place your good lighter ever goes. Buy local disposable ones instead, but don’t throw cheap Indian lighters around, as they can explode on impact. I discovered this in Goa when a Scottish friend threw one at a house gecko.

  5. Shampoo and Conditioner: Invest in sun cream but don’t bring large or even medium sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Indian products will do just fine and can be purchased in sachets from most Indian kiosks.

  6. Perfumes: Good perfumes or colognes are also a waste of space. You tend to sweat more in the tropics, so fragrances do not permeate into the skin.

  7. Pillows: An inflatable pillow is an exquisitely useless item. If you travel by train in the AC classes, you will receive pillows. On aeroplanes, you get pillows. If you use one on the beach, you will look like an idiot. In hotels, yes, they have pillows as well, if they prove too hard, just roll up a towel and use that. If it is an unpleasantly dirty hotel pillow, you can simply wrap it with a clean lungi or dhoti. So, just where are you going to use an inflatable pillow? OK – buses, but it’s unlikely that you will travel far by bus – and if you do, then stop it! It’s more comfortable and safer to go long distances by train or plane.

  8. Beach ball: – another inflatable piece of garbage. You cannot play soccer with it; one strong gust of wind, and suddenly it’s half a mile away. Even a slight breeze will skew any lengthy shot or pass. For a bit of fun on the beach take a Frisbee – at least this can double as plastic plate when reversed.

  9. Full size Swiss Army Knives: and other multi-function pocketknives, are great for outdoorsmen - and only outdoorsmen. If you are not going camping, don’t bring one! It will be a little white elephant: an unused expensive piece of kit that somebody is going to filch. Wine is rare in India, so you won’t need a corkscrew. Tinned food is scarce, so you won’t need a tin opener. If you need a Phillips-head screwdriver or pliers, just borrow one from the hotel. Toothpicks are free at restaurants, and you won’t need a fish scaler. If you are going to need a nailfile and tweezers, pack them individually – you’ll save on room and money. As Eddie Izzard said of the attachments: "I don’t know what this one is for. I can open a can of beans with this a week."

Aside from the unnecessary weight of these items, you must also consider the cost. In your home country, they could quite easily set you back the equivalent of five thousand rupees: a senseless sacrifice of good travelling funds.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My computer is under going a virus attack