WorldTeach Tanzania Volunteer takes a trip to the salon to get a trim and leaves with a big surprise! Read on to hear about her cosmetic mix up and more of her adventures in Tanzania…
Boy oh boy have the last 36 hours been an adventure.
First things first, I no longer have hair.
How did this happen you ask?
My mane was getting out of hand and I needed to get a trim. I asked my friend here Madam Grace (who is a very stylish primary school teacher with good hair by the way) if she could tell me the best salon in Bariadi. She graciously offered to take me there after school on Friday and translate for me. So we get there and they sit me down and the gentleman who was going to cut my hair and Grace had discussed what I wanted with lots of reassuring hand gestures and tugging at my hair. My hairdresser started trimming the sides with clippers which was all fine and dandy until out of no where he ran the clippers down the top of my head. I just about leapt out of the chair in terror. Just like that, I was buzzed. Grace was just thrilled with how it turned out and after a shampoo (which oddly came after the haircut and included a “facial”) she proudly paraded me around to all of her friends in town. Outwardly I was stumbling through Swahili greetings and inwardly I was stumbling through some serious panic.
So here I am, chilling in Tanzania with no hair. I figure everyone has to shave their head once in a lifetime? At least if I go through a militant feminist phase I know not to do this again? It’s about as low maintenance as hair gets? My scalp will get a nice tan? Maybe it will dissuade my staff room suitor and his 100 cattle?
When I got home yesterday I felt an almost physical need to put on eyeliner and mascara… too bad I did not bring a single item of make up to this continent with me. Between the no hair, and the no makeup, and the shapeless and oh so modest attire I wear here, I am being forced to do some serious thinking about American constructs of femininity.
In a few weeks it will grow out and for now I am just trying to enjoy that my head feels like a fuzzy woodland critter.
Switching gears, I had such a fun afternoon today. My field director put us in touch with a friend of hers, Sam, who moved to a village north of B-Town a few months ago, and today he took us to lunch and to the village. He works for a Minneapolis-based NGO that does work with young single mothers here. It operates out of a Catholic Church and hospital run by an American missionary who has lived in the region since before independence (50+ years!). We did not get to meet the famous Father Paul (he is back in the states until later this year) but I think we will end up going back there pretty regularly. I didn’t get the full story but Father Paul is a legend in the area. He arrived when Bariadi was a tiny village and cut pretty much all of the roads in the area, built wells, built a hospital, started churches, and has generally been a one man force of nature. The main reason for our visit was so that my rockstar roomie Brooke who has lots of medical experience could play around with the portable ultrasound machine that was recently donated to the hospital and start to teach the staff to use it. This meant that I got to play patient which was a total blast!
We worked with one of the local doctors and even got to play with it on a real live patient. I have never really had any interest in medicine unless the patient had 4 legs and hooves, but this was just the coolest thing ever.
Backing up. It was also great to get out of B-Town and see some of the countryside. Bariadi is tiny by US standards but a pretty happening place by Tanzanian standards, and I haven’t really gotten to see the super rural areas yet. The drive was beautiful (and also very bumpy). The hospital/church/village is only 14 kilometers from the edge of Serengeti national park and the surrounding landscape is similar to what you would find there. I wish I could have taken a bunch of pictures but the roads were not conducive to pictures turning out clear.
Some interesting things that I learned today were that the Simiyu region has around 1.5 million people but only THREE hospitals. Oof. Also Sam said that alcoholism is rampant here and arguably one of the greatest problems. The majority of cases the hospital sees are either things like malaria or alcohol-related accidents (motor vehicle or otherwise). An interesting layer to this is that here there are really no mechanisms for people to get help (not even those nasty regressive evangelical Christian churches that among other things demand sobriety of their congregation like there are in other parts of the world, and probably other parts of the country).
So yeah, a lot going on.
Your Swahili word of the day is “nywele” which means, you guessed it, hair.