When I find a place to get my ears lowered…

Posted: July 30, 2007 in Blog

My haircut is about as low-maintenance as you can get, so when I’m looking for a barber to go to I want someplace that can give me a story to tell– something with a little character.

Before I started cutting my own hair, I had a place in Toronto that I loved going to. The man in the dimly-lit barber shop could barely speak English, but he had an up-to-date collection of Sports Illustrated and a penchant for asking whether I wanted my hair “short, medium or long” in a thick Iraqi accent (this, despite the fact that my hair was never longer than a half-inch when I would get it cut).

 So when I moved here and realized I’d need to find a barber, I set out to find someplace with a story to tell. I first went to a stall in a nearby market that was all well and good (happy with the haircut, friendly barber) but wasn’t very special.

The search continued.

Until the other night when I was in a matatu (the taxi vans) not long after dark and we drove by a slum next to the nearby market. I hesitate to use the word ‘slum’ because it’s such a loaded word, but there’s not really any other way to describe it.

Anyway, the shacks were all dark, as few have electricity. But in amongst the shadows of the stalls was one beacon of light. There, through a beaded curtain, in what can only be described as an ice-fishing hut with a barber chair, was a barber.

 That’s the place, I thought.

I went back tonight and it was great. The two men who work there were friendly, and the haircut was great. Newspapers line the walls and the floor underneath the chair sank every time the barber shifted sides. At one point I stuck my foot out to the counter to brace myself from falling back. On a string to the right of my head hung three rags that looked like they’d been used to change the oil in a car.

“What’re those for?” I wondered.

They’re for wiping down the head and face of a customer after they’ve had their hair cut, I later found out.

It was capped off with a feather duster used to dust off my head and neck, and a spray bottle full of cologne.

As he was cutting my hair, the man said “I’ve seen you walking around the city.”

I smiled because he’s the third person I’ve met randomly who has said that. It’s a sign that a) I walk a LOT and b) There aren’t many mazungu’s around so I tend to stand out.

“What do I owe you?” I said to him when we were finished.

“Whatever you’ve got,” he answered.

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Comments
  1. Brandon says:

    Hey Chris,

    Been enjoying the posts thouroughly. Glad to see a fellow warrior is walking to work! It’s a great way to get into the culture, huh?

    Thanks for sharing your haircut story, I myself have been wondering what to do with the ever-growing mullet and have cotemplated one of those hole-in-the-wall places. What’s a mzungu to do?

    Easy,
    Brandon

  2. Brandon says:

    Hey Chris,

    Been enjoying the posts thouroughly. Glad to see a fellow warrior is walking to work! It’s a great way to get into the culture, huh?

    Thanks for sharing your haircut story, I myself have been wondering what to do with the ever-growing mullet lest I grow my promised ‘epic Africa hair.’ What’s a mzungu to do?

    Easy,
    Brandon

  3. […] 5th, 2007 · No Comments A couple months ago, I wrote about the trials and tribulations of finding a good place to get my hair […]

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