Just because you are living in another country, doesn't mean you can ignore the mundane things that make up life. After about a month, this reality hits and you have to begin addressing challenges such as getting your hair cut, filling prescriptions, getting a new battery put in your watch, buying a new pair of glasses, etc. These are the things that are easy in America, but take quite a bit of research in Spain. In Puzol, most businesses don't have websites, so we haven't quite figured out how to find out about the places to go. We spend half of our "research" time just walking the streets until we find a place that meets our needs.
Bernardo, the man that takes care of most of the pools in our area, seemed like a good resource. However, he is not very patient with our lack of Spanish skills and speaks as if we know Spanish, prompting a lot of nodding and "deer in the headlight" looks from us. My husband, Mike, is always trying to find a way to bond (he has finally done it through the Valencian futball team), and thought that asking about where to get a haircut might be a good way to go about it. This initiated one of the most embarrassing communication gaffes we have had so far. We thought that Bernardo said that he could cut Mike's hair. This prompted a lot of joking from my son that Bernardo could basically take care of anything we needed. Mike felt obligated to go through with it and texted him to arrange a time. Bernardo texted Mike back through Google Translate saying that he actually had recommended a place when he talked to him and that it would be better if Mike made the appointment himself. This exchange was a little humiliating, and we had no way to joke about it with him afterwards. So, we went from thinking that we had to be careful about what we asked Bernardo in case he just offered to do it, to Bernardo thinking we were asking him to arrange our appointments for us around town. Nice.
Our teenage son, Carson, decided to take matters into his own hands. I'm reminded of immigrants in American who rely on their kids to guide them through a new language and culture. It often works out much better than when the parents try to lead the way. Carson had seen a metal garage door in town with a big Burger King insignia painted on it changed to "Barber King." OK, how can you not go to someone that came up with that? It turns out that the owner and sole employee is a man named Raul. He is probably in his early thirties, was born in Puzol, but spent a month in England, so knows a little English. One of his friends went to the American School of Valencia, where Carson goes, so he still practices some English with him. He is perfect for Carson because he knows just enough English to correct Carson when he gets something wrong in Spanish, but still forces Carson to speak in Spanish. He is now one of Carson's go to guys on what's going on in town. Carson now calls Raul to make his own appointments in Spanish and has his own Barber King punch card.
We aren't entirely sure if Raul actually has a barbers' license, or even went to any kind of school to learn to cut hair. He wears a t-shirt with his Barber King logo on it, but other than that he has a small, sterile room behind his garage door with some posters from Morocco and Puzol. Every time Carson makes an appointment he waits at least 30 minutes before his turn. Last time he was waiting on a boy before him, when the boys' father decided he wanted his hair cut, too. So, he jumped in the chair when his son was finished. You can't have much of an agenda on haircut days.
It's hard not to like Raul. He's funny, charming, handsome, and at least three women have dropped in to see him while we have been waiting for haircuts. We also see him often during siesta time riding his bike along the beach.
We have learned that in Spain, there are basically two kinds of haircuts for males age 8-35. One, which we just call the "Spanish haircut," is sported by most of the professional soccer players. It is close cut or shaved on the sides, with a longer top, sometimes gelled down and sometimes standing tall. The other is a man bun. This can be a regular man bun or one in which the hair below the bun is shaved. Raul admitted to Carson that kids come in and ask for cuts like their favorite soccer player, so he does about 50 a week of the basic Spanish style. Carson has obviously joined the Spanish haircut crowd, although I have convinced him not to completely shave the sides. I figure that at 5 euros a haircut, plus his Barber King discount card, he can go in as often as he wants. It's a small price to pay for haircut authenticity accompanied by a Spanish culture lesson.
Sally and her family have moved to Spain for a year starting July 2017. They are living in a little town called Puzol, which is about 12km north of Valencia. Her kids, Carson and Celia, are attending the American School of Valencia, an International School located in Puzol. The goal for the whole family is to experience another way of life, and learn Spanish. This blog tracks their travels and experiences.