Sunday, December 19, 2010

Get a haircut.

I don't hold many beliefs that I would define as conservative, but I have one very clearly defined one: I like short hair on men. This applies to myself, of course. The difficult part of this is that keeping ones hair nicely trimmed can be difficult when traveling in foreign lands. I encountered this just a few weeks into my travels in the Middle East. At the time I was still very shy about making transactions in languages I didn't speak, and a haircut is certainly a very sensitive transaction. But sick of my my shaggy hair I finally ducked into a barbershop in a small Syrian town and got a haircut. Thankfully the barber set himself to work without requiring much of me. It was (and still is, actually) the most meticulous haircut I have ever had. He worked with only scissors, no clippers, and at the end of it shaved my neckline with a straight razor and foam.

The end result was this:

It seemed super nerdy to me at the time, but it looks almost like the exact haircut I'm trying to get my hairdresser to give me now (I think it's called an 'ivy league').

A few weeks later, and I was once again in need of a haircut. Not trusting that I would again encounter the ease of my first haircut, I avoided finding a barbershop, and on a strange whim bought a tiny pair of scissors at a stationary store in Aqaba. I cut it that night in my hotel room, with little help from mirrors or much of an idea of what I was doing.

This was the result, which I have to say I don't totally hate:

The back, however, looked like this:

Like I had alopecia or something.

Despite this obvious drawback, I pretty much continued cutting my own hair for the subsequent four years (though I eventually purchased a pair of clippers to make it an easier job).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An open-ended ticket.

Last month, the first month since I began writing on Primitive Culture in which I did not post a single entry, a major anniversary quietly slipped by. November 2010 marks five years that I have spent living outside of the US, my home country. Though I've been back to visit several times, nearly the entirety of my adult life has been spent living in lands that are not my own-- first South Africa, then Thailand, then South Africa again, and now Taiwan. The fact that I only thought to mark the date a week or so after it had passed is in away a statement on my living abroad. I don't live abroad out of exile, I'm not staying away with a single-minded purpose. While I spent much of my teenage years dreaming of living abroad, I have to admit the fulfillment of that dream seems to have come more through happenstance than choice.

Of course, there had to be an initial choice to set me on that course. Prior to the five years I've just detailed, I was a recent college graduate with little going on in my life, no clue what to do with myself, employed in a travel bookstore. It was a bad combination. Slow days in the shop gave me hours to page through travel guides, making imaginary escape routes. The more I looked the further I went into the unfamiliar. And finally I decided I was ready to buy a ticket. I sent in my application to a University in South Africa, mailed in my passport to get more pages added, and bought a one-way ticket to Istanbul.

In the aftermath of that decision, I've had little opportunity to really look back on the strange place it's taken me. But five years on, I think I'm ready to sort through the history, to become an archaeologist of my own past. I'm ready to open up maps and trace my route back to where it began. I'm not sure yet what I'm looking for. But, somewhat circuitously, I think it might give a hint of where I'm going next.