We squeezed out of the taxi packed with four in the back seat and two in the passenger, and walked in the middle of Clerks Quarters.

People shuffled the streets shoulder to shoulder and merchants shopped their wares at every turn. Walters grabbed my hand and lead me off the road.

Now, when I hear “salon,” my mind flashes to the Saturdays spent at Hair 4 U in South Philly where gossip was the soundtrack to buzzing hair dryers, and the latest Essence magazines made the hour-long wait a little more bearable.

I stood in front of a blue shack.

My head bent around it like a crane hoping this was the waiting lounge. When I stepped on the porch the shampoo girl nearly tripped over me to go pitch water from the well.

Take those shoes off!” the stylist barked.

Cameroonians are obsessed with clean shoes. Most wear sandals and walk the rocky, muddy land with the deft of a tightrope artist. I left my Nikes outside beside my American standards.

When she wasn't yelling at her teenage assistant, the stylist was feeding her baby from a thermos filled with instant noodles and watching Nigerian soap operas. I was led to the side of the shack and had ice cold water dumped on my half-twisted hair.

She pulled on my hair. Hard. My eyebrow shot up sending a message to ease up.

Most women here wear wigs and weaves. Natural hairstyles don't go beyond a close-crop shave. I declined the braided extensions. She wrapped my curly coils around her index finger, staring at each strand like something foreign.

“We keep your virgin curls.”

I sat down like a pig to the slaughter. The baby who was eating noodles on the bamboo couch is now strapped on his mother's back. The shampoo girl, a clumsy girl who shrunk like a violet under the weight of stylists' tirades, grabbed a bag of straws.

My ears worked overtime to decipher the ladies' conversation, which was spoken wholly in pidgin, an African dialect that sounds like Caribbean Patois, where words run into each other at rapid speed (check out the video for a listen).

I gave up ease dropping, feeling like I was at a Korean nail salon, and prayed the hair dryer that knocked out the electricity every 5 minutes wouldn't torch my hair.

I handed the stylist 2000 CFA, which is around $4. She smiled. Stuffed the money in her bra and went back to her soap operas.

(Pics and Vid below) 

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Yes. The baby is sound asleep on her back at the 0:05 mark.