Thursday, January 2, 2014


So today I became a true African…with Christmas around the corner I did what many of the Ugandan women do here before the holidays, I got my hair plaited. I love the style and look of many of the African woman’s hair here, and am so intrigued by how it stays in place and always looks good. My hair is pretty thin and fine, and in America I would not call my hair all that “good,” as I would prefer it to be a bit thicker and fuller, plus I wish I had the expertise to make it look better then just having it in a pony tail everyday. However, many Ugandans here have looked at my hair and told me it is so nice and they wish they had it. Their hair is a lot coarser and does not grow very fast, and when I tell them I need a hair cut they often get a surprised look on their face and tell me not to cut it. One of the Sisters here gets her hair done quiet often and had shown me the saloon in the town market where she goes and promised to take me with her to get my hair plaited next time. So finally the day arrived, and in perfect time for the holidays. We woke up very early and left the house before seven to make the hour drive to town in order to be the first one in line for our hair. Now keep in mind saloons in America are nothing like those in the US. The room was about the size of a large half bathroom in the U.S. and had iron shields for a door. Wooden benches and plastic chairs were the seats for customers, there was a straight hot plate that was heated over fire to use as a hair straightener, kitchen shears were used to cut one’s hair, and there was no drape to put over oneself when getting one’s hair done. Additionally, there was no running water or a drain for dirty water so the workers carry a large jerry can back and forth to fill up their water, and a bucket on the ground collects water and supports the base of a sink. Nevertheless, the two hair stylists, Akiki and Atwooki, knew what they were doing. Atwooki was my main hair stylist and she did not know a word of English. Thank God for Katusabe who was able to tell her exactly what I wanted to get done to my hair. This was my first time to plait my hair and I had no idea what to expect. I did not know how it would look, if it would even stay in, and I was still a bit hesitant to combin my hair with artificial hair to make the twists. There was a mirror high up on the wall and my eyes were glued to it for several hours as I tried to figure out just how she was making the twists and to see how it looked. As she did the left side of my head though she had me positioned in a way that I could not see the mirror so I relied on Katusabe to give me feedback about how it was turning out. Now not many white people get their hair plaited and the saloon’s entrance faced a walkway that was very crowded due to the holidays so frequently people would glance in the saloon, see me, and then stop midwalk, laugh, and say in rutooro “mzungo’s getting her hair plaited.” They had quiet the laugh, but I laughed right along with them as I realized just how crazy this whole experience was. After both sides of my head were finished Atwooki had me bend over as she plaited the back of my head. Seven hours later my whole head was plaited and the back portion of my hair had been folded over and sewed into place with a needle. I looked in the mirror and could not stop staring, was this really me? Kahunde, my African name means decorated, I was now the real Kahunde. The seven hours were long, but they went by fast as many woman came in and I was able to see the different hair styles they got- curls, weaves, treatments, designs it was all so different from the U.S., but all their hair styles came out looking very nice. As I exited the saloon the other hair stylists and people getting their hair done all came out to peer at me, laugh, and call out osemwere- which means smart in Rutooro, and is a way of saying you look nice in the U.S. One person commented in Rutooro that the child (referring to me) has osumwere isooke- aka smart hair. I guess no matter what country I am in people still think I look young. Now as we were about to leave Katusabe explained to me the terms and conditions of my hair- no getting it wet (aka no more showers as I know it,) I must wear a head scarf if I am to be outside running due to the dust, and I can use a head scarf to help me sleep. So soon as I got home I went for a run before dinner with a bandanna over my head, and just my luck it started to rain when I was about a mile away from home. It is dry season and has not rained in over a week yet it decided to rain the day I got my hair done. Terrified that my new head would be ruined within 2 hours of plaiting I sprinted home as fast as I could, and I luckily made it in time. It is so nice waking up each morning and knowing you don’t have to comb it or do anything to it. Now if I could just get used to the no washing aspect…

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