Having a fro in China is undoubtedly unique and makes one stand out quite a bit. Among the sea of straight and usually long jet black hair, a coily cotton mane is very easy to spot. When I first arrived I had long box braids and that completely baffled a lot of Chinese women that came into close contact with me. Normally, they first ask if it’s my hair, then ask how I did it and if I did it myself. Some would ask to touch it and take pictures of it or if they were too shy, stare, point and speculate amongst themselves. Since my mandarin is not very good I’d sometimes just say it is my hair to which they’d respond with gasps and wow’s.
This however is not how all Chinese react to black hair. It is mainly how Chinese who don’t have constant contact with black people react which is perfectly understandable, they are seeing us for the first time. When I was in Shanghai, for the most part only the Chinese we met in tourist areas reacted that way. In Guanzhou, given the high population of blacks there, no one bats an eyelid. Baoding, however, is not as metropolitan as the other cities so black people and black hairstyles are still a rare sight. Although the attention is sometimes annoying or inconvenient, it is usually good natured. They are not racist or rude, just curious and fascinated.
Interestingly, though the males may also be curious about it, none of them ever say anything. It’s generally women that ask questions. I think hair should also be cited as one of the things that transcend language and race! Being around a lot of people with hair that is not as versatile as black hair has also made me appreciate mine even more. I get bored easily and having cutting, dyeing, curling and adding pieces as my only options would be so uninspiring. I’m thankful that I can do all the above plus braid a myriad of styles and change my texture too. In fact, whenever we change hairstyles here, some Chinese people we occasionally meet don’t recognise us.
In other news….
In terms of hair care I have been introduced to the wonders of online shopping. And not shopping on American or British sites either, but on one of China’s most popular peer to peer shopping site: taobao.com. Some Africans who live in China sell afro kinky extensions and hair oils online as well as T444Z hair food! I am so excited about that, I can hardly wait for my current products to finish so I can hunt for others (product junkie tendencies). I intend to buy different coloured afro kinky extensions so I can alternate colours during the coming winter. I could get my hair braided by a fellow student if I wanted another style but doing twists costs me nothing so I prefer them.
Side note: If you would like to read about my little adventures while here in China, please keep an eye on my Soul Canvas blog: funkyforyou.wordpress.com