Thursday, June 9, 2011

Haircut and Shave in Nepal: A Cut Above the Rest

While on the Annapurna Circuit trek, I kept my eye open for the mythical yeti, hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary beast rumored to stalk the Himalayas. The closest I got was when I looked into the mirror one morning and saw this:

Photo credit: x-entertainment.com

Well...not quite, but close. I had yet to get a haircut since arriving in Nepal at the beginning of March and after foregoing shaving on the trail I was rocking a look much closer to Jerry Garcia than the Gordon Gekko chic I embraced while at the law firm.

With the trek behind us, it was time to revisit to my clean-cut roots. My return to the familiar was achieved with a trip through the slightly frightening unknown: the Nepali haircut and shave. Not unlike our trek, this was a journey of body and soul. Buckle your seatbelts -- it's going to be a wild cosmetologic journey.

The haircut was simple enough.

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Before the lather went on and the razor came out, there was the vigorous full-face rubdown with a lotion that created a burning/stinging sensation, effectively lighting my face on fire. If my pores were asleep before, they were certainly at attention now.

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But check out that handiwork!


Ethereal lather was applied and provided a stark contrast to the clinical sharpness of the straight razor. Up to this point in my life I had never received a straight-razor shave, and my mind kept flashing to a classic scene in the movie Dumb & Dumber where Jim Carrey's character uses a ketchup packet to fake a fatal injury during such a shave. Yet as the floral bloom of the lotion and lather attacked my senses, I surrendered to the blade, allowing myself to assume for the moment that this Nepali barber was undoubtedly a trained, certified, and licensed professional practicing in an insured and bonded establishment. Deep down I knew nothing could be further from the truth, but since the man had a razor to my neck, I didn't think this was the time to start asking sensitive questions.

The shave was a success, and I lived to tell the tale thanks to my still-intact vocal chords, windpipe, and juggular. All it took was a pinch of good luck.

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After the shave there were two -- two -- more coats of lotion, the last of which was removed with the gentle scraping of a taught string. Now that I was shorn, lubed, and fully exfoliated, the natural end to my shave would be a thorough facial massage (I politely -- and I think wisely -- declined the potently pungent aftershave). Have you ever had someone gently massage your eyeballs while your eyes are closed? Well, I can now say that I have and declare that it's not entirely unenjoyable.

This barber's enthusiastic hands briskly started working their way south, but fortunately I was able to halt them at my shoulders before I was stuck with a bill for a full-body massage (one of the additional services provided by this particular barber, for a fee).

My adventure in Nepali barberdom and beauty had come to an end and I had, in fact, survived...if only by a whisker.

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