Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hair Drama

Yesterday, my decision to cut my lush, long black hair received its material counterpart.  I actually made it happen.  From being a mere idea, it became reality after Jamin, a guy who works at the place we're staying at here in Langsa, drove me by motorbike to a shop called Metro Hair where I sat on a chair and a man ran an electric razor and a pair of silver scissors all over the top surface of my skull.

Contrary to what a few people think, I didn't have my precious strands of ebony chopped off just because a lot of people in North Sumatra mistook me for a woman--although I must admit it did provide a bit of reinforcement.  My decision wasn't a crazy arbitrary thing either.  A few people might remember that day in November 2011 when I flipped out and had my head shaved completely bald.  That was arbitrary and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  This time, though, it was done with some sort of mental feasibility study--if such a thing even exists.

I've actually entertained the idea of getting back my clean schoolboy look for quite some time already.  My reasons?  Well, for one, it's much, much neater to look at.  It's easier to manage; it's much cheaper to maintain; it makes me look a lot younger; it feels better; it doesn't cause the area around my neck to store heat; and most importantly, it's easier to travel around a semi-active war zone with.  I don't have to wait long for it to dry up after I wash it and it doesn't attract people's attention.

This is only the second day I've pranced around the world with my new head of short hair and I'm still in the process of getting used to it.  Sometimes, when I visualise myself, I still get an image of a young Asian dude with long hair.  When I realise, though, that I don't anymore or if I get a glimpse of myself through a reflective surface, I instantly get the feeling that I don't know myself.  "Who is that boy I'm looking at?" would be the usual internal question.  Perhaps this has some sort of intellectual application in my life.  Perhaps such a feeling is an indication that I don't actually know myself well enough.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Need to Shut Up Sometimes and Learn to Look at Myself

We always learn new things as we journey through life--that is, as we get seconds and days and years older--and some lessons are just incredibly, incredibly humbling.

I'm in Aceh Province in Indonesia right now (having left North Sumatra just yesterday) getting my first exposure to the worldwide work of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)--something Quakers started a while back but has now become largely secular because that's exactly how it's supposed to be--and, even though I'm barely a week into it, the whole experience has been absolutely life-changing.  The place, the work, the principles, especially the people I've come to know are simply extraordinary.

You see, I didn't really know this but I can honestly say I've only known way too little about the things I've been talking about all this time.  This is really hard to say but it's the raw truth.  I've been stagnant in the growth department for very, very long.

I'm not going to go into details right now but I just really felt the need to admit I've been a pompous brat all these years without even realising it.  It's always been a mantra of mine that we're constantly evolving and growing but I've only come to grasp, these past seven days, what growth and evolution actually mean.  I've heard lectures and public talks about it.  The organisations I work with are big on ideas of growth and evolution and it's all good but such concepts are simply not absorbed through verbal information relay.  It has to come through personal experience and that's what happened to me.  It hurt very badly when it happened.  It was like getting slapped repeatedly in the face and stomped on by wooden shoes.  I shed tears lying in my hard make-shift bed but it had to happen otherwise I would have been stuck where I was.