They’re called Roma, their culture is ancient and intriguing… and the word “gypsy” is a slur.
All right my friends, let me tell you about “Gypsies” — or as they’re actually called, the Romani people, or simply the Roma.
They’ve been in the news a few times lately for child abductions. They’ve got a reputation as musicians and fortune-tellers at best; or as thieves, pickpockets and kidnappers at worst. They’re probably from Romania, right? They must have something to do with the Romanians.
Yeah, I hear what they sayin’. “Strange worms are taking their place on your family tree.”
“The Cambrian explosion of animal life now seems more like a whimper,” that’s what that article in Nautilus said. Life evolved in a whole grip of directions, all type of different ways, long before the Cambrian. It’s a good article. You should read it.
But, I mean, we knew that already. Some of us did, anyway.
My fascination with this started when, as a child growing up in Zimbabwe, I used to run and play amongst the ancient stone walls of the magnificent Zimbabwe Ruins. There is nothing more hauntingly beautiful or fascinating than a mysterious, long-gone civilization.
The estate where we live is not in the slums. It’s a nice middle-class neighborhood — about ten acres with a big stone wall around them, and a whole community of small shops and apartments and houses and cow-grazing patches inside, all connected by winding dirt trails that run through the scrub.
The long low buildings are communal houses where Swahili people live. The little shacks with signs outside are stores — butcher shops, beauty salons, convenience stores, phone top-up stands. Everything you want, you can find within the estate, sold by your neighbors.
For the traveler, there are three kinds of countries.
There are the clockwork countries like England and Germany, where everything is so organized that nothing can go seriously wrong; where you can go as a tourist and do most of the same things you do at home, except you can take photos of things your friends haven’t seen, and collect stories about “foreign” customs and language mix-ups.
Then at the opposite extreme you have countries like Syria and Somalia, where you only go if you have a specific mission, because what’s mostly happening there is that things are getting blown up and people are trying to leave. Those aren’t adventure countries. Those are end-of-the-road countries.
Night can make you feel like a stranger, even when you’re home
Last night, when the power had been out for twelve hours and the sun finally set and left me in the dark, and someone knocked on my door to hand me candles, and I lit the candles and sat on the bed and listened to the shouting outside — that was when I realized how alone I was.
The Revenant takes place in Montana in the 1800s, but most of it could’ve happened any time since the last Ice Age, in any cold part of the earth.
There’s the snow. The wind. The trees. The slow shaggy meaty animals and the quick fierce ones that bring them down.
Men in heavy furs trudge across this landscape. They carry spears and bows. They know the trick of making fire. They catch fish with their hands in the cold river. When a storm blows through, they cut the trees and build shelter.