My Date With An Ethiopian Hair Butcher

ethiopian barber

I left my heart in San Francisco, but I left my hair in Ethiopia.

The danger sign was there, quite literally. The two hairstyle options apparently available to me at my Ethiopian barber shop of choice: Ricky Martin and Ludacris.

I was in northern Ethiopia with a mess I’d deliberately grown out for almost two months — saving myself, the African haircut virgin — and I was determined to navigate yet another haircut-as-cultural-experience. A World Wrestling Entertainment match, piped in from somewhere in the Middle East (who knew WWE needed subtitles?), blared on the television. All the men in the shop sported either dreadlocks or close cut afros.

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An Ode to Haggis

This is a story about making peace with a squishy edible ball of sheep innards, and a song I rewrote to help me through the process.

I have a confession to make. I was afraid of haggis, almost deathly so. You could say I harbored an irrational fear of the stuff. Yes, haggis.

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Zen and the Art of Laundry on the Road


Scrubbing Clothes - Battambang
Cambodian girl and her laundry. A kindred spirit?

This is story about five-sided underwear, a laundry detergent named BARF, socks that smell like goat cheese, and jeans that have never been washed. Oh, and it's an answer to “What do you do about laundry while traveling?”

The other day, Audrey and I walked into a laundry service here in Oaxaca, Mexico and after a confounding exchange we discovered that they don’t accept underwear.

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The Travel Apps of Our Dreams

It seems like smartphones can do just about anything these days, from waking us up in the morning according to our sleep cycles to translating foreign language signs we’ve just photographed. But our iPhones and Androids still can’t do everything.

As we put together travel plans for this coming fall, it occurs to us that some travel apps are still missing. Here are just a few of the award-winning ones we’re still waiting for.

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The Bad News Barber of Kuala Lumpur

This is a story about a haircut, some bad news, life in Kuala Lumpur, and crocodile poop.

Before I set off for my first trip abroad to India many years ago, I harbored visions — visions of mystical women in colorful saris who would place their hands upon the crown of my youthful head and say, “I see great things in your future.” Through osmosis, I would absorb their wisdom and they would enlighten me with the path I might take to achieve such great things.

Instead, 14 years later, as I sat in a barber’s chair in Kuala Lumpur, a man named Deepak, a Gujarati Indian barber from Mumbai decked out in too-tight jeans and a checkered shirt, placed his hand upon the front of my head and told me I was going bald.

Where did I go wrong?

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Nibbles That Give Me the Shivers (or, Sh*t I Wouldn’t Eat Again)

The key to eating grilled mutton is to chew and swallow it before the fat cools and congeals on the roof of your mouth.

Our guerrilla eating tip for Central Asia

“You guys seem to have only good things to say about your experiences, especially the food. Have you ever had a bad meal? Something disappointing, gross, or even repulsive?”

You bet.

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What’s Missing From My Hotel Room

When I was a management consultant and clients footed the bill for my travel expenses, I had a colleague with a knack for milking his four- and five-star hotel stays for all they were worth. For example, he would request turn-down service multiple times in one night.  “For the chocolates,” he'd say.  Then he'd take a walk down the hall and raid the maid’s cart for more.

In the understatement of the century, let’s just say that the nature of my accommodation concerns has evolved. The days of watching colleagues stalk turn-down maids have been replaced by nights searching for hotel attendees in dark, dank hallways that recall films like “Psycho” (cinematic excellence) and “Hostel” (a cinematic abomination).

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