Nelson Mandela’s Former Prison Warden Will Read Your Palm #NotKidding

Nelson Mandela’s Former Prison Warden Will Read Your Palm

Meet Kevin Leak, South African palm reader to the stars. (Photo: Paula Froelich)

I had no idea what a chirologist was until I went to South Africa. I don’t feel that bad about not knowing — the spell checker and auto-dictionary in Word on my MacBook Air doesn’t know what one is, and I’m convinced that it knows everything. But when my driver in Johannesburg told me out of the blue that he had a friend who used to be a prison warden and was now a chirologist, I pulled a Scooby Doo (your head swings around and you say, loudly, “WHUH?”).

Turns out, chirology is a fancy name for palm reading. Continue reading

I Finally Learned How To Put On a Decent Skeleton Face

I went to Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead celebration this year because why the hell not, eh? And because it was super cool and rocked the house. And because I wanted to do it right, I went full Catarina Dead Lady… For those of you who have never seen a Tim Burton movie or have lived in a shoe box, the Day of the Dead is, according to Frances Ann Day in “Latina and Latino Voices in Literature”:

“On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children’s altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives.”

Aaaaand they dress up just like Halloween. PS: DO YOU KNOW HOW FRICKING HARD IT IS TO TAKE THAT SHELLACK OFF? REALLY HARD! After the jump Check out more pics Continue reading

Singapore Airlines First Class Suites Ruined My Life

In August I had a super awesome, amazingly bright idea: I was going to do a video inside the first-class suites on Singapore Airlines.

I’d heard about the airline’s first-class suites from a fellow (way wealthier) traveler a year before. His name was “Big Dave,” and he and his wife, “Carla” (who looked like Snooki), were sitting at a table next to me in a restaurant in Danang. They had just flown to Vietnam from London in one of those suites.

“It’s like your  own damn room!” he’d bragged. “I mean — look at me — I’m a big guy. I hate flying … and I never wanted to leave that plane!” (Big Dave was indeed a big guy. In fact, he was bordering on morbidly obese. I could understand how a normal seat would be confining for a man of his size.)

At first I was only semi-interested. But two hours and many bottles of wine later, I was full-on jealous — and nauseated (he’d started to brag about the “real” Mile High Club).

But I was determined. One day, I would take that mystical, magical flight and sleep in that bed and have the caviar service, Ferragamo amenity kits, and Givenchy sleep suits.

Flying Singapore Airlines in First Class for an Hour Ruined My Life

The first-class suite is just like heaven. (Andrew Rothschild)

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How to Survive a 21-Hour Flight (Without Killing Anyone)

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What would you pay to be able to lay down? (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)

I had never been to South Africa before, and I was beyond excited.

I was running around in circles like a-gerbil-in-a-wheel excited. Then I got the South African Airways plane ticket and realized just how long the flight was.

For the uninitiated, the direct flight from New York to Johannesburg is 18 hours. I was not going direct (Although, I did on the way back.). I flew from New York to Washington D.C., and from D.C. to Johannesburg via Dakar, Senegal. People have given birth in less time than it took me to reach my destination.

That is a lot of time to spend in a small tube hurtling through the sky.

To spare you the agony that I endured, I have written a handy-dandy survival guide for hellishly long flights. Because (trust) the flight is worth the trip to South Africa.

1. Wear the right clothes, or bring something to change into during the flight. In business class, a lot of airlines will give you a comfy sleep suit to change into. Why not bring your own? Or wear one on the plane. There is nothing worse than having to suffer through a constricting pair of jeans as you start to bloat at 35,000 feet. Bring loose, comfy pants; a roomy, dark top (So when you pass out, you can slip that constrictive bra off.); and a nice dress to easily change into just before you (finally) deplane.

2. Pack your carry-on appropriately. Every carry-on should have: a travel pillow, a scarf (which can convert into a blanket), an iPad or books, a large bottle of water, some snacks, and slippers/slipper socks.

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An eye mask is just one of the essentials you do not want to forget. (Photo: Thinkstock)

3. Bring your own business-class-style goody bag. Pack your own amenity bag that includes: an eye mask, a toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, hand cream, eye cream, and deodorant.

4. Load up on distractions. Download some meditations on to your iPad, iPhone, or whatever gadget you own. Load up on books, games, and that television show that you have been dying to binge-watch.

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9 Life Lessons I Learned By Ditching My Career and Traveling the World

Life Lessons

A little over a year ago, I was asked to submit a chapter for the new book “The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Women,” edited by Glynnis MacNicol and Rachel Sklar. At the time, I was confused: While I had once been very successful, at that particular moment I didn’t feel so super successful. I was a freelancer who was just about to run out of her savings. Below is a summary and excerpt of the chapter that appears in the book, available on Amazon.

Four years ago, I did the unthinkable (at least to my hard-working Midwestern family). I quit my job. Without another one lined up. And it wasn’t just any old job — I was the deputy editor for the New York Post’s famed Page Six column. I was on TV, had scored on-air regular gigs with “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider,” and was financially stable for the first time in my life. That was the bright side. The downside was … I was miserable. I felt trapped in a job I’d fallen into, that I had no interest in, and I was ironically stuck in a small world that was ruled by Kim Kardashian’s big booty.

The result was a deep depression that affected all areas of my life. So, I pulled the ripcord. I left everything I’d known for the last decade … I collected my toys, cleaned out my office, and went home.

Oddly enough, while I couldn’t go beyond a four-block radius of my apartment, I found that I could pack a bag and fly 4,000 miles away.

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Zebra, Crocodile and Antelope Oh My! I Ate it All at Carnivore, the Meat Lover’s Paradise

Where: Carnivore restaurant, Misty Hills Country Hotel, Conference Centre and Spa in Muldersdrift, Johannesburg. (There is also a location in Nairobi, Kenya.)

What: Carnivore, which prides itself on giving tourists the ultimate authenticity in African experiences, is the meat eater’s Epcot Center. You get to sample meats from across the African terrain, all with over-the-top pomp and circumstance: At least three times a night, the servers and other staff members beat drums and sing and dance across the dining area (which, in keeping with the theme, has zebra-patterned nylon seats). And the waiters will keep feeding you until you’ve stuffed yourself so much that you literally throw in the flag (there’s one on the table for that purpose) to signal that you’re finished.

What to eat: The restaurant serves a variety of game and domestic meats, skewered on what they say are swords Masai-tribe swords. Crocodile oddly tastes like fish. We’re talking fishy fish. And zebra? Stick some slices on rye with a little bit of horseradish mayo, and that would make a mighty fine sandwich. Ostrich is a red meat that tastes like venison. (In the Nairobi location, you can also eat ox testicles, which are weirdly pasty. Just hang on to your gag reflex.) There are veggie and fish options for those who aren’t game (pun intended). Your meaty meal also comes with soup, salad, sides, and dessert.

The Salt Road of Mali

A Tuareg tribesman near Timbuktu; a chunk of salt purchased by moi.

This article originally appeared in Gourmet.com.

Once upon a time, centuries before container ships and cargo planes crisscrossed the globe, wealthy Europeans would sit down to dinner and judiciously sprinkle a few precious crystals of salt onto their food. In many cases, this priceless seasoning (which, in the days before refrigeration, was also the primary way to preserve meat and other staples) had come from mines deep within the Sahara, a continent away, traded along its journey for glass beads, gold, or slaves.

The simple seasoning we now take for granted spurred some of the first major trade routes from Africa to Europe, and was carried overland by camel caravans known as azalai, bound for ports in what is now Senegal, Ghana, and Morocco. Desert towns like Djenné and Timbuktu sprang up to support the traders, as spices, beads, and cowrie shells from north and east Africa were traded for slaves and gold from southern and western Africa. And there, in the middle of the desert, thousands of miles from Europe’s tables, was the source of the most precious element of all: salt, the only commodity that was literally worth its weight in gold.

These days, salt may be easier to procure and less precious in our estimations, but in many ways, the journey made in northwestern Africa by this essential mineral is just as treacherous as it was in the Middle Ages. And the dangers to those transporting salt—including robbery and death from exposure or thirst—persist, as well. This winter, I retraced some of this same terrain in central Mali, traveling by car over the course of three weeks. Little did I know that in the months to come, a military coup and rebel battles would overtake the nation, introducing new risks and effectively doing what plains, trains, and automobiles couldn’t do: kill the Salt Road. [As of our date of publication, April 11, no one is allowed in or out of the Tuareg rebel–controlled areas.]

My journey began about a two-hour car drive south of the famed town of Timbuktu. The 125-mile-long Bandiagara Escarpment, an unforgivingly steep sandstone ridge, has been inhabited for centuries by the Dogon people, animists who fled Arab raiders more than 800 years ago from the fertile headwaters of the Niger River to preserve their way of life. The Dogon live in adobe houses built high into the cliffs, and grow most of what they need to survive in this formidable landscape (including sorghum, millet, and onions). The Escarpment became a landmark along the ancient salt trade route by virtue of its location in the Sahel Desert south of the Niger River, which curves through Mali: For as long as the Dogon have lived here, salt has passed through the region, part of a journey that starts more than 550 miles away in the mines of the Saharan outpost of Taoudenni.

Moving north through the Sahel, alongside the pothole-studded dirt road that connects the Dogon lands to Timbuktu, we come across donkey caravans: dozens of animals laden with huge slabs of salt that resemble white granite.

One might mistake this for a scene from the 1800s, but today life on the Salt Road goes on much as it has for nine hundred years, only now the donkeys outnumber the camels, and the animals themselves are eclipsed by the cars and trucks that have become today’s preferred salt-haulers.

“Salt has always been needed for the cattle,” explained Sory, a Fulani tribesman from the ancient city of Djenné and the guide who’d traveled with me from the capital city of Bamako to Timbuktu. “Without salt the cattle will die—land here a man has always counted his wealth in cattle. Even now, cattle are our form of banking. You can’t get married without a dowry of cattle or do business without it. So without salt, you have no cattle, no prosperity, nothing.”

With the success of the salt trade, wealth flowed into Timbuktu. The city, and other towns along the route, were not only enriched by the goods exchanged in these ancient markets but also transformed by the Islamic faith practiced by the traders. In the 13th century, Arab merchants—including Berbers and Tuaregs—from the north brought with them the Koran and written language to the mostly animist tribes of the south, which had previously relied on oral tradition to communicate. “In order to do business with the Arabs, you had to be Muslim, so kings and tribes converted,” Sory explained. But the tribes also learned how to read and write—thus opening up their societies to the rest of the world.

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