Cocoa Pebble ’n Frosted Flakes: Welcome to Serbia
Milly Rock on any Block
Parks, European architecture, cafes, and a motherf***ing fortress bruh. The shift from Asia to Europe has been nothing short of mind-boggling, and to put icing on the cake, my first stop is Belgrade, Serbia. Prior to touching down in the city of trees and stones, I knew nothing about the culture, people, or geography, and therefore could neither form opinion or expectation. I quickly found solace in the fact that I was not alone as none of my travel cohort knew much about the country and city either.
Despite the fact that Belgrade is not much of a tourist destination, especially for Americans, within 24 hours I found myself comfortably dancing on top of a fortress to some smooth funk n’ R&B. A mother***ing fortress bruh. I’ve been trying to milly rock on a fortress since Game of Thrones Season 1 episode 1. Mission accomplished several times. Belgrade, you did that, and I am eternally grateful.
That’s Just the Wave
The first wave of culture shock that struck me was the culinary shift — typical I know, but don’t hate. I love food. But please don’t be mistaken. Pad thai, pho, and whatever I ate in Cambodia (it is easier not to ask and just use your imagination) will always be dietary ambrosia for me. However, a simple assortment of cheese, meat, and bread tetrised together has no comparison. Only qualm that I have with Serbian cuisine is that they put virtually no seasoning on their meals -_-. But it’s all good, beggars can’t be choosers.
Second wave. A lot of white people, mainly Serbs, and they are all big as hell. Absolutely some of the biggest people I have ever seen in my life. Average height gotta be 6’4 — men, women, and toddlers included. Additionally, they all eat the gym for breakfast, lunch, brunch, midday snack, afternoon snack, dinner, and that late night meal you try to sneak pass your significant other (or dog if you are lonely). For example, I’d be in the gym and a woman would ask “let me help you with those weights.”Now I am a firm believer that anything a man can do, a woman can do better…but c’mon shawty. Don’t do me like that amidst all this testosterone.
Milly rocking onward, Belgrade, for those who don’t know, linguistically means “white city”. The irony is unintentional as it was named after the white stones of the fortress which surrounds the city. Even so, I feel like a cocoa pebble dropped in a bowl of frosted flakes. Not even Lucky Charms, where you occasionally get a colored or two. Now I’m not saying that a lot of white people is a bad thing, but dear Serbia, add some color to the canvas ya feel me. Nonetheless, should Serbia choose to remain homogeneous, do not fret. From taking a majority of Advanced Placement classes with the only 30 or so white folk in my public high school, to attending Columbia University for both my undergraduate and graduate degree, I feel as if I have been preparing for this my entire life.
And now I’m outchea winning…dancing on fortresses and frolicking in sunflower fields.
Baba Moments: Cut It, Cut It, Cut It
This one goes out to all the brothas and low-haircut sistas (you go girl). Many people inquire about my experience with finding a barber that can cut black hair while traveling the world. To address this, I have listed the Baba 101 Guide: Steps for not Effin Up Your Hairline While Globetrotting. This title undoubtedly will become a New York Times #1 Bestseller so I am giving ya’ll prime time, grade A1 sauce, quality content here folks.
Step 1: Research and Network
Whenever I touch down in a new country I look for 3 things. Food, a gym, and the barbershop. It is important to note that I said THE barbershop and not “a” barbershop.
So as soon as I landed in Belgrade, I got to work.
Step 2: The Blueprint
Leave your home country with a hairstyle that you are willing to rock during the entirety of your extended travel. This gives foreign barbers a road map to trace. If you decide to switch the hair game up mid trip, then by all means. It’s your life and your hairline, do what thou wilt.
Step 3: Put Feelers out First
Finally you are in a barber’s chair. You feel the warmth of the last person who took that leap of faith and sat where you are sitting now. The musk of alcohol dancing with beard oil and shaving cream fill the air, your nostrils catching and releasing their scent. You are ready. Your barber sweats confidence. What’s next? Pump ya brakes homie and drive slow. Try to use phrases like “shape me up” or “y’all do tapers?”. If your overconfident barber is having trouble understanding what you mean…hop up out that chair bruh. This hot seat ain’t for you.
Step 4: Come in Waves
To really test the skills of a barber while mitigating risk, you must coach the experience. The first time around, do not go for the whole package. Start with a beard shape-up and take note to the expertise (if you don’t have a beard you might want to pay puberty a visit #rude). Next, do a slight shape-up and taper, focusing on the side-to-beard connection and making sure they don’t touch anything above the forehead, especially the corners. If your barber passes the first two trials, why not give him or her the golden fleece of a proper haircut? I have visited Carlo in Belgrade twice so far at The Barbers Barbershop and he has yet to disappoint.