Friday, March 31, 2017

getting your hair cut around the world

Since I've been blogging I'm amazed how difficult it became to have a personal unique selling point. Before I didn't know there even were people who had visited every country in the world. Now I've learned that this isn't unique at all. You have to add more unique to it - like being the first female traveller who visited...or even the first female traveller under 30 visiting...or visiting without taking a plane (which I find really, really praiseworthy, though). Anyway, for a couple of years now I've got the travel habit to go a local hair dresser. This might give me the chance to become the first female traveller who got her hair cut in every country in the world. Far over 30.

Travellers - even when they only get their hair cut like everybody else at the salon -
are always also a special attraction for the local customers.

In Havanna I walked into a salon because the owner had plastered the shop windows with her cutting an Asian gentleman's hair obviously on the sidewalk surrounded by a big crowd of people. After we agreed on a price of 5 CUC (which is about five times what her Cuban customers have to pay), she put a cape over my shoulders and got out a pair of scissors that looked like some sort of hedge trimmer. As she began trimming, I asked who this gentlemen on the pictures was and she said: "Obama!" Yes, Mr. Obama has been to Havanna about a week before I got there, but no matter what the republicans say about him, I know for sure that Mr. Obama is not Asian. "Oh, nononono", stood the trimming lady corrected, "Ban Ki Moon!" Aaah, now we're talking. So the woman used the hedge trimmer already on Ban Ki Moon - wow, I'm definitely in with the in crowd.

Much more spectacular was my haircut in Đà Lạt in Viet Nam. I walked into the most humble shop in a street full of hair salons. Two chairs in front of a mirror and some sort of stretcher with a sink at the end - 50 square feet of modesty. Xin chào, I'm your next customer and your answer to tonight's question "How was work today?". A skinny lady and a chubby girl and their customer stopped doing what they were doing and looked at me irritated. "Can you cut my hair?" I asked this question using my fingers to simulate cutting scissors. "Ya." "How much is it?" I asked this question using my fingers to simulate rubbing money. The lady hesitated, exchanged a conspiratorial glance with the chubby girl, then quoted a figure which was probably three times higher than the regular price. Equivalent of 4 $. "Ok, fine. Do you have pictures?" I asked this question without simulating anything. Going to the hairdresser, notably one that doesn't understand what you are saying, is always a bit hazardous, thus I didn't want to give my luck any extra push. I wanted to point at pictures. The women exchanged a glance - this time a confused one - and then looked quizzically back at me. "Pictures. Pictures!" They had no clue what I was talking about. There - a pile of fashion magazines! I grabbed one and pointed at a picture of a lady whose hairdo was not a good example for what I wanted. "Pictures. Pictures!" Aaah, the chubby girl got it. Ignoring the old fashioned paper in my hand, she got a tablet from a sideboard and opened a page with probably thousands of hairstyles on Asian ladies. I scrolled a little up and down and pointed at one. "Like this - okey?" Nodding and gesturing. I was supposed to lay down on the stretcher?! Oh-key. Laying on my back while the chubby girl washed my hair, I had the choice between looking at the ceiling  (boring), at the girl's face  (awkward), or closing my eyes. I picked latter. Everything I felt her doing seemed to be the usual procedure: after rubbing my scalp with shampoo, the girl rinsed my hair and poured some sort of slimy, nice smelling conditioner on.

And then she started to wash my face with luke warm water; not the usual procedure at all. It's difficult to ask questions while getting your face washed. So I wondered and held still. After the washing she rinsed my hair again. I hesitantly opened my eyes. So that was it? I tried to roll on one side to get up, but the girl gestured by pressing me gently back on the stretcher that we're still not done. After she smeared some other conditioner on my hair so that it squeaked while she was rubbing it in, she slapped something on my cheeks that turned out to be some sort of peeling and began to rub my face with it.
Slowly it dawned on me: This was not this European 'we cut, you blow dry - and then get lost'. This was obviously an entire treatment package supposed to make me feel good. I tried hard to relax and enjoy all the slapping and rubbing - which I hadn't come here for, after all, but it's a bit of a challange to relax and feel good when someone does inadvertantly things to you - even when it's good things.
Next came a neck massage - very enjoyable, more washing - less enjoyable; and then she started to blow dry my hair.
Um - wait a minute...how about the hair cutting I initially came here for?! More fingers simulating cutting scissors. She nodded yes and kept on blowing. I was confused.

When my hair was almost dry, I was allowed to roll off the stretcher, and with a towel wrapped around my head and another one stuffed between my neck and the plastic cape I was seated in front of the mirror where the tiny lady wetted my freshly dried hair and quickly cut it in the exact fashion the picture has shown. My hair looked great. And it felt soft and silky like never before.

Today I arrived in Bogotá. 

Tomorrow I have a hair dresser's appointment.

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