The monster that surfaces after 3 weeks of braided hair

The monster that surfaces after 3 weeks of braided hair

I'm smiling, but screaming on the inside.

I’m smiling, but screaming on the inside.

Getting my hair braided is sort of a tradition I have when I visit Uganda. I do it partially for the aesthetic look, partially to keep it off my neck and out of my face in this heat, and mostly so I have an excuse not to wash it. See, washing all of my thick long hair can take over an hour when I’m doing it with a basin and a jerry cane. Most days, I don’t have that kind of time to spend.
I was braided when I first arrived two weeks ago. Every night, I wrap my head with a scarf like Auntie Deborah taught to me so that it won’t get frizzy when I toss and turn in bed. Inevitably, my muzungu braided hair gets frizzy sooner or later and after two weeks, it was time to undue my braids, go through the long process of washing my hair, and put the braids in all over again.
The hair braider from Sanjai comes tomorrow to do my hair for the equivalent of $7 as I teach 4 music classes. I went out to the court yard tonight and summoned some kids to untwist the 50 braids on my head. When the aunties saw what was going on, they each brought out their combs and joined in on the action. There were about 10 people tugging at my sore head as we took on the task at hand. An hour and a half later and I was a ball of fabulous, dirty frizz.
All of the kids here are shaved bald. This is mostly for hygiene and practicality. It would be impossible to tend to several hundred kids hair and it would be unwise to expect them to do it themselves. Shaving them bald cancels out the possibility of head lice and is the easiest form of maintenance when it comes to hair. That being said, I get the feeling that some of them long for hair. This was made uncomfortably clear to me when the little ones started wearing the clumps of hair that had fallen from my head as mini wigs. I helplessly watched them fight over the hairballs that had fallen to the floor while the aunties untangled each corn row. One little girl clumped a few balls of my hair together, placed it on the top of her head, and pranced around like a super model. Everyone laughed while I cringed in horror.
The children here play with the darndest things. Auntie Deborah’s 3 year old son, Jeromiah, likes to collect already eaten corn cobs off the ground and use them to build structures. Ronah likes to chew on pieces of bark from the trees. I blew up some balloons and the kids played with them for a week even after they were completely deflated. I often find Rose wandering around with a bottle cap in her hand. The girls with pierced ears like to put pieces of grass in their ear holes to replace the earrings they don’t have. And now, I was watching them play with my clumps of dirty hair. My DNA.
After music rehearsal tonight, I spent that dreadful hour washing my hair. Tomorrow, I have 6 hours of braiding while teaching music. It’s all a very painful and time consuming process but hey, beauty hurts.


Beauty Hurts