Monday, February 9, 2015

Bern Burn

You can't expect to live in a place called Bern and come out unscathed.

I just didn't think it would be literal.

Luckily my drama is only hair-related. First-World problem; believe me, I know. But still.

For the past eight and a half months since moving here I have been on a quest to find the perfect  a serviceable hair salon.

The first place I tried, a block away from work and frequented by several colleagues, seemed like it would be the perfect fit. True, they are one of the more expensive local salons, but not by much. About USD $110 for a wash, trim, and style. Yes, prices here are insane. Long story short, great head massage, too short of a "trim" (more of a cut, but then at least I got my money's worth?), and the well-intentioned stylist had no clue how to style my hair.

My second attempt was at a well-recommended, in-home salon of an American lady. Surely she would understand my hair! With relief I settled into her chair and in our reflections confided how the last place I went just "didn't get it."

Perhaps I spoke too soon. Perhaps I should have listened when she said that most Swiss women, with their active lifestyles and bike helmets donned on the way out of the salon for the cycle back to work, left with wet heads and didn't seem to care about the styling part of the appointment. Yes, I should have heard that as a warning.

Because despite my near-OCD repetition of the fact that "I like my hair as flat and as straight as possible," once she brandished that hair dryer sans round brush, and started commenting on the body and fluffiness of my hair, I knew it was all over.

Because, you see, with naturally curly, hair, as soon as you give said hair license to defy gravity, you will never get it to come back down.

Oh yes indeed, it will have volume, volume for days. It will be "so cute" and as "darling" as a freshly coiffed Pomeranian. I was frankly so astounded by her complete left turn from what I clearly requested, and so dumbfounded by how mythically proportioned my hair had become, I just watched in the mirror, eyes wide, frozen half-smile, as she then coaxed even more feats of physics from my hair and proceeded to tease pseudo-spikes into it with product.

It was incredible (one of my more optimistic colleagues said it looked like something you might see on the runway) and I realized too late why her clients left with wet heads. The cut was decent but the styling was horrendous. To her credit, her other clients that I know have long hair, she seems adept at blowouts for long hair. All told this too was around USD $100.

Door No. 3. The recommended train station salon. Sounds sketchball, but located in a trendy, upscale salon on one of the upper levels of the main train station. But no dice.

First, although I requested an English-speaking stylist when I made the appt., I got a non-English speaking stylist, and an English-speaking stylist who stopped by to translate the initial consultation discussion (wherein I threw out the idea of getting crazy with a Rhianna-esque shaved side of the head (an "undercut"; YOLO).

The translator stylist seemed excited about it. But when she conveyed my idea in German (or Swiss German?) to my stylist, the latter responded with vigorous head shaking and "Nein, nein" (No, no). Hmm. So the customer is definitely not always right.

Well, I still gave them a chance. The head massage was nice, and she had a better idea of how to work a round brush while blow drying. But I need a flat iron and that's just not something they do here, strangely enough.

Apart from that, even before I left the chair I knew something was wrong with the cut. I could see a distinct overhang of the length on one side of my head. I asked her to even it out, and I thought the problem was solved

But no. I like to call this my Matt Damon era, for I ended up with a distinctly circa late-'90s Matt Damon bowl cut.

Just like this.

It's still a running joke in my office.

Six weeks later we're at stylist No.4. Another colleague recommendation. A very hip yet cozy, Gustav Klimt-inspired salon in a convenient location. 

I think I will stick with this one for the cut. She did a great job eliminating the bowl and cutting the back short so I can start to let the top grow out (I am done with paying upwards of $100 every 6 weeks to keep up this short style). She even offered to let me come in a few weeks after to trim the back again free of charge!

The downside again was the styling. The fatal error of the willy-nilly, non-purposeful hair drying (i.e. the shortest route to looking like a Pomeranian). At least I was very firm about her using a brush to try to straighten and impart gravity to the hair while drying it. Again, curiously, no flat iron in the salon. She said they really just have zero demand for it here. Bonus points though when she used and then gave me little sample bottles of Schwarzkopf Miracle Oil and Barbary Fig oil products. They smell amazing and delicious and I will be buying some -- online, not for the 200% markup here.

But instead of being satisfied with a place to at least cut, if not style, my hair, I still envisioned a place -- like my great and terribly missed salon and stylist in Botswana -- where I could go for next-best-thing-to-a-day-at-the-spa washes with head massage (quite possibly my favorite indulgence in the world, after s'mores), followed by a great blowout/flat iron styling.

I took myself by the shoulders and said "Megan, every stylist you've been to in Bern was recommended by colleagues with 'white' hair. Maybe it's time to come to terms with the fact that you clearly have 'black' hair."

I remembered a place I used to pass twice daily on my commute, with African motifs, fabrics, and wooden carvings in the window, proudly touting "Kutz For Blacks and Whites"  (sic) according to the signage. "That's just the ticket!" I thought, and I went by at lunch one day to inquire about prices and making an appointment.

Stylist No. 5.

The price was certainly right, USD $50 for a trim and style! And only $45 for a wash and style! Whoo hoo! Sad I consider that a screaming deal these days.

I found myself after work waiting on their couch for my turn in the stylist's chair. First, the stylist wasn't yet available so the owner asked the African-fabric seamstress in the adjoining shop to help me. I figured she knew what she was doing.

The wash was OK, but she wore loose plastic gloves, which felt weird and seemed to inhibit her scrubbing abilities. It went downhill from there.

She took me to the dingy styling area where the "real" stylist was finishing a little girl's head with miniscule, adorable, prefect little cornrows secured with brightly coloured rubber bands in the front, with the hair lightly curled (with a flat iron, hallelujah!) in the back.

The pouf-ball blow drying commenced ("Really? Surely a Nigerian stylist knows better?"), and I wondered what flat iron magic tricks she had up her sleeve to recover from this.  The one apparent flat iron was in use with the little girl, so the seamstress-cum-stylist shocked us all (OK, maybe just me, but really, why was I shocked at this point?) by bringing out an old-school, fat barrel, kickstand curling iron.

Which she then promptly proceeded to use to burn my face.

This is Day 4 post-burn. Looking better, believe me.

Yes, she burned my face. She burned. My face. That is not the side of my head. That is unequivocally my face. Burned. With a curling iron. Something I think last happened to me ... oh ... self-inflicted when I was about 9, trying to curl my bangs with my sister's curling iron? A rookie move.

And so tragically but necessarily ends my hair styling quest in Burn. I mean, Bern. I will go to Stylist No. 4 for cuts, but otherwise do my hair myself, saving money, and quite literally saving face.

Monday, February 2, 2015


This video has been on my mind lately. I've seen it three times now, and it blows me away.

I am not typically a fan of modern dance. I am a fan of Shia LaBeouf. But that has nothing to do with why I like this video. It is beautiful and so full of emotion. You are kept guessing and pulled in different directions by each character the whole way through.

Last week I went to my first ballet class in ... oh ... hmm ... well, since I've been here in Switzerland. And before that ... there were no adult class in Botswana ... I recall taking the odd classes in both VA and AZ but I think that was during previous home leaves or R&Rs. So it's been a long time.

It was supposed to be a "Beginner III" class. It was not. It was squarely in Intermediate territory, and my skill levels are not. I've only done ballet as an adult, so I don't have a repertoire, long forgotten, from a childhood of dance lessons; on the contrary I'm pretty much what you see is what you get.

In last week's class I kept up as best I could and shamelessly copied others. Let me add here that the class is in German and I speak zero German. The good thing about ballet is the terms are always in French, so that is consistent wherever you go.

The class: The technique was difficult, the exercises were complex, the movement was demanding. But it was a good experience. After class I spoke with the teacher (in English) about payment/signing up and it made me feel really good that she encouraged me to stay in that class rather than dropping down to the Beginner II level. She said I kept up with everyone (a major overstatement) and she was very surprised that I had no childhood or other real dance experience.

>> I received the same reaction from my horseback riding teacher during the one and only lesson I took in Botswana (I then "fell pregnant" with Pilar). She could not believe I'd never been on a horse (pony rides don't count) and she remarked on my natural talent. I would love to one day fulfill my other childhood dream of learning to ride horseback.<<

Back to ballet, I will continue lessons here in Bern. If anything, it is good exercise. I wish I had a fraction of the expressiveness in portraying emotion and telling a story as the dancers in the above video.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I checked in on FMS's blog for this month's Photo a Day prompts.

Today's prompt is "Morning".

We have a beautiful house on one hillside of a little valley, with traditional Swiss farms dotting the facing hillside. The end of the valley opens up to a view of the next town, where a castle stands on a hill above the village. Beyond that is the Swiss Alps.

It truly is breathtaking, and I really should get our "good" camera out sometime to document it. But for now I've just been savoring our beautiful corner of Earth without the pressure of recording it.

Here was the view from my bedroom this morning, looking at the facing hillside of our little valley, the trees individually crystallized after an overnight coating of snow:

Looking left a little further down the valley:

This one was taken Sunday morning, looking out our bedroom window all the way left to the end of the valley. Some cloud cover, and taken with a camera phone, but you get the idea. Swiss Alps:

In the above you can see the buildings in the next town and barely make out the white castle, I'll have to get a better pic one day.

Monday, January 26, 2015


A couple things prompted me to write here today. A friend told me she found my blog while searching the Web for baby ear piercing. That post has some of the most page views on this blog. I never understood why until now; parents searching the internet for information and personal experiences when trying to make this big decision for their children.

Then a  friend and relative posted an article to FB about the positive benefits of writing on one's well-being. I could use some of that right now.

It's cold and wintry here in Switzerland, where we moved the end of May 2014. A lovely place, but I find myself wanting more of something. Trying to figure out what to do with my life, etc. All those kinds of things. My family is great, home life is awesome, but what am I really doing is the question. Now that I have no readership, perhaps this can be a somewhat private journey taking place in a public forum. If someone sees me, that's fine, but I am not seeking the attention.

Maybe I will continue to write a bit on here for my own good. Some of the reasons I stopped writing this blog are: I just don't have the time, I don't have a convenient way of uploading pics so I don't take any anymore (and I feel the perhaps self-imposed pressure that a post must have a visual), and I don't feel free to say what I want. I can't say I won't invoke those excuses again.

I miss having a place to document all those little things and happenings that I would otherwise forget. I can't believe how big Nile is now, after looking back on that ear piercing post. And I have hardly blogged during Pilar's lifetime. Poor second child.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Neighborhood: Family Farewell Dinner

We had our penultimate dinner in AZ with all the family tonight.

Today's PhotoADay theme is neighborhood; the grandparents on both sides, and two of my sisters in law all have houses in the same neighborhood, so this picture represents the theme pretty well.

And it's just nice to see all the grandkids together!

Saturday, May 24, 2014


We happened to be at beautiful Riverview Park as the sun was setting today and since it was gorgeous and I already had a picture of the day's sunrise, I thought I'd snap and share a pic of the sunset.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you:
Sunrise, 5:23 a.m.

Now I'm going back to bed.