Here's the story:
So, Heidi, CJ, Alyssa, Holly, and I are sitting around the table a few nights ago just chatting about the day, when Nema walks in. She had just gotten her hair done and she looked gorgeous! She explained how the ladies braid her hair and then sew more hair into it- African women really make their hair an art form! We were admiring her do when someone mentions that it would be fun to get our hair braided. Now this has been kind of a taboo topic since Holly got her hair braided in the first few weeks of being here and it didn't quite turn out like she had hoped... it lasted a who 2 days and was pretty painful. Well, as soon as one of the girls mentioned it, I jumped right on the band wagon (I'd been considering it, but hadn't told anyone), and pretty soon we decided we were all going to do it together! So the next morning we were all going to go into the market and buy our "mesh", which is just fake hair. This was a first for all of us!
The next morning, we woke up and no one seemed quite as excited as they were the night before. That was a little discouraging, but no matter, I was going to do it! So our day was an adventure trying to figure out how to get my hair braided. We ended up right across the street from IBB.
6 hours of sitting cross legged on the concrete, having multiple women tug, twist, and untangle a mess tied to head! It was an experience! I have a whole new appreciation for the women who have this done every 2 weeks. That's right, it only lasts for about 2 weeks! I didn't cry, but I sure made some funny faces (as chronicled by CJ)! When it was over, all we could say was "Worth it!" The wonderful thing about that 6 hours was that it was a great bonding with those women! They knew I'd never had my hair braided and they had never braided a "toubabou's" hair. Seems to me that's just the beginnings of building relationships here.
It's so interesting seeing how people react just a little differently to me now. Ivorians seem to do a double take. In the States, I would look pretty funny, but here I look normal! At about the 3rd hour, a man sitting next door looked over and smiled. He asked if I was getting ready to marry an Ivorian! I just laughed and said no, but later I realized that this small thing is an act of acceptance of their way of life. It's the same reaction we get when we tell the mango ladies down the street that we'll be back often because we're living here for many months. That reaction just makes me really happy! I've always just been a tourist, or a traveler, but to just BE somewhere for awhile holds so much potential!