Haircuts and Earwax

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One of the most surprising and often unexpected things of living in Vietnam is the enormous entrepreneurial spirit among the population.  One might IMG_2712think that since the government is officially communist there would be a dearth of interest in private enterprise and initiative. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Today, walking down a sidewalk towards the English center where we hold our afternoon FPU classes on Vietnamese history and culture, I was pressed by a young gentleman for a ‘cat toc’ – a haircut. He wisked me inside his shop and sat me down on a saggy barbershop chair full of rips and tears. The full length mirror was clean but obviously old and cracked in places. The floors were swept but looked like they seen many customers. He proceeded to give me a quick trim, asking me in Vietnamese where I was from, how old I was, how many children I had, what I did for a living, how long I was staying in Danang, and what I thought of Vietnam. His friends or colleagues sat relaxed  in the next chairs hearing andIMG_2713 commenting on all my answers. Meanwhile in the next chair was the real action – the ‘barber’ was also a ear wax removal technician. He had a headlamp on, wired around his ear down to a 220v outlet, and was busy de-waxing the ears of his customer.  Quite sharp looking instruments were inserted and twisted into the man’s ears as he sat patiently. After 5 minutes he turned the customer’s head and proceeded with the other ear, giving the man’s head a good whack at the end to make sure all was clear. As he finished the customer sat up and told me in good English that he was sending his kids to an English-speaking school so that he could then send them to college in Ottawa, where his cousin lived. And the price for the haircut? $2. For earwax removal? $1.50.  Service economy at its best.

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