Now that the concerts are over, I knew that it was time to make myself look somewhat presentable, especially after the sheikh in my class, Mohammad, mentioned to me that “you look like that guy from the cartoons, what is his name? Shaggy Doo?” After a sheikh points that out to you (and they’re usually bald or at least heavily crewcut) you figure it’s about time to get a trim. I asked Galen if he knew of any places nearby that I could get a haircut that wouldn’t frighten small children, and he told me he just cuts his own hair. The man likes to play it safe, I guess.

I might have been out of ideas for good locations if not for a stroke of luck. After I washed my passport in my pants pocket a few weeks ago (I’m a forgetful person and I had left it there after getting back from Petra with Christine), I needed to go to the American Embassy in the Abdoun neighborhood to order a new one shipped from the States. The taxi driver from the 8th circle to Abdoun spoke perfect English, which I commented on. He laughed and said, “well that would be because I lived in America since I was 16, I only came back to Jordan a few years ago.” He explained to me that without passport photos to present to the officials, I was making the trip for nothing, so he took me to his friend’s studio and got half-priced photos for me. By this point, it was already too late to go to the Embassy, the ridiculous governmental working hours are between noon and 3 in the afternoon; good luck getting anything done with these people. The driver introduced himself as Basem, and offered to drive me back home. As it turned out, he lived only a few streets over from me! He gave me his card and told me to give him a call if I needed anything.

And now I really did! I needed a bilingual man from the Egyptian Neighborhood who knew where to get a haircut and with Philip back in America on business, Basem was the perfect choice – he drove right over and then took me over a block to a small, green-accented shop owned by his friend Emad, a tall young man with a shy smile and a hearing aid. Basem quizzed me on what sort of style I was looking for; after I described it to him, he slapped me on the back and said to Emad, “Italian style.” I never would have guessed that was the name, but Emad nodded briskly and got to work. Meanwhile, Basem pulled out a newspaper and watched the football game on Emad’s TV, and shouted for a small boy walking past to bring three cups of coffee. As Emad bustled about from side to side, I shifted the scaldingly hot mug from hand to hand, sure that if I accidentally spilled it on myself it would probably melt through the thin plastic sheet thrown over me. As Emad worked, he would occasionally ask Basem questions, which Basem in turn translated to me. “See, this way he’ll remember how you like your haircut if you want to use him next time,” he chuckled. “He’s the best one in our neighborhood; the only guy I’ll use.” Emad offered to remove the seksuukay (beard) from my chin, but I declined as the darn thing takes so long to grow.

Finally, Emad whipped the sheet off me with a flourish, and I asked Basem how much it was. “Just three dinars. They might charge you eight or so in Abdoun or Sweffiyeh – robbery!” I examined myself in the mirror and found the final result really quite good, especially considering the price. In general, Arabs keep their hair very short at all seasons, which means that stylists never have a shortage of business and can afford to keep their prices low. Emad refused my money at first, and told me that if I liked it, I should just come back next time, but I’m used to that reaction here by now and besides, they had paid for my coffee too.

I would have stayed longer to chat with Basem, but he had to get back to work in his taxi and I had to get to Mecca street to meet with Silas and our friend Ala’ from choir. As Ala’ is an East Orthodox Christian, he’d been fasting for the past 40 days for Lent – no meat products at all. Yesterday was Palm Sunday in the Orthodox calendar, so there was a one day reprieve in the fast and the three of us met to stuff ourselves with pizza. Ala”s expression was something approaching bliss as Silas and I talked about his job working on the yearbook at school; I don’t think the guy said more than 5 words after the food arrived besides soft whimpers of happiness.

Ala' and I enjoy an overpriced Mecca Street argeilleh. Things are so much cheaper in Jebel Amman!

Ala' and I enjoy an overpriced Mecca Street argeilleh. Things are so much cheaper in Jebel Amman!

This morning, as Mohammad came into the class and Salaamu Al’aykum‘d everyone, he caught sight of me and smiled with satisfaction. Then he and several other students came up and slapped me in the back of the neck. If I hadn’t been expecting it, I might have been rather shocked that my students were abusing me, but it’s exactly what happened with the students in my previous session when they saw me after my return from America. “Na3eeman,” Mohammad commented cheerfully as he returned to his seat. The word translates most closely to “Grace,” and the word and accompanying neck-slap is not only normal but expected here – it’s used between friends after haircuts, shaves, or even with a new suit – basically, “You look good!”

In other news, Christine shared this hilarious Powerpoint she made when she was a kid with me, made up of clippings that she found around the internet. There’s a good chance you’ve seen some of these before, and of she can’t vouch for the authenticity of some of the more far-fetched one, but I thought it was great. She gave me permission to publish it, so here it is for your viewing pleasure.

In other, other news – you just spent 20 minutes reading about a haircut. I’m actually kind of amazed you made it this far; Facebook and Youtube must be broken or something! 🙂