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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ghanaian Haircut

Charlie Writes:
This Monday, I went by my local barber to get trimmed up for the coming exams period at MUCG. Upon hearing my tale, Mary Kay suggested I blog about it some.

There are more barber shops around here than you can shake a stick at. The Ghanaians are very much more likely to work in the "informal economy" than would folks in the US. This means that they do not register as a business, and the payment of Social Security or other taxes is "informal," i.e., "not done." Typical businesses include hair salons, small corner stores (stocking bread, eggs, Milo, tomato paste, rice, oil), "Comm Centers" which may include internet cafe for browsing, text processing, faxing, and other business services.

When I arrived at my usual barber (whose container is about 0.8 km from our house) there were two barbers at work, so I spent some time on the couch waiting. One was getting the usual cut, about 1/8 inch long all around, while the other was having his head shaved smooth. That's one of the things I love about Ghana, for men my age, not having any hair is not really a problem, since everyone cuts their hair so short anyway. Above are photos of the the NDC and NPP candidates for president in the recent election (NDC won after some nervous days), and the outgoing president, as examples of what I'm talking about.

The owner swept out the area near his chair, then escorted me to it. He unwrapped a six-foot length of t-roll (toilet paper in the US) to wrap around my neck, then covered me with a white apron just like in the states. There was no discussion about the style of a haircut, either because he only knows one style, or there's not enough hair on my head to do much other than that anyway!

They use the same buzzy razors that are used in the US, with various comb attachments to control the length of hair left standing. The haircut went as usual until the part where in the US you would have been daubed with alcohol to tighten your skin. Here, the barber went out in the street with a plastic bowl, scooped some water out of a bin, then returned inside where he poured some hot water out of his teapot, mixing with some "Dettol" a disinfectant similar to what is sold under the name "Lysol" in the US. Using a hand towel, he then rubbed down my head all over and then followed up with hair spray, which here came in a lady-like pink shade. Glancing at the ingredients, I noticed three - perfume (obviously needed, so I didn't smell like a freshly washed floor or toilet leaving the shop), protein (to give you hair "body"), and sun screen.

As you can see in the photo above, I'm ready to go for another month or so.