Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village by Louisa Waugh

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HEARING BIRDS FLY is Louisa Waugh’s passionately written account of her time in a remote Mongolian village. Frustrated by the increasingly bland character of the capital city of Ulan Bator, she yearned for the real Mongolia and got the chance when she was summoned by the village head to go to Tsengel far away in the west, near the Kazakh border. Her story completely transports the reader to feel the glacial cold and to see the wonders of the Seven Kings as they steadily emerge from the horizon. Through her we sense their trials as well as their joys, rivalries and even hostilities, many of which the author shared or knew about. Her time in the village was marked by coming to terms with the harshness of climate and also by how she faced up to new feelings towards the treatment of animals, death, solitude and real loneliness, and the constant struggle to censor her reactions as an outsider. Above all, Louisa Waugh involves us with the locals’ lives in such a way that we come to know them and care for their fates.

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Expatriate Games – 662 Days in Bangladesh by Mark Trenowden

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Bangladesh is a destination for only the most battle-scarred traveller. Henry Kissenger’s infamous ‘basket case’ label, just about the only PR about the country to have made it to the west, is not entirely unfounded, and it is against this backdrop that the auto biographical account Expatriate Games takes place. The narrative charts a fascinating and engrossing voyage of discovery. Through all the adversity the author’s look at the country is both critical and sympathetic, any exasperation accompanied by a willingness to see people as individuals and swallow any distaste one might feel towards practices of which one disapproves, over and above the necessity to get along.

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For Fukui’s Sake: Two years in rural Japan by Sam Baldwin

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Far from the high-tech, high-rise of the super-cities, there lies another Japan.
A Japan where snakes slither down school corridors, where bears prowl dark forests and where Westerners are still regarded as curious creatures. Welcome to the world of the inaka – the Japanese countryside.
Unhappily employed in the UK, Sam Baldwin decides to make a big change. Saying sayonara to laboratory life, he takes a job as an English teacher in a small, rural Japanese town that no one – the Japanese included – has ever heard of.
Arriving in Fukui, where there’s ‘little reason to linger’ according to the guidebook, at first he wonders why he left England. But as he slowly settles in to his unfamiliar new home, Sam befriends a colourful cast of locals and begins to discover the secrets of this little known region.
Helped by headmasters, housewives and Himalayan mountain climbers, he immerses himself in a Japan still clutching its pastoral past and uncovers a landscape of lonely lakes, rice fields and lush mountain forests. Joining a master drummer’s taiko class, skiing over paddies and learning how to sharpen samurai swords, along the way Sam encounters farmers, fishermen and foreigners behaving badly.
Exploring Japan’s culture and cuisine, as well as its wild places and wildlife, For Fukui’s Sake is an adventurous, humorous and sometimes poignant insight into the frustrations and fascinations that face an outsider living in small town, backcountry Japan.

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Buttertea at Sunrise: A Year in the Bhutan Himalaya by Britta Das

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Often seen as a magical paradise at the end of the world, Bhutan is inaccessible to most travellers. Set against the dramatic scenery of the Himalaya, this beguiling memoir recalls hardships and happiness in a land almost untouched by the West. When Britta Das goes to work as a physiotherapist in a remote village hospital, her good intentions are put to the test amid monsoons, fleas, and startling conditions. But as she visits homes in the mountains and learns the mysteries of Tantric Buddhism, the country captivates her very soul. Gaining insights into the traditions of the mystical kingdom, Britta makes friends, falls in love, and battles illness. Throughout it all, as she writes, she worries about the “destructive nearness of technology” and fears that Bhutan’s charm and innocence may soon be lost. Still, Bhutan has endured for centuries, and there is no denying that the country has transformed her life forever.

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Where Hornbills Fly: A Journey with the Headhunters of Borneo by Erik Jensen

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Once headhunters under the rule of White Rajahs and briefly colonised before independence within Malaysia, the Iban Dayaks of Borneo are one of the world’s most extraordinary indigenous tribes, possessing ancient traditions and a unique way of life. As a young man Erik Jensen settled in Sarawak where he lived with the Iban for seven years, learning their language and the varied rites and practices of their lives. In this compelling and beautifully-wrought memoir, Erik Jensen reveals the challenges facing the Iban as they adapt to another century, whilst fighting to preserve their identity and singular place in the world. Haunting, yet hopeful, Where Hornbills Fly opens a window onto a vanishing world and paints a remarkable portrait of this fragile tribe, which continues to survive deep in the heart of Borneo.

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A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks: My unlikely adventure creating an eco farm in Sri Lanka by Rory Spowers

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BBC journalist and environmentalist Rory Spowers wanted to finally live his dream and abandon life in London for a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle. Moving with his wife and two toddler sons to a 60-acre abandoned tea estate in Sri Lanka, Rory sets out to create a model organic farm there and earn his livelihood from the land. The fascinating story begins with the tsunami and Rory’s sudden involvement with the relief efforts, and charts the course of his adventures over 12 months culminating in the launch of his new business (making a living by selling the produce he grows). It chronicles the highs and lows of this radical change, and reveals what it takes to live a sustainable life. It will also include tips for those of you who wish to live a more environmentally friendly life. Spowers’ writing in ‘Three Men on a Bike’, which recounted his story of buying the Goodies’ bicycle and riding it across Africa for charity, was compared with Bryson, Palin and Hawks’ for his storytelling, humour and intrepid spirit. Spowers’ narrative brims with adventure, harrowing moments, and small triumphs as he comes to know the people and the land and works toward creating his dream of a sustainable, model forest garden.

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Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing S. Ngor

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Best known for his academt award-winning role as Dith Pran in “The Killing Fields”, for Haing Ngor his greatest performance was not in Hollywood but in the rice paddies and labour camps of war-torn Cambodia. Here, in his memoir of life under the Khmer Rouge, is a searing account of a country’s descent into hell. His was a world of war slaves and execution squads, of senseless brutality and mind-numbing torture; where families ceased to be and only a very special love could soar above the squalor, starvation and disease. An eyewitness account of the real killing fields by an extraordinary survivor, this book is a reminder of the horrors of war – and a testament to the enduring human spirit.

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