Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Long Walk Home

The office moves tomorrow from downtown Kuwait City (and a 10-minute walk from my flat) to AEON (Ass-End of Nowhere), an industrial area out past the Friday Market.

I took my final walk home from work tonight, against the backdrop of a lengthening evening, walking over sandy lots and squishy damp fields (carefully avoiding the sprinklers that stick up out of the grass). The call to prayer came from two directions. I'd stayed at work later than usual.

I never thought I'd say this in Kuwait—which frequently suffers from haze or dust—but it was a lovely evening. A perfect temperature, just cold enough to make me cross my arms across the front of my open jacket.

Ed Ward offered me a tip that I've used to examine nearly all of Bneid al-Gar. He said that he used to walk his dog on a different route every day, and he'd look at things. So I've been walking different ways home every day. I've crossed several dusty lots and seen many men from India, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka walking towards me. Sometimes they veer left to pass, while I veer right and we have to dance a little. Lots of them wrap scarves around their heads. This might mean they are from a certain region, or it might just mean that they are cold or avoiding dust.

I pass both apartment blocks and tiny shops every night. At home, we'd call the shops bodegas. Here, there's not many people using Spanish terms. One near my house sells mutton and has a sign advertising "Indian meat." Others sell bottled water, sodas, bananas, bread, and snacks, just like at home. Some makeshift shelters have set up recently—blue tarps over wooden frames. Men lounge around inside on pillows. I can't work out what is happening. At home I'd assume it was a demonstration or a revival. Here, I assume it is neither.

One of these walks resulted in newly colored hair roots. I'd walked under the highway, through a tunnel sparsely adorned in graphitti. I was headed to the Safir Hotel, hoping they'd have a decent gym. But before I got there, I saw a sign for "La Rouge Beauty Saloon and Fitness Center for Women."

I never did find the fitness center and I doubt it exists. But the "saloon" (for whatever reason, they are all saloons over here) existed.

"How much is it to color regrowth?" I asked the Filipino saloon receptionist.

"10 KD." That's $34.23.

"And a cut?"

"4 KD." $13.70.

Well, all right. I wasn't going to do better than that unless I flew to New York and went to see my student colorist.

But I sat terrified as I waited for Salwa the Lebanese colorist to finish her other client. Everyone else in the salon had dark hair. So did Salwa. My hair goes orange without the right mixture of color. Should I flee?

I didn't, reasoning that I'd had my hair colored all over the world. Never mind that I came home with horizontal bands of different blonds across my hair, like I was a tree. Never mind that it took me two years to get it all one color again, and even now it's debatably light-brown. It's just chemicals. It can't be that hard.

Salwa showed me a Wella chart. I pointed to the ash blonds and told her I needed a mixture to avoid orange. She laughed at me. I suddenly remembered the Kenyan man who had done a fine job on my hair in Nairobi.

"Have you colored blond before?"

"No, but I can learn." He was joking. Salwa was doing this now. She rolled her eyes and clasped my hand and led me to a sink. She mixed a concoction. And Indian girl covered me in plastic and, under Salwa's tutelage, smeared it all over my roots.

A half-hour later, Salwa was admiring her perfect work in front of a mirror. I'd gotten lucky and stumbled onto a great colorist. She walked me to the front desk, where the facial woman was doing the books.

"How much are facials?" I asked her.

I don't even remember her answer, because it was a lot more than color and there's no way I'd cough over that much. I know it's gross work to dig all the crap out of someone else's pores, but a Biore strip is a lot cheaper.

"Oh, but it includes facial, collagen, and whitening."

"Whitening?" I caught her eye and giggled.

A beat later, she and Salwa were laughing with me.


Don Hudson said...

No matter where you go, beauty is important.

Anonymous said...

Everyone with dark hair, (even if it's light brown,) gets orange if they try to lighten their hair. The reason for this is because in dark hair, the underlying pigment is red and as it gets stripped, (the first step in lightening hair,) the pigment gets removed and you see red, orange, yellow then white. It takes a lot of chemicals to strip pigment from hair and therefore, if you want to change your haircolour from dark to blond, I would always feel safest in a country where people have typically dark hair. This is because they will use stronger chemicals to strip the pigment. (Unless of course you're in Korea where it's fashionably acceptable to have orange hair.) People who have naturally lighter hair don't generally use strong enough chemicals because they don't generally need to.

I used to work in a drug store and colour my hair.

Marie Javins said...

I had no idea! That's really interesting. (And here I thought my propensity towards orangeness was special). That explains why they did a great job in Kuwait, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kenya but a lousy job in Estonia.

Salwa has my business for the next two months.