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Diary of a Volunteer





Feb 1997
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April 1995


Dear Mum
"...I had a hair cut, the other day" More...More

Hello Morning Glory
"Did I say morning glory? What a joke!" More...More

Don't Call Me Medusa-head
"(or I'll turn you into stone!)" More...More

And finally... A Bad Hair Day
"My hair has been growing steadily, it's true." More...More


Jan. 1997

Me, with tiny dreadlocks in my hair

In January, I went to the hairdressers, for a new hair-cut...(Yep! That's all this newsletter is about, really!)

Dear Mum

"DEAR MUM, I had a hair cut, the other day. I went to the Magic Salon, sat down, and two hours later, viola! When I say a hair cut, it was more like a hair-style, as no hair was actually cut. Instead, the hairdresser just twisted clumps of my hair together, tight against my scalp until it hurt. Two hours of twisting. Didn't like that bit too much. But when she'd finished, wow! I had my first ever centre-parting, and I liked how it looked. So did Caro-Anne, who came to watch. (It was her Xmas present.)

I left the hairdressers feeling great - a new look. But then everyone started staring at me, up top. Strangers just laughed or pointed, and I was happy to get home. I stayed in for the next few days, didn't even go to the shops. At work, it was even worse - lots of not-so-furtive glances at my head, with no-one saying anything. It was horrible. I don't like my new hair-cut anymore. I'm going to get it changed, cut off - that'll show them! I know you'd like it, Mum, but you're not here. Caro-Anneewants me to keep it, but I'm not going to. Don't like being laughed at - all the time. Don't like these silly people, anymore - it is only a hair-cut, after all. Lots of love, Steve xX"

So my new hair-cut was dread-locks. So!? It's still only a hair-style, after all. I admit, I did expect some kind of reaction, but I did not expect to feel like the king of circus freaks. This wasn't the only problem I had...

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Hello Morning Glory

DID I say morning glory? What a joke! The matted tangle that is my hair is squashed and sloped, first thing; and I look a mess. Corrective action must be taken. So I loosen each strand, free, and twist back its body (clock-wise, mind!). Twist and separate; then I finish with a few squirts of holding spray. Perfect, almost. Leaning-Tower-of-Pisa head is no more. But, my arms ache, I'm now late for work, and I still look weird.

Well, there's no harm in looking weird is there?

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Don't Call Me Medusa Head

- Or I'll Turn You Into Stone -

I'VE TAKEN to looking in the mirror these days. Head-to-head, sideways, even backward glances at myself, all so I can finally decide what I think about my hair. I have good days, where I think my locks are cool and funky, but there are other, darker, days, when I dare not look.

On these days, little boys flee from me. And grown-up folk stifle their laughter, trying hard not to even look at me. My head walks past them all, determinedly oblivious, and determinedly un-provoked. Because, on these days - and I know it's uncanny - my head resembles that of Medusas: coiled snakes, pointing in all directions. It's just that my snakes are more inert than hers. (You still best look in the mirror, mind, if you want to talk to me!)

Seriously, my new look has provoked interesting, and culturally-revealing responses. It has been a useful social experiment, despite my feeling like a freak (but like the Murphy's...)

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And Finally... A Bad Hair Day

MY HAIR has been growing steadily, it's true. It's been growing, and going scruffily unbrushed. So even then I had bad hair days, and even then Malawians took notice of my head. At the time, their comments never bothered me; I was in between hair-cuts, that's all. I was surprised at their surprise, however. But I got by - and ignored their giggles and glances. Until now; until I had dreadlocks put into my hair.

I thought I was easy with being stared at. I thought that their words, hushed and not so, would just rebound off my thick skin. I thought I would at least join in with their laughter. I was wrong. From the minute my hair was dreaded, I was wrong. Everybody notices me now.

In 4 weeks, I've had most reactions: a blurted laughter; a stupefied stare; a disapproving scowl ... thank goodness no-one has started crying! And no one, but no one could resist one more quick look. You might as well have put a fluorescent lamp-shade on my head. Strangers may laugh, but Malawians that know you, theirs is the problem. Do they laugh, or do they pretend that there is absolutely nothing strange with Steve's hair. Do they ask you why, why, why, or do they tell you just what they think. No. They do nothing.

Strangers are not so shy. Now I get called Rasta Dube, or Rasta Man, or just plain Rasta. I like it actually. It makes a refreshing change from Azungu or the confusing Japan-easy (Japanese) or Chi-neasy. (That's some identity problem.)

Europeans don't make much comment at all. They're familiar with this type of cross-cultural fashion. They don't all like it, though - I can tell that there are those that think I'm a vain and precious thing (with a stupid hair-cut). I do get positive responses too. Some think the hair looks funky, interesting, and one person even wanted to know the name of my hair-dresser!

So why the problem with Malawians? What's the big deal? There are several reasons I can think of, and several more that will always remain hidden. Malawians are tidy in appearance, almost immaculate - if you're scruffy, you're poor. Malawians know little about rastafarians - they like Bob Marley, but seem frightened of a real Rasta. Malawians have even worse preconceived ideas than we do - a wealthy Azungu with the unkempt hair of a black Rasta-man: it's just too confusing, and awkwardly so (after all, it does challenge their prejudices somewhat). So I guess they're excused, for now.

But all these childish responses, day after day - back to silliness again - you know, it's enough to make you stand up tall, defiant, and stride out. A hypnotic dance rhythm would sound, getting louder and louder, as others start to follow you. More and more people, follow, until finally, you reach your goal: Ndirande mountain, and the township, below. You look outwards, towards the township, and shout so loud: "Come on. Right now! You and me! ... Come on! Come on! ... I wear cool-funky dread-locks. Come on! Come on!"@ . Either that, or you beat a quick retreat to the barbers for a short back and sides.)
Yours, Fido Dido

@ With apologies to the Blackcurrant Tango advert., wot I aint even seen yet!


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