When he was growing up in Southern California, Addi Somekh wasn't quite sure what to do with his life. But he knew from a young age that he wanted to "spread warmth" and make other people happy. On this week’s episode, the unusual story of how Addi’s quest to do just that set him off on a worldwide mission to make people laugh.
Cambodia has changed dramatically in recent years. It was just a few decades ago that the country experienced a massive genocide, where about a quarter of its population was killed under the rule of the dictator Pol Pot and his brutal communist followers in the Khmer Rouge. But today it’s become one of Southeast Asia’s tourist hotspots.
It was a Saturday, a few weeks after I’d first met him, when Lucho sent me a text. It was totally last minute, but some people had hired him to lead an ayahuasca healing ceremony that evening in the Huarochiri Valley, an area of shantytowns on the northern outskirts of Lima, Peru. He asked if I wanted to tag along.
Lucho is a traditional medicine man who describes himself as a "curandero," or someone who heals. Using medicinal herbs, archeological relics, and hallucinogenic plants (as well as some special powers), he claims to have rid himself of diabetes and his father of cancer. He regularly travels around Peru treating people with all sorts of ailments. "Some diseases are said to be incurable," he told me, "but in the jungle, there is no way that a disease cannot be cured."
Before traveling to Ireland a few months ago, I’ll confess I knew very little about the island and its history. I had this vague notion – like I think a lot of people – that there had been some fighting in Northern Ireland in the past, but that it was all over now, everyone had moved on, and things were more or less back to normal. So I was surprised to learn that in many ways, that was very much not the case.
Tuva is famous for its style of throat singing, which the local people call khoomei. It’s an ancient practice created by the nomadic people of Central Asia who were trying to mimic sounds of nature like the songs of birds, a babbling brook, or even the growls of a camel. Experienced singers can produce up to four pitches simultaneously, creating an effect like a bagpipe or a didgeridoo. And these are sounds I didn’t even realize it was possible for a human to make!
For more than 80 years, Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market had a reputation for supplying some of the freshest and best quality seafood anywhere. But having been built before the Second World War, it was a relic from an earlier era, and over the decades, it had become overcrowded, unsanitary, and unsafe. After years of planning, the city decided to move the market last fall to a larger and more modern facility about a mile-and-a-half away.
Like most people, I had originally assumed that this surely couldn’t be a safe place to go, and it probably wasn’t even possible for outsiders like myself to get anywhere near it, but then I did some more research and learned that not only is it possible, but there are in fact a number of companies that take people visiting Kyiv, Ukraine on day trips to the site. Their brochures claimed that as long as you followed the tour guide’s instructions and don’t wander anywhere you’re not supposed to go, the dose of radiation you’d get from spending an afternoon in the area around Chernobyl was just a fraction of what you’d get from a long airplane flight. So early one Saturday morning, my friend Donna and I decided to sign up for a tour.
After driving 11,000 miles over the course of seven weeks, we finally reached the finish line of the Mongol Rally, and everything was suddenly over. There was no more waking up early to hit the road, driving 12 hours to make up for lost time, and arriving at our destination long after dark. No more tow trucks or tow ropes, restaurants serving meat from another strange animal, or sleeping in uncomfortable beds in sketchy hotel rooms that desperately needed a remodel. No more use for Google Translate or need to hand over bottles of vodka to police officers as bribes. And you know what? As crazy as it sounds, we kind of missed it!