The Covid-19 pandemic left almost the whole population in the world in lockdown for a couple of months. Many have had to change their life to adjust to the new normal.
Unlike before where hanging out with friends at a favourite hotel, merry making at the beach or even visiting the salon for a haircut was part of our normal routines, the situation is now different.
In Uganda, the country has been under lockdown for more than two months and people have been confined to their homes. Much as President Museveni has started easing on the lockdown, restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus have left some sectors closed.
Key among these are the salons. The closure of salons has left many operators counting losses.
Ms Gloria Kembabazi a hair stylist says her monthly income has been greatly affected.
“Every weekend I would walk out with at least Shs300, 000 and sometimes I would make even millions especially if I have brides to work on weekends,” says Ms Kembabazi.
Ms Kembabazi’s worry is how she will pay for rent where her salon sits after lockdown.
“I do not know how I will get back to my feet after this, I have a lot of bills to pay. I lost out on the big monies. Much as they reopened public and private transport, it’s hard to get clients, people have no money,” adds Ms Kembabazi.
The lockdown has not only affected the business community, people have also had to adjust from their usual hair styling routines. A simple survey carried out by this reporter shows that before the Covid-19 lockdown, most men would visit the salon twice a month while the women would change their hairstyles at least once a month.
Mr Salim Katumba a policy analyst at Parliament said that it has not been easy adjusting to living with unkempt hair and a beard.
“It is not easy for me to comb this hair every day, it is actually time consuming spending time in front of the mirror every morning. I have a salon guy who is willing to come to my home and give me a haircut but my life is more precious, I will not allow him to come here,” said Mr Katumba.
Mr Ben Mwine, a renowned radio personality says much the shabby beard is uncomfortable, he is equally impressed with the new look.
“…I actually feel uncomfortable, my moustache constantly keeps tickling my nose, I have to keep pushing it down with my fingers but it is an interesting look. I look like my dad, he used to be called mareju, a beard,” said Mr Mwine.
For Mr Roland Nasasira, a journalist, since the lockdown started, the burden of daily combing his hair shifted to the beard.
“Unlike the hair, combing beards requires softening them with water or a hair oil. Before the lockdown, I shaved my beard twice in a week; Wednesday and Sunday. This would cost me Shs5,000 per shave. I've only trimmed the beard and hair twice since lockdown started,” he says.
Others have however determined to find a way out. Ms Paula Kemigisha a resident of Bwebajja had to walk for some distance to find a hair stylist who helped plait her hair rather expensively.
“I tried to keep my unplaited hair in the first month of lockdown but it was breaking, I had to walk for about 10 kilometres to find a salon stylist who charged me a lot, she sold to me braids at Shs4,000 and yet they are usually go for Shs2,500,” said Ms Kemigisha.
Most times, adapting to a new lifestyle can be difficult including waking up to see someone who never grew a beard, have one.
When asked about people’s reactions to their new look, Mr Katumba and Mr Mwine say they have received varied reactions.
“When I post my pictures on social media, some people say I look good, others tell me I look funny. Recently my in-laws said I look irresponsible,” said Mr Katumba.
“My wife cannot stand it, the rest of my friends actually like it while others are shocked about how much the beard has grown,” said Mr Mwine.
Mr Nasasira says he has met some friends who have not noticed it was him because the beard has changed the way he looks: “While some of them have said I look cool in the beard gang, a workmate said that I looked 20 without the beard and now look 35 with it.”
His family have also had mixed reactions: “My step mum saw a photo of me with beards and said I never cease to amaze her while my sister saw me and ran away but later came back to me laughing the whole day.”
For Katumba and Mwine, they will wait for the lockdown to end before visiting the salon. As for Nasasira, he plans not to shave as often because he is tired of enduring the itching as the hair grows back.
Unlike the three, the lockdown has taught some people to instead cut their own hair.
Mr Blanshe Musinguzi, a Ugandan student who has been stuck in New York shares his story.
“I kept with my messy hair and beard for about a month until my roommate advised me to buy a machine and start cutting my own hair. I bought it on Amazon at Shs50,000 and with the help of YouTube tutorials, I am now an expert at giving myself good haircuts,” said Mr Musinguzi.
He adds that this has helped him save money on salon visits which are expensive.
“Cutting hair in New York is expensive, the cheaper haircut is Shs100,000. Looking for such a cheap stylist though requires you to move for over 10 miles from one state to another. I used to cut my hair once every two weeks,” said Mr Musinguzi.
With the new skill he has learnt, he now says he will not spend a single coin on salon visits even when he returns homes.
Ms Christine Kabaziira who has learnt to style her own hair during the lockdown says she will not visit the salon anytime soon.
“Learning to clean and style my natural hair is such a blessing, it not only saves money but also the heat of the hair dryers. I will honestly stop going to the salon,” she said.
Lock down has really been distressing on a number of levels for most people but quite clearly, as these people show, you can use it to learn something new. The efforts will be rewarding.