Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hair Flips Are Dangerous

My showers are a fairly involved process due largely to my hair. Before I discovered quality conditioner and product there was nothing that would help get a comb through the frizzy, tangled mess that it was. What did work was loading my hair with tons of conditioner and combing it in the shower before rinsing. Even after discovering really good conditioner I have continued this practice because, even though no longer strictly necessary, it makes things easier.

A couple years ago I was taking a shower and doing my comb out thing.

I wanted to hurry because we had guests and I wanted to join them. Apparently I was in too much of a hurry and at one point flipped my hair to the side with a little too much enthusiasm.

So much enthusiasm in fact, that I threw myself right out of the shower.

Totally not kidding. I actually hair flipped myself out of the shower. After the initial shock I thought it was pretty funny. I mean, how many people have ever hair flipped themselves out of a shower? I lay there laughing hoping that no one heard the crash and thought to run upstairs to check it out. Sure I thought it was funny but I was still lying half in and half out of the shower stark naked. I also thought I was pretty lucky that I neither pulled down the shower curtain nor flipped myself the other way. If I had tossed my head powerfully enough to catapult myself out of the shower what would have happened if I'd gone the other way? I could have smacked my head against the wall, got knocked out, and drowned.

That would have been somewhat less funny.

So think of this as a cautionary tale and think before you flip your hair. A little forethought could save your life.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Most Terrifying Experience OF MY LIFE

A few years ago, my roommate and I went to China for three weeks. While there we visited several cities including Beijing. Obviously while in Beijing we had to take an excursion to see the Great Wall. Little did I know it would end up being the most terrifying experience of my entire existence (including the time I got hit by a truck pulling a boat, both of my dad's heart attacks, and the 2009/10 DC Snowpacolypse).

We thought we would be so clever to not go on the Badaling tour and instead took the Jinshanling tour. Badaling is closer to Beijing and the time you spend on the wall is much shorter so we thought we were getting a good deal.

In the end I did not find this to be so.

We got to Jinshanling to discover a crumbling ruin. If you see the Great Wall on the Discovery Channel or in travel brochures and it's all smooth and reconstructed then you're looking at Badaling. If you see a crumbling ruin with steep, broken, sometimes barely there steps (which vary from 6-18 inches each in height) then you're looking at Jinshanling.

Have I mentioned I don't do stairs very well?

At the beginning of the tour we were joined by several locals. These folks apparently make the hike (was it 8 miles?) at least once every day and look for the weak members of the group. Onto these they glom in order to "help" people along the path. At the end they do their darndest to make you buy extremely overpriced souvenirs. Clearly in this group I was the weak member.

Actually it ended up turning out pretty well for me to have the helper. My roommate was at least a (guard)tower ahead of me most of the time and I got to practice my Mandarin. I hadn't really spoken Chinese in years, not since moving back to the States from Taiwan. It's funny how certain words come back in certain situations. For example, during the hike I clearly remembered the words "terrified" and "going to die". I have a feeling that she thought I was pretty funny when I wasn't crying.

I alternated the entire hike clinging to the wall when there was one and whimpering and crying and desperately hoping I wouldn't slip thereby plummeting to my death far below into the chasm that was China on side and what used to Mongolia on the other.

 These were seriously some of the most unpleasant hours of my life. I rested for a couple - ten minutes at every tower to get my breath back and stop shaking. If only for a couple minutes. At one particularly harrowing downward slope (where there was maybe one discernible stair and a drop on either side) I clung to the crumbling wall at the top and was openly crying. The tour leader and my guide were chattering too fast for me to understand but my roommate was at the bottom of the death drop and told them I was fine with an offhand "she's afraid of stairs". Which is true.

Finally, what seemed like years and multiple grey hairs later, it was over. And I wasn't even the last one to finish. And I bought an extremely overpriced paper fan from my helper. In retrospect I probably should have bought a couple things from her. As my roommate and I approached the last tower before we broke off to go back to the tour bus we paused for a few pictures. It was over. I had done it. I conquered Jinshanling.

And now I never have to do it again.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Monkey Tried to Eat Me Once

While I was living in Taiwan I finally did something I’ve wanted to do since I first read books by Francis Hodgson Burnett…I went to India. I spent three weeks traveling around northern India and I’m still not sure if I enjoyed it or not. I went to markets in Delhi, saw the Taj Mahal and got stuck for two days in Agra (which is a horrible city), spent several days in the holy city of Pushkar and another couple days studying massage in Daramsala. There were some good things: I discovered coconut coffee frappes (dude you haven’t lived!), butter chicken, and did some major shopping. There were also less pleasant things: being groped, 50C weather, long pants and sleeves, hiding from my massage instructor who asked me to marry him…and I got attacked by a monkey.

Pushkar was one of my favorite places I visited. Even though it was low season I actually met a fairly large amount of foreigners there; an interesting mix of Europeans bumming around and Israelis who were all just released from the army. One of the people I met was the petit little blond thing who chirpily informed me that she was a fighter pilot. That was weird.

Pushkar was a great place to just be and absorb. It gets mad busy during the season and if you want to go to the big annual camel trading festival you have to book your camping spot like a year in advance.  The Pushkar Lake is sacred and there was plenty to see along the ghats. There was a restaurant I frequented several times that looked over the lake. I liked to go in the evening for a lassi and watch the GIANT BATS fly over the lake. There are also several temples including a Brahma temple to Lord Brahma, one of the holy trinity of Hinduism. There was also some pretty awesome shopping.

After a couple days I gave up wearing shoes all together because every time I entered a temple or shop I had to take them off. Saved so much time just not wearing any. However before that happened I was out exploring one day, just wandering around with my camera and a bottle of frozen water (50C desert, thank you) and I came to a bridge that crossed part of the lake. At first I was busy looking around admiring the pinkish orange stone that made up so much of everything but then was literally hot footing it barefoot across the holy bridge because it was baked by scorching sun. 

Once I crossed the bridge to path on the other side I took a moment to put my shoes back on. I poked around a little but didn’t see much worth going on for. As I turned around to go back though I noticed a large monkey sitting in a niche in the stone cliff face only about two feet away from me.

Ah ha! How opportune! I was two feet away from a monkey and by golly I was going to get a great picture!

You know this is going to go badly for me.

I picked up my camera and tried to creep a little closer because I was greedy. I don’t know if it was just me being there, the creeping, the camera, what…but the monkey was not happy. He leaned forward on a rather massive fist and glared at me then slowly opened his mouth really wide to show me his freaking enormous fang like teeth. Then he screamed at me. 

I’m not entirely stupid so I fled instantly. 

I flew across the bridge having totally forgot to remove shoes but apologizing to the Hindu gods during my brief flight. Convinced he was pursuing me I tried to dash up the narrow set of stairs which lead up from the bridge only to have my path blocked by a cow. I am not Hindu; I am Catholic and find cows to be one of the tastier animals. However I was hesitant to offend the local gods twice in a row by both neglecting to take off my shoes on the bridge and then by shoving aside the cow. Also I was afraid it would step on my relatively unprotected, sandal-shop foot and break it. So I kind of stood there for a few minutes feeling stupid and making little shooing motions at the cow.

The one bit of good news was that the monkey was sufficiently happy with scaring the daylights out of me and had indeed not made a pursuit. And it was a scorching hot day so the only ones around to witness both my lack of cultural sensitivity and general idiocy were the monkey and the cow.