Painkillers. Check! Phone battery full to listen to music and tweet the pain away. Check! Mentally and physically prepared. Check! Well, you might be wondering what I’m going on and on about ,aye? It’s the torture every woman who braids her hair goes through most of the time. Getting one’s hair did is really not a fun experience and braiding takes a whole lot of time, and if you are not the patient type like me, you prefer to have your hair braided in one of those markets that do it in a record three hours tops. I will stop yapping much and help you picture the scenario.
Scene 1: Alights from the stage at Kenyatta Market with my big afro and suddenly from nowhere a battalion of women bombard me each one calling me, aunty, mrembo and the guilt breaker mtoto wangu.
Me:”Hapana niko sawa sitaki kushukwa” (for my foreign readers it means, no I’m ok I don’t want my hair braided)
Women’s Army:“ Tutafanya kazi smart utakuwa mrembo sana. Sema tu uko na pesa ngapi hatuwezi kosana bei.” (ok I’m really tired of translating now, but it means the women then try to convince me saying how they’ll work wonders to my hair and I should not worry about the price we will come to some sort agreement)
Pretends to make a phone call while walking so fast like a killer with a saw is behind me waiting to cut me up. They finally get the hint and leave me alone. Sighs in relief, I can finally concentrate on who I was going to visit in hospital without thinking I’m about to be hijacked and held hostage with combs and braids on my afro. Poor lil afro all traumatized now.
Scene 2: Decides to finally get my hair braided and wakes up early on a Saturday to go to a different hair braiding market. Remembered to take my painkillers beforehand for the pain that I was about to go through. Alights at the Umoja Market Stage and before I can even blink, one woman jumps in fronts of me (tempted to show her my Ninja moves) another one grabs my hand all of them calling me aunty (ok why the hell do they insist on that name) manages to yank away from their grip and focus on who I was sent to get my hair did. I don’t know how she looks like, her phone is not going through and my selective amnesia forgot which stall no. she owns. Thank God for small mercies, I recognize that voice shouting; Aunty! Aunty! Kuja tukushuke. I ask her if she’s*censored* she says yes and I finally feel relieved as the women staring at my afro like they are lions and were just about to pounce on this powerless antelope(my afro not me)And the drama unfolds:
Miss Afro:” Nimetumwa na nani, kushukwa hapa since mlimshuka vizuri” (I’ve been sent by so and so to get my hair braided since you did her hair so well)
Braiding Lady:“Karibu sana, unataka za ngapi? Kuna za 5,6,7,8 na thao sema ile size umependa.”(wait am I choosing the braids I want as if I’m shopping for a dress? Oh my bad! For those who don’t understand Swahili, braiding lady asks me which size of braids I want and for how much since they come in different prices)
Miss Afro:“Nataka za 8. Na niko na haraka kidogo, kama mnaeza harakisha itakuwa vizuri.” (I’m in a hurry so if you can do a quick job, I would appreciate) Here I am thinking to myself that she is the one doing my hair, apparently she’s like an apprentice and her job is to scout for interns to do her work for her while she does a touch and go on your hair while gossiping.
I sit outside my braids snatched away from me, a towel thrown on my lap with braids smeared in Vaseline and I’m asked to divide for another braiding lady. Drat! There goes my tweeting away, and I can’t listen to music either because of the loud annoying station that acts like they have a 4gb flash disk worth of music also known as Kiss 100 on full blast. “Shoot me now!”I mutter to myself. I’m given an old Parent’s magazine that should be archived, to read. Finally braiding lady outsources two other braiding ladies and they are on top of my head, gossiping while forgetting it’s your hair they are pulling when they start hi-5ing each other. Suddenly, they get hungry and start eating chapatis on top of your head(this women can eat!)they then call for help to help with the finishing. Now I have four women on top of my head! Wait, scratch that, I have two women and four thighs on my face. You see, when it comes to twisting, the quickest way to finish them is by one woman applying Vaseline on her thighs, and rolling the braids on it. Mind you, it’s your hair being pulled like that to be able to reach one’s thigh. The braiding lady then demands;”Panua miguu” Ok, this now starts sounding like I’m auditioning for a softcore porn movie! My legs are spread in such a way her body can fit, and one of the finishers thigh can be up in my face, with a stench from her vajayjay that makes you want to pass out. There’s always a welding shop nearby, and the noise starts driving you insane, the gossiping and laughing on top of your head, the pulling and forced to do some Kama Sutra flexing muscles stunts is just too much. Once done in a record 3 hours, they pull your hair back, and dab a hot towel on your scalp. You leave there with your eyes looking all Chinese from the pulling, your hairline slowly fading and you want to kill someone.
Braiding Lady:Finally she comes back just to take the cash and says;” Na uko smart, utarudi lini tena nikushuke?”
Miss Afro now tightly braided: “I’ll call you.” As I leave there in so much pain and about to overdose on painkillers, vowing never to braid my hair again. Four weeks later, phones braiding lady again to make an appointment.
Peace and blessings always, Vionna.