My First Egyptian Hair Cut

So it was time.

I entered with some trepidation and a bit of hope.

My hair was pretty bad. It really couldn’t get worse.

I looked around at the organized chaos and wondered if I should walk away. Another look in the mirror and I knew I couldn’t.

I sit down in a sea of a beautifully made up women, decked to the nines from head to toe. I glance at my flared jeans and red t-shirt and wonder what I had been thinking. Clearly it had not been about my wardrobe.

As I gather my wits, I glance around at the system. I am sure there is one but it is as foreign to me as Arabic is. I notice looks being exchanged as one woman “demands” something, clearly amusing to those who understand her. I wish I understood.

I am signaled and soon the hair wash begins. So far so good. I am directed to my chair and my guy shows up. He looks at me with the towel on my head and says:

Volume! Big Volume! Lots of Layers!

And I wonder how he knows when he can’t see my hair.

Off goes the towel and then the shock or is it horror is revealed.

You need to colour your hair!

I look down sheepishly and meekly say that I want to see how this goes first.

Dismayed, he shakes his head and the scissors come out.

My head is yanked in every direction as he surfaces and resurfaces all around me as he gets the right angle for each and every strand. My hair is screaming for attention and attention it receives. Almost embarrassingly so.

I wonder how much more he can cut. I wonder how much longer he can cut.

I stand up. He jumps in front of me and cuts. I sit down. He crouches down and cuts. All the time, his perfectly coiffed hair never moves and nor does his chest hair, popping out from his half buttoned shirt, perfectly appointed to reveal.

I think I am getting too old for all this.

The manager walks over. Words are exchanged. Not nicely. I think my guy has been told to hurry up.

And there is no hurrying up my guy.

The posturing begins, looks are thrown and I am no longer under the radar. In fact, I am now on center stage and I don’t know my lines!

Now my guy has slowed down even more.  The classic oppositional defiance has set in and each strand gets cut for the zillionth time.

And then I hear. My name is Mar Juana.


I will colour your hair next time.

Next time?!

It appears he is done. He walks away. I sit there. I don’t know what to do.

Slowly, or so it seems, I slink out of my chair and go to pay.

Oh and the tip? I am motioned to put it into the pocket of his shirt. The final act!

I walk out, sweaty and stressed, thankful it is over.

Jade takes a look at me and announces she can fix it.

Need I say more?


8 Reasons Why I Hate Travelling

1. I have to stay in a hotel! You mean I can’t stay in my own home, the one infested with mice and now spiders?

2. I have to eat in a restaurant! You mean I can’t eat in my own kitchen (the one that is 23 inches by 53 inches) and cook another uninspired meal that would make food bloggers shutter in their aprons!

3. I have to shop in a local food market! You mean I can’t go into my own grocery store and buy imported products 10x the local price and 10x older?

4. I have to people watch in a town plaza! You mean I can’t just sit in my living room and watch Miss Neighbor walk her cat for the umpteenth time down the sidewalk?

5. I have to speak another language! You mean I can’t just keep practicing my own language over and over in the hope that someday I sound sophisticated and overly educated?

6. I have to buy authentic handmade souvenirs! You mean I can’t just go to Walmart and buy the latest plastic toy guaranteed to break in one play date?

7. I have to use real money! You mean I can’t just mindlessly use my debit card and then forget how much it cost?

8. I have to take my kids along! You mean I can’t just tell them I will be out and forget to return?

8 Steps You Too Can Take To Screw Up Cinco de Mayo

I am becoming enamored with the glitz, the glamour, and the glory of food blogs. You know those blogs that make you want to pull out a knife and a fork and begin eating the computer screen! So after having read all these motivational, follow your dream blogs that I have recently subscribed to, I thought I should bite the jalapeno and begin one. So here goes…

1.First of all, you should be unique and celebrate all food holidays before everyone else. That way your blog gets out there first.

Cinco de Mayo on Cuatro de Mayo - be unique and make a Mexican stand!

Cinco de Mayo on Cuatro de Mayo – be unique and make a Mexican stand!

2. Invest in attractive and expensive kitchen tools such as I have.

Note the flower shaped cutting board. You can't get that just anywhere. Dollar stores have to order these in advance for you!

Note the flower shaped cutting board. You can’t get that just anywhere. Dollar stores have to order these in advance for you!

3. Be sure to use top quality homemade spices such as I have.

The cream of the Mexican crop for tacos!

The cream of the Mexican crop for tacos!

4. When in doubt, just buy a can of stuff… it is usually the same as all that difficult to make homemade stuff. And really… who will ever know or be able to taste the difference?

I was almost out of my canned beans (don't they look appetizing?) so picked up another. Good Old El Paso!

I was almost out of my canned refried beans (don’t they look appetizing?) so I picked up another can of good Old El Paso! You can never have enough cans on hand.

5. Be sure to cut the ingredients so they look attractive and are the same size as I have done.

Note the expert cutting culinary skills please.

Note the expert cutting culinary skills please.

6. Wnen in doubt, you can use leftovers (who will ever know right?) or you can even take leftovers such as I have done (Indian basmati rice – almost Mexican, si?) and mix them with Mexican rice from the package. The result is delish!

I am sure Indian flavoured rice mixed with Mexican will be a great combo!

I am sure Indian flavoured rice mixed with Mexican will be a great combo!

7. Be sure to keep a clean attractive counter by using a gorgeous bowl to keep peelings in as I do.

What can I say? This bowl really has it going on. Perfect for a food blog.

What can I say? This bowl really has it going on. Perfect for a food blog.

8. And then with all great glamorous top-notch food blogs, you need to show off the final result to entice others to follow you or at a minimum, like you.

(Oops… already ate it… well, no not really… the dog did… she was the only one really in the mood for Cuatro de Mayo or to be honest, brave enough to stomach the results.)

I will try again tomorrow. I promise. Or maybe not. The dog isn’t looking that good. Maybe I should stick to a travel blog instead.

Have a great Cinco de Mayo tomorrow from Jade, Jazmin (our dog) and me. Hope yours is tastier than ours. 🙂

N is for Nettable

Adjective land in alphabet land is getting to be a bit of a stretttttttch.

Nettable means capable of being netted.

Something I highly advise when travelling in insect filled countries (and yes, Canada is included) with creepy crawlers, flying cockroaches, and lurking biting things, just waiting for their chance.

I am a magnet for all things that sting, bite and generally freak travellers out (at least this family of travellers).

I have received a few insect awards along the way.

I am the proud recipient to be one of the very first UN workers in Cambodia (1993 election) to be diagnosed with malaria. And to surpass this award, the Australians diagnosed with me dengue fever at the same time. Imagine…mosquitoes love me 24/7, day and night. The upside – you lose a lot of weight and the downside – you lose a lot of hair!

Travelling in Namibia, I was lucky enough to find a friend in my bed who decided to bite me before we even met. After nabbing him, incarcerating him, he was hand delivered to the nearest doctor. No, I didn’t die but the pain and fear can lead you from A. I am happy and healthy to B. What just happened? to C. What is that? Is it poisonous? D. To a complete melt down – fairly quickly.

The evil thing that bit me in Namibia.

The evil thing that bit me in Namibia.

So I am now nettable, capable and most willing of being netted from Mozambique to Guatemala to Canada to Peru.

I will never forget the night of the flying cockroach invasion in Mozambique, a perfect setting for a horror movie. Read here for gory details. My mosquito net was the only thing keeping me from sprinting from that house of terror.

Again in Guatemala Jade and I huddled under our net amongst spiders the size of my hands and red ants that just wouldn’t let go. Neither of us slept much, stuck together from humidity and fear, laughing at our pathetic selves. Jade became an expert in the net, knowing how to undo it in mere seconds to get in and out. She threatened to boot me out if I messed with her system. A teen of her word, I followed the net rules and together, we remained. for better or for worse, until daylight.

Usually in Canada, I don’t think to pull out my net. However, recently if I could have paid someone to net my entire house from the hostile take over by disgusting rodents, some call mice, I would have gladly.

And sadly, they haven’t invented a fashionable net one can wear. Recently attacked by sand flies in Peru, I wonder why I love this thing called travel?!

colombia and peru 247

Sand flies don’t make your legs and feet look great or feel great!

Be safe and use a net! Important words from Family C who enjoys travelling from A to Z. 

What is your security blanket when you travel? 

The Family C – Somewhat Divided by A to Z

(Jade, my teen daughter/writer, shares her point of view on the A to Z Challenge that I signed up for.)

No one told me that this challenge would be hard, nor did they say it would be easy. Though the most important thing that was left out, was the fact that this challenge involves me.

Shouts and calls heard from the kitchen are met by impatient groans. I rise once again to help my mother with her challenge, as she presents a poem she has written. I make a deal with her as I read over her poem that lacks poetic characteristics. If I help her, she will go to the grocery store and buy me some snack food.

I don’t believe you understand just what it is like to live in the “Family C” household at the moment. I sit on the couch, writing stories on my computer as my mother sits in the kitchen, writing entries to her blog. Of course, every time a post is soon to be published, I am called.



“Can you come here please?”


“I want you to read this before I publish it.”

I groan and walk over to the kitchen, sitting down on the chair to read her story. I correct her work as she has given me the fun job as her editor. Unlike an actual editor’s job. Not only do I correct her pressing grammatical errors and misunderstood attempts with English punctuation, I also get to explain each time why I removed that semicolon.

At this point, when my mom has returned from her part of the deal and has read to the point of my last paragraph, I know what she will say.

“Don’t add that, Jade.”

“Sorry, too late. Imagine those words etched in stone, instead of completely removable by the click of a button, Mom.”

But as I did promise to write about my experiences of dealing with her A to Z challenge, and she is being a lovely mother at the moment by fulfilling her part of our deal, I shall write.

Dealing with the A to Z challenge is a pain in my neck.

And I’m not the one doing it.

I come home after school to discover sticky notes plastered on our walls and my mother sitting at her desk, either writing or eating salad while intensely staring at her computer screen.

She turns to face me and asks how my day has been.

This is my moment.

I now have five minutes to squeeze in my entire day before her next inevitable question.

“So, I was wondering if you had an idea for what I should do for the letter …?” or “So, I wrote this today and I want to know what you think.”

What started off as a good idea, something for my mother to have fun with has turned into a full fledged project. My mother working as the leader, while I have a part-time job as the whole committee. I must edit, I must share opinions (but not too many because then I am a teenager with an attitude problem apparently), and I must tell her that I like it.

Though she is having fun doing the challenge and telling me what people from other countries are saying, I am not having as much.

(Jade has now returned to her couch to her own writing and is happily snacking away on her chips. I, on the other hand, am reflecting on whether the above paints me in a bad light 🙂 Oh well and I hit the publish button.)

B is for Bewildered

What happens when Uncle Gerry goes to Thailand to backpack for the first time?

This is how the story goes, or as far as we can remember.

Uncle Gerry is a friendly, outgoing and inquisitive uncle. He loves to experience anything once. Just see this picture for proof. Yes, that is Uncle Gerry jumping off the pier.

So Uncle Gerry is learning how to bargain as he backpacks through Thailand. So excited by his success negotiating for his elephant carving, Uncle Gerry is on a bit of a roll.

A successful purchase by Uncle Gerry.

A successful purchase by Uncle Gerry.

Traipsing through a Thai village, something catches Uncle Gerry’s eye.

A broom on a porch.

He ponders for a second, and approaches, ready for his second round of negotiations.

As he enters the “store”, he meets a Thai woman, a little bewildered. 

She looks at him with broom in hand. He then looks around. A little puzzled to see some people laying on mattresses on the floor, a kitchen table set and nothing else for sale, he wonders why.

Surprised as she sizes up the broom handling situation, she relents; motioning he can have her broom if he wants.


Realizing he has taken the lady’s broom right off her porch and walked directly into her house, he embarrassingly offers her some money.

Bewildered, she says no, and gratefully and a little red-faced, Uncle Gerry walks out with her broom!

I imagine Uncle Gerry and his new-found broom were the topic of a few Thai tales that evening.

The infamous broom hands on Uncle Gerry's wall still today.

The infamous broom hangs on Uncle Gerry’s wall still today.

(As a side note, Jade reminded me that Uncle Gerry has a history of taking things that are not his! Apparently desperate to swim with his niece, he “borrowed” some swim trunks from the lost and found so he could swim with her. Bewildered as well by his choice of wild trunks, she gratefully swam with Uncle Gerry, the best uncle a niece could ever have :))

And yes, here is a pic of Uncle Gerry to prove that. Asleep, Jade dresses Uncle Gerry up. Later on awake, he discovers he has been the victim of a Jade prank.  Always a good sport, everyone needs an Uncle Gerry for a good story.

Uncle Gerry asleep with no idea of his new outfit customized by his niece Jade.

Uncle Gerry asleep with no idea of his new outfit customized by his niece Jade.

This tale is from Cheryl who has OTD (obsessive travel disorder) and is either planning a trip, taking a trip or reading about someone else’s trip anytime of the day. I would love for you to follow along as I “travel” from A to Z this month.

Happy Travels,

Cheryl and The Family C

I Am A Spinach Idiot: I Am Not Meant To Live in Canada

So it is Canada. It is winter. I am sick. I need a smoothie and spinach is the key.

For the zillionth time I have bought this same package of spinach from the local grocery store.

Each time, I read the label that says PULL HERE and if you don’t get that, TIREZ ICI. They even have a big red circle to mark the spot. And not only that, they have 2 huge yellow arrows that point at the red circle.

Okay, so it appears that it is painfully obvious how to open this spinach package.

But I have tried to open this package countless times and each time, I pull from the top I wonder why it says it is resealable. Clearly just another marketing lie. The way I open it, I have to race against the spinach; overdosing on smoothies before my spinach dies.

But this morning, in my sinus delirium, I tried again. I followed the technical instructions, and somehow it worked.

The results are in; the conclusion is clear; I am a spinach idiot.

Which leads me to this.

Life was perfect when there were no spinach packages with instructions to follow, no cell phones with SIM cards, no computers in backpacks, no USB flash drives, no hard drives, nothing to upload, nothing to download, nothing to back up, nothing to store…

Just me, my backpack, some stationery, stamps, a journal and a little old camera with film to develop when I would get home and of course… spinach that comes in a pile and is put into a bag; a bag that I can actually open.

Me in a much simpler life with very little but content. And yes, it is the olden days :) You can tell from the photo quality!

Me in a much simpler life with very little but content. And yes, it is the olden days 🙂 You can tell from the photo quality!

The Guidebook Says We Need Alcohol and Cigarettes

So we are pretty much a non-drinking and definitely non-smoking kind of family.

We try to be positive role models for our girls but sometimes these things slide; especially when “guide pressured” by that oh so famous Lonely Planet.

You see we were in Santiago Atitlan, a small indigenous village on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. We had just begun backpacking and we were already tired. We were in an adventurous spot where you could kayak, horseback ride, swim, zipline, climb volcanoes and then climb more volcanoes. And we looked at each other with fatigue in our voices and said:

What else is there to do? We have Jade with us. We have to do stuff on this trip! (unlike our previous trip to Mexico where we camped out in each and every plaza and solely people watched).

So opening up the guidebook, we were informed that we must go find a man who smokes cigarettes and likes to be surrounded by alcohol. The clincher is the man is not real; he is a statue. Apparently from the little I gleamed from the somewhat eerie experience is that villagers very much believe in his powers and he is therefore well protected and guarded by the locals. So carefully cared for that he is moved each year to a new location so the privilege of his upkeep is spread around the village.

So we made the move and grabbed our 12 year-old to search for the smoking man himself, Maximon. In a hush-hush tone, the tuk tuk driver set off for the secret location.

Now one does NOT arrive empty-handed to visit Maximon. One must bring alcohol and cigarettes to appease Maximon and his security guards. Buying our cheapest options, our daughter looked at us like we had 3 heads. Guatemala was already off to a strange start.

True to his word, we arrived, obediently followed, quietly walked in, heads down and then looked kind of blankly at Maximon and his caregivers. The party had definitely started without us; leaving us hesitant and way too sober to figure out what to do next.

Shifting, trying to do that “quick English so they don’t understand”  we forked over our gifts to the men who were breathing as opposed to Maximon who was smoking. Rapidly lighting a cigarette, Maximon was blessed with one of our cheap ones. Watching him smoke away, I rapidly took a photo and we hustled out of there.

I am sure it makes a lot of sense. I am sure if we had read more or asked more questions, we would have felt more comfortable.. .well maybe.

Oh and remember Jade. Say no to alcohol, say no to smoking. As your parents, we highly advise against it; unless you are visiting a statue who loves to do both in Guatemala.

Sick and Still Want To Have Fun? Get a Balcony and Backpack That Way

I had been dreading this moment from the minute we landed in Mexico City (I am a tad pessimist). That moment when backpacking quickly turns from a thrill to more of a pill (the moment you run to the medical kit and begin to search for the cure which in our words is usually cipro).

Well if you have to get sick in Mexico, Patzcuaro is the perfect place to be.

The Rules for Being Sick

1. Carefully choose place to be sick so you won’t get FOMO (fear of missing out – coined by someone much younger and more active than myself)

Sick in Rome when you only have two days? FOMO

Sick at the beach when you have only one week for a holiday and an ocean view? FOMO

But sick in Patzcuaro, a tiny peaceful beautiful colonial town but with no star attractions like Angkor Wat or the pyramids? a lot less FOMO

2. Plenty of bananas (if you are Chris) and plenty of potato chips (if you are me – seriously, I swear by this)

3. Find a distraction for when you move from the “I am seriously dying stage to the I might make it stage”

In the " I am dyiing " stage.

In the ” I am dying ” stage.

So thankfully this stage didn’t last too long. I had my backpacking future riding on this. This was the test trip to see if Chris “liked” it or at least could successfully “endure” it so I would know if we were travel compatible. A huge thing if you are obsessed like me.

Entering the “I might make it stage”, Chris needed a distraction, a good one.

Listening to me chatter wasn’t a good one; The Good Wife on TV was a good one until we admitted we didn’t have a good clue what was going on since we don’t ever watch it, so what to do?

Mr. Parking arrives. Thank you Mr. Parking. You saved our day (or a couple at least).

Mr. Parking in action all day everyday.

Mr. Parking in action all day everyday.

We had the perfect view of Mr. Parking as he “worked” right below our balcony.

Apparently it was his job to help support drivers who otherwise can not park their own cars on a street with zero traffic and well indicated parking spots. In other words, if you would like your car to stay safely parked in said spot, hire the services of Mr. Parking who will ensure that he or none of his friends will rip it off. Kind of a forced service with a forced payment fee. Hands tied behind the steering wheel, most drivers submit to Mr. Parking’s services.

So as the day progressed, Mr. Parking would get tired. He would need a drink of something (?) to keep going.

Mr. Parking takes a break to have a drink.

Mr. Parking takes a break to have a drink.

And as he takes more breaks and has more drinks, Mr. Parking’s services and tone of voice become more flamboyant, more erratic, and more “Cheryl, come here. You have to see what’s going on now!”

Being sick and watching him park, stumble, bellow, sit, drink, repeat is actually turning out to be a sick highlight of our trip.

Some things are so random, so free, so fun that when you backpack, it might be a good idea to build in some time for getting sick. 

The balcony that allowed all our fun to happen.

The balcony that allowed all our fun to happen.

Chris is much better but still watching Mr. Parking in action.

Chris feeling much better but still watching Mr. Parking in action.

The Subway Escape: When “You” Become The Story

We had just moved to the Toronto area.

It was time to explore the city and time to bond. With four girls, Chris tries to ensure he has special times with each.

This was one of those times… or it was meant to be.

Our daughter spent a lot of time getting ready (as teens tend to do) and finally they were off on their way… headed to the subway to find a great place to eat and maybe even a hockey game to go to. Downtown Toronto was waiting.. anything was possible.

Now our girls LOVE the subway, always have. In fact the subway is a highlight of most of our trips; we have a picture to prove it.

The girls on the Toronto subway... during happier times.

The girls on the Toronto subway… during happier times.

So Chris and daughter get onto the subway. And sit down… and blend in… with all the other subway dwellers that are in the same car. Nothing out of the ordinary… at least Chris thinks.

Daughter is a little quiet but not unusually so. She maybe isn’t feeling so great but refrains from letting Chris in on that little secret.

Until the secret is released… now everyone knows… now everybody sees… now everyone who can, backs away in horror. Including Chris, who is beyond shocked.

Daughter is surprised too. She didn’t really know. She didn’t see it coming. Her aim… less than fortunate for some.

Grabbing daughter, Chris and she flee the subway scene before a word is uttered (or at least that is what they recall) but a few looks have been cast. Well maybe more than a few.

They make it to the subway garbage can; a more subtle alternative to the previously packed subway car.

What to do? This is not Chris’ s scene…. not one tiny bit.

So they do what Chris does best. He gets his hair cut under the guise of a free bathroom where she can “undo the damage” that has been done.

Sadly and even a little silly, they return home by taxi and by car; deciding to leave the subway for another day.

We wonder how many people in Toronto heard the gory details that day. Forlorn, but funny…depending on whose perspective. Personally, I was very happy to have stayed at home.

A better bonding moment.

A better bonding moment.