Silke Gondolf // Personal Effects

The Highlanders of Ratanakiri – Cambodia

  The following are my on-location field notes from December 2015. I travelled with a Krung guide into the forest, he introduced me to the highlanders and translated all interviews. 66% of the people in the furthest northeast of Cambodia, called Ratanakiri, are indigenous people: the main tribes are Brao (Krung), Jarai, Tampun.   The “forest people”, also called “highlanders”, “tribal people”, or “minorities” are actually the majority of Ratanakiri, a very rich province. The Khmer Rouge wanted the highlanders to assimilate, they relocated many of them during their rampage years. The Khmer Rouge wanted the tribes to leave their backward system and begin regular field agriculture, to become rice farmers and contribute to society. The indigenous people were also forced to learn and speak Khmer. In the 80ies the local/tribal people moved to the roads and the “city people” moved to the highlands – to do logging, built plantations and do gold and precious stone mining. The land was given away as concessions to people and companies – for exploitation. The ethnic minorities were …

Semi-Precious

My way to the gem stone miners of Cambodia brings me past honey sellers. The indigenous people from the Tampuan tribe come to the roads to sell their produce. Honey is a treasure and these people are a treasure as well, but no one seems to care about their needs, property or knowledge. I am travelling in the northeast Ratanakiri province, an area where the so called “ethnic minorities” are actually the majority and where the living conditions are the poorest of the country. The different tribes are referred to as the highlanders, a general term for the indigenous people who live in this mountainous region.     The highlanders forests, once partially sacred and a trusted source for their livelihood, has been sold by the government and is still in the process of being sold out. The highlanders watch how roads are being built through their property, how electricity cables are mounted through their jungle, how foreigners and Khmer alike take away their land and trees; fields with their precious mountain rice and sesame, spirit mountains and rivers (dams …

Where no one is calling your name

  The Gold Forest is an area off limits to everyone not into the gold business. It is a remote stretch of land with its own rules of law.   Preah Mear is one of Cambodia’s biggest illegal gold mining areas. The small, illegal gold digger ventures are cradled into the concessioned land, held by a Chinese company running three mines here, with a depth of up to 500 meters. The Chinese investors aim to harvest 100,000 ounces’ gold per year – 2835 kilogram – every year, for an 8-year minimum. To do that, they have to process 1.5 million tons of ore per year – and this is done with dynamite blasting and conventional drilling by many cheap local laborers who risk their lives every day and year round. The gold rush orchestra is playing 24/7: while generators and stone grinders give the baseline and the loud ringing bells interrupt the groove. The ringing bells tell the miners above the shaft to pull up their bucket, filled with ore from the underground. In-between the sound arrangement, antique looking constructions of gold sifting/extracting slides, …

Myanmar

  Travel Notes: Steaming hot streets, everything pushes its way through the old narrow streets of Yangon’s Chinatown. There is no escape from the intensity of people and their creations. Walking past some cycle rickshaws that carry their human load one forward and the other backward facing. Chinese style rickshaws: narrow, efficient and the perfect vehicle for the old roads, lined with parked trucks and garbage deposits. The houses are decorated with mold. The sewers are open. There are streets dedicated to local professions and some just for tourists. Small and big temples everywhere, people carrying their offerings to them day and night.   In the morning, the smog – mostly created by burned garbage -is lifting slowly, dissolved by the morning breeze and the sun. The curtain opens for another day in this new melting pot of foreign interests and opportunity. Meanwhile the other side of the Hlaing River is pure countryside: ox carts and small little shacks, village life all slow paced just a mile away. The small town of Dalah is the …

Civil War End – Sri Lanka

  The situation: The final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War created 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were transferred to camps in Vavuniya District and detained there against their will. This process, together with conditions inside the camps and the slow progress of resettlement attracted much concern and criticism from inside and outside Sri Lanka. Although camps have been removed as of April 2015 as many as 13,459 families, accounting for 44,934 persons, were yet to be resettled and houses for them are still under construction.   The Omadiyamadu villagers have been relocated many times during the civil war and live again in temporary shelters in 2011. The villagers have limited access to electricity. Some have solar energy panels that were provided to them mounted on their roofs. They also have limited access to fresh water during the dry season. Some of the people have lived in their temporary homes for as long as 10 years -simple structures made of wood and metal sheets. Their huts are 6 to 12 square meters; they sleep …

The Panamerican Highway

Travelling, filming, blogging for 6 month – 35.000 American kilometres from top to bottom     The “Carretera Panamericana” connects Alaska with Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. It runs from the extreme north of America to the most southerly tip of the inhabitable world. Beyond Ushuaia, there’s only water and ice. With a length of 35,000 kilometres, the Carretera Panamericana is a highway of superlatives. The world’s longest road leads through the history and culture of the American continent, passing along political crisis regions and natural landscapes of indescribable beauty. The “Pan-American Highway” is the north-south axis of the American continent. It passes through 17 countries and winds its way through four climate zones and almost all the vegetation zones of the planet. A highway system of extremes “right from the top to the very bottom”. It is the synonym of freedom and adventure – Vamos!

West Bengal – Sikkim

Travel Notes from West Bengal to Sikkim 2006 India – full speed through West Bengal, the 91 million populous state borders Bangladesh in the east, and Nepal and Bhutan in the north. West Bengal includes the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region, the Ganges delta. It’s the country of evil tigers and Rhinoceros unicornis – with wart-like bumps on the hind legs. The British took control of the region from the late 18th century. Among other things, they left their bicycles behind. Still some of the oldest ones are found here, still being part of daily traffic. The colonial plunder of Bengal made direct significant contributions to the Industrial Revolution in Britain and greatly increased British wealth, while at the same time leading to de-industrialization in Bengal. A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided during India’s independence in 1947 along religious lines into two separate entities: West Bengal—a state of India—and East Bengal—a part of the newly created Dominion of Pakistan that later became the independent nation of Bangladesh …

Ladakh

Ladakh liegt mit seiner einzigartigen Natur und seinen wunderbaren Menschen zwischen dem Karakorum und dem Himalaya. Ladakh war mal ein unabhängiges, buddhistisches Königreich.     Unter dem Flugzeug hat sich eine kristallweiße Spitzendecke ausgebreitet. Berge rechts, links,vorne, hinten -soweit das Auge reicht. Der Flieger umschifft die Bergspitzen wie ein Ruderboot die Klippen. Die „Götter“ sind zum Greifen nah:Sichtflug und dann Vollgas auf die Landebahn Lehs. So landet man auf 3600 Metern. Als das erste Flugzeug in Leh landete, vor vielen Jahren, kamen die Ladakhis mit jeder Menge Futter zum Landeplatz –sie dachten, dass so ein großes Tier, was so viele Sachen tragen kann,doch unheimlichen Hunger haben müsste. Leh: ein grünes Pappeltal mit türkisfarbenen Flussadern und jeder Menge indischem Militär.Bewaffnet stehen sie an der Landebahn Spalier. Die Sonne scheint, wolkenfreies Glück.Doch erst mal Ausnahmezustand für Herz und Kreislauf. Schleppend langsam geht alles, das Blut kämpft sich durch die Adern. Die indischen Royal Enfield Motorräder knattern auf der Straße, es sind wenig Touristen in Ladakh –aber anscheinend sind alle die da sind, zweiräderig motorisiert. Leh mutiert zum …