American's have all sorts of hair, from straight to curly, long to short, permed to natural, red to brown, black to blond, and everything in between. It certainly makes for unique appearances. In Africa, there is basically one hair, black, sometimes a shade lighter, worn close to the head and typically braided. Africans love to change their hair styles, set trends that reflect societal attitudes, and after every school breaks, teachers come back with a different braided style, or they took their braids out and have it shortened or lengthened. I even saw my neighbor getting her hair woven in with a stack of hair from god knows where. They seem to weave in the other hair with the hair you have, braid it, and walla, you have-----something! But the fact is, rarely does an African leave it at one style. I went home a few weeks, to find my host mom's hair completely different, and frankly, way more attractive. In America, hair styles seem to change with your age, rather than with a school semester. Yet, no matter what part of the world you're from, hair seems very important, vain, and bordering on an obsession. Some differences are that Africans don't stand around the water cooler talking about hair like Americans do.
People say hair is hair, but everyone seems to perceive themselves according to their hair. A month before I left for this journey, I found myself calling my recruiter, and asking him what he did with his hair while he was in Panama. “Uh, Lynn, I think you should talk to someone about this.” Ok, so I called another recruiter, an older woman who did 2 PC tours. Laughing when she heard my question, she got down and dirty and said, let it go, just let it grow long and grey, don't care about your hair, you'll have other things to worry about. Yeah, like where my next meal is gonna come from. But it's hard to forget about your hair----I even begged two of my hair cutters if they would take a trip to Africa to cut my hair. I haven't seen them yet.
|Julia with hair grown out|
Being in the Peace Corps is a lot of things, it's also an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hair stylist you like----thanks Jules!