Saturday, September 8, 2012

Life Update and the Haircut (More interesting than it might sound!)

Hey Folks,

I just completed my first five-day workweek! Previous weeks have either been cut short by school holidays, religious holidays, and, of course, the riots. Speaking of which, after all that ominous foreshadowing I played up in my last post, nothing happened. I was on duty over the weekend (as a residential dorm parent I am on duty every so often) and we didn’t allow any students to leave campus, cancelled school on Friday and waited with baited breath for any news. The streets were apparently swarming with police officers and Kenyan army troops and they were able to squelch any inflammatory activity before it started. The city is now back up and running as if nothing happened.
            This week was loooooooong. It’s amazing how much more work an extra day can feel like after having adjusted to a four day workweek. That sounds remarkably lazy of me, and admittedly it is. But good work is getting done! I’ve been grading year 7 memoirs that are very well written and insightful and listening to Junior Oral Presentations which are sometimes insightful. I’ve also been working with the University Counseling office, which has been a blast; I’ve been reading personal statement after personal statement and I have come to appreciate how much work my college counselors had to do back at MBA. Mr. Giffen and Coach Klausner, you have my eternal respect and admiration.
            The week concluded with a House Assembly on Friday. AKAM has adopted a house system to encourage excellence in students across all aspects of life at the academy. There are four houses that are identified by color and mascot: Red (my house) Hawks, Yellow Eagles, Blue Ravens (or Kestrels) and Green Falcons. The competitions among houses vary from athletics, academics and debate to lip-syncing, public speaking and a quiz night. At the end of the year, a house cup is awarded to the winner of the most points. I have been informed that Red House is unique in that it historically loses every competition. Apparently their chosen House Chant at one point last year was “At least we aren’t in fourth place!” That soon changed… I have been encouraged to take up the mantle of House Leader for Red House on the grounds that I am “fresh blood,” which I can only take to mean that I have yet to be disillusioned by constant crushing defeats that Red House teachers are used to experiencing. I’m hoping I can bring some fire to the mix…
            Our first competition this year was a senior school wide Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament. We split up into houses and had an elimination tournament to determine the winner of each house who then were able to challenge the other house winners for the title of Champion and 10 points for their house. Our challenger lost in the semi-finals but had a chance for redemption in the 3rd place match. One, two, three, go! Their rock beats our scissors. One, two, three, go! Their scissors beat our paper. And in glorious fashion, the Hawks reclaimed their place at the bottom of the house rankings! We can only go up from here.
            I have been here for about five weeks now and life is slowly settling down. I just opened a bank account and I have a checkbook and debit card. Opening a local bank account has always been my strongest indicator of permanence in a place. I had bank accounts in Nashville, Brunswick and now Mombasa. Looks like I am here to stay!
            My being here for five weeks also means that my hair had reached a point of, shall we say, shagginess. It was so bad that I was informed not only my year 9 tutor group but also by my incredibly kind and respectful year 7 English class that I had developed a nickname amongst the students: Blonde Bieber, as in Justin Bieber the teenage idol and, I hesitate to say, musician. This moniker was not foreign to me as my floor mates last year were unforgiving about my hair whenever it got too long and would berate me for my Bieberesque hair (if you don’t know who this is then a. I applaud you and b. Google image search his hair).
            The final straw was when some younger students told me I looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo (the scruffy half-beard didn’t help). Game over, time to get my hair did.
            I headed into town with a recommendation from Jason, the head of security and transportation. I didn’t know what to expect. Last time I was abroad for more than a month at time, in Uganda and Rwanda, I never had a haircut; I just let it grow out. My hair is just never something I even remotely considered while abroad, it was always assumed I would just get it cut when I get back, not so feasible in my current situation! It’s also a strange subject to inquire about. African hair is just simply different than mzungu hair. And the male hairstyles here are predominantly shaved head or Afro, two looks that I either couldn’t pull off, or simply cannot do with my hair! So I had to poll the expats about the places that know how to deal with our somewhat unique hairstyle choices.
            I was sat immediately and Joseph, my new barber, went to town on my mess of hair. He clipped, snipped and shaved away layers and layers of hair like the pro he was. He paid attention to every miniscule detail, holding a razorblade and shaving off every stray hair on my neck and face. My once uncontrollable mass of hair was soon reduced to a clean-cut, manageable form. Joseph then told me that for the price of the haircut I got a “wash” as well. Couldn’t turn that down! Little did I know what I was in for!
            He took me to the back of the salon and handed me off to a woman in a blue uniform, an apron and formidable arms. She had me sit down, close my eyes and relax. She worked the shampoo into my scalp and washed it all down, pretty standard. She then told me to go back and sit in the chair. Slightly confused, seeing as the haircut was over, I complied.
            She came over to the chair with a bottle of massage oil and squirted some into her hands. She took hold of my head and began rubbing my neck, my scalp and my face. She massaged my ears, chin, nose, cheeks, forehead, everything! She then reoiled and massaged my shoulders and back all while I was just sitting in the chair. She then grabbed a bowl of water and added an orange scented oil and washed off my face and shoulders and then grabbed a citrus scented oil and washed me all over again. By the end of it I was as relaxed as I could possibly be and smelling great!
            When it came time to pay I found out it only cost me 500 Shillings, about 6 bucks. Bargain of the century: A great haircut, a shampoo, and a massage for six bucks. I will be back.

Thank you all of you who are reading my blog. I really appreciate that you have taken an interest in my life here and I hope I am keeping it entertaining and informative. If there is anything you want to hear about in more depth or that I haven’t covered shoot me an email at Or leave a comment at the bottom of any post. I’m planning on covering Food and what I am actually doing at school soon. I hope all is well wherever you may be, thanks for reading!

In closing, a little shout out to Fhiwa, Michele and Ryan, my costars in the recent release of the Google Street View of Bowdoin College. Two summers ago, we were all working hard at Bowdoin and frequently took lunch breaks out on the gorgeous Bowdoin quad. One fine afternoon we noticed a man on a bicycle pulling a strange device. Turns out it was the Google Street View mobile taking in the sights at Bowdoin. If you go to google maps and check out street view at Bowdoin on the quad you can see Fhiwa, Michele, Ryan and me enjoying ourselves on the quad. It kind of fun to think that even after I am gone from Bowdoin, I exist, even if only virtually, on the quad, permanently enjoying a beautiful Maine afternoon.

-Mzungu currently well groomed and smelling good after his first full week of work


  1. It's just off Moi Avenue across from Diamond Trust Bank!