So let me tell you about this time I accidentally had a texturizer in Brazil.
It’s summer 2012. I’m in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. I hear “Assim Voce Me Mata” and “Where were you?” everyday, in addition to the theme song Avenida Brasil. I’ve been wearing my hair with waist braids for three weeks.
After days and days of meeting black Brazilians of all shades and hair types, talking about the emerging black power movements and black empowerment around the world, I felt the itch to touch mine. … For lack of a better sentence. One day I go to the bookstore and meet Isobel. Isobel has a HUGE afro and an awesome tattoo of a Brazilian woman with country hair. I am fascinated by the size of her hair and the rarity of seeing tattoos on Brazilians. So Isobel and I have a conversation in my broken Portuguese. I recite the familiar details about who I am, how I study abroad, how I like to buy little books as keepsakes for myself. I congratulate Isobel on her beautiful hair. She then gets super animated about it and starts talking about how black Brazilians are becoming hyper aware of black consciousness, regaining their black features, etc. I then tell him how incredible it is, how incredible it is to be in Bahia among another kind of darkness, and how much I miss, or have saudades, for my afro.
Isobel immediately searches for a pen and a notepad, and begins writing the name of a barber shop. She explains that they’re not too far from where we were, and how if I take my braids off, the hairdressers there could restore me. I’m super excited to feel my hair free from the chains of trancas, so I go home immediately and formulate a plan. There’s leftover conditioner in the bathroom cabinet, leftover aloe vera from the host girl before me, I can understand.
Two hours of withdrawal and a confused foster mom later (“Why are you cutting your hair ?! You wanted something new?”), My hair is loose, but not really. If you are the owner of natural “4c” black hair, removing braids rarely leaves you with loose individual hair, but rather hair that is clumped together not only by their natural “fresh out of the shower” patterns, but also by buildup of hair. product and scalp residue. Since I had been in and out of salt water, the beach depressing her pretty much every day, add salt water to the mix. My hair was frozen. No amount of shampoo or conditioner could fix it, especially since I didn’t have my tried and true hair products from home. After a long but not long enough shampoo session because my mom and her family were so aware of the length of my shower like many moms would be, I made some progress, but not enough. My hair is still straight. I decide to make an effort to go to the salon tomorrow Saturday.
Saturday morning arrives, I undo my narrowed down a few flat twists and request a taxi online. They come to pick me up in front of my host family. The journey is a bit long, long enough to realize that I am no longer near the city center. I memorize the way back, however, should come the worst and I have to go back. I recite my speech to the taxi driver about who I am, why my Portuguese is so bad. Immediately I’m worried he’ll assume I have a lot of money because of where he picked me up (a particularly wealthy street in Salvador) besides the fact that I’m American and kidnapping myself. The thoughts of my first few days in Brazil talking to the representative of the US Embassy and hearing her go through all kinds of nightmare scenarios cross my mind. I’m trying to remember to modify my spiel for future interactions like this. Finally, we arrive.
The living room is on the top floor of a building, and I walk up the stairs past my next hairdresser smoking on the balcony. He seems puzzled about me and seems to reluctantly put out his cigarette to follow me inside. This is not a good sign. I walk over to the counter and examine the range of hairstyles and prices. There are not any. This is not a good sign either. The lady at the counter starts asking me what I want, but beyond that, her accent makes it hard to understand her. Baianos speak fairly quickly and my ear has not yet acclimated to it. I ask, “Slower, please?” and the lady bows her head. “Do you speak Portuguese?” “Yes, but I am not fluent. Can i write [this]? I write better than I speak.
The lady hands me a notepad and a pen. I’m starting to write about Isobel, she says she’s never heard of her. This is not a good sign.
Just around this time, one of the… I’m not sure, stylists? comes to me with an iPad. He launched Google Translate. It’s okay, but he’s too friendly. He asks me, via the application, why I am here. I show her a photo of how my hair normally appears through my profile picture on an old creation from my blog, A Ticket for Two.
He nods and says, “Hmm, black.” -With a Brazilian Portuguese accent, it’s “oom blackey”.
I thought it was a good sign.
He tells the former smoker hairstylist that I want a “black”, and I’m escorted to wash my hair. This is where all my feelings of hesitation peak.
He starts to mix something… white and creamy. Having once lived almost half of my life with a relaxer at this point, I recognize a mixture of relaxer when I see it and feel it.
I start to panic and immediately gush, “I don’t want chemicals! Without chemicals. “
“It’s not a chemical. It makes your hair easier.
I know what that means. Handy. Easy. Soft. Straighter.
I repeat: “I don’t want anything permanent!”
“It’s not permanent.”
For some reason, against my best instincts, I let the guy coat my hair and scalp with this paste, and I sit quietly, waiting for it to be over. The power dynamics in living rooms are interesting. It’s as if, when you sit in this stylist’s chair, you are giving up all power and submitting to his will. You tell the stylist you love them and walk home crying silently into your pillow. For me, I was already in the red in terms of power, I told myself. Portuguese was not my first language, so maybe I wasn’t clear with my objection to the permanent chemicals in my hair, eating it alive with their acid. And they had already invested a little time, so it seemed rude to say no. Also, I had to take a taxi to get here, so if I left I would awkwardly find myself on the street, waiting for a new taxi. So I stayed.
They leave the product in my hair for a while, and when they soak me in the sink to rinse it out, I immediately recognize that my hair has been altered and that I am secretly devastated. Let me explain something to you – I hate my straight hair. When I was younger I always felt my straight hair seemed to eat my face, it just encircles my already round face, I have come to hate that look. When I grew my natural hair out and cut my relaxed ends, I was happy to have hair that defied gravity and stuck away from my face. It’s longer, so it doesn’t do that anymore, but it still grows away from my face, and I still like it. The moment they started rinsing my hair, I could feel my hair staying limp after getting wet, instead of slowly rising up like the defiant phoenix. Instead, he was overcome by misunderstandings.
From there they wipe my hair and cut it. A new stylist asks me how I want my hair, and I try to explain that I wear it like a “blackey”. No styling is really necessary. This concept is strange even in the United States, and freely forming an Afro is not the most popular action. But with my textured hair, this is the only method I know of at the moment. The stylist misunderstands me, so I look for the dictionary in my pocket. As I look for the words to say, I hear him whisper to another stylist: “A dictionary? She doesn’t understand me, does she need a dictionary? “
They wipe my hair and send me on my way. I go up to the counter and the lady calls me. Remember how I said there was no price listed? She asks me for $ 100 and I realize that I cannot argue or argue. Why did I agree to have my hair done if I didn’t know how much it would be? While kicking myself in the head for this, I go through my wallet and try to get some cash, but only brought in $ 70. I explain to him that I only brought $ 70. Exasperated, the lady behind the counter says she’s going to smoke my first stylist, who’s on the balcony again.
In the meantime, the iPad guy comes back and tries to apologize through Google Translate for the missing prices. “It’s not fair to make yourself buy without knowing the prices,” he wrote. I’m too angry to hire him. The smoking stylist comes back inside and asks if I have more money at home. I say yes and he says, “We can drive you home so you can get the rest of the money to pay us.” My brain kicks itself once again, annoyed to find myself in this situation. This is the wackiest sequel to Taken I have ever seen.
But that power dynamic, yo. I agree and reluctantly tell them that I am staying at Edificio Koch on Sete de Setembro Avenue in the Vitória district.
In case you were wondering, Avendia Sete de Setembro is famous in Salvador for being the main venue for their Carnival and Bahian Independence Day. It is also famous for being home to politicians and musicians. So Smoking Stylist, iPad Guy, another dude, and I get in a car and drive to Edificio Koch. I often think of the MILLIONS in ways that could have gone wrong for me. But if I think about it too long, I have heart palpitations and so paranoid that I would never want to go outside again. But I did, so I hope you don’t have to go through it.
Alas, we stop in front of Koch, and I go out and greet the porter. He sees me coming and going and immediately asks me if everything is okay. His tone lets me know he finds it weird that I get out of a car full of guys. I say yes, and take the elevator to the apartment. I go to my room, get the extra money, go back downstairs and give my money to the iPad guy standing in front of the car. He says, “Because of the car ride, it will be $ 20 more.” I shake my head vigorously and give him the extra twenty.
“Thanks see you later! Have a nice day!” said the iPad guy. I say goodbye, turn around and walk back inside Koch’s gate. I approach the porter and let out a deep sigh. He shows my hair: “A blacky! No more braids! I tell her I’ve missed my hair, and I’m glad it’s shorter now. I then go upstairs and complain to my friends about my haircut. My friends tell me I’m extreme, but I know my hair. It was different, and I’m not sure it came back the same way. But maybe I’m dramatic.
This little excursion took my entire Saturday, and I was somewhat discouraged by my stupidity and carelessness. Oh, and mad at that girl from the bookstore. Did she have a texturizer? Was she just a 3C / 4A Brazilian woman? The world might never know. What I do know is:
Follow your instincts.
If you find yourself surrounded by people who will not respect your wishes or try to understand them, leave.
When you speak different languages, trust yourself.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of not knowing what you are saying, and even if you may not be saying it correctly, there is a good chance that you – as an adult, are content with broken language. – know what you want and what you want to say. If you’re misunderstood, take a step back, ask for help, write it down (most people write better than they speak anyway), or take a break from whatever you’re trying to do until that you feel ready to overcome it. roadblock. Going forward can get you into a guy’s car as he leads you on your rich ascent to the sky as you plan ways to jump out of his car into oncoming traffic to escape.
Finally, don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes.
Sure, you almost died and got kidnapped and murdered in the wilds of Brazil due to an irresponsible hairy date, but what did we learn? It is not advisable to make mistakes on purpose, to act irrationally and irresponsibly just because, but don’t just mop about the day you left your home. Just think, “It could be worse. I couldn’t have hair.
Plus, with my braids, I felt a bit more like myself. My beef was still there, but not like before, but you know, it worked in the end.
Check out Kris’tina’s other global adventures on her blog: A Ticket For Two