The Pamper day in Beira…that went wrong!

It was my day off and I’d decided to shoot into Beira for a day of indulgence. Being a ‘lady of leisure’ had come to an abrupt end when the company discovered that I was a chef and convinced me to return to the world of work and to run the guest house kitchen. My days of casually flicking through recipe books for hours at a time, preparing fabulous meals for the beloved husband, pottering around the garden and waking up when I please were suddenly over.

Working as a chef in a steamy hot kitchen in Mozambique is one thing but to work for a large agricultural corporate is something else altogether! I had not imagined myself buried under 6 feet piles of paper work or trying to apply the cane operation accounts system to the kitchen or having to explain to the Procurement Department that I need not grow trees to get cinnamon bark.

I desperately needed a day off and some time out of Mafambisse; a day of self indulgent, therapeutic shopping in Beira.

My day out to Beira started slowly. In fact, I was driving so that some people might suspect I had a mechanical problem. But my car was in perfect working condition. I drove slowly not because I was concerned about the numerous police speed traps a long the way or the potholes that worsen with every rain. But because I was stuck behind a truck and lane two is not available for over taking because the pedestrians and cyclists have claimed it as their rightful path. The truck in front of me is no model I recognise, partly because it is puffing out explosions of black exhaust fumes, blurring my vision and backfiring so much that if I didn’t know any better, I’d think the war here was still on. The truck is obviously delivering bananas. I know this because on top of the truck and on the sides, there are 25 hitchers with their goats, chickens and supplies, clinging on for dear life and throwing freebie banana peels in my direction. Finally the truck pulls over onto the fast lane to pick up more hitchers, chickens and goats. The coast is clear and Beira is nearing. I speed off at 60km per hour, quite relieved to finally be getting somewhere.

Just when I thought my troubles were over, I spot a cluster of black and white uniforms – the police no doubt. They’re waving at me frantically and instructing me to pull over at once. As I begin to pull over, I hit the biggest pot hole in Africa. It turns out the spot they’ve chosen to pull me over is conveniently situated under a shady tree. I had no choice but to stop, mostly because my front tire was firmly lodged in a hole and 6 uniformed policemen stood in front of me chuckling at their ingenious and most effective car trapping plan. It was Friday. And everyone living in Mozambique knows that Friday is ‘Beer fund collection day.’

I greeted them in Portuguese and promptly jumped out my car to inspect just how deep my tyre had been wedged into the road. It is in my short experience of living in this country that when you are stopped by the police, dominate the conversation in a friendly Portuguese manner. They’re usually impressed when an Expat can speak their language and are easily distracted. I proceeded with a loud, jovial, hand waving bitching session and joked that they must now push me into Beira. Suddenly their amused faces became serious and concerned. They had not thought about this. I on the other hand, thought that I had possibly been too confident and had overstepped the line. I soon learned that the real reason for stopping me was not to fine me or to inspect my car papers or to confiscate my drivers licence in return for a bribe. Instead it was to ask me if I’d give their friend a lift into Beira! In most places I’d not agree to this, but today I did! Before I knew it, 5 policemen were pushing me out of the pot hole and merrily waving us good-bye.
I safely arrived in Beira fine-free and focused. I let my police friend go and settled my thoughts on the one and only goal I had set myself for that day – to get in The zone – a purely stress-free, self indulgent, ridiculously luxurious and expensive state of mind.

My first appointment of self indulgence.
I tilted my head back, closed my eyes and drifted into a dreamy state of pleasure anticipating the joy to come. The soft back ground music with dolphin chatter and the soothing sound of waves cleared my thoughts and gently transported my mind, body and soul into an imaginary SPA world. Only I wasn’t in a Spa, I was in a Beira Hairdressing Salon. And my short lived feeling of peace and calm was quickly replaced with the purest form of fear. With my head firmly lodged in the basin, the hairdresser began to massage my scalp sending my temples into violent spasms and pulling at the very roots of my soon to be ex hair.

After my sadist hairdresser, Jose, had finished my head wrenching massage and washed my hair with a ‘No Name Brand’ shampoo, he instructed me to move to the executing chair where he would demonstrate his ‘creative flair.’ All I wanted was a trim.
I should have noticed the ‘Black Beauty Hair products’ on show and the curious look on his face when studying my head. That’s precisely when I should have run. But being sensitive and sometimes kind and admittedly, bloody stupid in this case; I stayed in the chair and kept deadly silent. I thought ‘I’m sure it will get better and everyone needs a chance…let me be that person today!’

I let out a little whimper when he made his first major mistake. Instead of combing out the knots in my hair that he had caused during his maniac massage session, he simply cut them off. What’s worse is that the knots were located at the top of my head. All hope of a simple ‘trim’ was gone when I saw the 10cm long chunks of hair falling to the floor. I finally shrieked ‘Nao, nao, nao, pouco, pouco, nao tudo.’ As expected he didn’t get my meaning and continued. I jumped out of my seat and moved within a safe distance from this lunatic hair dresser. I firmly gave him the stop signal with my hand. This hair hacking session was officially over.
Shortly after, he kindly offered me a quick blow dry. One hour later, the hair cut bared its true colours. I resembled a 3010 future freak hair model with 3 distinct layers of hair. Before taking myself back to the bush in Mafambisse to handcuff myself to a shady tree and to not be seen with my new haircut for at least 6 months, I proceeded with Stage 2 of the Pamper session.

I did what I know best, I sped off towards Shoprite Grocery Store, barely missing 10 cyclists and 61 pedestrians. (Vehicles are not recognised in Beira as rightful road users.) I needed immediate relief from my inescapable hair-do situation. Shoprite is the highest scoring shopping facility in Beira or should I rather say, the only shopping facility in Beira.

On my entry through the Shoprite pearly gates, I was greeted by my deaf and dumb car guard. He ran up to my car and ordered me stop so that he could nab me the best parking space. He then proceeded to sprint down the parking lot and claim me a parking spot ahead of all the other cars in front me. He did not budge from his chosen parking space and literally risked his life when angry motorists began to hoot and perform. He simply grinned back at them and thankfully could not understand what they were saying! Once I had parked, he greeted me in his own special language and promptly gestured that I put a smile on my dial. I don’t think he cared much for my hairstyle or the fact that my ears were now sticking out like a chimpanzee!

Although the day had been a tricky one, I’ve learnt 2 very important lessons. Firstly, on your day off, stay at home. And secondly, never ever get your hair cut in Mozambique.