Wednesday, May 13, 2009


One of my favorite movies of all time....probably my absolute number one favorite movie of all time, is "Out of Africa." Yes, I know it celebrates colonialism and the British stronghold on Africa, and through that the general oppression of black by white, but:

it's awesome. And romantic. And tragic and sad and heartwarming. And utterly devastating. And completely quote-worthy. And my friend David Livingstone Otieno is in it for brief second and that makes me magically happy.

I've only been able to watch it once the whole way through since returning from my four-month stint studying abroad, now six years ago. It evokes intense memories, and while they are almost all good and rich and full of life, they hurt, because I don't know when, if ever, I will get back there, and even if I do, it will never be the same. I was a tourist when I was there, but I was a tourist who lived there. Someone said to me "you can't say you've lived in a place til you've had to shop in a grocery store or pay a bill or go to the bank." I did all of those things, and a lot. I was happy, sad, laughed, cried, got drunk, got injured, threw up, peed in the bush, ate African dust, hugged Kenyan babies, went to church, went to villages, went to marketplaces all while in Kenya; I lived there, more so than I can say for other places where I have spent much more time. I am fairly sure I will never be able to embed myself in a country in that way again. I can't be sure though, and maybe it's that that keeps me going.

While it's hard to sit through the movie, I'm downloading it on iTunes (or trying, it's taking days). I need to get over whatever emotional block I have about watching it and just do it. Something today reminded me of a scene from the movie, thus provoking this topsy-turvy post where I have yet to get to the point. Here it is!

Today I went to get my hair done and had a particularly talented hair-washer-lady. She was a-maz-ing. I leaned back and relaxed for what seemed like the first time in days (I've done something foul to my back, so sitting and standing both suck, but reclining gently was AWESOME.) I kept thinking how having someone else wash your hair is one of the most luxurious things EVER. Yeah, I like a hot stone massage, and appreciate them because I can't do that to myself...I love manis and pedis because I do a bad job. Shampooing isn't exactly something that you need talent to do, and I rarely give it a second thought as I am either exhausted from the days events or still in a haze of sleep when this cleansing ritual occurs in the shower. Having someone else take over is pure heaven.

When "Out of Africa" was being filmed, Sydney Pollack wanted Robert Redford's character, Denys Finch-Hatton, to do something romantic for Meryl Streep's character, Karen Blixen, while on safari. I imagine they went through the host of possibilities, but then someone came up with washing her hair. At this point in the movie, the two have had basically no physical contact, and the hairwashing scene turns out to be intensely romantic and intimate. Of course it's en plein air, with a waterfall and hippos in the background, in the middle of the Mara. And of course Denys is reciting part of the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' to Karen, a favorite poem of mine, ending with an especially great stanza:
"Farewell, farewell ! but this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest !
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast. "
It's pretty damn perfect. Kind of even swoon-worthy. You see that on Karen's face at the end of the scene. Tah-rust me.

I used to think of this often when I was studying abroad. To be honest, I didn't wash my hair a ton, lol. The showers were cold water only, and it was much easier to crouch by the faucet and just douse yourself here and there rather than let your back get wet. We all lamented the moment where you have to face the water, or rather, back into the water, and let the bone-chilling cold hit your back - ugh. I used to think about how nice it would be to find someone who would wash my hair and recite Coleridge to me, but truth be told, there was no one near as sexy as Robert Redford in my program, oh God no, and I think while I may have convinced one of the Kenyan men to give it a go ;) it ultimately would've landed me in a bad situation, or they would've thought it was too ridiculous to even fathom. I was stuck with my cold showers.

It's nice that now that I'm home I can indulge in a shampoo at the salon every once in a while. There may not be hippos, it may not be Kenya, but it is still incredibly delicious. It's not like I can exactly complain.

Just Above the Surface

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