My trip to the Barbershop

This Sunday I decided to go to the local barbershop, something most (99%) of women don’t do. I was there not as a client, but a client by association. The Man needed a haircut, and I had nowhere else to go. I was welcomed by the Barber (I am assuming this is him because of his freshly cut hair, but maybe it’s not him…Kinyozi hajinyoi Translation: A Barber does not shave his head himself. I stand waiting for a Kiti ya mgeni to be pointed out for me to walk to, or to be dragged to me for me to sit on. This is unfamiliar territory, but you can’t let them see that you have never been here. You can’t let a b* see you sweat.

The man makes himself comfortable. “Kuja ukae hapa,” he tells me, signalling for me to sit next to him. So, first thing, Barber shops don’t have seats for idlers or people waiting for other people. Why? Because people don’t come to wait for other people in Barber shops. People are NOT brought by other people to wait for them at the Barber shop.Plus you can’t come for anything extra like get your eyebrows tweezed or a mani-pedi if you are bringing a friend but you were there a week before. This is very much unlike the salon.

The seat is fancy. It has a recliner. And it ‘swallows’ you. You literally sink in. It has huge armrests on either side, and it leans back when you rest your back on it. Fit for a King-ish King. Well, the salons I know have regular seats, the only ones that lean back are the ones at the sink. Pretty decent Barber shop.

I look around, it has large posters with like 50 pictures of ‘prior clients’ showing all the different kinds of haircuts they do. It looks believable given the dark skinned ‘models’ on the posters.But I see Will Smith  as one of the posters and wonder whether indeed they can do a similar haircut…Or maybe if Will Smith got his hair cut here.Hahaha. I am almost sure some people who don’t know him believe that he was a client here. For salons, you find some posters of local samples of prior clients, and maybe 1 or 2 samples of models on labels of hair extensions used by clients, plus some promotional posters by various vendors competing to win over clients.

The Barber cleans his shaving tools using methylated spirits and throws a large cloth on The Man, fastening it loosely around his neck. 

‘Kawaida?’

‘Eh,kawaida.’

And he begins.

Women don’t have a ‘kawaida’. We change color and length and shapes and form. We always leave the salon a reborn being.Your friends and family always gasp when they see you from the salon, and tell you how they would have walked past you if they saw you in the streets because you ‘look EXTREMELY different’.

A man walks in with his son, about 4 years old. He sits down with his son on his lap and a Barber walks up to him with two aprons (I will call them this). The wraps one on his father, and one on the son. He cleans his equipment and starts shaving the little boy. 

“Shshsjsnrhkeofksbsjaka,” the little boy says.

“Mmmmh,” the Barber replies.

“Jdkflpdkajnsbdjij”

” Mmmmh,”

“Jdjdkdokssjdbb”

“Umeamua utaniongelesha kimasai?” -You have decided to talk to me in Masai?

Children. And he insists that he knows what he is saying.

The Barber cuts The Man’s hair with ninja precision.Classic FM plays the usual classic songs in the background. I am busy on my phone starting off this post as the Barber changes whatever is at the top of his machine like 10 times,touching The Man’s hair with the razor and stepping away and looking at it while tilting his head, shaving of a bit and stepping away….He did this about 20 times. I guess that’s how you know he is doing a great job.

Sema Sammy?” A guy walks in addressing the Barber.

The Barber raises his head, smiles and goes back to his previous movements.

Poa sana.Naona umekuja.”

“Nimekam.”

“Sawasawa. Tembea tembea nikimaliza hapa.”

“Poa.”

Translation: 

Hey Sammy. 

Wassup. I see you’re here.

Yup. I am here.

Cool.Could you walk round the block as I finish up.

Sure.

I am imagining if this was a salon.

Sasa Eva. *Said as Iiiva.* Nimekam. Yaani umeanza mtu mwingine? So nilikuambia nakuja 2?”

“Sasa. Ulisema 2 na saizi Ni saa ngapi?Ni 3. Niliona nianze huyu customer ni nikikungoja.”

“Nakuja nimechelewa kidogo tu.Lakini si ungeniambia nisikuje basi.Next time unaambia mtu. Mi naona nitakuja kesho sasa. “

Translation:

Hi Eva. I’m here! You’ve started on another client’s hair? I told you I’d be here by 2!

Hi, you said you’d be here by 2. What time is it? 3. I decided to start on this clients hair as I wait for you.

I arrive late by just a few minutes. You should have told me not to come. I think I’ll be coming here tomorrow.

Yes,this we can be this petty. 

The Barber cleans off hair from The Man’s head and face, and calls in some extremely beautiful lady,well dressed and face made up.

Sasa,Naitwa Lilian. But unaweza Nikita Lish. Si unifuate kwa sink nikuoshe nywele tafadhali.”

Hi, I’m Lillian.You can call me Lish. Please follow me to the sink so that I can wash your hair.”

She smiles. I roll my eyes. Urgh. Wait. Who are you? And what hair are you washing ? The hair that should be washed is the one on the floor..Washed off of it. 

The Man looks at me with a sly smile on his face. He knows what I’m thinking. And he is amused. While I’m not. He obediently follows her towards the sink. The lady washes his ‘hair’… At least what is left of it and they walk back to his seat. She grabs a tray with a couple of bottles and places it on the counter. She stands behind him and starts to massage his shoulders. Then his neck. The Man has his eyes closed. Enjoying the moment. And trying to lock eyes with mine.She squeezes some oil into his palm and rubs them. Spreads this all over his head and massages it in. I turn to my phone and continue writing this post…

“We can go now.” The Man reaches out for my hand.

I turn my screen off and put it in my bag,grab it and walk out. And I can almost see him smile behind me…And not because I’m walking away…But because of WHY I am. I think I don’t like this barbershop.

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Love don’t cost a thing…or does it?

Happy New Year!!! Yes, it’s February, and Yes,this is long overdue. But Happy New Year.Now let’s go on to the serious stuff.

Just so you know,This is the longest post i have written in YEARS, so don’t bother complaining. I am very well aware.Look at it this way…you can count this one of the books you target to read this year.

The month of love is here! *Vibrant ululation, a Mexican wave and fireworks*

“He better do something.” – For the ladies.

“My Wallet!” – For the gentlemen

“Showoffs.” – For those with an unofficial special someone.

Well, as usual, I come bearing SOME news. Is it GREAT NEWS? You decide.

After using most of my internet bundles and phone battery charge, THOUSANDS of seconds spent correcting typos on my Samsung screen using my long nails, I finally bumped into some information that is essential and crucial to all of you, my dear readers.

Gather around the fire, I got a story for you:

  1. Valentine’s day originated from St Valentine, a  Priest during the AD or BC times.    So, funny story.The Emperor during this guy’s time thought soldiers had become ‘EVIL’ so he banned marriages. But the very bright Mr Valentine decided that this was unfair, and married young lovers in secret. As you might have predicted, he was caught and sentenced to death. While waiting in prison to be hanged, he fell in love with the jail man’s daughter, and when it was time to die, he wrote her a letter and signed off ,”From your Valentine.”. A moment of silence for this great hero.
  2. In Rome, they considered this day a day of fertility. They would sacrifice a goat and a dog, take strips of skin, dip it in goat blood and walk in the streets SLAPPING women and crops believing that it would make them more fertile. Thank God for evolution in the human race. I cannot imagine being slapped with some bloody goat skin.
  3. How Valentines Day was carried out : girls would place their names in an box. The boys would then randomly pick their names and they would be boyfriend or girlfriend for a year.98% of the time, they would end up getting married. Summary: The man that would marry me depended on A BOX.

Well, I have had the chance to have 5 extremely wonderful Valentines Days with The Man. And i have talked to some couples who have been through the whole cycle. They seem to have many thoughts on this. How necessary is Valentines Day? Why does the Man have to be the one buying the flowers and chocolates and cake and shoes and a dress and dinner and a car and a dog…(I don’t have enough characters, see me on the side), but you get the drift.And does the man have to be the ‘Sponsor’ to this overrated day?

Let me school you:

  • In South Korea 14th Feb – Valentine’s Day, Women shower their men with gifts, while in Japan it is vice versa.
  • In Japan, 14th March – White Day –  Women shower their men with gifts, while in South Korea , it is vice versa.
  • In Korea, 14th April – Black Day – Single people have their day too.
  • In the US, 3rd Saturday of October – The Sweetest Day –  Ladies give their spouses gifts.
  • In Kenya, 14th February – Valentines Day – A day when some man’s wallet has a long day and some lady feels special.

My observation is that the attention paid to Valentines Day is like a valley. In the early years, you expects so much from your man, as a symbol of love. You place so much value in material things as a measure of love, but with time (and hopefully maturity), you realize that material things are just that. Valentines Day should be an every day affair.

Imagine this:

Some kid in some primary school is crying right now because her crush gave another girl a valentines gift instead of her. She ends up expecting so much and facing rejection at such an early stage in her life.

A young girl somewhere has a  red dress and red shoes(that a man has bought) on, the guy has his red bow tie and red belt on. He will take a loan to please her, to make sure she is treated like a queen (on a budget). Her girlfriends will be expecting him to wake her up with breakfast in bed. Drop her at work in an Uber (‘Chauffeured services’). Send a big bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates. Pick her from work in an Uber (‘Chauffeured services’). Buy her more flowers.Take her to dinner (He had a table reserved for her) and MAYBE drop her home. I will not give the alternative to how the date could end.

For a woman who has been in the game for a while, dated this guy for a couple of years,a gift or two would suffice. They start to value gestures that show love. Minimized focus on the material things. They are about building a life together, they know what they want. For them, it enough to just spend the day together, giving each other full attention, slightly more than other days.

One who has been married and has a healthy family,they don’t expect much because they know their budget has certain priorities to cater for.The day is not looked forward to, IF AT ALL IT IS REMEMBERED. The kids remind them. And maybe some advertisements on TV or on the daily paper.Once you are reminded, maybe cook some special dinner(Full of Love) for your family. For them, what matters is making it through the next year.Balancing Work and Family. But deep down, they know they love each other.And they don’t need A DAY to prove this.They have every single day.

For the elderly, the kids are grown and are out of the house. They realize that they have each other.They will hang out and remind each other how much they matter to the other. Remember the last couple of decades they have had this recurring day, all the things they did for each other and how glad they are to be together. The other alternative is that their children may come and drop their grandchildren and have the evening to themselves. Either way, they focus on building happy memories.

A group of girls or a pride of guys(as a friend of mine calls his boys. I mean, is this even correct?) choose to go out and enjoy the love they have for each other, the fact that they have each other’s backs is just enough.

Well, whether this day the biggest day of the year for you other than your birthday, it is the day you make sacrifices for someone else’s happiness or it is just another day for you, where the only thing you look forward to is discounted chocolate and Mondo Ride offers, one thing is for sure.The day has come and gone. Is this a one day love affair? Just one day a year? Lucky for you, you have 364 more days to prove this.

THE AFRICAN AFRO

I’m  walking VERY SLOWLY towards home after the Sunday service under the scorching sun. As if that is not enough, the tarmac road is bouncing more heat back at my face. Urgh. I need food. They didn’t serve the 10 o’clock tea as they usually do, well because they forgot to buy milk. I NEED FOOD. Well, a snack at least before I fall flat on this ground. I decide to make a quick stop at the local supermarket. I walk in, say a quick ‘Hi’ to the supermarket owner and walk straight to the fridge.I notice him give me a weird look, and as usual, i ignore it. I grab a half litre Mountain Dew bottle and walk to the counter. I place it on the surface and start to search for the three 20 Shilling coins i threw in my bag. I hope they didnt get lost in that hole I’ve been meaning to sew for the past i don’t know how long.

“Sasa Madam”

(Side Note – I really dont get why everyone is calling me Madam these days. )

“Poa sana. Habari?”

“Poa kabisa. Ndio kutoka Church?”

“Eh. Na wewe? Hujaenda leo?”

” Hapana, yangu ni ya Saturday. “


****SILENCE****

 I manage to locate 2 coins and place them on the counter. I think the third is lost somewhere in that hole. I really need to sew it. But i will first clarify that I’m not sewing any of my money in there.

“Lakini madam…nikikuuliza…ulienda church hivo?”

I freeze. What do you mean ‘ulienda church hivyo?’? I look up.

“Aje?”

“Na hiyo nywele.”

 Oh, I HAVE MY AFRO ON TODAY. A NEAT ONE.

I try to figure out what is wrong with my hair. Well, it’s pretty neat. Cute infact.And full. 

“Kwani iko na nini?”

“Hungeshuka ama uweke kitu ufunike? Haikai vizuri.”

I had no time to respond. I had no time for him. Did he just insult my full and healthy Afro? Sh just got real. And it’s time to address this issue.

It is a known fact that over time, Africans ladies have been made to feel insecure about their natural hair by men as well as their fellow women. Ever since the colonialists came and hung around with us here in Africa in ADs and 1700s(This is the GHC class you skipped in class 7- You’re welcome),there has been this craze about wanting to be British & Westernised. We used to rock afros. Men wore skirtish things.We painted our faces with mud and ashes. We built our houses manually,together. We were proud of our heritage. Our mother tongue. Our communities’ various cultures. But we changed in all aspects. Food. Dressing. Mannerisms. Thinking. Living. Education. Religion. And this, of course made us see what was our Right as their Wrong, and their Right as what should be. 

The colonialists laugh at us because we can’t speak english(their local language) as well as they can. Why can’t we laugh at the Mzungu because he cannot speak our local language as well as we do? 

Yes, they came with development (Good) and ‘development'(Bad). We as africans should embrace what is good change, but not loose ourselves in the process.

Speak Dholuo, Kisii, Kiganda, Gikuyu and any other African language you know the next time you meet your own. OWN your identity, and don’t hate someone else for owning theirs. May our heritage not divide us, but make us one. 

So next time you see a lady with a big afro, or a man not embarassed of his native accent, do not laugh. Do not mock. Applaud them, and give them a HI 5.

Skin Torn.

So The Man and I decided to take a walk to Gikosh. Look for some merchandise and maybe eat some pineapples or those GMO apples that are abnormally humongous. And then this happened.

A guy hits The Man on the shoulder as he makes his way in front of us. He doesn’t touch me. Probably  coz i’m too short?Or maybe it’s my hips. Let’s go with the latter. I don’t even notice how irritated The Man is. Then he asks me,”Have you seen that guy’s leg? ” I shake my head. Again, with my height i really can’t see past the crowd. So apparently, that guy has  the skin on his right calf hanging. A big chunk of it. A length 6 inches or so. And you could see everything all the way to the bone. I struggle to see his leg as he walks further away from me and into the crowd. I almost tell The Man to lift me up and put me on his shoulder so that i can get a better view. The expressions on people’s faces as he rushes past them is enough communication of what i have just missed. I see a lady selling sweatpants printed ‘Konshens’ on them cup her cheeks in her palms and crease her face. Thank God I’m short.

We get to a popular stall we visit and have a seat as we wait for the owner. Then a drunk guy, let’s call him Bubba walks in. He is very drunk. And annoyingly happy. Talks alot of gibberish, but i can understand most of what he says;

So, there is a stray dog in the market that has rabies. And it is biting people with short things  on. Shorts and short skirts. Well,i  have a pair of jeans on. They couldn’t get a hold of it because it was hiding under the market selling structures. And it was a market dog. Meant to guard the market at night when everyone has gone home. But i bet harming the same people during the day is not part of the deal. So,it bit the guy we saw, and it bit some flesh off another lady’s right thigh.Scaaaaary stuff.

Huyo mwanaume hatasaidika. 24 hours tu,na atachizi! Mi nishawai gwarwa na mbwa iko na rabics (he meant rabies)!Mnajua Rabics?*I nod*.He,hiyo ikikupata,kwisha wewe!Daktari aliniambia lazima nidungwe shindano ngapi?*holding up 4 fingers in the air* .18 .Unaimagine nidungwe shindano 18?! 1,2,3,4… hadi 18?Mimi nililipa 50 bob ya card ya hosi na nikadungwa nne. Na sijawahi rudi! But si mnaona niko poa? “

Then he said something about how dogs give birth to 12 puppies. And how he has kept ‘Sungura’, which he translated to Rats in English. Have you ever talked to a drunk guy who is trying to convince you that he is not drunk, and he is tapping your shoulder up to 40 times a minute as he does so. He continuously convinces you of how true his story is and that he knows exactly what he is talking about.

Anyway, the guy we were waiting for arrives and as we wait for the goods we came for, I hear him tell the drunk guy that they should find that dog and kill it. And the drunk guy says that he isn’t going to kill no dog. First,because we shouldn’t kill animals. And secondly, because he knows the dog won’t bite him. Everyone in the market knows and respects him. They wouldn’t want to cross paths with him. Even the dog. I sneer.

To cut this very long story short,we get our goods, and as we leave, the drunk man reminds us to watch out for the dog. And should we come across it, all we need to do is yell, ” Bubba!!!”.

The Ditch Drive-in

We are seated in the car. Brother on the co-driver’s seat is busy trying to change across stations, looking for a station that will suit the age spectrum in the car. Classic FM will do. We listen to my dad sing some song from back then that only he knows, and I guess is one of the million Maina Kageni favourites. It’s dark. It’s raining. The AC is dead(conveniently) . The windows are misty, so we really can’t see clearly. Mr. Dad has 4 sets of eyes on the road;His.Brother’s. Cousin’s. Mine(partially). I get a call from you-know-who so I’m trying to act normal and be as discreet as possible. And then, a crazy man driving very fast in the opposite direction as us has full lights on. Next thing I know, we are in a ditch. “Oh shoot! We’ve just gotten into a ditch. I’ll call you back.” I hang up.

“Heeeee, mzee hii italala hapa Leo.”

“Hii labda tuite tow truck ivute.”

“Mzee amekunywa kakitu?” -Just to be clear, no he hadn’t. He doesn’t. And he never has.

“Toa hand break alafu uwachilie brake kidooooogo tu isonge mbele.Sio saaaaana.Kidogo, isonge polepoleeee.”

“Mzee peleka steering hivi, alafu ukate hivo. Kidogo tu.KIDOOOOGO MZEEEE!- In most cases, those saying this do not own a car, and have never driven one.- Umekata sana.Sasa hapa umeharibu mambo!Hii mpaka kesho!”

“Simamisha hiyo 4 wheel drive itusaidie. Ah, huyo ni rakifi yangu. Ako sawa. Mzee kuna kamba kwa hiyo boot?Na ikuwe ya nguvu isikatike!”

“Haya, najua hii gari! Ni ya *Insert Mr.Dad’s name*! Simamisha tuk tuk!”

“Haiya, tushike hii gari mara moja tutoe. Kujeni msaidie.Kila mtu ako sawa? Haiya, One!Two! Three!”

I think my dad got in and out of the driver’s seat more than 30 times.The door on my side of the car couldn’t open because it was blocked by land. I was literally in the ditch.And I am a girl. I was told to sit in the car, and I did exactly that. Plus I didn’t mind. 

The unison amongst men is admirable. Total strangers come together to help a total stranger get his car out of a ditch.It was muddy AF,  and they got a lot of mud splashed all over them.But I didnt hear anyone complain of how dirty they got. 

And the satisfaction they get once the car is out of the ditch. Or when a car with a dead battery is up again. Or when a flat tyre is replaced. Just seeing a car back on the road, at a small fee, or none at all. All the ask for is maybe water to wash their hands after. And they all go separate ways, feeling satisfied. 

So, now we are back on the road. Heading to our destination. And very thankful to the 10 or so men that assisted us. And I even have my specs on this time. Make that 5 pairs of eyes on the road.

Them Wrinkles!

You know that moment when you get into a matatu, a decent one. One of the most decent on your route.It has some good hip music. (Who says ‘hip’ anymore? I feel elderly. Smh).

Away from that. You hear Panda singing in the background. Not too loud. And not too low. Just okay after a long day at work.Then you hear ‘Dj Demakufu’ or sth like that as the song perfectly transitions to Work. Some get excited when they hear, “Martin Luther, BLACK…” There is no other matatu in sight, so you decide to board that one. You need the good music since you forgot your earphones at home. And there is traffic. The matatu is full in 4 minutes or so. You slowly but patiently flow through the traffic until you are out of the CBD. You are enjoying the music.

AND THEN. Hmph. The driver decides that he knows what people like. What he thinks will definitely make this matatu be even cooler. But you know, COOL is relative. He puts on a Zilizopendwa mix.And it has those songs that you can ‘twist’ to. And there is a lady sitted next to you who decides to sing in Soprano, just like the lady in the speakers. And to think that that is not enough,he turns up the volume. I CAN’T. ✋. You look around. The people around you dont look bothered. Infact,they are singing along. Some are even swaying and nodding their heads.You are definitely the wrong crowd. Your dad would SOOOOO enjoy this. Well, this is happening to me right now. All I can say, this journey will be the longest ever. And maybe 10 years from now,I will be swaying to Panda and Work like this and someone somewhere will be calling me old, and calling such music boring.

Compassion is a verb.

​I meet my neighbour at the stage as I wait for a tuktuk get to the main stage. She is quite talkative. Some guy comes and sits next to me. We start our short trip to the stage, and when we arrive, she offers to pay my fare. We part ways and I cross the road and wait for a good matatu. The guy that was in the tuktuk with me crosses the road too. 007 (the name of a matatu) makes a dramatic arrival to the stage with a loud continuous beep and music that is the okay kind of loud. The conductor runs up to me and tries to convince me to board it, but I dont need any convincing when it come to this one. I get into the matatu, just after Mr Black gets in.He is dressed in all black, so the name is appropriate. We assume there are seats, and when I follow him to the back, he makes way for me to go sit on the remaining seat. The last one. He opts to stand. That is rare. Especially with all this gender equality movement going round, you really dont expect a guy to be giving his seat up for you. I say a quick ‘Thank You’ in my head as i smile and make my way to the seat. 

After around 15 minutes, the guy seated next to me stands up. He is alighting. The guy comes and sits next to me. The conductor starts collecting fare and when he gets to us, I hand over my 100sh note. Mr Black hands over a 50sh note. The conductor is not impressed. After he tries to explain that that is all he has, the conductor walks away, but warns that before he comes back Mr Black must have his money. It is very embarrassing. He looks worked up. I really think of what to do. He doesnt look like he lacks. He is decently dressed. TO or NOT TO. After a short debate in my head,  i open my purse and remove a 50sh note. I tell him ‘Jazia umlipe’. He is amazed. He looks at me and shakes his head in disbelief. It’s a NO. ‘I insist,’ I say. He is still not believing this. He thinks on whether or not to take the note. He takes it. I smile. He signals to the conductor to come take the money. He then turns to me after paying and asks, ‘Why would you pay for me?’ I tell him that I was just helping out. ‘Do you just go round paying for people fare?I owe you one.’ I tell him it’s no biggie. As we alight, he says, ‘Thank you, we need more like you in this cold world.’ and smiles. I smile back and walk away.