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… well, ok, not exactly. But for someone who has had waist-length honey-blonde fairytale princess hair her entire adult life, it certainly feels that drastic.

I’d always told myself that on the first day of the zombie apocalypse, I’d put my hair up into a ponytail and saw it off with a machete for ease and safety. Short of that, long hair was here to stay. I had been planning on getting it shortened a wee bit before I got to Kenya, but I couldn’t because I wanted it to be all purtiful for my college graduation (which ended up being the day before. So yeah.)

When I got here, I just never got around to it. I hemmed and hawed and made excuses. But you can only wake up with all of your hair stuck completely to your face with sweat so many times before going “This has got to change.” Washing that much hair in a bucket sucks. It’s super-hot already on the Kenyan Coast, and promises only to get hotter in the next month or two as summer kicks into high gear. After trying to do my laundry without a hairtie the other day because my last one broke (and thus ending up getting as much laundry soap and brown water in my hair as on my clothes) I realized: THIS MUST END NOW.


See? I had so much hair it WOULDN’T ALL FIT IN THE FRAME. It just keeps going. Forever.

So I marched myself down to the local kinyozi (barber/hairdresser/salon). I didn’t know anything about them except that my neighbor’s sister possibly works there, and they looked like they had scissors. A few other people were there getting braids done or their nails painted. I had my hair pulled up in a utilitarian get-this-off-the-back-of-my-neck-NOW bun, but when I arrived, I pulled out the pencil holding it up and did the slow-mo hair-waterfall head-shake for the last time. All other activity in the kinyozi stopped. As I flopped into the chair and tried to explain how short I wanted it, a small cluster of Kenyan women gathered discreetly in the back to watch me with expressions that ranged from intrigued to bewildered. Why is the mzungu chopping off all that nice hair?


The last moments of The Hair. Excuse the sweaty, red, make-up-less-ness. I look like that all the time here.

I had wanted it roughly collarbone length, but when the stylist started cutting, I could tell it was going to be way, way shorter. Too late now. I popped in my iPod earbuds and set it to shuffle. First song: “Point of No Return,” from the Phantom of the Opera Musical. Second song: “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” by Shakira.

It’s almost like it knew.

The whole process took about half an hour – a sweaty, tense half-hour. The stylist pronounced “done” more than once before realizing one side was notably shorter than the other and rushing to make adjustments. After all that, the end result waaas …


AAAAH! NI MFUPI SANA!

I expected to be horrified until I got used to it. I expected to have to remind myself of its heat-dispersal function for a good long while until I grew to tolerate it. But really? It’s kind of cute.


Awwwwww.

When it’s wet, it’s almost shoulder-length. When it’s dry, it’s more like chin-length. I wish it were a bit longer – it’s currently too short to put in a ponytail, which is a pain – but I kind of dig it. And if I wake up one day hating it, I have roughly two years to grow it out before anyone in the States has to see it. It’s not like getting a tattoo on your face. It self-corrects.

My only REAL regret from the whole experience is not remembering until much, much too late to ask the folks to save the cuttings so I could mail it to Locks of Love or some equivalent. Although the nice folks at the post office already think I’m a little weird; wonder what they’d do if I showed up with a bag of hair?


Poor, poor Cousin It. He never even saw the lawnmower coming.

So here’s a question for any of you who’ve had short hair: wtf do I do with it now? Other than “down and brushed” or “down and not brushed,” what are my options for making it cuter with effort? Suggestions?

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My last couple of semesters in college, I didn’t have much time to read for pleasure. Certainly not as much as I would have liked. I was far too consumed with compulsively joining clubs, playing Man Behind the Curtain for a crisis counseling hotline, working in a psychology lab, and taking so many credits that my friends’ rage at my advisor for signing off on my INSANE schedule fell only just short of a desire to slash her tires. In Kenya, I’m busy, but I also have free time (WACKY CONCEPT I know). It’s been a joy to rediscover how much I love books here. Since being given a Kindle for graduation (BEST GIFT EVER, BEST INVENTION EVER) I’ve been able to break my dependence on paper books – saving me space, money, and trips to the tourist-heavy bookstores in nearby Malindi. (They do still have a certain charm that tickles my inner bibliophile, but I digress.)

My Kindle, an assortment of care packages, the “Honor Library” at the Peace Corps office, and a bustling network of tome trading among the volunteers has allowed me to finish the following thus far:
* The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sachs
* Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
* Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card
* Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
* Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
* The Constant Gardener, by John Le Carre
* American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
* Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen
* Mercy, by Jodi Picoult
* Picture of Dorian Grey, by Oscar Wilde
* What is the What, by Dave Eggers
* Africa United: Passion, Politics, and the First World Cup in Africa, by Steve Bloomfield
* Skipping Towards Gomorrah, by Dan Savage
* The Red Queen, by Phillipa Gregory
* Finger-lickin’ Fifteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel, by Janet Evanovich
* War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
* Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, by Laurence Gonzales
* Zoo Stories: Life in the Gardens of the Captives, by Thomas French

I’m also one of those people who tends to read a half-dozen (or more) books simultaneously to give myself choice of selection, so I also have in progress:
* White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, by William Easterly
* Chronicles of a Plague, Revisited: AIDS and Its Aftermath, by Andrew Holleran
* No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, by Reza Aslan
* God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens
* The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
* Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
* The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peacekeeping 1948-1990, by Javier Perez de Cuellar
* Histories of the Hanged: Kenya’s Dirty War and the End of an Empire, by David Anderson
* The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

You’d think this would be enough to satisfy me, BUT NO. I’m currently trying to wheedle Three Cups of Tea (by Greg Mortenson) out of one friend and just stole A History of God (by Karen Armstrong) from another. To say nothing of the small heap of paperbacks currently languishing next to my bed, waiting for that glad day when they’ll finally be picked like the fat kid for a kickball team.

I’m insatiable.

My question for you, dear blog follower, is this: what are YOU reading? Is it any good? Would you recommend it/should I add it to my Christmas wishlist/should I scour the second-hand book market in Mombasa for it? My entertainment is in your hands.

If on the other hand, YOU’RE looking for a good time (literarily speaking), I suggest you check out my recommended reading list on the “Frequently Asked Questions” portion of this blog. Mostly you’ll find stuff about Africa, but hey, it’s a big topic. Enjoy.

I honestly have no right to complain. Compared to a great many volunteers, I’m pretty much in The Big City. I have to walk five minutes to get to a paved road where I can catch a matatu. Fifteen minutes to the fruit dukas. Less than twenty to the general store. But still, I yearned for more range and flexibility in my movements. This isn’t going to work when it’s a-hundred-and-screw-this degrees in December, I thought myself as I painstakingly schlepped home plastic bags of groceries by hand. What inspired me to buy three liters of milk, two liters of juice, five kilos of rice, AND a watermelon when all I needed was toothpaste?

So … I bought a bicycle.

Please hold your applause.

Before you start doing the mental math of Complete Clutz + Metal Death Machine – Seat Belts and Airbags = We’re So Thrilled The Doctors Said Megan Might Be Out Of Her Bodycast In Time To Celebrate Her Fortieth Birthday, I have a helmet. And BY GOD I WEAR THAT HELMET. And when I don’t, I WALK.

Want to get more strange looks than you ever have ever in your life? Step one: be a mzungu. Step two: walk your bicycle through downtown Malindi because you don’t have your helmet and therefore can’t ride it to the matatu stage. Step three: PROFIT. Someone even helpfully took me aside and offered to teach me how to ride it, since clearly if I knew, I wouldn’t be pushing it down the sidewalk. The logic breaks down slightly when one tries to figure out why I’d buy a brand new shiny awesome bicycle if I had no earthly idea how to make it go, but there’s no accounting for the mind of wazungu sometimes.

It is black. It is sleek. It is beautiful. It caused a small furor reminiscent of dropping a chum bucket into a deepwater trench inhabited by tiger sharks when I walked it past the tree where all the mechanic fundis hang out. And … it needs a name.

My iPod has a name – Sophanisba (after the enigmatic leopard lady of the 1914 epic Italian silent film, Cabiria)

My computer has a name – Krycek (after … well, if I have to tell you, it’s not worth it.)

Even the millipede who used to live on my ceiling had a name – Ronaldo (after Cristiano, because the image of a centipede playing football makes me giggle in a ridiculous and unbecoming fashion.)

SO! Here’s the part where you come in: got any suggestions for my new bicycle’s name? Put ‘em in the comments.

Maybe Alejandro. We’ll see.

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The opinions expressed on this blog do not represent those of the Peace Corps, the United States government, or any other organization. The author is solely responsible for all content on this blog.
Yours truly