Shoelaces and Haircuts

By Rob Pfeiffer | Mar 01, 2016

The little things that we in America take for granted become really obvious over here by their absence. Two examples are shoelaces and haircuts. You might guess, I broke a shoelace this morning and got sick of hair tickling my ears. So, I tied another knot in my existing shoelace (six knots at the moment) and headed "downtown". How easy it is at home to slip out of the office for an hour, walk downtown, get a trim (that's all I can claim to need at this point) and be back in my office in two shakes of a lamb's tail. That does count on Bud, Eric, and Roger not going into great length on the news of the day.


Here, the first problem is power. The lines come as far as the main village but are quite often empty (that is a term from advanced electronics). If everything is locked up along the "strip", I then turn around and walk home. Today has been rainy so it is a walking day. Later, the word will filter out here that the power is on so it's time to hike back. Then, there are the accoutrements. A shaky bench for two sits outside the tiny shop just big enough for a regular wooden chair, the young barber who is very nice, a small table where the shears sit waiting, and me. The conversation is limited to a greeting at the beginning and a thank you at the end although it is quite clear the young man is proud of his work and wants me to examine it in the mirror (first one I've seen in awhile) so I am as profuse in my praise as I can be given my limited proficiency in Chichewa.


Then, it's off for a rainy hike with my shoe flopping around a bit as I can't cinch it up real tight with all the knots. I received a resupply of shoelaces not long ago but the high humidity and rain decimate shoelaces. My fear that the rainy season was over was premature as we have had heavy showers almost daily for a week. My shoes are also rotting.


To top it all off, no one here worries about such trivial issues. The fashion is either untied and usually unlaced sneakers for all ages or, a simple flat shoe made of plastic which captures the toes of the wearer (barely) and rises slightly at the heel. These are worn by women and men. They come in hot pink or fluorescent green. Very becoming, indeed, but I can't see myself replacing my footwear with a pair of those no matter what shape mine are in. Duct tape to the rescue! That is some of the news coming out of Malawi today.

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