As a writer and photographer I travel between my life in Toronto, my life in Antigua, and anywhere else my wanderings may take me ... writing my books and enjoying local arts and adventures along the way.

The Hair Salon

The African hair that my daughter has inherited from me requires care that as a man I am not particularly adept at providing. Today I took her to Mayra’s Hair Salon in Upper Gambles, Antigua.

A good hair stylist can chat as well as style hair. For many women the hair salon is a place where they know they will find a lively conversationalist who is up to date on everyone’s business.

A good hair stylist can chat as well as style hair. For many women the hair salon is a place where they know they will find a lively conversationalist who is up to date on everyone’s business.

Women the world over are bound together by the easy communication that is almost inevitable when they do each other’s hair. Because braiding, and straightening, the two main approaches for African hair, are both time consuming, the caring for of hair provides a special opportunity for conversation among black women. As a child I would sit invisibly amongst my female relatives, and listen as they lost themselves in their conversations.

But on top of the pleasure of chatting, which some women forego, there is also the pleasure of being pampered and attended to, and the pleasure of becoming beautiful. My daughter is below the age where she has much to say to a hair dresser, but she did love the pampering and the great styling.

The salon was comfortable and friendly. It was altogether an enjoyable experience for the young patron.

The salon was comfortable and friendly. It was altogether an enjoyable experience for the young patron.

While we were in the salon, a somewhat slight and frail elderly man passed by selling magazines. He greeted the hairstylist and some of the customers, and noticing me in the salon waiting for my daughter, promptly introduced himself before launching into an expose of the personal business of the people waiting in the shop. He spoke with the absolute candor of someone whose sense of discretion has been ruined by rum. I listened politely, and was comforted to notice that no one took him seriously enough to become offended. In fact, they asked him to tell me his story, how he came to be “the way he was”. He said that he had received some training as a medical doctor, a lawyer, and a theoretical physicist and that he had been in school for over twenty-five years at institutions that included the University of the West Indies, the University of Dallas, the Anglo American Institute of Drugless Therapy, the University of Illinois, Bronx Community College, and the University of London as an external student. He was proud of the accomplishments of his son, who he said had attended Ottawa University in Canada. He confessed that he himself had indeed fallen prey to a life of dissolution, but rather than bemoan his fate by tiring me with complaints, he seemed to relish the opportunity to engage me in conversation. He reminded me of a number of relatives who had started out with much bigger dreams than the stresses and temptations of their lives could accommodate.

Skinks, Anoles and Butterflies

As a testament to the generation gap as far as technology is concerned, my seven year old son notices little details of technology like some older people recognize the details of faces. Last night when we got home from Jolly Beach he noticed that the internet connectivity light was on. “The internet is working now Daddy” he confidently announced after only glancing at the router. Being a seasoned IT professional I’m no slouch when it comes to technology myself but I would not have noticed such a detail. This made me think. I always imagined I was too worldly to ever be the aging parent who simply couldn’t understand the details of their children’s lives. However I’m beginning to accept the inevitability that the technology they are comfortable and familiar with will slowly become too complex for my grasp.

In any case, since the internet was working, today became a day of catching up on various online tasks. For my kids it became a day of running around in the yard trying to catch some of Antigua’s fauna for closer observation. There are two types of lizards in Antigua that I’ve noticed. These are skinks, the striped fast moving lizards that are mostly seen on the ground, and anoles, the green or brown lizards that are usually seen climbing walls or trees. The skinks I told my kids from my own experience as a child are far too fast to catch. The larger Anoles are also too fast to catch, but the smaller ones are catchable. The kids were also fascinated with the butterflies, particularly the yellow ones. The butterflies may have been beautiful, but from what I overheard they might have been intended as food for the lizard they would catch. Fortunately for both the lizards and the butterflies … even the slowest ones were all too quick for my kids.

Canada Day

We celebrated Canada Day by eating lunch at the Castaways restaurant in Jolly Harbour. Castaways was gearing up for a Canada Day celebration that night and had Canadian flags hung up around the bar. My kids found burgers and fries on the menu and were immediately in heaven. I was glad that the kids burgers came with salad too, even though the burgers were so big that the kids had little room left for their daily dose of veggies.

I met a couple from Wales who were travelling with a friend who was also from Wales. They were all staying at the Jolly Beach resort. The couple said they loved the island and had already booked their trip for next year. I asked them what they loved about Antigua that drew them from so far away. They said that they found the view of the beaches; the houses along the coast, and the water itself were all breathtakingly beautiful. Looking out along either side of the bay, I could only agree.

My kids just loved the little bit of wave action they found on Jolly Beach.

The Devil’s People

While signing up for the internet service I had to have some kind of a credit check done. I didn’t notice the clerk record any uniquely identifying information, so I’m curious as to whether if there is a credit bureau in Antigua that tracks credit worthiness across various financial institutions. Without knowing better, I assumed the credit check is a matter of looking to see if there are any outstanding bills for APUA, and that passing the credit check is in part a matter of whether one can avoid giving the clerk anything that could be construed as a dirty look. While waiting for the credit check I overheard the ladies performing the credit checks saying something about being able to recognize “the devil’s people”. I was deeply curious and at the same time a little concerned. When it was my time to get my credit check results I asked her what exactly she meant by “the devils people” and that I wanted to know so I could recognize them and so in addition I could be sure that I was not one of them. She said not to worry because she can recognize them straight off and I don’t seem like one. The devil’s people, she told me, are negative people who are bad minded and always looking to cause trouble or conflict. Working at APUA she met many of them. I told her that I might in actual fact have some of the devil’s people in my direct ancestry. “Don’t worry” she said “we all do”. I was reassured that regardless of bloodline I had escaped falling into the category of people she mentioned.

APUAINET

Given the duration of our stay, today I signed up for residential internet service known as APUAINET at the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA). The lines to pay bills moved so slowly that I wondered why people weren’t walking up and down the lines selling food and cold drinks. Luckily however, signing up for the internet service was quite quick and efficient. While I was filling out the various forms, at least 3 or 4 passing employees asked me “are you getting through”? I felt well taken care of. The sales rep told me that I would just have to plug-in the modem and they would perform the configuration required on their end to turn on the service within two to four business days. I’m very much hoping that they aren’t talking West Indian time, in which case I may  not see internet service anytime soon.

Internet Cafe

In the last few years I’ve rarely been without internet for more than a few hours, though I probably could have benefitted from being unplugged for much longer. I got my fix today when I visited an internet café in St. Johns. Clement Joseph’s internet shop in St. John’s was comfortable and the connection was fast. Clement turned out to be a photographer in his own right, and showed me some of his work.

“]I appreciated the large fan that kept the room cool while I was on the internet.]

I appreciated the large fan that kept the room cool while I was on the internet.

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