Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hair Obsession

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
So what's happened to my hair? Don't laugh, isn't this is a serious matter?  In PST I let it go, and it became so annoying, that I took a scissor, looked in the mirror, and started chopping away. I wondered why the next day people were staring at me and not talking to me. I looked like---well, let's just say I was having a bad hair day. I even went to my swearing in ceremony like this, but it was a good thing that Mom bought me a traditional outfit for the event with a head covering. In reality though, I don't know if I looked more pathetic with the head covering or my homemade hair cut. I then noticed that another PCV, Julia, was cutting everyones hair, but Julia, at the time, had a half shaved head, and she was doing this to other PCV's. Not exactly a style for a 55 year old in a mid life crisis, so I passed it up and was left in hair misery. Since then, a PCV up north cut my hair, but I've thrown away any inhibitions lately, and Julia, the shaver, is now cutting the hair.  It was quite pleasing the first time when she didn't pull out the razor. In fact, Julia is quite a good hair stylist, she's got flair, pizzazz, tattoos, you name it, Julia has it!  

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!

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