Cris in Ethiopia

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Tsagur Bet (Hair House)

Posted by Cris on August 9, 2007

About a week after we arrived I pulled out my trusty beard trimmer to clean up my face a bit. Luckily, I made it almost all the way through my face before the black smoke started pouring out, then the big pop and flash sent the trimmer to that big barber shop in the sky. I figured itd be ok with the different voltage, but evidently not. I finished the rest with scissors.

So, since then my only option has been to go to the barber shop, lovingly called the tsagur bet, or hair house. Its about 3 or 5 birr for a beard trim. A screaming deal, if I do say so myself. So Ive had my beard trimmed many times by others’ hands now, and Ive devised some simple rules to guide me through the process. They are as follows:

1- Pick a man who has facial hair himself. He will, hopefully, understand the importance of not looking like a goon.

2- Give very basic instructions (“make it smaller”), with a few hand gestures.

3- Dont even dare look in the mirror until after he is finished. If you look, you may be alarmed by the fact that half your face is trimmed and the other is not, but he’s fiddling with the clippers in a way that says, “Not again…” Its better to watch the Ethiopian traditional dancing on TV (thats all that is ever on TV here, besides the news that I cant understand and usually features a long story on things like the rise in sheep prices or what a wonderful job the government is doing planting trees for the millenium) and just wonder, in the back of your mind, why he is trimming the hair by your temples (is this a different definition of beard??) than look to see what he is doing.

4- Trust that itll be ok and remember that itll grow back.

So far Ive had a 100% track record getting good shaves. They do a much better job than I do, making me look much more stylish than I had looked before. The last guy even threw in a bit of a shoulder rub as a bonus.


The new house is good. The neighborhood, as Ive mentioned before, is a bit more difficult to access, but other than that its a stellar situation.  We have a beautiful garden, and can breath fresh air (rather than pigeon dander) when we wake up in the morning. There is less dirt (read: mud) road to walk on, so our clothes are a bit cleaner, and so far not as many dead animals lining the gutters. My amateur research into how fast animals decompose is suffering, but my nostrils are on the contrary thriving.  


2 Responses to “Tsagur Bet (Hair House)”

  1. mom said

    i’m glad this is working for you, the hand gesters i mean. the only thing i thought of that would be a better form of communication–that toy you kids used to have–the one that shows a persons’ face and under the plastic cover are metal filings and you move them around with a magnet, do you remember the toy? besides, to me, you’re handsome with or without lots of hair, i’ve seen you both ways:) love you, mom xxxooo

  2. jane said

    At leat it’s not cinco de las moustache ! Because this is “interessant”!

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