Friday, April 29, 2011

More is more - or - how a manicure made me fear for my life

My Vietnamese friend kidnapped me for the day last Friday and took me to her house to meet her mother-in-law.

I know, I know.  That sounds really ominous, right?  But it wasn't.  It was a lovely day with lots of cooking and playing with babies and being part of a family.

At one point, I noticed that my friend had elaborately painted toenails.  And then I made a big mistake.

"Look at your feet!" I said.  "Very beautiful!"

Now, privately, I thought her feet were a little garish - but I wasn't going to tell her that. But, the deed was already done, I had complimented her on her nail polish, and now I was going to pay.

"You like?  I take you.  You get?"

And I tried to deflect - next time - maybe another day...

But no.  And an hour or so later I found myself sitting in a small Vietnamese salon around the corner from my friend's house. I regret not taking my camera.  (I always regret not taking my camera, and I never take my camera.)  Not because this salon was beautiful though - Oh NO.  Because this salon was so shockingly filthy (to my pampered western eyes) that I was certain that my description of it would not convince you.  But I'll try, shall I?

First you should know that my friend effectively abandoned me there.  She was busy at home and so she dropped me off, insisted on paying the beautician and left me there.  And I felt like I couldn't complain or refuse by this time because this is obviously the place she goes to all the time and she thought she was giving me a real treat.

So I was left alone waiting for my turn in the salon.  Nobody spoke English.  Maybe I was the first Big Nose they had ever had to work on. When I arrived there was a young man sitting in a chair getting the wax scraped out of his ears.  She had a whole lot of complicated looking brushes.  Sort of like a chimney sweep but on a much smaller scale.

Next in line before me was a middle-aged woman who had come to get her hair washed. The salon had an interesting improvised hair washing sink.  It was an large funnel somehow suspended at about waist height, that poured into a pipe that bent upwards from the floor. She used a hose that was connected to a tap on the wall to pour water over the woman's head. The pipe then drained into the next room (about a metre away where the floor level was a few inches lower. It just drained suds'n'all all over the floor in the next room, and eventually I suppose ran out of the room into another drain somewhere else.  The woman getting her hair washed sat in a quite ordinary chair and leaned her head back over the funnel.

Mostly I love Vietnam, but here's something I really don't like: The dust that gets everywhere and into everything robs the city of colour.  And it was really noticeable in this salon.  Obviously, when the place was first opened and new there were some bright pictures on the wall.  There are some plastic flowers tacked onto the wall above the mirror and the walls themselves are painted.  But everything in this place was caked in horrible greasy grey dust. And the colours are all wilted underneath.

There was a mother dog and one of her pups lolling around on the floor. It was a hot day.  Their fleas and general manginess contributed to the depressing feel of the place. Their hair mingled in with the unswept cuttings from someone else's trim.

When it was finally my turn I began to panic a bit. I realised that she was going to use cuticle trimmers, and that those cuticle trimmers - cutting into my skin - would not have been cleaned since being used on the last customer. I have really thin dry sensitive skin and have seen my fingers bleed under not very careful cuticle trimmers before. So I decided - no way hozay!  She can't touch my feet.  I will not remove my shoes!  And I gingerly gave her my hand to work on, but decided that at the slightest hint of pulling or bleeding the cuticle trimmers were to be taken away.

Well, dear reader.  She was the most gentle and skillful nail technician I have ever had.  There was not even a pinch and certainly no blood. So all my misgivings (can you get HIV from cuticle trimmers?) faded.  A bit.

Finally it was time for the nail painting.  First - hot pink. Then, she got out her specialty nail painting kit and a tiny tiny brush, and started on the flowers.  Two for each fingernail - and three for the thumbs!  And then when the flowers were done, she started again and the leaves appeared.  But wait there's more!  After the leaves - the dots.  And after the dots I wasn't sure if she was done yet or not but she grinned up at me and nodded and so VOILA:

1 comment:

  1. I made the mistake of complementing a friends elaborately painted nails and now have an impending nail date that I am reminded of whenever I see here.

    I went to a nail place once here, it was filthy as well. They did a wonderful job, but when I took off the polish my nails had all yellowed and looked awful. I have sworn off getting my nails done here again even though there is nothing I love more than red nails! -Nellie