Doing Nails: An Ancient Southeast Asian Art?

The Buddha and creepy hand at VN nails.

The Buddha and creepy hand at VN nails.

When VN Nails opened in Salida, Colorado, (population 5,500) I decided that doting on digits must be an ancient tradition in Vietnam. That would explain the prevalence of Vietnamese American owned nail salons in the United States  — even in remote Rocky Mountain towns with good ole boy ranchers and agro outdoor enthusiasts

The Numbers

According to the 2012-2013 Industry Statistics published by Nails Magazine, 48 percent of nail professionals in the $7.47 billion US nail industry are Vietnamese Americans. The number skyrockets in California where Vietnamese Americans represent 80 percent of the state’s nail technicians. Having lived in Southern California and also wanting to visit Vietnam, I’ve been fascinated with this phenomenon for years.

Back In The Remote Mountain Town

The somewhat sad looking complex where VN Nails is located.

The somewhat sad looking complex where VN Nails is located.

I arrive for a pedicure at the new Salida salon, which is located next to a Subway and a storage unit rental place. Nearby, Methodist Mountain’s changing aspens decorate the landscape like drops of O.P.I.’s Glitzerland Yellow Shimmer Nail Lacquer. Inside VN Nails, you find the standard salon accouterments, including vibrating massage recliners, ferns, stacks of People magazines, heated nail dryers, and shelves of O.P.I. polish.

The elevator version of “Hey Jude” plays on the sound system, and a gleaming gold Buddha near the register catches my attention. Chinese script decorates the statue’s base, and a somewhat creepy plastic hand, displaying various nail colors, reaches up toward the happy, paunchy Buddha.

Perhaps this practice of pampering goes back to Buddha’s times. I wonder if villagers massaged the hands and feet of traveling monks. The Vietnamese probably embrace this tradition in the same way the Chinese revere acupuncture. Finger and toe tending in Vietnam must be another old school Asian art like grooming bonsai trees in Japan.

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Travel Oops: The ‘Tomato Sauce’ Tirade

The source of my ethnocentrism. Tomato sauce. © Amy Frazier

The source of my ethnocentrism. Tomato sauce. © Amy Frazier

Tomato sauce. That’s what made me go epically ethnocentric when I lived in Adelaide, Australia, for one year as an exchange teacher. I didn’t mean for it to happen, especially since, frankly, Oz is awesome, and I started thinking perhaps I was more Aussie than American. Plus, I’ve always tried to embrace various cultures, respect different customs and avoid going down Ethnocentric Avenue. After all, I once ate an entire portion of hideous headcheese in Paris for lord’s sake.

“We Gonna Rock Down to ‘Ethnocentric Avenue’”

Of course, culture shock is completely normal, and it’s to be expected that travelers will, in some way, compare the country they are visiting to their own. The international non-profit organization, Unite for Site, which relies on volunteers to help with global eye care health in remote villages, has a great explanation of culture shock:

No matter how open-minded or accepting, all travelers are susceptible to culture shock;  for their means of interacting effectively with society have been knocked out from under them. Even seasoned travelers are vulnerable to culture shock when traveling to an unfamiliar foreign country. What begins as discomfort and confusion subtly progresses to frustration, anxiety, irritability, loneliness, and withdrawal.

Unite for Site also warns about the dangers of ethnocentrism, which they define as “the unconscious presumption that there is one normal, single way of doing things, and that deviations from this universal order are wrong.”

An American roundabout. They actually make much more sense.

An American roundabout. They actually make much more sense.

The most adjusted travelers, in my opinion, also get ethnocentric about certain aspects of culture — usually over small things. At least that’s what happened in my case — when I had a tantrum over something trivial. It’s definitely a moment I cringe about now.

I actually thought I might lose it over driving through roundabouts, which terrified me every time they appeared in the road. Even my young kids knew this. “My mom hates roundabouts,” Eddie and Kasey would tell their new Australian friends.

While scary, roundabouts, I had to admit, were practical and more efficient than four way stops.

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Signs of the Times: See A Mountain Lion? Put Up Your Dukes…

© Stephanie Glaser

Utah and Colorado. Wildlife is great and all, and who doesn’t want to see animals in their natural habitat? There is something disconcerting, however, when you see these kinds of signs in the areas you will be camping or hiking. It’s even worse that the advice they post is pretty dang ridiculous — in that you’d actually be able to perform these death prevention techniques. Continue reading

The Travel Hmm…Abandoned Buildings and Properties

I wonder what prices were listed on this gas station sign outside Leadville, Colorado

I wonder what gas prices were at the time this sign was in action at a former gas station outside Leadville, Colorado.

The Travel Hmm... is a new feature on Travel Oops. Basically, the feature will highlight anything that makes you go “hmmm…I wonder…” Abandoned buildings and properties fit in that category for me. My imagination seems constantly to need fodder. An abandoned building always has a story. Here are a few photos of buildings and properties that pique my curiosity and make me wonder.

You can still enjoy fantastic views while reclining in a  favorite chair that remains in this wooden cabin.

You can still enjoy fantastic views while reclining in a favorite chair that remains in this wooden cabin.

Leadville, Colorado, USA.

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Travel Oops: “Und Now Ve Dance…”

Scan 63

Cologne (Köln), Germany, May, 1995

The ill-fitting, bulky black pleather pants seemed suctioned to and definitely gripped to our German tour guide’s legs.

Meanwhile, the yellow tinted John Lennon glasses he wore had migrated down his glistening nose. He unbuttoned his tweed jacket, revealing a black T-shirt that covered a bit of a paunch.

Mike Myers as Dieter

Mike Myers as Dieter

He looked like a portlier version of comedian Mike Myers’s Saturday Night Live character, “Dieter,” from “Sprockets,” the comedy sketch about an avant-garde German talk show host who suggests to guests: “Und now ve dance” with spasmodic, pseudo techno, pre-twerk moves.

I was glad tour guide Dieter’s boss let him wear vinyl and black rather than some green and red lederhosen knickers nightmare. That, no doubt, would have completely crushed tour guide Dieter’s spirit.

While it was not a good look, the fact that he unbuttoned his jacket was the only sign, however, that Dieter may have overheated. He wasn’t, for a moment, going to let anyone see him crack as the result of an unseasonably warm day in Cologne, Germany, and some non-breathable plastic threads.

Cologne cathedral

Kölner Dom, Cologne’s impressive Gothic cathedral.

Without looking, he motioned toward the Kölner Dom, a UNSECO World Heritage Site and the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, as if it was nothing more than his parents’ basement. He then briefly mentioned something about the Cologne Cathedral being bombed 14 times, almost to the ground, by fighter planes in the early 1940s. He did not add that this was during World War II.

It was pretty clear that Dieter did not want to be leading Americans, or rather any tourists, on a walking tour of Cologne. But that was his job. I wondered what compelled him to do something he obviously loathed. Did he do this to fund a laser light show that he synchronized to dripping faucets? Or perhaps he needed to finance his Kraftwerk cover band or maybe he needed to buy acrylics for his modern art collection entitled: “Schwarze Kreise auf Schwarzem Hintergrund” (Black Circles on Black Backgrounds)

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The Unfortunate Photo: Flipping Off The Acropolis (not really)

Indira and I take a break from our sprint to the ferry to look at the Acropolis.

Indira and I take a break from our sprint to the ferry to look at the Acropolis in the distance.

Athens, Greece, 1995. After meeting up with my friend Indira at 3 a.m. in the Athens airport, we slept in a hotel for about 4 hours before getting up to catch a ferry to the Greek islands. Underestimating how long it would take to get to the ferry, we ended up sprinting to the port. However, we took a two-minute break so we could revel in the Acropolis. Two minutes, photo, done.

Because we spent all our time island hopping, I never made it back to the Acropolis. So this is my memory. Oh, and it appears that I’m giving the Acropolis “the bird” or maybe just the photographer. Actually, I was pointing with my index finger, but it looks, suspiciously, like my middle finger.

Signs of the Times: Time to get the crane for this one…

Nothing to misinterpret here.

Nothing to misinterpret here.

Port Adelaide, South Australia. I’ve found that Australians tell it like it is. They say what they mean, so better bend your knees and lift from the legs on this one  — or get a crane.

The super heavy container.

The super heavy container.

Travel Oops: Seriously, Do I really like Nescafé?

The crystals before they work their magic. @Editor At Large

The crystals before they work their magic. @Editor At Large

Kiev, Ukraine, 2006, 8 a.m.

Dipping a teaspoon into the plastic jar and scooping out the sparkly, gravely grounds, I added them to a boiling cup of water and watched the particles dissolve into dark brown ribbons. It took about 30 seconds.

This was not right. The dark brown steaming liquid was ready in an instant as it promised — like a powdered NASA beverage. It was not coffee; it was — Nescafé.

Having arrived in Kiev late the night before, I was tired and desperate for some caffeine. I looked through the cupboards and fully stocked refrigerator of the apartment where I was staying and found nothing else resembling coffee. And this apartment was set up. The refrigerator housed what looked like two frosted glass sculptures full of Ukrainian vodka, international meats and cheeses that could have been part of a catering tray from a UN smorgasbord, fresh bread and bags of luscious red tomatoes. So how was there no bag of ground goodness in there?


©Habib.mhenni Commons

And it wasn’t just the taste, I hated the idea of instant java — no grinding of beans; no brewing; no aroma wafting through the kitchen while you try to wake up; no holding of the cup to warm your hands.  Just dump some coffee flakes — I mean ‘crystals’ — into boiling water. It was almost like adding fish food to an aquarium. Where was the ritual in that? Drinking coffee is sacred in some countries. Was a coffeehouse close by? Surely Starbucks was somewhere in Ukraine’s cosmopolitan capital city.

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Signs of the Times: A real travel Oops

© Lottie Nevin

© Lottie Nevin

Bali, Indonesia. How cool is this photo of this restaurant, which I feel compelled to visit!? This pic was given to me by Lottie Nevin, who is a fantastic blogger and photographer. Her hilarious blog is one of my favorites, and I consider Lottie to be a dear friend. She has always encouraged and supported me. Thanks, Lottie!

Signs of the Times: Slipping with Serious Style

Jazz hands everyone! Falling can be flashy..

From Ski Cooper, Colorado: Jazz hands everyone! The Flashy Fall.

It seems like in every country, we know that yellow or orange signs signal caution. But that doesn’t mean these signs have to be boring and the same! I’ve noticed that “Slippery When Wet” signs vary quite a bit. The above sign is my favorite — this guy knows how to slip and land on his bum Broadway Style. Jazz hands everyone!

The following photos are part of the Slipping with Style collection.

Ski Cooper, Colorado. Skiers may know a few things about falling so there’s nothing wrong with adding some style — like the can can

Love the high kick on this one. Time to do the Can Can Save!

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