July 11, 2012

Juju has been pretty good at doing summer school work while we are here in Zimbabwe that I told her that I’d treat her to something special if she continued using her best handwriting, not complaining and worked hard at her numbers. She complied and has been a great student during her homework times (ie when her mother needs a break from the million questions that come out of her mouth).

When she wakes up today, I tell her that we are going to get her hair braided. You’d have thought she’d been promised a trip to the moon! Her smile is huge and all morning long, she keeps checking the time to be sure we won’t be late for our appointment. 12:45pm finally rolls around and we make our way to the Hair Dreams, recommended to us by Jean. Apparently, the stylist, Florence, is familiar with caucasian hair, so she’ll take care of us just fine.

After a small trim, Juju is settled into a corner of the salon and a specialist goes to work on her hair.

Meanwhile, in another part of the small, tidy salon I am getting my hair washed in preparation for the requisite foreign trim I get whenever I travel. Some people collect maps, stamps or coins. I get haircuts. Whether I understand the language or the stylist understands me is not as important as the moment of getting the trim. Sometimes, the results are good. Mostly, they are not. So, excited to know the outcome, I let Florence take over. The only condition I give her is that I DO NOT WANT TO LOOK LIKE A BOY. Believing I am rather clear about this point, I sit back and let the magic happen.

As I relax under some mighty big-sounding snips and cuts, a white towel wrapped around my neck and a blue cape which covers my top and thighs, I subtly look around and find a well-organized working area in a remarkably small space. In one corner, there stands a full 5-gallon bucket with water being heated by one of those small coil heaters that always makes me think that someone is going to get electrocuted pretty soon.

To my left are magazines from years past and from which I would not venture to select a cut for fear of looking like something we all shudder about. Closer to me on the left is a mason jar with combs soaking in water. Then, the clips, the thinning shears, the razor, and finally, a small jar of talcum powder called Mr. Mountain Man. I keep a straight face as I keep looking around me.

To my right is a chair for the next customer and a little further on that side is where one gets their hair washed when you first enter. Juju is crammed into the only remaining corner and is smiling bravely as braid after braid is made in her hair. She doesn’t complain of pulling or yanking, so I assume the lady is being gentle or that my child is going to be another victim of vanity. She is looking mighty cute and smiles at me when I catch her eye on the mirror in front of me, as she is behind me, slightly to one side.

Florence cuts and cuts and cuts. She comments on the many cowlicks I have and seems determined to get rid of them. I remind her that I do like having a little hair left on the back so I don’t look like a boy. She smiles and tells me that I have terrible cowlicks. She says the word “terrible” with fierceness and again, I am sure she is going to rid me of them all. In fact, she has done just that.

Juju and I take a taxi home where Eric greets Juju with a big smile and the camera. He tells her how cute she looks and how neat her braids are. He sees me and and the smile sticks a bit. He tries to work on it but it is impossible for him to muster the words we both won’t believe. So, I laugh and let him off the hook. Maybe I should have chosen a look from the magazines from long ago…

He put the camera away.