Mark Kaigwa

Posts Tagged ‘Barbershop’

See No Evil, Taste No Evil, Shave No Evil

In Perspective, Real Talk on May 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Every week I head over to Mbugua’s for my ‘cut’ it’s one of the highlight’s of my week. I usually arrive anytime between 8 and 9 PM.  clip_image001

The fluorescent glow seeps through the chicken wire of Mbugua’s barbershop onto the South B’s macadam road. And like flies to a flame, there’s always activity in the busy nano strip-mall of shacks and hutches. As you already know, Mbugua has his place right next to Sam’s. I tried to be diplomatic, going to Sam’s every once in a while, especially when I saw that Mbugua’s place has one or two customers waiting. But great stories and a guaranteed laugh locked me down at the ‘Good Look Barbershop’ for life.

It’s funny because Sam’s is actually a better looking barbershop. It has a better sound system, Mbugua didn’t have one for a while, and the collage of 2 inch-thick boards that separate them don’t do much as soundproofing, so if at Mbugua’s you have the pleasure of sharing Sam’s sound. That’s changed recently, with Mbugua getting his own sounds, but his dreams are still a while away. It’s always interesting trying to have a conversation in between two wanna-be sound systems. As if matatus weren’t bad enough. It makes either for an amusing conversation, or a frustating shouting match.

clip_image002So each week I step into his cozy, yet awkwardly leaning barber chair I ready myself to hear what a week he’s had, and what the latest is. This particular time, I found Mbugua at the video library next door to the butchery playing ‘poker’ with a couple guys. (In Kenya people know ‘Crazy Eights’ as ‘Poker’) I take one look at him and thought ‘Wow, things must be going well for him, he’s put on some weight, his face and his cheeks are looking a whole lot rounder’. I watched the game as he ‘ate’ their proceeds. I went ahead of him to wait for him at his place as he wrapped up the game. I hear an outcry that Mbugua has to come back because this guy has no money left. Mbugua had pocketed a cool Ksh. 800 ($10).

Mbugua arrives with an awkward smirk on his face. I took a closer look at his face, and saw some disparity. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something looked off. I asked Mbugua how he’d been, and staring at his face through the mirror in front of me I realised one side of his face was swollen. He still had this smile on his face, so I didn’t ask, but it was hard not to stare. There was no visible bruising, so I became curious to what might have caused it.

" Mzeiah huskii meno yangu ilikuwa imenisumbua.

(Man, you wouldn’t believe how my tooth was killing me)" He said. "

Sikuwa nikikula, natafuna na side moja.

( I was barely eating; chewing with only one side of my mouth)"

I proceeded to laugh, he says things in such a farcical way I couldn’t help it. It didn’t take long for me to realise this was a bit of a serious moment, but he’s never to be taken too seriously, so I laughed again.

I told him I thought he was doing well for himself, putting on weight. He chuckled. Mbugua said he’d not been able to sleep for nights and had trouble eating, as his face got swollen, and the pain got worse. He found himself in a quandary between removing the tooth ‘kienyeji’, which amounted to removing it himself, or going to a dentist. I kept bursting into laughter as he continued to narrate his experience to me.

" Nilishindwa kulala. Siwezi lalia uso side hii

(I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t lie down on the swollen side of my face)" He said.

He had to lie on one side of his face at night, he said. And his mouth became so hot, he had a big jug of water next to where he lay on the floor, waking up every 10 minutes to take another mouthful to cool him. My laughter at this point almost cost me another haircut, he almost made a ‘mistake’ so I decided to hold it in as he continued the story.

"Eh, sikuwa veri. Asubuhi  Asubuhi nikachukua ma-painkillers na bado. Naskia tu kichwa ni ka inalia ‘pu-pu-pu’"

(Man, I wasn’t in great shape. In the morning I took some painkillers and I still wasn’t good. I felt like my head would throb ‘pu-pu-pu’."

He later realised that he had to go to the dentist and proceeded to book an appointment with one. I asked him what kind of dentist this was, he didn’t say much. But I was pretty sure it wasn’t some loony with a couple syringes and some of those ‘toothbrush branches.’ You know, some kook with some mwarubaine for anaesthesia and other ‘herbs’ with a ratchet/secateurs for ‘tools’…Scary.

So he got the tooth removed, and Mbugua was quick to tell me I hadn’t seen anything yet. Things had looked far worse the day before. I quipped asking if his head felt heavier on one side. He gestured that his clippers could make a couple mistakes on my head to make it ‘heavier on one side.’ I went silent. For that moment.

He said it was better now; he had become a bit more used to the meds. But for his unlucky clients the day before, he was feeling much drowsier from the first doses of the medicine. It also didn’t help that he didn’t have a mirror up. ( So the clients had no idea what he was doing)

"Kwanza huskii niliget customer mwingine hapo mpya! Hajainyolewa na mimi. Nikamskiza mastory, nikamweka kut poa.Karibu nimguze maskio. Si ningeitana. Hao wengine hata walisema hawajali, wataniamini tu."

(Can you believe I got a new client? (with no mirror) He’d never been shaven by me. I talked some stories with him and gave him a good cut. But I almost sliced his ear, aww man, I would’ve had it then. For the other (customers) they said they didn’t care. They would trust me."

I could imagine going, getting a shave, and trusting him without ever seeing the finished product. I’d trust him. I wouldn’t think twice about it. Don’t know how the new guys felt about it that day.

This is probably the edited version of his travels, but it was such a hilarious story I was compelled to share. I continue to witness to Mbugua one step at a time. He’s a bit of a showoff and doesn’t hesitate to tell me that he has a sugar-mummy or his total disinterest in marriage. So it’s all baby steps. Baby steps.

See no Evil. Taste no Evil. Shave no Evil

Penguins by estherdh

 

Photos by Oaxania, Lotor-Matic and Esterdh

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Mbugua Gets a Good Look

In Perspective, Real Talk on December 29, 2008 at 8:15 pm

I had the honour of christening my barbershop in South B ‘GoodLook Barbershop’ this evening. My barber- Mbugua was one of the hundreds of people affected by the government’s amazingly orchestrated demolition scheme in South B.

Destroying all standing structures on the ‘Road Reserve’ their tact was simple but effective. Tuesday whilst collecting occasional bribes and mingling with the residents they hear the familiar jibe “We’re coming to bomoa (demolish) you guys next Monday, you know.” Amidst banter, negotiation of kick-backs, and such.

They came that very Friday, and didn’t leave a single standing structure, save for the Container turned Shop outside Zanzibar Lane, and the Butchery – They had to really jitetea ( plead their case) with meat that would go bad, fridges, and other amenities. So they stood, and I came that evening to find my barber Mbugua gone, his partner barber Sam gone and Mbugua’s mentor, and probably the most popular barber in South B- Kinyash gone.

Sad, and with a gruff, hairy face I went my way. I enjoy getting cut at the barbershop. It’s a social thing I guess in its own way, with witty discussions and all the repartee of a salon, this is the testosterone-filled equivalent.

So, it broke my heart the next morning to come and find Sam and all the other people affected by the demolition. They had a little protest march. I got glimpses through the white gates of Zanzibar Lane. I met him at the matatu stage and I told him to stay strong. I promised that if he set up again that I would pass by and ‘promote’ him and Mbugua- they had been partners at this barbershop for little more than 8 months. But Sam’s brother is the one who owned the business.

He gave me his phone number. And with a meeting tomorrow where I just had to look the part, not alongside all this gruff, rugged and manliness crawling over my chin and jaws. It’s too distracting to the common mwananchi, but it’s a great disguise with all the attention I seem to be drawing from a popular billboard right now 😉

I came this evening, they had electricity, but alas, Mbugua and Sam who were the tag-team that formed ‘Lucky Barbershop’ were no more. They were together but in separate shanties. A shrewd lady had actually demolished her own wall, built up shanties and was to rent out these kiosks to the previous owners, at twice the price of the rent.

She was now renting it out at Ksh.7000 a month, that’s around $90 a month. Meagre it may seem, but imagine paying that from when you paid around $30 a month. It was a leap, but like in any business, Mbugua and Sam stuck to their individual guns and would stick it out.

So I pass by Mbugua’s and it’s barely complete, he just got the electricity done, two fluorescent lights strapped hastily across the mabati roof. It’s 8:30 PM, the eerie light bathing the piles of sand and ballast outside his barbershop. I see the words ‘Barber’ painted in a fading red, probably the something oxide used that morning to make sure edges of the mabati doesn’t rust.

And I get my cut. And yes. It’s a good look. But in between our conversation there’s the feeling that he’s going to have to really compete with Sam on this one. I haven’t been into Sam’s, but I can even feel that Mbugua’s clippers aren’t as sharp. My hair doesn’t give him any problems, but if I had nappier hair I wouldn’t be smiling. Sam’s also has music, the radio plays and leaks into our stall. It’s got some bass so I know he’s got something decent on his side.

I look at Mbugua’s side and I see a speaker with wires showing while it sits on top of a wood base around a foot and a half off the ground. ” We’re going to do it big this time,” he says “I’m going to get a DVD (LCD Screen with a Video CD Player) and I’m going to play whatever my customers want.” So if I’m feeling a little mellow that day, he’ll play me some blues as I get my cut, or some reggae to ease my soul after the troubling day.

Good Look is on it’s way to looking better. Let’s hope it works out for him.

Mbugua’s got dreams, and God know we all do.