Jayne and Sam in Malawi!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow!

In my last blog entry, I was telling you about how it sometimes feels as if we're moving one step forward – only to move two steps back! At the time I was talking within a business context, but I have been finding out that it also applies within a personal context as well.

When I first arrived in Malawi, I knew that living and working here would – in some sort of way - change me. Seeing and experiencing the kind of poverty that Malawi suffers from affects your thinking and your attitude towards certain things - your outlook changes and your priorities are re-evaluated. Things that you once regarded as being important, suddenly seem trivial; you begin to see things in a completely new way. It makes you so much more appreciative of things – things that maybe before, you never thought too much about. The danger of course, is that as you work through this process of change, you can begin to sound a tad self righteous. Worse still, is that in dismissing your old ways of thinking and behaving, it is easy to start feeling somewhat superior – a little bit smug no less! Which is why it’s healthy - from time to time - to be brought down a peg or two; we all need to be reminded of our shortcomings! In my case, it happened when I went to have my monthly haircut – one of the few things which to date, has been remarkably straightforward and uneventful. Not so this time though!

Do you remember when I told you how clothes and appearance are of far less importance here? Well it’s true and I honestly thought I'd let go of superficial considerations such as these – after all, what does it really matter what you look like - it’s what’s inside that counts, isn’t it? Of course, that sounds great and oh so simple to subscribe to - in theory - but what happens when you actually find yourself dealing with the reality of such a statement? Well, what I have come to understand over the last couple of weeks, is that it is far harder to shake off old values than I had led myself to believe; old habits die very hard!

My barber James - who has been doing a really great job cutting my hair – must have been having a very bad day (a bad hair day?) when I turned up to have my usual 65p trim. He effectively scalped me. Now my hair has always been on the short side, but at least you could actually see it. At the moment, you have to look very closely to see the remnants of my hair and what you can see, looks absolutely terrible. Did you ever see Demi Moore in the film GI Jane? Well at the moment, I definitely feel and look like GI Jayne! I now have to wait for my hair to grow to a length where it can be cut back into some sort of style. Unfortunately as it begins to grow, it's looking even worse than it did when it was initially cut – my appearance is definitely going to get a lot worse before it gets better!

So here I am, banging on about how insignificant things like appearance actually are and on the other, feeling completely mortified by the fact that I am walking about Kasungu with a very dodgy haircut. Here I am waxing lyrical about the need to be able to laugh at yourself and yet finding little humour in my butchered locks. Here I am experiencing vanity in its most basic form – and it really isn’t good. However, on the plus side, this experience has been a very useful reminder to me of how easy it is to say one thing and yet do something totally different; of how easy it is to fall into the hypocrisy trap. It’s something that we all need to be on our guard against.

So in some strange way, I’m actually glad that James was having a bad day when he cut my hair. A couple of weeks later, I am beginning to see the funny side of the situation and the irony of it. Up to now, having very short hair would have helped me with the heat. Unfortunately, the weather has just changed and the Malawian winter has begun. The temperature has dropped significantly and believe it or not, it’s actually really cold here at times. Obviously I have nothing to keep the heat in at the moment - having just lost all my insulation - so I’m on the look out for a really good hat; with all the money I’m saving on shampoo just now, I’ll probably be able to afford two!

On the subject of cutting hair, I am becoming a bit of dab hand at the dog grooming business. Strangely enough, there isn’t a dog groomer in Kasungu and so I’ve had to resort to buying my own set of clippers and to cutting Sam’s coat myself. The clippers took a bit of getting used to and poor Sam has had his own dodgy haircuts to put up with over the last nine months. However, I am now much better and can cut his entire coat without leaving any bald patches! Quite an achievement. I can’t help feeling though that when Sam looks at me at the moment, he is secretly laughing his paws off – it’s sweet revenge for all the times his own hair has been attacked with the dreaded clippers.

So as you can see, life in Malawi is chugging forward. Our work at TLH continues – we are diversifying our services and have just begun selling refreshments, stationery and CDs in our efforts to make a bit more money here. I will let you know how our sales are going next time.

As always, a big “thank you” for your support, emails, prayers and good wishes.

Jayne and Sam

PS - Did anyone else feel just a little bit sympathy for Gordon Brown when he made his extraordinary microphone gaffe last week? I've been following the election campaigns very closely on the Internet over the last few weeks and I do think the reaction to his comments were classic 'holier than thou'. Now I've never had much time for Mr Brown - personally or politically - but I have certainly been feeling sorry for him in the wake of so much hypocrisy. What ever your thinking, it's certainly been a fascinating battle; I would love to be sitting in front of the telly on Thursday evening watching Peter Snow and his wonderful swingometer. Enjoy - I will be thinking of you!