Typically before a trip, I get me hair cut. But being away for two months, I knew I’d need to get my hair cut here in El Salvador. The mother of a student has a small shop in the local market. I walk down and locate the shop, Imagine Salon. Good name. It is maybe ten foot square. The student and another girl are there. The student is so excited to see me. “Teacher, teacher!” She tells the older girl that I am her teacher. The mother is elsewhere. She brings me in and tells me to have a seat. There is no barber chair, just two office chairs with wheels. The one I sit in has bad hydraulics and I slowly sink towards the ground.
The girls have to leave for a school program and I wait for the mother. When she arrives, she is maybe thirty years old with long brown hair and looks to be about seven months pregnant. She has a nice smile and a pleasant voice. She greets me and asks what I want. I repeat the words that Joaquin taught me, “Quiero un corte de pelo; Lo quiero no muy corto; No muy corto de las patas.” “I want a haircut, not very short, don’t cuts the sideburns short.” “Patas” means “legs” but in this context also means sideburns.
She puts the cape on me and gets out the clippers. She goes all over the back and sides and then trims the top with scissors. At the end of each step, she asks if I think it is short enough. “Si”. We make small talk as she cuts, asking about family and such. We talk about the heat. It is important to note that I am having my haircut in an un-air conditioned market. Once she put the cape on, there is no ventilation below my neck. Sweat is dripping down my back and face as she cuts. Finally, the cape comes off and a feeling of great relief ensues.
“Lava?” she asks. Wash? “Si, por favor”. She has me get up and moves the chair to a wash sink. There is a typical wash basin for a hair salon with a cutout for the neck, but not a hose. There is no running water. She pours water from a separate basin and wets my hair. Then, she lathers and and rinses it with water from the other basin. She dries my head, neck and even reaches down my shirt to get water that dripped down my back. She combs it and makes it look nice.
I get up. “Cuesta?” I ask. The cost?
“Dos dolares” – Two dollars.
I don’t have singles and hand her a five dollar bill. She has to send out for change. That’s a little disturbing. Am I my first customer of the day, that she does not have three dollars? Perhaps, she had other customers and money but spent it in the market. I feel bad and would like to give her a tip or more, but she would likely refuse and leave us both feeling badly.
Gracias, salud – Thank you, goodbye.
I made the portrait of her daughter in the shop while we waited. I’ve been printing many of decent looking portraits for people. This is a bit of a challenge, but I get the sense most people don’t have easy access to making prints themselves.