Thursday, January 14, 2010

Une Vraie Africaine


After nearly 20 months of being in Cameroon, I finally gave in and got some dreads on my head. I never really had any real special interest in getting the hair done, but I figured it's one of those things that I simply must experience before leaving. So, just before launching my 3rd round of business classes in village, I spent the entire day "becoming African".

My friend Bibian is a hairdresser and she has been asking me about getting my hair done for months. Naturally, she was thrilled when I told her I'll finally take the plunge. So, Monday morning, we found ourselves at the local bar that I frequent and began the long process of hair-braiding.

True to Cameroonian form, Bibian told me she works really fast and it'd only take 3 hours or so. To which I was extremely skeptical since I have heard nothing but excruciating long hours from other girls. For some, it's even a 2-day event. From hour 1 of the process, Bibian kept saying, "see? it's really fast, we'll be done soon". This is SO Cameroonian. It's much like when they tell you, "yeah, yeah, I am on my way", but then don't show up until an hour or two later.

The Beginning

Naturally, it came to be 5pm and we were finally putting the finishing touches on my rasta. By this time, mamas who were walking by would come and help tying up the ends. At one point, there were 4 women working on my head. Of course, Bibian said, "well it's only because you have so much hair that it takes so long." riiight. Always take their indicator of time with a grain of salt and add on 3 hours or more. Time is absolutely not money in this culture.

Hour 6

In the end, this was really fun experience. During the 6 hours of hair-braiding, villagers would stop by to comment on how good it looks on me and how I'm becoming a real African. And of course, "now that you are becoming a real African, you should definitely get married here and not go home."
Bibian & Me

The demand for me to stay in country has been overwhelming these past few days since I got the hair done. Everyone from village mama, to sketchy men, to the governor of the West Region advised that it's best that I do not go back to the U.S.

Yes, the governor. I met with him yesterday with Théo´in regard to the Books For Cameroon project. During the meeting, Théo mentioned that I will be ending my service in about 6 months, to which the governor said, "what are you doing going back to the States? You should get married here and stay! Sure there are some dust, but the climate is great!" We continued to talk about the project, and at the end of the meeting, he walked us to the door and said, "I hope you will take my advice and stay here. You can go home to get married, but come back here to live." Théo said he must have been impressed by me because he invited us to his "salon" instead of his "bureau", and the "salon" is supposedly for special guests only. Funny Cameroonians.

Now, the beauty is not without a cost. Besides the fact it took 6 hours, my scalp also hurt a great deal during the first night from the weight of all the fake hair and I couldn't do anything but to lay horizontally on my bed to ease the pain. The pain, however, is really worth it because the villagers, and even my friends in Bafoussam love it so much! This is definitely one of those "I will miss Cameroon" moments.

5 comments:

Colleen said...

What a great story! You're a good sport... just don't let them marry you off!

keondra s. bills said...

it's interesting that they call them dreads. i wonder why. and is rastafarianism big in cameroon? i've always thought it to be an ethiopian/east african way of life.

in america, all of my friends who have braid extensions burn the ends to keep them from unraveling at the end (assuming it's synthetic hair). just a tip. and yeah, it hurts until your hair starts to grow out a bit.

Wendy said...

@Keondra Not sure about Rastafarianism, but Cameroonians definitely LOVE Bob Marley. His music and posters of him are everywhere. I never even really got into his music until Cameroon.

Tene said...

When I was in Cameroon, they were called braids (nattes) or rasta (I suppose that is translated by dreads).
And yes, the one time I had the whole extension hairdo done (7 hours?), it hurt like crazy, and I almost chopped off all my hair to remove those tight braids (I had traveled to London, so nobody could help).

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