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MicroView: Steel Magnolias Albania-Style

STORY AND PHOTO BY C. VANO


Some aspects of life really are the same, regardless of geography. My hairdresser’s shop feels like the Albanian version of Steel Magnolias, with women dropping in and back out again, mostly just stopping to chat or help themselves to my hairdresser’s tools and beauty supplies.

During this particular appointment, first in were a couple of young women in their early twenties who flat-ironed each other’s hair while Arkida tended to me, sectioning off my hair and wrapping it in foils. Nodding in their direction with a tilt of her head, she called them the best kind of clients: “They do their own work,” she said with a smile. The women proceeded to freshen up their faces from a basket of cosmetics on her counter, dabbing on mascara and some lipstick before hugging Arkida goodbye and popping out as quickly as they had come in.

Throughout the morning, other ladies stuck their heads in to see if Arkida was free. She clucked that no one ever scheduled an appointment. A stylish woman in a white tank top, red shorts, and white heels stepped in and asked for a quick wash and blow out—but then proceeded to stay for the duration of my visit, sipping espresso from a cardboard cup while telling me about her shop in Durres that sells “as seen on TV products.” I now have her number if I ever want to buy a multi-cooker. “You can cook anything in them,” she told me. She also sells Italian mattresses.

Then a third friend of Arkida’s arrived, a woman I have met before at previous hair appointments. She works across the street from the salon and apparently has time to take many “breaks” in Arkida’s salon—which explains why I seem to see her each time I visit. She brushed her hair many times and plucked her eyebrows while Arkida cut away at my hair, and I couldn’t figure out if this friend was just biding time or waiting for a turn in the chair.

Eventually, she seemed to muster up her courage to ask me about my children. She had heard that they were adopted from Albania, and she wanted me to know that she had adopted her six-year-old son. She told me about how she met him, how she navigated the system to bring him home, and she had a lot of questions for me about my adoptions of my daughter and son.

It was a challenge to understand her in the middle of all the activity going on around my ears, even more so since we spoke in Albanian, my second language, but in the end, she asked if we could get together. She wanted to ask me for advice on how to talk to her son about adoption. I happily agreed.

All in all, this little appointment turned into one of my more enjoyable visits to the hairdresser—even if I did not join those 20-year-olds in freshening up my make-up before I left!


Author profile
C. Vano

C. Vano is a community worker living in Albania.

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