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Hairbrained

Cape Town, South Africa - March 3 - 4, 2008

sunny 82 °F

The next day I had planned to call my dad to say goodbye but not surprisingly, I overslept. With the remaining hours I had planned to buy some groceries for the long haul to Cape Verde, buy at least one pair of pants and another shirt since I don’t have the right clothes and we’re having a wedding on the ship, get my hair cut, and exchange some money for euros. Right. Since I didn’t leave the ship until 10 am and we had to be back on board by 4pm, it seemed like I had a lot of time, but I didn’t. I decided to start w/ the hair.

My hair had become totally unmanageable, though my dad liked the way I was wearing it – when it was combed. I found a salon in the mall, and made an appointment and then went shopping in the interim. I hate to keep repeating the same pattern from port to port, but I couldn’t find a damn thing that I liked and that fit me and that was affordable. I am so angry with myself for not having my clothes here. It’s so dumb that I’ve suffered the same problem from port to port and now we’re heading toward the expensive ones. The hour went by quickly, so I gave up and returned to the salon figuring that at least with a hair cut I’d feel better about my appearance. Of course that didn’t work out the way I wanted either.

The stylist’s assistant – a black woman with short hair – took one look at me and said, “I would kill for your hair. I love it. I can’t believe you are cutting it.” Incredulously, as I openly coveted her short ‘do, I said, “You’re joking, right?” She kept muttering how much she loved it. I asked her what she would do with it if it were hers. She said she’s “put chemicals in it,” which made me laugh a little. I told her I didn’t want to start relaxing it again, which she couldn’t understand. Then I asked her what she thought about braiding and she told me she could take me to a township because they didn’t do braiding in that salon, but of course I had no time. I asked the other stylists what they thought and they were all of varying opinion. One wanted to cut it, but the rest said to keep it.

You know how once something wants what you have, it becomes more valuable to you even if you were ready to discard it? I let myself get talked into keeping it. Instead of a cut, I had them wash it – because I never feel like it’s clean on the ship since the water pressure in this second cabin of mine is pretty low – and deep condition it because it has been exceedingly dry since Thailand. On a whim, I asked her to blow comb it and we were all stunned to see how long it really is – about six inches as opposed to three inches when I come it without a hair dryer and two inches when I don’t comb it at all.

The end result became another problem to solve. It was so long that once it was dry it was just a big puff of hair. Not really an afro, but more like a dandelion when it’s gone to seed. I could possibly have carried it off except it was quite windy that day, and I knew that any sense of style would be magically erased once I left the mall to walk to the ship. She suggested using a flat iron or a hot comb on it, but I’d had it. As it was, the entire process had taken two hours – 20 minutes to wash and condition, the rest of the time to comb it because it’s so thick. This was a serious dilemma. I decided braids were the only solution, and I knew of a couple students on the ship who could do it, but the difficulty was how to get from point A to B. I had to find a hat or scarf, and I had to do it quickly because time was really getting away from me. I’ll have you know it took me another 40 minutes to find a (*%$@* hat.

I was so aggravated with myself and whole hair affair. You can’t imagine how I looked until that point. When I left the salon, the best they could do was comb it back, and I looked like Michael Jackson, but as I rushed madly from store to store, it got worse and worse, from Whacko Jacko to Planet of the Apes, and I was paranoid about running into students. The funny thing is that I did see at least three, but quite honestly, but none registered even a flash of recognition.

Anyway, I finally found a beanie and once that was on, I was good to go. Except by then I was out of time. I had accomplished nothing on my list, including the haircut! I did manage to change some rands to euros but the process took me past the 4pm deadline, and when I dashed back to the ship, I was officially the 9th to last person to return to the ship out of all the staff, students, and crew.

Once on the ship, I was good to go. I hid out in my beanie and then just before dinner decided to make use of hat head to see if I could tame my hair into some sort of shape other than horror story. I did manage to get it into a Jimi Hendrix style afro and dared myself to do it, but I couldn't go through with it because I knew that my real plan was to find A., a student with amazing braiding talent. I went to dinner in my cap, which caused a few stares - people wondered why I was wearing a winter cap in 85 degree weather, but nobody asked. I found A. and negotiated a price. She agreed to braid my hair that night if I would agree to let her do laundry on my account. Done. She came by my room later that night and created a genuine work of art that would have made Doris proud, and I was sad I hadn't had it done before leaving my dad. It took three hous, but the time gave us a chance to talk, and it was cool to hang out with a student for that long, one on one. Afterward, she brought three bags of laundry to my room and wanted to bring me more, but I told her no. At $5 a bag, that was $15. She said next time she'll have to negotiate better, but I told her that she can have a repeat customer if she doesn't get greedy. Plus, given that this was her best work yet, I would be a walking advertisement for her. She's a business woman at heart, so she understood, so we were both pleased.

I've had compliments from everybody except for F., the Romanian purser who is known for her directness. She took one look at me and with total disgust intoned in a low growl, "What have you done to your hair?" Under other circumstances, I might have been offended, but I enjoyed her distaste and the way she expressed it so fully. Everybody else has been giddy about it. Even the Captain admired it and later warned me to stay out of the sun so that my scalp doesn't burn. As per usual, I was flattered that he spoke to me. Thus it was rather amusing when he caught me out on the deck, directly in the sun. At first he waved as he was passing by me, but then he paused and came out on the landing. The sun was insanely bright so that we were both squinting, and he asked, "Didn't I tell you to stay out of the sun?" Meekly, I nodded as the light bulb went off in my head. I took the long sleeve shirt I'd placed on the back of the chair and wrapped it around my head, bedouin style. "How do I look?" I asked. He smiled at me as if smiling at a naughty child. "It's good," he said. "You look cute." He left. I turned to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked like a retard, but it was kind of cute.

Posted by mpho3 12:17 Archived in South Africa

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