When I found out that I was going to live and work in Neiva for ten months, one of the few concerns I had was where I was going to have my hair cut. Having spent ten months in Bogotá, and experiencing two horrible haircuts at the hands of the scalp-rapist, Omar, I had reason to worry. You see, most barbers in Colombia don't know how to cut my hair. To me, hair is hair, but for whatever reason, the cut would look uneven, and the mark would be all over the place. If it took me two months to find a barber in metropolitan Bogotá, I imagined that I would return home as a "congo bongo, natty dread" after my year in Neiva. So, I was pleasantly surprised when within three weeks of being in Neiva, I was in a cab on my way to the barbershop. As soon as I realized that the barber was black, I knew that my prayers were answered. Here goes...
The day was Tuesday, August 15th, 2012, the time was 10:00AM, and I was shaking my head and tapping my feet to salsa music. I was, also, watching a guy have his hair cut and styled into the most ridiculous Mohawk ever! Appropriately named, Los Niches, the barbershop was located in, what appeared to me, a poor part of town, judging by the houses and the dirt track I had to cross to get to the shop. The walls of the barbershop were plastered with the usual crap like, the Wahl Style Guide, a poster of Bob Marley and the Lion of Judah, and advertisements for events, past and future. What was particularly disturbing to me was the fact that Chris Brown was included on a poster of the "Top 20 Rappers of the 21st Century". Yes, Chris Brown!
The barber was a short, energetic man who had either just decided to grow a ras, or had a ras that refused to grow. He moved quickly as he put the finishing touches on that horrid Mohawk, and spoke emphatically about life, girls, and the Olympics. I noticed that he had a certain flare about him. He would flick his wrists dramatically as he cut, randomly start dancing, stick his tongue out while he thought about the best place to put his designs, and once finished, he would remove the smock in a flurry of black as he signaled the next patron.
The next patron was not yours truly though, but a young guy who seemed kind of ghetto to me. He was dressed in really tight jeans, a striped T-shirt with solid coloured sleeves, and a shoe that was too big for him. Added to that, he had his hair styled in these ludicrous, gel filled spikes, and was playing the radio from his telephone. G-H-E-T-T-O! I had to wait longer than usual for Papi to cut his hair because he had to wash all the gel from his hair before he could get started. While he was doing all that, I noticed that there was a fraternity that existed amongst the barber's clients. Not only were they all different shades of black, but they all seemed to get along well with each other. When someone arrived at the shop, he would greet the barber, and then, go on to shake hands and exchange greetings with everyone. This one guy even bought us all something to drink. It felt like I was with my extended family from Neiva.
Finally, after what seemed like an epoch, it was my turn. I excitedly sat in the chair, and told the barber what I wanted, which was a tad difficult. No matter how hard I tried, he could not understand that I wanted a fade. When my friend eventually intervened, and expressed what I wanted, Mr. Barber started laughing, and told me the style was called, the sombrero. Go figure! With our little language barrier demolished, my haircut commenced, and my excitement faded, like my hairstyle, and gave way to annoyance. He was so rough in the way he cut my hair; he would dig the machine into my scalp, pull my head to and fro, and pass a coarse, pink sponge through my hair for reasons unbeknownst to me. Eventually, I had to ask him to be gentler- I have feelings, you know! Sadly, it didn't make much of a difference.
As was expected, he asked me where I was from, and why I was in Neiva. After telling him that I was from Cali, and having him scowl at me, I told him that I was from the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago. His eyes lit up, he turned off the machine, and ran to his laptop, exclaiming that he had music from my country. I couldn't believe it, and I was right not to because he started playing reggae music. Sigh! I was, therefore, compelled to let him know that reggae music is synonymous with Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago had its own forms of traditional music, like calypso, soca and chutney. He seemed genuinely interested, so I decided to take out my flash drive and play some good, ole soca for him. Let's just say, MADNESS ENSUED! He started dancing, jumping, shouting, and stating emphatically how good the music was. In that moment, I felt proud to be a Trini.
Eventually, my time at the barber was over. I was quite pleased after I looked at myself in the mirror. I have been to said barbershop a total of six times, and aside from him giving me a puma one time, all my hair cuts have been great. Until the next post!