Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Come for Culture - Stay for the Extinction

by Chris Thompson
Wed, Jan 3, 2007 at 3:25 PM

The UC Berkeley Alumni Association's lavish vacation packages have provoked an occasional chuckle or two - private Boeing jet, a personal physician on standby, price tags that push toward $50,000 - but its "Vanishing Cultures by Private Jet" tour surely ranks among the most surreal yet. For only $44,950, alumni can tour some of the world's most endangered indigenous cultures, and sip champagne while they cluck over the imminent extinction of Laplanders, Mongolian shepherds, and Cambodian Khmers. According to Stevie Wooten, who handles marketing for the trip, alumni will contribute to the local economy by purchasing handcrafted trinkets and hotel rooms, as well as leaving behind medical kits and soccer balls. Besides, she says, cultural exchange is always valuable. "My favorite is Papua New Guinea," Wooten says, adding that on a recent trip, a local woman explained "how her marriage was decided by how many pigs were offered for her." With an act like that, can Hollywood be far behind?

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