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Blond hair in a brunette world

October 28, 2010

Moving to Vietnam, one of my biggest concerns was finding someone who could take care of my hair. (Forget diseases and Communism – what about my hair?!) I have a hard enough time finding someone back home, in a land of lighter-haired people, who won’t cut my hair like a man’s, and who can highlight it, in spite of it being so short.

(I know all the male readers have checked out now.)

When we were in Hanoi, some of the guys got their hair cut by a barber who had a mirror and a chair set up under a tree. If you can find a bare wall along the street, there will generally be a barber every ten or fifteen feet – mirror on the wall, back to the street. I watched the first cut, and it was one of the most meticulous that I’ve seen. He used scissors on most of his head, and then surprised us all at the end by cleaning up with an electric buzzer! I think he got the electricity directly off the bird’s nest of power lines nearby. They’ll also shave your face and clean your ears.



They also have regular salons and barbershops there, but after one of the girls ended up with shoulder length hair (a loss of at least four inches,) my concerns kept growing. I decided to wait until we got to Saigon, a much bigger and more cosmopolitan city, before attempting a cut.

After we’d been here a week, I started going crazy for a hair cut. Not knowing where to go, I kept my eyes peeled for anyone with short hair. I approached one lady with great hair in a coffee shop, but was disappointed to find she lived in Hong Kong. The next girl I asked had just moved here, and gave me the card of the salon.

I mentioned before that everyone has business cards. Everyone also has a collection of cards. If you wander by a shop, and you ever hope to come back, you take a card. If you go to a restaurant or spa you really like, you take two cards in case one of your friends wants to go. The card gives me a written reminder of the place, since none of the names are familiar to my eye, ear, or tongue, and it makes it possible to show a cab driver how to get there again. I can say Nguyen Huu Canh (the road we live on) with every possibly tonation and accent I can think of, and the driver will just look at me like I’m speaking gibberish. When I show him the business card for the complex here, and the light comes on.

My first hair cut was great. I paid $14, instead of $2 that the guy under the tree charges, but they washed my hair and rubbed my scalp for fifteen minutes. I also paid more for having an expat stylist; he’s from Singapore. It’s still far cheaper than back home. We discussed coloring options, since the next cut would take most of my highlights off, and I felt optimistic about my hair’s future.

Cue the evil laugh of the international hair color gods.

Yesterday, I went back. I’m trying to remember how the color consultation conversation went, but all I can think of was being asked what color I liked. I said blond, since I already have blond highlights.

He left me to cut Jonathan’s hair, and two people swooped in on me painting and combing white stuff all over my head. Neither of them spoke English. In retrospect, I wonder if my passive nature is responsible for the results. I could have asked what they were doing. But, I hate to be the person telling a professional what to do, or questioning their every move. The guy has good credentials, and the name of the place is Colorhaus.



After they could paint and comb no more, they wrapped a piece of foil around my head, and put a rotating heat lamp over me. When the foil came off the first time, I was a little concerned by how light my hair was, but I know sometimes they have to take color away, and then add it back for the desired result. It was also very yellow, but I know the toner usually fixes that.

My scalp started burning about fifteen minutes into it, but again I didn’t say anything. I’ve seen what happens to hair that hasn’t processed long enough.

Eventually they took me to the washing table. It’s padded like a leather couch, and completely flat, so you can lie down while they wash your hair. Here they put toner in, and one person stood there and rubbed it continuously. The fumes nearly asphyxiated me. Rinse. Tone again. Massage chemicals further into scalp. I have not seen my hair yet, and am afraid to. Rinse again.

They finally put a nice cool, tingly conditioner on my scalp and rubbed that for another twenty minutes. They said my scalp seemed tense. You think?

Two and a half hours later, I have a pixie cut that is about one shade darker than platinum. I don’t like it, but I don’t think it looks terrible. The cut is great, and if I wanted to be platinum, I would be thrilled. But for the first time ever, I cried on the way home. I liked my hair the way it was, and was not prepared for this sort of change. I still get a fright when I see myself in the mirror here at home.

This isn’t my first international hair cut and color disaster. The first one was six years ago in London. Without that mistake, I would’ve never known that short hair suits me best. (And, that I look better blond than with pink and purple hair.) Maybe this isn’t so bad after all.

I’ll post a picture when I get a decent one.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Tammy permalink
    October 28, 2010 16:10

    I so love reading your blog…thank you for allowing us a glimpse at the adventure you are on. You are one precious young lady!!!!

  2. mother-in-law permalink
    October 29, 2010 03:43

    Grace; I love you so much and your blog about your hair was hilarious. I am sorry you cried, but who knows what will come of this? Karen

  3. Kari permalink
    October 30, 2010 09:30

    For everyone out there who has not seen the hair… It’s looks great! I was quite surprised by the change, but very impressed with how it looks on Grace. Not many people can pull off that cut and color, but Grace is certainly one of them!

  4. Charity permalink
    November 5, 2010 18:00

    Sounds like an experience! I know how attached I am to my hair and don’t think I could trust anyone other than Faith… 🙂 But having seen the hair now…. you look fabulous as always!!!!


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