Yebo - Joey and the Deltones

In a way, this song kind of represents me at my best. It is a snapshot of me at my most idealistic, dreamy, and hopeful.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Face Off

Oh.... So THAT'S what my face looks like.*

*Actual conversation had with myself.

To my dear readers, the time has come. Well, actually, the time has passed, but the time has come that I am writing about the time that has passed.

After 8 solid months of growing my beard, I have removed the mane from my face, allowing the world to once again see the man behind the fur.

What brought me to this monumental decision?

Well, it wasn't really my decision to shave. I think, in my heart, I was looking to go for a year, which would have brought me to the beginning of October. It just wasn't in the cards for me.

Upon hearing the news that I had a new site which I would depart for in the next few days, it was uncomfortably suggested to me by my bosses that I may want to consider shaving my beard - or at least consider trimming it massively.

I was more than a bit bummed, but I understood where they were coming from. One of the major points drilled home to us during our initial few weeks of training, was that first impressions are a big deal to many South Africans. And from my experiences over the last few months with a giant mass of fur on my face, I can see why some people would be a bit hesitant to embrace such a sight.

If I were to be heading into Zulu-land, the story might be different. I've been told that many Zulu chiefs and the men of the village sport beards to show that they are "real" men. I think my beard might have been welcomed upon my arrival there, and I may have been treated as more of a man than maybe I feel I am. (Kid's got a great beard, but what a joke - I mean, he's never even ridden a lion...)

But alas, I am not in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

I sadly and uneasily took my bosses advice. I would shave my beard the day before I left for my new site. I had a dilemma though. The boys at my last site had burnt out my electric trimmer when they were shaving their heads. My shaver only worked when it was plugged in. When I went to trim my mustache a bit in April, I dropped and broke my plug, rendering my electric shaver useless except as maybe a paperweight. I thought it was a sign for me to go the long haul with my beard.

It wasn't.

My dilemma was I had no shaving apparatus with me. With the sun setting, and the stores around Pretoria closing down, I ran out to the Clicks nearby, and bought a new electric shaver, just before they started locking up for the nite. I returned to my humble abode that was 1322 International Backpackers, closed the door to the bathroom, and went to work on my mane.

I had been thru the long beard shaving process before. Twice before actually. It was a whole new ballgame this time around because I had surpassed my previous 6 month growing record.

The shaving process is a lengthy one. It is made longer by the game I play called:

"How Ridiculous and Awesome Can I Make Myself Look While Shaving Different Beard Patterns On My Face?"

The answer(s): Quite Ridiculous, and Way Awesome.

The process this time around took 1 hour and 10 minutes (not including the shower afterwards, during which my face felt the sensation of hot, cold, and wet, for the first time in 8 months).

For an intensive and exclusive peek into my ludicrous "HRAACIMMLWSDBPOMF" ritual, please view the gallery here after reading the following disclaimer:

***The photo album you are about to witness will most likely weird some of you out... In fact, I'm nearly positive that it will undoubtedly weird you out. Unless of course, you know me well... then you might expect nothing less from me. Ok. You have been warned.***

The Shaving Process Photo Album

You can tell me which is your favourite variation after viewing them all...

Fortunately, during the shaving process, I found no wildlife of any sort hiding out or nesting in my beard. I credit this to my frequent shampooing methodology, which rendered it lice, insect, and bird free.

Things I will miss about my beard:

1- The surprised reactions from people I haven't seen in a while ("Holy crap - Look at you! Are you in there?? What happened to your face?")
2-The positive reinforcement from good friends ("Dude, you have one of the manliest and best beards I've ever seen.")
3- The feeling of grabbing a handful of it to hang on to just because I could
4- Brushing my beard
5- Unintentionally scaring people away who I don't wish to interact with (tsotsis, thugs, this British guy Dave I met at the backpackers, etc.)
6- Little kids running their fingers thru my beard
7- Leftover ice cream in my beard
8- Random shouts of "Yebo Njebe!" from people who have no idea who I am, but obviously appreciate my beard

Things I will not miss about my beard:

1- People asking me "Aren't you hot with that thing?" (No.)
2- People asking me "Isn't it hard to eat with that thing?" (Ok, a little, but who cares?)
3- People asking me "Why don't you shave that thing?" (Why don't you shut your face?)
4- People referring to my beard as "that thing". (What do they think it is, a chinchilla wrap?)
5- Having to maneuver my mustache to make way for sandwiches
6- Checking for leftover crumbs and splashes from dinner
7- Unintentionally scaring people away who I DO want to interact with (children under the age of 3, new people to meet in the village, Peace Corps friends who haven't seen me in 8 months, don't recognize who I am and think I'm a homeless guy running up to them to mug them, pretty girls anywhere, etc.)
8- The name calling*

*Ah. The name calling. I would like to take this moment to ask this burning question that has been on my mind for the last 8 months.

Why is it, that when I have a beard of any length, coupled with hair that is of any length, do people find it amusing to call out "Hey, you look like Jesus!" and proceed to think they are the funniest and most clever person alive? I can't possibly look like Jesus all the time no matter what length my hair and beard. It must be within a certain ratio - long hair, well kept beard. I mean, even if my hair and beard were at the correct assumed length that Jesus' hair and beard were, based on all the Anglo-biased photos floating around the world of the man, why does anyone think they're being clever, original or funny with a Jesus comment?

I mean, come on people, think of something a little more original.

Other names I've gotten besides Jesus:

- Moses
- Osama bin Laden
- Charles Manson
- Che Guevera

- Tommy Chong

- Castaway

- John Lennon

- Caveman (Kronk)

Myself, I always preferred Joey. (Or Njebe, if you feel so inclined)

Well, the past is the past. We'll see what the future holds for my face. I can never bare to keep my face clean shaven for too long. It's too much effort to keep up.

I think my next challenge will be directed at my brother Andrew, who has recently decided to sport the old school handle-bar mustache. I'll grow mine, he'll grow his, and we'll see who can be the creepier one between the two of us.

We're taking bets on me or Andrew, and we're starting now...

Which raises the question - which is creepier... me with a giant beard, or with a handlebar mustache? The world may never know... or at least never agree.

Maybe a more important question...

Do you think I ever have a chance at this?