Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A BARBER FROM CUENCA

MUNDANE CHORES WHILE TRAVELING

 The actual day to day business involved with travel often touches on various necessary domestic chores. Beds and sleeping we’ve already covered, transport? Hardly  described as a chore, but hey, hair and  grooming...now there is an interesting subject.

I’ve taken you through my daughter’s experience in Bombay  when a shampoo and dry involved a vacuum cleaner and a quick rush to the lady’s loo to douse her head under the cold water tap; On supermarket shelves I’ve searched shampoo articles in foreign languages invariably agonising on the wrong choice. 
 And I’ve shown you the itinerant barber and his tools in a remote open air market in China, but the most interesting and entertaining  anecdote would have to be the Reluctant Travellers experience in Ecuador.
The Reluctant Traveller is a no fuss person, back home his greying hair is butchered by a retired barber friend who does the work,  short back sides and top, in our front sun room along with other local cronies who front up for the gossip and the convenience.

The barber also a neighbour and old friend is particularly fond of a scotch or two so its always wise to grab him long before the sun has risen over the yardarm.

So faced with a three month stay in South America it goes without saying  my Reluctant Traveller will at some time be in need of shearing. The inevitable day arrived, son in law Chris offered to tag along to interpret and get himself a shave at the same time.  I tagged along to photograph proceedings.

My daughter had spied a barber shop up past the local  vegetable market that appealed to her sense of antiquity.  Original furniture, implements, advertising and obviously original owners as well.  

This would be fun I remember thinking, an eighty year old customer being attended to by an 80 plus barber.  At least I couldn’t see any scotch bottles lying around.
A close shave

While I read the local papers

 
Son in law Chris scored the younger of the two men in attendance, while the older, almost a clone of my golden oldie, installed my husband in a grand old chair first used, as he pointed to a picture on the wall, in Chicago at some time before the war.

I assumed he meant World War 2.

My mind immediately tuned into Chicago’s St Valentines Day Massacre and I took another glance at the kindly old man wielding his scissors and tucking a towel around my husbands neck. Surely he couldn’t have been around in the days of  Al Capone...early 1920’s?  No, not even the Reluctant Traveller is that old!

The job in hand proceeded with bilingual conversation involving Spanish chatter from the barber and Aussie monosyllables from guess who.  Chris was trying to interpret but his barber was flying, or should that be shaving, rather too close to the wind and my son in law was wishing himself anywhere but in that chair.

I picked up a Spanish language newspaper and couldn't make head nor tail or it, following instead the pictures.

At last the job was done.  Stan’s haircut I thought was better than our friend's effort back home; Chris’s face though was beginning to look rather raw. We paid our money, an unbelievably cheap couple of dollars, and with much Gracia's and smiles departed.

The fun part came some weeks later when the Reluctant Traveller and I passed down the same Cuenca street and glancing into the barber shop saw the older man hard at work with a customer, and  his off-sider, younger by no more than ten or fifteen years, snoozing away fast asleep in the old Chicago barbers chair.

Snoozing on the job


©Robyn Mortimer 2010