Sunday, January 27, 2013

When Things Get Hairy...Run!

An Affair of the Hair

When you travel, you sometimes worry about the services that will be available when you get to where you're going. The services that you are concerned about change depending on the length of your visit. Being here for over a year, I was worried about things like doctors, dentists, and barbers. I got a quick introduction to dental care in Kuwait when I arrived with my broken crown,  and I have seen Army doctors on at least two occasions because of various maladies like my broken hand and a severe cold. However, my search for a haircutter started when I got here and is continued until this day.

For a brief period when I first arrived, I thought about just letting my hair grow for the entire year I was here. A lot of civilians do that, they treat a deployment like an extended hunting trip and give up shaving and haircuts for the entire period that they are here. However, it didn't take long for my hair to start driving me crazy and the search for a barber in earnest began.
The base has a professional staff of barbers standing ready to produce the three haircuts that seem to be worn by most of the military personnel that are here: crewcut, very short, and bald. Since I did not want any of those three options, I went to the spa on base and got my hair cut there.  This was accomplished by a Filipino gentleman named Larry. He was the first Filipino person I'd ever met named Larry, I should note that based on meeting Larry I am sure that someday I will meet a Chinese guy named Rusty.  Larry did a decent job, but after about two months he departed for other opportunities. So I was again left without a barber.
I entered a period of time when I was on the road a bit and had my hair cut in Bahrain, again by a Filipino, and in the United States when I was back for training. I was never really overjoyed with the results but I dealt with it. I asked around and never really found a decent recommendation. Research online was also fruitless to a large degree.

In Kuwait, like in most Middle Eastern countries, the barbershops are actually segregated, not just by clientele but also by staff. It is actually illegal in Kuwait for a man to have his hair cut by a woman because it is considered a form of prostitution. The male haircutteries, go by the title salon, saloon, or spa.  When once again to a point of my hair bothering me, I pulled over on the way home and walked into one of these places.

The place was gorgeous inside covered with tile, mirrors, chrome, and leather covered barber chairs. Men were getting straight razor shaves and various other services. I walked to the counter, and asked for a haircut. That was when I realized that no one in the shop except for me spoke English.  I tried German, just in case, but then several of them gathered together and amongst themselves decided that the person who would probably be best to help me, was a Filipino guy they had on staff to do manicures. So I was taken to that gentleman, who did speak English. I explained to him that I wanted a haircut and how I wanted to cut; he in turn told the stylist who had been assigned to me.

I sat down in the chair, and tried to remain calm as the gentleman named Mohammed began to cut my hair. Getting a haircut here was a little bit different in that I was offered coffee, and given time to drink it while he took a break. When he was done, I actually had the haircut I asked for and he had appeared to have done a great job. Several days later I realized that the two sides of my hair were uneven and I spent a few more dollars to have it fixed.

Last weekend, I decided enough was enough and did a thorough search for reviews of barbershops and salons in Kuwait. I found one that was down in a ritzy part of town and went down there on my day off to get a haircut. I've never been to a high-end salon in the US, but I figure this must be what it is like. The place was very nice and I was offered a cappuccino before the haircut. I was also offered the opportunity to change into a bathrobe for my visit, but opted not to since I was just there for a haircut. I was given a very good haircut by Lebanese gentleman and also had him trim my goatee and mustache.  I had never had that done by anyone preferring to do it myself. An hour later, I walked out very satisfied with the service I received and in the end spent less than what I would have in the United States, including tip.
Having read this far, you're probably wondering why I have such an obsession with my hair. It is not really an obsession, as much as it is a result of how and when I grew up. When I was a teenager growing up on a military base, hair length was a sign of both freedom and rebellion. It never really occurred to me until much later in life that my father was very tolerant in comparison as I had friends who were forced to endure crew cuts.

I also grew up at that time between hippies and disco. So my hair, started off just being a wild shoulderlength mop and then went to a very stylized razor cut with every hair expected to remain in place at all times. Until the time I went into the Air Force, I wore my hair long and then for 20 years I was required to keep it shorter. Now, I am back to a point of freedom again and fortunately for me, unlike many of my friends, I still have my hair and due to the wisdom that I've acquired over the years is a beautiful shade of chrome.

Falkor's Run
My Sundays have gained a new routine. After breakfast, I take Falkor and head for the desert so that we can go on a hike together. This started as a way for me to let Falkor run free without a leash once in a while, but turned into an exercise opportunity for me that I have come to enjoy. I was doing yoga a couple times a week on the base, but I stopped when I could never make the starting time and was always arriving late. Also, I think that several of the women in the group looked down upon me because I did not have my own yoga mat. How can one truly be dedicated to yoga and not have their own mat?

 I drive down the highway toward Saudi Arabia, and then find a side road to pull off on that takes me into a section of open desert. The desert here is not like the Sahara or the Gobi, but large expanses of dirt with bits of small groundcover plants on it.  At least that is the way it looks now, once the temperature begins to rise I'm sure the plants will be gone.  I look for a spot that allows me to pull the car off near one of the many trails that exist. I then jump out with Falkor and we take a walk.

I generally stick straight to the trail, but Falkor likes to run off alongside about 50-100 feet out on either side of me crisscrossing the path as he explores. Until I started doing this, I had never seen Falkor mark any territory however, he has decided that every patch of desert he walks in is his and must be marked. But, most of all he likes to run.

I walk a mile and a half or so out, and then walk back.  Today, Falkor suddenly stopped and was whining -- I walked over to where he was off the path. He was looking down at a footprint in the dirt. A paw print, in which three of his could easily fit, was deeply embedded in the dirt. Falkor likes to chase and bark at cats, and birds; but I think this the first time that I've seen him confronted by something significantly bigger than he and it must've concerned him a bit. The tracks went off deeper into the desert so I was not worried about running into their creator and after a few minutes neither was Falkor, as he ran off to do more exploring.


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