Sunday, January 24, 2016

Faces of Repelón: The Barber



Monday is a rough day for anyone. It’s the beginning of a new work week. The relaxing conditions of the weekend are in the rearview mirror. However, I always know that as I turn the first corner on my way to school, a huge smile and warm greeting will be waiting for me. My neighbor Jaime always knows how to start a week off on the right foot. A jolly “Hola!” followed by a jovial wave has become the norm when passing by Jaime’s house as he sets up his equipment to being his day as a barber, shoe repairer, and fixer of chairs. A jack of all trades, Jaime is one of the happiest people I have met in my community.

Born here in Repelón, Jaime is part of a large family. His mother, who is from Repelón, and his father, who is from a small pueblo by the name of Sopla Viento in the neighboring department of Bolivar, have lived in Repelón for 32 years. All of Jaime´s family lives either in Sopla Viento or Repelón, further supporting the Colombian ideal of close family relations. The youngest of three children, Jaime, who is 22, has lived on his own for the last six years, ever since he graduated from high school. He recalls watching his grandfather and uncles cut hair and fix shoes from a young age. This had a huge impact on his decision to follow in their footsteps.

Learning solely from sight, YouTube videos, and lots of practice, Jaime has become one of the most popular barbers in town. I trust my haircuts with him and only him. He has a great eye for what style looks good on anyone. Anytime anyone needs a quick fix on their shoes or a re-threading of a chair, Jaime is the person the pueblo turns to. He didn’t always want to follow in his grandfather and uncle’s footsteps. Like a great majority of Colombian boys, he had grand dreams of playing soccer in front of large crowds of screaming fans. Starting at a young age, Jaime remembers playing soccer in the street with his friends, during recess in the school cancha, and on a traveling team that allowed him to mix it up with other players in Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena.

Following graduation from high school, Jaime quickly realized that the path to soccer stardom was a larger climb that he was able to make at the time. Due to an overall lack of access to resources and, most importantly, money, Jaime changed his focus toward his current career. At age 19 he fathered his first of two children and started cutting hair from the front of his house. It’s obvious that he loves his job and really couldn’t happier doing anything else. His social and outgoing personality immediately makes anyone passing by gravitate towards his front door for a quick hello or two hour conversation.

Jaime is extremely proud of his Colombian heritage. He loves living in Repelón due to the abundant amount of fish available from the local lake and the dance culture that consumes the estanderos and casetas every weekend. Also, the overall sense of family and friendship that dominates life here is really hard for him to imagine living without. Cities, in his opinion, tend to be cold and overwhelming. There is so much hustle and bustle that people don’t always take the time to be appreciative of what they have. Life in the pueblo has taught him to be appreciative of every day and to cherish each and every conversation and interaction that he has with those around him.

Jaime has quickly become known throughout town as not only a super hard worker, but also the “gringo’s friend”. He has expressed multiple time how much this latter association truly means to him. When he talks about our friendship with others, the glowing smile returns and his eyes light up. Being his first, and at this point, only friend from outside of Colombia means a lot to me as well. He’s talked to me multiple times about coming to United States for a visit once I return home and I’m going to do my best to make this dream come true for him.

With less than a year left in my service, I know that my opportunities to interact with this amazing Repelonero are dwindling. Instead of focusing on that aspect, I’m looking forward to more pristine haircuts, long chats on his front patio, and a continued bond of friendship that will eventually span continents. 

Jaime doing what he loves!
At the 25th Anniversary celebration for Peace Corps Colombia
Jaime and his family
The house where all the magic happens

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