The other night Arthur said to me, ‘I like the smell of your hair.’ And I was like, ‘What? Almost 8 years being married to me and this is the first time you’ve said something like that!’ But my hair smells different now to what it did a year ago. It smells like, well, hair!
My experience in Australia is that showering is a part of most people’s daily routine – before breakfast, after, maybe at night or after the gym, but at once a day at least. Since we moved to Tanzania, I have changed to showering only once a week. At first, that was because the drip that came out of our pump-less shower was not sufficient to wet anything! Then we had water issues and couldn’t risk using it for washing. Even when we have good water, it’s still a big effort to wash. If you want hot water, it takes half an hour to heat, then there’s the whole sponge bath deal and cleaning up all the splashed water.
What I learned from this whole bathing-once-a-week thing is that my skin is much happier. So too, apparently is my hair. I have very dry skin and hair and in Australia I was constantly having to moisturise and apply various concoctions of stuff to my hair. I no longer have to do that, I think because I allow the natural oils on my skin and hair to moisturise me rather than stripping them off every day to be replaced by artificial moisturisers. Not only is it cheaper, but it’s more natural.
When I tell people this, they automatically assume that I stink all the time and that to do so is part of life in Africa. First of all, you’ve got to remember that where we live in Tanzania is much milder than Adelaide – it rarely gets over 35 degrees here – so the sweat doesn’t pour off you like it does in an Australian summer. But if it was true in the past that Tanzanians don’t bathe or use deodorant, it is no longer the case. There are stacks of shops selling liquid soap and various personal and cosmetic products quite cheaply. Many of the students who live on campus wash each day and use perfume. But there’s a difference between bad BO and just smelling kind of neutral, without all the artificial fragrances. That’s why Arthur was commenting on the scent of my hair – it’s a nice smell!
This doesn’t work for everyone. Arthur’s skin is much more oily, so bathing once a week doesn’t work for him. But for me, one unexpected thing I’ve learned since coming to Tanzania is that for all the moisturising in Australia, I was treating my skin badly. When we eventually get back to Australia, I plan to stick with bathing less often.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.