One of our favorite things about traveling is all the little encounters we have that make us stop in our tracks, scratch our heads, and say, “Wow, this is so different than home.” After living strictly within our own comfort zone for so many years, focused on our workaday lives, we now find ourselves refreshed, over and over, as the folks we meet so far from our backyard show us that there are other ways to live.
I’ve been wanting to get a haircut for a while, and as a full-time traveler this is always a great opportunity to have a long conversation with someone from wherever we are visiting. More important than finding a top quality salon, I’m always hoping to find someone that will tell us a little about the community we’re in or share something about themselves.
Yesterday, as we wandered the quiet, dusty streets of a small Costalegre coastal village between Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad taking photographs, we asked a few people where to get a haircut. They all said to go to “Lorena” and they gave us directions. In our usual lazy way, we didn’t wind up on her street until dusk. A group of people sitting on the sidewalk around a folding table with fruit laid out for sale pointed us towards her shop.
Unfortunately, it was now so late in the day that her shop was closed. We shrugged. Oh well. Tomorrow!
“No, we’ll find her for you!” One of the guys by the fruit stand said to us. He asked his friends if they knew where she was and then yelled her name a few times. A few minutes later, she appeared at the far end of the block, hustling towards us and waving. The fruit guys grinned.
“Come in, come in.” She said as she opened the door to her shop. She began clearing some things from around her work area to make a place for me to sit down. The room was about 9′ x 9′ and stacked with manicure equipment, brushes, combs, a few random cups, a chair and other stuff piled up.
After asking about my hair (I’ve learned my hair style is called “cola del pato” or “tail of the duck”), we began to have a lively conversation in Spanish about life in America and life in Mexico and the close similarities and vast differences between these two worlds.
She had grown up on a ranch far out in the countryside, one of twelve kids — ten girls and two boys — along with lots of horses, cows, burros and fruit trees. Despite having no electricity, the family found plenty of diversions among themselves, always sitting around in the same configuration at night, mother here, father there, and kids circled around in between. Outside, there were a bunch of tree stumps, and they would all sit together on the stumps and sing songs under the stars.
Her mother and grandmother had always worn traditional, colorful dresses, long sleeved and well below the knee, and her father was very strict with the kids. He died when she was a teenager, and when he died her world changed forever. The family moved to the city and she was shocked by the stress of urban life and the different interests of her peers at school. She missed the fresh fruits from the garden and fresh meat and milk from the cows.
As I listened to her tale, I could just imagine the adjustments she had to make as she moved first to Mexico City then to Ensenada and Tijuana, and eventually to California.
“It was all wonderful.” She said warmly. “I learned so much. About people. About cultures… And I learned what I liked. In California I made a lot of money, I wore fancy clothes and makeup. I had lots of beautiful shoes. Now I just wear flip-flops. I like to live in a small town where life is calm and quiet.”
By now Mark had decided to get a trim too, and her sheers snipped around his ears as she went on. “America and Mexico are very different,” she said. “In Mexico, out in the rural countryside, it is a man’s world. The man is everything. Girls are told they don’t need an education because their husband will provide.”
And then she said something about women and keeping a rifle in the corner of the house, and she laughed. Oh how I wished I understood better. She was on a roll, and I didn’t want to ask her to repeat. She had said either that women in the country kept a rifle in the corner so they could hold their own with the men, or that women who lived alone kept a rifle for protection. Gosh, I don’t know, and now I so wish I had had her explain further…
“But in America, In my neighborhood in California, I didn’t know my neighbors,” She continued. “We waved and said “hello” every day but that was all. We didn’t know each other like we do here. And in the US, when a store is closed, it’s closed! Neighbors don’t go yelling for a shop owner to come open it up for customers after hours.”
So true. Here we were in her shop because of the fruit sellers in the street. Not so at Great Clips and Supercuts back home. I usually end up reading a few magazine articles while I wait for a stylist to become available. The stylists at home all commute to work, and who knows where any of them live. Certainly not in the rooms behind Great Clips!
As she finished Mark’s hair, she invited us to go camping in the mountains with her. “I’ll show you some beautiful places. We can sleep in tents close to nature. We’ll make tortillas over a fire and you can meet my horses.” What a great invitation!
As she swept up all our locks on the floor, she said the haircuts were 40 pesos each (about $3.20 USD). For us, the experience was priceless.