There are three things I don’t look forward to when traveling – laundry, redeye flights, and haircuts. Thankfully the last one only needs to happen about every three to four months for me. However, when I am traveling I usually double that and push it to eight.
I’ve gotten my hair cut once while abroad at a salon in Italy, and it was fantastic. The stylist and I couldn’t understand each other, but I brought her a photo of what I wanted and she went to work. She chopped eight inches of my hair, and I can honestly say it was one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had. Those Italians are stylish.
So when this post popped up on a Cape Town Facebook group, I jumped at the opportunity:
URGENT: looking for HAIR MODELS for THIS TUE AFTERNOON. BLONDE- for highlights and any other colour for a tint of your choice with cut. All done professionally with top-end products.
OMG. “I’m blonde, and I could totally use some highlights and a cut,” I thought. I haven’t colored my hair in years, but I have been wanting pastel pink streaks in my hair ever since I can remember. Honestly, I’ve just never wanted to pay for it to be professionally done.
I instantly responded, and before I knew it I was in a brand new high-end salon in Cape Town, about to get a FREE haircut and color.
The stylist, a middle-aged Serbian man had been living in Cape Town for a few years and had just started at this new salon the day before. We reminisced about the wonderful city of Belgrade and our love for the Balkans. He told me about his days coloring fashion models hair, owning a salon, and traveling to New York and around America in his earlier years. I showed him the photo of what I wanted, subtle pink highlights that shouldn’t take too much time. I should be out of here in no time…I thought.
There was a L’Oréal technician onsite to oversee everything since it was a new salon. She came and chatted to us and told both of us that with my color of blonde, he really didn’t need to do anything but put the pink color in. They asked if I wanted pastel purple too.
“Sure! I could go for pink and purple pastels.” I was so excited. Now I could be the chick traveling Africa with mermaid hair!
I waited around a bit, read my book while he prepared, chit-chatted with some of the other hair models. However, after I had been there three hours and watched him take numerous smoke breaks I was starting to grow impatient. The stylist had only washed my hair and put a few strands of bleach in my hair for preparation, we hadn’t even started on the color and cut process. I was getting antsy as the time passed, but I knew it was free so I couldn’t say much.
So, what are you thinking for a cut,” he asked.
“My hair is pretty short already since I just tried to give it my own personal cut while I was stranded on the beaches of Mozambique with no access to a salon. I really don’t need much cut off, just a trim and to even it out.” I warned him that I never style my hair, and I will be traveling Africa so I need a no maintenance do.
“Ah, I got an idea and you will never ever even have to touch it.” Okay. I trusted him with giving me a good haircut, for what reason I don’t know. I mean the man seemed competent and he used to style hair for the runway models. Maybe it was all the talk he gave me of his experiences, maybe it was his clear Serbian confidence, maybe it was the fact that I was in an upscale salon. He cut my hair faster than a barber working on a sixty year old bald man’s head and then went to go mix dyes. Pink, purple, and blue he said.
“Uhhh, no blue,” I told him.
He didn’t listen. The L’Oréal technician came over and asked me again if I wanted blue in my hair because he was already mixing it. No, NO BLUE. Where on earth is he getting this idea that I want BLUE in my hair? This should have been my cue. Where I get up and ask for another stylist, get up and leave, tell the technician that he is taking forever and not listening at all.
But I didn’t, I trusted him still. He came back with dark pink and purple dyes. “Uhh, isn’t that a little bit of a dark pink to be putting on my hair?” I asked.
“No, no it’s fine it will lighten up when on.” He then slathered on the pink and purple dye onto my head without a brush, all free hand.
“I like to do it freehand, it blends it much better,” he continued.
I was getting scared. The pink was going everywhere from my roots to the tips. I asked for highlights! The technician came over and asked him why he was putting pink on my roots, to which he gave her no real response.
20 minutes later and we were washing it out in the basin. “Ah, it’s the perfect pastel,” he told me.
Okay, great. Maybe there was absolutely nothing to worry about I thought. We walked back to the chair, he blew my hair dry and I looked it the mirror…horrified.
My blonde hair, which had not seen a curling iron, straightener, blow dryer, or bleach in at least a year was now bright red with hints of purple. The red was everywhere, I couldn’t believe it. Is this some kind of joke?
I went in there with very simple instructions for pink highlights and he managed to turn my hair into a course ginger mess.
What happened next, still shocks me. Mr. Stylist actually left the salon. He said “I can’t do this anymore – I’m leaving,” claimed he was hungry and pranced right on out never to be seen again.
My hair was completely chopped to pieces, red, and frazzled. For the next 4 hours the other lady stylists at the salon cut my hair back to a short even state, and continued to color my hair brown to cover up the red and work in some blonde to get it as close to the natural color that I walked in with.
I left the salon defeated, annoyed, angry, and with zero pink in my hair after 8 hours of hair abuse.
So what did I do when I got back to our apartment in Cape Town? Well, of course I did what any millennial would do and took to emailing Mr. Stylist telling him what a disaster the day had been and I couldn’t believe how poor his hair care skills were. The hope was to at least get an apology or some explanation for the off day he clearly had. Days passed, and not to my surprise the email went unanswered. But then after a week I got a response. A response that was so rude, filled with cursing, and almost impossible to read with all of its grammatical errors that I can’t even copy and paste it here. But the gist of it was that I was a “Natzi fashist American b**** who deserved the terrible haircut and color.“
Okay, besides having a good little giggle I couldn’t help but think. What the hell did I do to this guy?
The long, long, long rant continued to talk about how I kill people for my own well-being, that all I do is sit on my fat ass and watch idiotic TV, that I live in a “puppet state,” that the only reason I am able to phone home to the terrible US is because of the great Serbia, and that I have done nothing in this world.
To my knowledge I have never killed anyone, I don’t even own a TV, and I know I’ve gained a little weight traveling, but I didn’t think I was fat! Thanks man! All I wanted was some pink highlights in my hair at a new hair salon and you claimed to have needed a hair model.
Then it hit me. Did this guy realize I was an American and decide to personally take it out on my hair? Maybe he wasn’t just a shitty stylist, maybe he really was out for some kind of vengeance. I suppose I will never know, but that was sure the way it seemed after these emails.
In case you may be wondering why this Serbian expat would hate Americans goes back almost 20 years to the Kosovo War. Long story short Kosovo was trying to split from Serbia after a long period of abuse and “ethnic cleansing” of the Kosovar Albanians. Serbian forces didn’t like that, and more human rights violations followed in the region. NATO, backed by the US bombed many places in Belgrade and around Serbia.
Now I am not a politician nor am I in the military. I was nine when the bombs rained over Serbia, so let’s just say I didn’t know what was going on in the world. I don’t think that I should personally be held accountable for the decisions made by my government, but I guess as an American traveler, we do occasionally get a bad rap. I know that America makes good and bad choices, but almost 100% of those choices are choices that I cannot control. And yes, I am just as sick of hearing and dealing with the 2016 election as everyone else in the world. I’ve traveled in the Balkans and seen the recent aftermath of the Yugoslav wars. Cam and I recently stayed in Belgrade for a month in the exact neighborhood this stylist said he used to live, and absolutely loved our time there. We went to Albania and were treated with extreme kindness from the Albanians, we had countless drinks out with Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats. We’ve visited Tito’s memorial and listened to the sad stories from the people from former Yugoslavia. We were never once treated with disrespect, we were occasionally treated with kindness, but most of the time we were just treated like every other Joe Schmo on the street.
I often get asked if the Balkans are safe to travel through. I get asked if it’s okay for females alone. And I’ve gotten asked if they are worth visiting. To each question I always respond YES, of course, they are a wonderful part of the world.
I know this is a bit more of a personal story than we usually tell, but besides sharing one of my not so great travel experiences my other point in writing this today is about perception. If I had never been to Serbia before this happened, I would have thought that those Serbs are flippin’ crazy and they clearly will treat me poorly as an American, so why go? However, I know that is not true and we have made wonderful friendships in Serbia and throughout the Balkans. It’s always important to never let one bad apple cloud your judgment of a country or region. There are weird/mean/bad/crazy people all over the world, but there are also wonderful/kind/hospitable people too and I think every country deserves a chance to be uncovered and experienced.
So please accept the goodness from people in the world, the smiles from those walking past you. Don’t judge a person by the nation they come from – they are just a person, not a president. And never, never, NEVER take anyone up on a free haircut and color on Facebook.
Lots of friends have been asking me for a photo. So here is the end result of my day after the other stylists took over.
And here’s just a portion of the email I received from Mr. Stylist:
I’ve left the formatting and have not altered the email in anyway.
You are just another cheap scate from usa and after all this i couldn’t think of the better way to do your hair.after all we all deserve what happens to ourselfs so please go and cry your eyes out and bitch and moan on your boring stupid travel site as much as you want.I am not even there at that ugly city.You can keep your bulshit and dvell till kindom comes any way i couldn’t do much for your image after all i am just a hair stylist not a surgeont. I wish you all the bulshit you wish to me and who knows who else wrapt up in your self righteus self love.Narcistic i dont want to insult that animal we like to put on the spit you would know wich one you traveled balkans.do you catch my driftt you muppet.Natzi fashist.As for me and hair styling it ended in perfect fashion as my statment for all of you vanity driven self absorbed jokes of the human.All of you are exactly the what they mean by something wrong with the world.Underneath you are slime and inflamation if you can use your imagination.if its posibble.Now go to your ugly bitching bussines.who the hell reads crap you put in the world.Correct my speling if you can.who gives the shit any way.you where correct about that.You so perceptive.BitchDo i need to love your superficial way of killing everyone for the sake of your well beeing.One great Serbian gave you light and that stupid phone you hardly know how to use.That fucking power plant you stupid cunts use to see your fat ass tv in your idiotic oblivion and ignorance.You are evil of this world.Kids in your schools are realising that and becouse caracters like you taking justice into their own hands.Becouse they are powerless to change anything and they dont want to compromise their souls.Yes there is such thing.On your fucking dollar they say in god we trust.But obviously not in punishment by the same.Go dig your own grave becouse you are walking courpse any way.Souless shell”Serbian Hairdresser
Well, at least after all this I got to go and bitch on my boring stupid travel site.
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