When I move to site, I will draw my water from a pump and carry it uphill to my rondavel. During community based training I needed about 8 pitchers of water to wash my long hair, and by the end of the ordeal my neck strained from bending to wash it over my buckets. I decide to get my hair cut. Fortunately there are several other volunteers who join me, and one Saturday we find ourselves shepherded to a salon where a Peace Corps driver works as a barber.
We walk in to a small clean room that is divided into two sections, the waiting area and the hair cutting area. There are two posters of African models with elegant haircuts and extensions. Everyone welcomes us inside with warm smiles.
I will get my hair cut first. My hairdresser ushers me to the back of the room and opens a door for me. Immediately there is a chair, behind which is a basin, unattached to a sink, on a table. There is a hose. He gently places a towel around my shoulders and gestures for me to sit and lean my head back into the basin. While he washes my hair I look left and realize there has been a square hole cut in the wall that I just walked through, so that the ‘room for washing hair’ is neatly connected to the ‘main room’. The wall is thin panel that has been secured at various places, and it doesn’t quite reach the ceiling.
After he washes my hair, I return to the main room and sit perpendicular to the mirrors on the right wall. This haircut I will not watch; my chair faces the back of the room. I stare instead at the man in front of me, who is receiving a buzz cut. I watch his hair shaved off in layers by the electric razor. By the time my hair cut is finished, I have given up trying to keep it shoulder length, admitted that it won't dust my shoulders, and tried to stretch out what remains to be long enough to put in a ponytail. In the end, I manage to save my long bangs, but the rest of my hair has been hacked off with meticulous precision.
“No, it is better to cut the hair short. There is a water problem, here,” our Peace Corps friend assures me. I try to focus on the pitchers of water I will save.