Walking to the train station yesterday. Someone taps me on the shoulder. This is like a weird, shoulder double tap to quietly get my attention like tweety bird. Who does that?
“Hablas español?” he asked.
Why yes I speak a little, I thought. And started chatting with him in Spanish. He teaches spanish at a local middle school and wanted to get together to practice.
This was an old 50 year old guy, who was short, chubby and especially giddy and awkward. He wore lame sandals and had a terrible combover. He just emailed me:
Definitely not junk!
Indian Barber Shop:
This morning, I was writing and hanging out at a coffee shop. I starting chatting with an Indian guy my age who is currently in law school. Really bright, outgoing guy. After coffee, he gave me a tour of the neighborhood and took me to an Indian barber shop. I really loved seeing my Dad’s cringing reaction as he saw my face with a bigger and bigger beard. But I figured I couldn’t miss out on the unique barber shop experience here.
Barbers are everywhere in the city. There are all different sorts of classes of barber shop too. There are street barbers, stall barbers, real barbers, and Maserati-class barbers. Straight razor shaving is extremely popular. Indian men tend to groom (or get groomed) often. I first thought it was a sort of vanity. I now understand why. It’s incredible!
My new friend, Karan, took me to a guy who cut my hair for three bucks. Therefore, this was a pretty high end place. I got a cut and a beard trim (they rest your head on a flap that extends out of the barber shop chair and start getting all up in your neck hairs with knives and scissors while your neck is complete exposed to their blades. You just have to trust them.
After your cut, the barber offered me a massage. It’s traditional to get a head rub with eucalyptus oil, and a rub down massage throughout your head, neck and shoulders. After the massage, he straps a vibrating machine to his hand and goes to town on your scull. At one point, he stuck one of his fingers completely into my ears with his vibrator on. It sounds completely off-putting, I know. But it felt strangely great. It completely clears out your ear channels. The eucalyptus makes your whole head buzz hot and cold and the massage just rejuvenated my brain with blood flow.
All around it was a top notch experience. I might have to get my haircut every week.
There are lots of modeling agencies around Bandra. Bollywood is based here and there are a whole lot of modeling companies and international models around. I’m waiting for one of the companies, or the models, to pick me up.
Flying Air India
I got to the Kochi airport after an hour tuk-tuk ride. The airport was very far away from where I was staying so I’m glad that I was overly cautious and asked the tuk-tuk driver to come at 5:15 for an 8 o’clock flight. I’m glad the driver was even there at all. I just met a driver randomly the day before. He spoke decent english, better than any cabby in Mumbai, but about average for those in Kerala (the region has a strikingly high literacy rate 98%). During a ride the day before, I bargained him down for a price for the airport. We agreed on a reasonable sum and he said he’d show up the next morning. I had no back-up plan so it was just blind faith. I doubted he’d be there because it was so early, but he showed up as promised.
I got to the airport, weighed my bag. It was 3kg overweight. I had to exit the airport go to the Air India office outside and pay the overweight baggage fee. I wasn’t allowed to look at the scale so I had no idea whether or not I was getting hustled. I felt like I was getting hustled.
Proceeded through security. Which is very tight. They found a leatherman utility knife in my backpack. I completely forgot it was there. It was in a deep corner of my backpack. I think I would have gotten in a lot more trouble had I not packed all of my watercolors and art sketchbooks in my carry-on. The lady gave me a good stare-down. I got her best mean mug. I think it could have ended up much worse than it did. She confiscated the knife and then let me carry on, but I could see it in her eyes that she was thinking about giving me a tougher time. That’s the second knife I’ve had confiscated so far.
The flight was nice and peaceful. Modern plane. You can get the sense that everyone flying was an upperclass citizen. Otherwise there is no reason not to take the 24 hour express train back to Mumbai. The most amazing thing about the whole flying experience was what happened after we landed and the seatbelt sign was turned off. Immediately after, it was a vicious battle to retrieve personal belongings from the overhead and get in line to exit. I looked out the window and the people hadn’t even begun to put the exit plank in position yet, but everyone had lined up pushing and shoving in line. This country is all about the hustle.
This past weekend, I got to hang out with my Bowdoin friend, Kurt. I’ll get at that next!