The Tea Is to Die for, the Water Likely Survivable: Sampling the Old Delhi Spice Market

"Clear, pure, cold water." I was parched, it was 105 degrees out and the airborne spices of the Old Delhi spice market were starting to irritate my eyes and throat.

I must have made some sort of subconscious assessment of the likelihood of the water before me being contaminated. I seemed to be thinking.....well, optimistically. A sign on the vendor's cart had a picture of plastic cups and even said "disposable cups." However, instead the street vendor handed me a 12 oz discolored glass (the fragile kind) full of water he had pumped from his own personal container of water.

I drank it quickly, neglecting a conscious risk assessment with the ludicrous rationale that if I drank it really quickly I was less likely to get sick. I had already eaten some street food just prior, and since it was my last day in India, unofficially decided I would go all in and test the waters. This decision required repressing my memory of flying sick for 24 hrs after taking a risk with n…

Mr. Thakur's Saloon

Snip snip snip snip snip snip snip....I counted roughly two snips per second consistently for at least 25 minutes. Mr. Thakur carved the hair on my head with precision. The cut itself was by-the-book...there was no stylistic creativity. He simply gave me a nearly flawless traditional men's haircut. The experience he provided, however, was art. Not the kind you hang on the wall and rarely, if ever, take the time to truly appreciate. But the type of art that comes and goes once. The kind that slips away if we don't allow ourselves to fully experience it. That type of art which can fundamentally change our perspective forever if we are present to witness it.

Sachita Nand Thakur, originally from Darjeeling, India, has a one-man barber shop on a small paved residential alley toward the top of a Himalayan foothill. I'd seen his shop door open, the light on, but the shop had been empty every time I walked by on the way to my local home stay.
One evening, I saw him sweeping up hair …

Duguma Hunde

A few of the few of you who read my blog nearly ten years ago may remember a post which mentioned Mr. Duguma Hunde, the owner of Ethiopian industrial conglomerate DH Geda. In short, I met Mr. Hunde who was in his 60s, and one of his board members in a Beijing train station. I can't remember for how long we spoke between that time and our exit in Shanghai, but he will forever remain with me. 
I'll never forget the way Mr. Hunde made me feel as we sat next to each other in the station, talking quietly and calmly about the upcoming 2008 US presidential election and other things, as he held my hand gently between his hands. I could have never guessed that I'd be comfortable with another man holding my hand. I can't really describe what I felt, but the experience was something like the following. 
He leaned toward me, was completely focused on what I said, and made me feel like I was important to him. His eyes and attention not once averted from me and our conversation. He ha…

They "Madoff" With It...

Bernie's not the only fella who "Madoff" with his investors' money...during a recent family roundtable at Komang's home, the topic of a small bank paying over 300% interest to depositors over 4 months came to the forefront of the discussion. This particular bank pays interest and returns the principal on $300 in the form of a $1,200 scooter or even cars for larger deposits. "Not possible", I piped up. Her brother laughed in agreement, and her parents, despite having friends who have successfully "invested" were skeptical enough not to take it seriously.
I explained that in order for the bank to pay such interest, it must find investments of its own that pay returns in excess of those it provides its depositors. Then it hit me...Bernie Madoffs and ponzi schemes are alive and at work, even in small villages in Indonesia. This particular bank had been open for a couple of years, and apparently had no problem attracting myriads of new money as it…

Don't Fall Asleep

I've spent the past two weeks scuba diving in Bali, Indonesia. This week, I'll be working towards becoming a certified rescue diver, which will include three days of underwater and surface rescue exercises among other required certificates. A prerequisite for the rescue course is to obtain certification as an Emergency Responder. So yesterday, Mark, my New Yorker-turned-Balinese scuba instructor, and I sat in the gazebo at my hotel reviewing my completed coursework and rehearsing responses to endless potentially life-threatening scenarios...from serious auto accidents to impaled persons to strokes and heart attacks to drowning victims.

Had I not taken such a keen interest in diving, chances are that I would have never considered becoming an Emergency Responder. After all, how many of us have actually had to respond to a situation where a life is at stake? As such, I initially viewed the course as a means to an end. But as I first leaned over "Annie" and delivered 30…

Making Music Again

From the new Blackberry phone ring the words of Lieber and Stoller sung by Sam Cooke, summoning feelings of nostalgia as I try to shake the jet-lag which has held unconsciousness captive since I re-crossed the Pacific 3 days ago. I'm lying on the floor of my cousin Laura's and friend Jamie's apartment in the southern coastal city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest and warmest. Despite the relatively warm weather year-round, most Kaohsiung apartments are chilly in the winter months as central heating is uncommon. I periodically open up a game of Texas Hold 'Em on the handheld and nearly mindlessly cycle through a few flops, nervously hoping to pick up a 3-of-a-kind or even a 2-pair to confidently yet inconspicuously swell the pot around the turn and into the river. There's no real money involved, but it seems like a fairly healthy way to feed this sleep-deprived anxious state. Hold 'Em originally captured my interest after naively inching toward an $11,00…

Home Sweet Home

I'm currently in Columbus, Ohio, paying my family a surprise visit over the holidays and getting cleaned up and fed before returning to Taiwan on January 5th. I'll catch up with you then. Happy holidays.