Showing posts with label Customs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Customs. Show all posts

October 1, 2014

Tomb Sweeping Because even the dead might need clean clothes every other decade

A local girl takes a photo with a body displayed inside one of the rock graves. All photos by Marc Ressang
Everyone covered his nose when the family lifted the cover to the casket. A strange stench hit my nostrils, making me quiver. So that’s what a corpse smells like, I thought to myself.
I saw this article on Vice and because I like to wet aquatinted with things that await me I had the feeling that many of you might feel the same way. This article is posted here just the same way it was posted on VICE.
I’d previously traveled to the Indonesian regency of Tana Toraja on the island of Sulawesi on two separate occasions, observing the extravagant funeral ceremonies that the area is renowned for: raucous village block parties that can last for days and that families spend years saving up for. The Torajans don’t consider physical death the end of the line. Instead, death is considered only part of the gradual process toward “Puya,” or the Land of Souls.
Though the Torajans are considered predominantly Christian, they hold on to a large part of their ancestors' animist belief system—especially when it comes to death and dying. It was only at the end of my second trip to Tana Toraja that I heard of a less popularized and much more unusual Torajan death ritual, “tomb sweeping,” taken to a morbid extreme. Depending on the village, every one to five years, families reunite to exhume the bodies of their deceased relatives, clean up the inside of their coffins, and, if the mummified bodies are in solid enough condition, give their ancestors a fresh change of clothes.  
A body is taken out of a rotten coffin and wrapped in a new shroud with new clothing and gifts for the afterlife.
People were proud to explain that they had returned home from all corners of Indonesia to dig up their parents’ bodies. At the ritual, family members and guests moved around curiously, snapping photos of the mummified remains, and taking the occasional corpse selfie, all while trying to suppress their natural gross-out reactions.
The journey from the airport to the ritual grounds entailed a bumpy overnight bus from Makassar, the remote capital of South West Sulawesi, up to Rantepao, the capital of Tana Toraja. After another hour’s drive, northbound into the mountains, I arrived at the burial site of Lo’ko’mata village: a single, monolithic roadside boulder containing at least 30 graves carved deep into the rock face, some of them more than 50 feet off the ground.
The first few days of the ceremony were spent building ladders made out of bamboo from the nearby forest. Afterward, families painstakingly took the bodies from their graves to clean the coffins from the inside out. Sometimes they discarded the rotten coffins entirely, replacing them with a simple cloth wrap around the shriveled body.
Relatives and local villagers huddle around the bodies to make sure they get their photos.
A mummified body is taken out of her coffin, displayed and cleaned up.
A body and coffin are inspected before being cleaned up.
Feeling uneasy as an outsider photographing such an intimate ritual, I was disarmed by how low-key the locals were about the whole process. People casually handed out cigarettes and coffee to anyone attending—I found myself holding both, as two local brothers called me over to photograph them unwrapping their parents’ corpses.
At dawn on the last day of the ritual, the graves were sealed shut and the bamboo scaffolding removed. The locals held a Christian service near the burial site and slaughtered some pigs and water buffalos for lunch. Then, to mark the end of the ritual, the crowd was entertained by a game of Sisemba, a traditional form of kick-fighting.
Bodies from a single family are paraded across town, before being cleaned.


The rock gravesite of Lo’ko’mata
Villagers take down a coffin from one of the rock graves.
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October 19, 2012

This Man is Missing But We Know Where He is Staying



A New York City man who traveled to Europe to visit relatives this summer has been stranded there since Oct. 1, an advocacy group says, because his name allegedly appears on the no-fly list.  Samir Suljovic, 26, flew to Montenegro this summer to visit family and friends, but when he tried to travel back to New York on Oct. 1, airline representatives in Vienna, Austria, told him the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection had asked them not to allow him to board his flight. 


Samir Suljovic
“This is not a unique case for American Muslims who have been traveling abroad,” Awad told the Daily News. “He has no criminal record, he has never been charged with anything criminal. A Muslim happened to be traveling abroad and it raised a red flag for no other reason than that he is Muslim.”

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, New York members of Congress and the U.S. Embassy in Munich, CAIR states: "The denial of Mr. Suljovic's right to return home without due process of law constitutes a grave violation of his civil rights and liberties. Instead of protecting this young U.S. citizen while he traveled abroad, the government has effectively stranded him in an unfamiliar country without shelter or protection.”

An FBI spokesman told the Daily News the no-fly list contains about 20,000 names, and about 500 of those are American citizens.
“99.7 percent of the people who file complaints about the no-fly list, it turns out it has nothing to do with the no-fly list at all,” the spokesman told the Daily News.
In 2010, a New York man with the same name as Suljovic sued the Gramercy Park Hotel because management wouldn't hire him unless he shaved his beard, the New York Post reported.   

March 28, 2012

U.S. Customs is Recognizing Gay Families

 Image: Christopher Green, left, and Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, show with their twins Beckham and Julia
 
The days of being humiliated at the border may soon be over for same-sex couples returning to the U.S. from travel abroad. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is proposing to expand the definition of a family on Customs Declaration Forms to include “two adult individuals in a committed relationship…and couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships.” CBP has also taken a bold step forward in stating that “CBP believes that this proposed change would more accurately reflect relationships between members of the public who are traveling together as a family.” Currently, gay couples traveling together must each go through Customs separately, treated as legal strangers. Homeland Security recently announced: "Under the current regulations relating to family declarations, a family may file a single, aggregated customs declaration only if they satisfy the definition of "members of a family residing in one household." This definition requires that members of a family traveling together who return to the United States be related "by blood, marriage, or adoption;" live together in the same household at their last permanent residence; and intend to live in the same household after returning to the United States. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not believe that the current definition encompasses other relationships where members of the public travel together as a family. CBP believes that the definition unnecessarily limits the number of individuals who may file a family customs decollation for articles acquired abroad.

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