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.

35 thoughts on “Haircut

  1. laurieanichols

    You’re establishing wonderful ties to your community, it sounds like such an adventure, every day, a new experience. This was a spectacular idea you had Chris, I’m so happy for you.

  2. loisajay

    Your language skills are quite amazing! You were able to make small talk….that is so wonderful. And $2 for a haircut. My husband goes the to the local barber school and pays $6. I am not going to tell him about the deal you are getting! Great post, Chris. Sounds like you are having a wonderful time.

  3. Dymoon

    life is lived very differently there, the pace,theday to day of the lucky you are, I really look forward to your observations.. curious wa that 2 dollars american or their money?


    I enjoyed your talk Chris everyday!
    Life is good in El Salvador and your Spanish seems to be stonger !
    The image is very nice!

  5. sheketechad

    Thank you for taking us vicariously along to meet these wonderful people and see sights many of us will not be able to visit. I love the daily life touches, and insight into another culture. Your posts brighten my week, Chris!

  6. Osyth

    I have tears in my eyes. This is such a beautiful post bringing to me the reality of the place you are in. The place that I was listening to a radio show about yesterday (and of course it focussed on violence and homicide and refugees). But this is so real. No change for $5 … that is the sharp perspective that we need to take on board when we sit at our laden tables and congratulate ourselves for being clever. At what? Being born in the more fortunate place. I choose to stay alert and you are educating me further. Thank you.

    1. milfordstreet Post author

      We won the geographic lottery when we were born. It is all random chance. I’ll write more about the school, but I think those students assigned to morning classes have a better chance at success than the afternoon classes. The afternoon classes are tired and most were working early in the morning. It is also hot and uncomfortable. Just think, the random chance of getting assigned to morning vs. afternoon classes can affect your life. Thank you…Cheers!

      1. Osyth

        We did indeed. And lottery it is – of course I would never have considered the probability of success being affected by time of day. Thank you. You give me much food for thought and consideration

  7. Miss Gentileschi

    What a lovely photograph of a beautiful little girl! 🙂 And I love how you write about your “adventure” 🙂 Letting someone cut your hair is always a trust issue, I think. It´s nice that she´d made a very good job – at an unbelievable price! Happy customers always come back… Cheers!
    P.S. Going to write you an email soon, promise! 🙂

  8. houtshi

    Cuty! Loved the article! I actually recently found out a local businesses directory which shows top rated local businesses including top hair salons in your city, it’s named Pajix , this is their website , I found my hair stylist on there, you can read other customers reviews, check location and hair salons prices and then book your appointments online! It’s really convenient


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