For the past four weeks, I have been the anomaly in our group of trainees. Why, you ask? One Saturday in July, I, along with my sisters Mona and Ma-Dee, headed to the market to get my hair braided. We were visiting the shop of Miss Margibi County for the day – for real, Miss Margibi County herself braided my hair! She just finished her third year studying accounting at Cuttington University here in Liberia, and in the summers, she braids hair to help pay for classes. Her name is Patience, and I have never met anyone who dresses quite like she does. Her hair was perfect, her jewelry was “plenty,” and she was wearing the most obnoxious orange pants. But she did a rocking job on my hair, so who am I to complain?
Patience, her mother Hannah, and my sisters Mona and Fatu all helped in the process; thank goodness for their willingness to give the white woman braids. The process consisted of adding four packs of hair to the hair that I already have – this hair is super long, jet black, and completely synthetic. The way it works is this: they take a small amount of fake hair, fold it in half, hold the folded end at the root of my hair, and braid my hair into the extension. (While my friends like to joke that I have a “weave,” in reality, they’re just braided extensions.)
So here’s the deal. If you want braids, follow these rules:
1. Eat a big breakfast. After sitting for nine and a half hours, I was famished. While the girls braiding my hair were able to eat on a rotating schedule, having your head at all sorts of weird angles is not conducive to eating.
2. Speaking of nine and a half hours, take a pillow along with you. Sitting on a wooden bench gets old very quickly. While the women encouraged me to take “stretch breaks,” I still was aching to stand for the last six hours.
3. Take lots of Tylenol before you go – the hair is heavy, and you will have a headache for the next two days.
4. Make sure you have a scarf to wrap up your hair at night. This is very important.
5. Washing your hair will become a thing of the past. Well, you’ll only have to do it once a week. It takes time in a bucket bath, but it’s worth it.
6. Get used to the “hair pat” quickly. It’s almost impossible to scratch your head here, and for some reason, once you get braids, your head gets much itchier. Instead, pat your head where it is itching…phenomenally, it works!
|Roosevelt and I|
|My sisters and I.|
All joking aside, I have loved having these braids. It’s been a great way to integrate into my family and community, and I get lots of comments when I’m on a walkabout with my sisters – “your hair is fine-o!” or “sistah, you’re bluffin’ with your braids today!” Unfortunately, these braids will have a short life. My own hair is too “slippery,” and it is starting to come out of the braids. I will keep it in for our swearing in ceremony; after that, Sarah and I are planning to take them out before we get to Pleebo. It will be a great roommate bonding experience, I guess :)