Hello Africa, Goodbye Hair

I shaved my head — all 10 inches of my thick, brown hair — four days after I moved to Africa. Why?

1) It’s gettin’ hot in here!
I was already dying of heat stroke in the Kombos, the coolest part of The Gambia, and I hadn’t even been up country where it is 15 degrees hotter and more humid. My hair was heavy and sticking to my back in all sorts of gross the moment I stepped out from the Peace Corps Office air conditioning, and I knew the air-con was a commodity I was about to lose.

2) Two words: Bucket bath
While I had a shower at the Peace Corps Transit House in the capital for a few days, I knew that was another commodity that was about to disappear. Sites where volunteers live are rural, and that means it’s bucket baths for the next two years for me! My hair is as thick as a rope and I couldn’t imagine trying to rinse the suds by pouring a cup of water over my head.

3) What is beauty?
My image is important to me and sometimes I think I might worry too much about what others think of me.  I wanted to challenge myself to be less wrapped up in appearances while also changing my perception of beauty.

All the volunteers cheered me on for the go ahead the night before we moved up country to our training villages. Everyone came outside to watch the transformation and their support calmed me down since I couldn’t look in a mirror during the big cut. Everyone oohed and ahhed and even said I look like an exotic model (isn’t that nice?!).

First cut -- done!

First cut — done!

Ahh!

Ahh!

Apparently this entire process was hilarious.

Apparently this entire process was hilarious.

Whoah!

Whoah!

I actually love the new do and have no regrets, especially since I am sweating in parts I didn’t know I had in this 37-degree heat (98 degrees Farenheit) with 85 percent humidity. My look is so is easy to manage in this heat and new lifestyle. It’s also easier to wrap my head in a head tie which the locals love.

All done!

All done!

My two friends Meg and Mich also jumped all in. Meg is Baldy #1 after sneaking off and shaving her already short hair that night before. Mich helped convince me to cut mine, since she had done it before for Bald is Beautiful. I am Baldy #2 and she is Baldy #3, so we are now a little harem of baldies with another trainee, Cody.

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Meg, Mich and Me.

Club Baldies!

Club Baldies!

–JDF