My Favorite Days

Street scene, Xela
Street scene, Xela

It is an inevitability that hair grows and will need to be cut. Abroad, trips to the barber shop mark some of my favorite days and memories. It keeps the incentive high for me to stick with the youthful short chop of a hairstyle. It is easy, hassle-free, and keeps me from looking like an itinerant wanderer, hash hiding hippy, and it means I get regular trips to the barbarias. In Guatemala there are Barbers for the men, and different Salons for women. It is like what I imagine the days of old being like, and even includes either the same barber poles, or the signifying rainbow pattern.

Two lone chairs stand in the middle of the clean and empty barbershop facing opposite walls with mirrors. The man jumped up from his waiting stool in the corner and quickly motioned me to have a seat. If my hair were not so easy to cut, the language barrier would not prove too complicated, the room is lined with pictures of styles and options. But, I just need to know how to say the number 3 guard on a trimmer, and we are off to the races. He is moving at a pace suited for the dark, shiny black hair of the locals; my blond mop stutters the blades. In minutes my hair is just a pile of fragments on the ground or upon my apron. I feel refreshed and clean. This would suffice to make me appreciate these hair-cutting days, but we don’t stop. This is a barber shop, and so out comes the straight-blade razor to manicure the hairline and sideburns. I relish in the care they take on my gringo head, which is sitting a bit to high for his slight stature; I slouch in the chair so he can reach my head. With a mirror, he lets me see his craft. It pleases me, and so on goes the aftershave, a quick brush around my face and neck, and then I am up and on my way. Depending on the barbershop, my local treatment sets me back either just above or below 2 dollars. I step into the sun and feel particularly self-conscious; a tall buzz cut gringo in a land of short men with slicked up black hair. It is fun. I can’t wait for another six weeks to pass and I can go explore another barbershop, maybe even in a new country.

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