Monday, October 8, 2012

The Kiswahili word for buzz cut is “Bzzzzz”

Before the events of this post happened, I had planned on not writing ANYTHING about it, partly because I kind of wanted it to be a surprise to those outside of Kilimanjaro Bush Camp and mostly because I didn’t think it would be relevant to anyone besides myself and therefore didn’t need to be written about here. However, the sequence of events that went down when I was trying to accomplish this task were just so CLASSICALLY “Colleen’s Adventures in East Africa” and “Interesting things that happen in Kimana” that I felt they needed to be documented and shared. I feel like this story pretty much sums up EXACTLY why you expect the totally and completely and utterly unexpected bumps in the road when trying to do even the most seemingly simple things while living abroad.

I shaved my head in Cool Cutz Barber Shop in Kimana, Kenya Tuesday, October 2, 2012, exactly three weeks after I arrived in East Africa. My barber’s name was Samwell.

Let me clarify actually, I didn’t actually shave my entire head clean. I mostly got it buzz cut down to about half an inch of hair, by far the shortest it has ever been. It was mostly for practical reasons. Long hair is incredibly high maintenance. It was constantly very dusty and tangled. Showering and shampooing was generally awful. Overall, I miss my hair but I am happy with my decision. I will go through an awkward growing out phase, but that’s okay. My hair grows pretty fast anyway (or I think so. I guess we can always compare the after picture to what I actually look like when I go home)

Like anything in Kimana, though, even buzz-cutting my hair can’t be anything less than a total adventure. We found the barber; that part was simple. There are many in town. We waited for him to finish up his current client. We took before pictures. I sat in the chair. I confirmed that I was actually going to do this. He shaved off the sides with an electric shaver.

Then the power went out.

I was sitting in a barber chair in East Africa with about half my head shaved and the weirdest mullet ever. I looked like a Maasai Junior Warrior (AKA Moran. I think I’ve posted pictures of them before. They have shaved heads with long red cornrows/ponytails). Really the only thing stopping me from crying and having a heart attack was the fact that I was laughing so hard because I like to have a good sense of humor about these things. After a couple of minutes, it was clear that the power wasn’t coming back on anytime soon. I’m not sure why we thought the Kenyan power grid was that reliable anyway. My barber said he knew a place where he could finish cutting my hair. I wasn’t totally sure what to make of that, but I didn’t exactly have many options. So, I wrapped my head in the scarf I THANKFULLY had bought earlier that day (Incredibly lucky, right? I almost didn’t buy it).

We, and by we I mean my moral support posse. along with a few other looker-ons because, uh, it’s not every day a weird white girl walks into a Kimana barber shop and asks to get her head shaved, moved across town to a new barber shop. I unwrapped my head, and the barber plugged in his electric shaver into a power strip that I’m fairly sure was hooked up to a car battery. The rest of my hair came off, and we moved back to the original barber to get a quick wash (it was moving back to the original barber shop that an SFS car with some other students drove through and everyone’s “Oh my god” faces were truly hilarious and I will remember them forever. I don’t joke around when talking about doing something like this! Everyone learned that well.). We took an after picture. The barber really wanted to get a picture with me. He was a good sport about all of it, and it gave him an equally hilarious story.

I think my head got sunburned when I was walking around town afterwards. I wrap it in a scarf a lot, partly to protect it from the sun, and partly because it mimics the weight of hair. I don’t miss my hair at ALL. I’m really glad that I shaved it off actually. It’s just weird to not have the weight on my head any more (the scarf definitely helps). I will be surprised if I let my hair grow longer than my shoulders ever again.

TL;DR I got my head shaved in an East African barber shop. It cost 100 Kenyan shillings. Here's a picture:


  1. Your stories are really quite good. Your hair, or lack of it, is very practical and you look very stylish. Please be careful with the sun, though, as I heard that a sunburn on your head can be very painful.

  2. Colleen, You go girl!! You look absolutely beautiful (: