Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My New Haircut

My friend Ben buzzed my head before I left so I wouldn’t have to worry about shampoo or combing my hair in the morning.  To be honest I didn’t know where I would be living so I figured a summer buzz cut was perfect.  I also knew I’d need to get it cut while I was here.  

So I asked Dr. Mamlin where he gets his hair cut, he told me the directions in town and they seemed easy enough.  I went into town on my way back from Imani and followed Dr. Mamlin’s directions.  “Go down the unpaved street,  ½ block past the Barclays, take the first right and it will be right there”   Kenya has a serious problem with signage and advertising so I just looked around and happened to find “Lelesta Hair Salon and Big Boyz Hot Shop”.  Oookay.  So I go into the building, hike up to the second floor and find Lelesta et al.  

“Hey, you guys cut mzungu hair here?”

Blank stares. 

“You. Cut. Hair?” (Snipping fingers motion on my head)

“Ndyio (Yes)” as he points to an open, old school barber chair. 

So I sit down and pick up the clipper’s #2 blade sitting on the counter.  In my best Swahili, “Mbili on the side, no cut on top” Lots of hand motions and covering up parts of my head included. 

So he starts cutting with a #5 blade, switches to a #0 blade but turns the clippers upside down.  Not really sure, but at this point he’s in the driver’s seat.  Although I asked for nothing off the top, he decided to shave my widow’s peak off to make an even line across my forehead.   I’ve learned to deal with the widows peak by utilizing the Payton Manning comb over in recent year, this little trim is going to set me back. 

About 10 minutes in, he points to the wall and attempts to ask if I want a design in my hair, you know…my name, outline of Africa, a star, three lines, a swirl, Kenya, Obama’s face.  All the possible designs were on the poster.  I respectfully declined.

Then another guy sat down next to me and helped translate.  I was offered a tattoo. 1,500 KSH. Not bad, but I declined yet again.  Ever the salesman, he brought over a woman who had a tattoo done at the shop , not the best I have ever seen but I’ve seen worse…on prisoners. 

The journey doesn’t end there.  He leaned the chair back and put talc on my face.  I immediately started thinking about how I was going to decline a straight razor blade shave.    But he came back with a clean electric razor and sprayed disinfectant on it.  For some reason, he continued to run the razor for about 15 minutes longer than needed.  

Then I moved on to the washing station where a large woman grappled with my head/massaged at least 3 products into the scalp and made small talk.  I got back to the original chair where my man applied 3 different ointments on my face, each burning more than the one before.  Then he got out scissors that I am pretty sure he nor anyone in the salon had used in quite a while and clipped individual hairs around the top of my head.  Then came the “Afro-gel”  and “Black Beauty”  products for the follicles.  He finished it off with a spray that seemed like fogging bug spray but smelled descent, either way, he told me to hold my nose.  So he finally brushed me off and did his last check.    So 60 minutes later, I come out with a cross between what I asked for and the Jersey Shore fade.  

The fade is a bit more intense in person. 

Thankfully found this in the bathroom to keep lookin' fresh.

The level of service and detail was above and beyond what I have ever had.  He really did do a nice job and given the fact that he only cuts African hair, all in all it’s not too shabby.  Total cost, 500KSH, $5.75.  By the way, the USD v KSH has gone up 4% in my favor since I’ve been here, good for me and good for aid recipients but bad overall for the Kenyan economy.               

So I make it to dinner, see Dr. Mamlin and say “Hey, is that barber shop you told me about on the second floor of a building downtown?” 


“O.  Ok.  I think I went to a different one then”

“Yea….I can tell.”

Thanks Dr. Mamlin. 

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