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About naturalfantastic

•Natural hair care and beauty advice •Health and fitness tips •Traveling and backpacking info

The Overland Track – Tasmania

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We completed the Overland Track in Tasmania in March. Here are some highlights from the trip. Stay tuned for more next week.

Overnight Stay

Our first time in Tasmania was doing the Overland Track. We took the 10 hour ferry. When we got off the ferry we began driving towards the finishing point of the Track. We were going to leave our car at the visitor Center and arranged to get a taxi to the starting point. We stayed overnight at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge before beginning the hike the following day.  At $200, the taxi ride wasn’t cheap. We also had to be very organized and ensure we took what was absolutely essential. As whatever we took from the car had to be carried and taken on the hike with us.

So all our luxuries had to be left in the car.  It was a nice drive to the lodge.  The views were really impressive and we had to get use to the elevation and winding roads.  The lodge had a scenic environment.  There was the potential to see different animals, including a platypus.  We saw a wombat for the first time.  I had no idea how huge they were in real life.  We did the Enchanted Guided Walk in the evening.  It was a nice and relaxing start to the trip, before the hard work began.

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Day 1

The following day we drove to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Center, which was just a couple of kilometers away.  We took the bus provided by the Lodge because we didn’t want to walk with our heavy backpacks. It would have been good practice for what was to come.  The starting point was at Ronnie Creek car park.  The bus driver told us how some people hold the record for running the Overland Track and completing it in eight hours.  We were happy to take our time.  We also heard that the first day was the hardest.

 

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It certainly was a though start.  The beginning was flat and we walked on the board walk for most of it.  However, the difficult part was encountering some elevation.  We had to climb up a steep mountain with our heavy backpacks.  One section required the use of a rope.  It was also extremely windy.  This made it difficult to balance at times, especially with the heavy backpacks.  We reached the top and took some of my favorite photos.  My hands were very cold but I didn’t have gloves.  I used a pair of socks instead.  This worked a treat.  We saw the waterfall at Crater Falls and stopped for a short break at the lake house, which was a small shelter.

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Cradle Mountain

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The first night in the hut was a new experience.  The best part was meeting other backpackers, many of whom were doing the hike for the first time.  There was a variety of people of different ages and nationalities.  It was the beginning of a great trip and we were in good company.  We soon discovered that every hut had a snorer or two though :-).

Barn Bluff

Barn Bluff

Stayed tuned for days 2 -7 and the rest of our trip in Tasmania.

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Hair Care for Children – Part 2

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Many of us have bad memories of our hair being combed as a child. Due to a lack of knowledge and patience, we endured the pain of having a comb forced through our tightly coiled, kinky or curly hair.  For some of us, our natural hair was nothing but a source of pain and annoyance.   Meanwhile our straight-haired friends could run a fine tooth comb or brush through their hair with ease.  Not to mention being bombarded with images of silky, flowing hair via the media. We must change our mindset about our natural hair, it is a negative mindset that has developed for generations.  There is nothing wrong with Afro textured hair. The ability to run a comb through it, from root to tip, is not a measurement of beauty and quality. Neither is it inferior to straight silky hair.  It simply differs from straight hair and requires a different technique for care and maintenance. Part one covered moisturizing your child’s hair and the type of products to use, check it out. Here are six more strategies for managing your child’s hair.  Hopefully, we can pass on good hair care practice to the next generation.

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Comb with care

The quality of combs and brushes should be of the highest quality before using them for our small children. Large, wide tooth, seamless combs should be used as opposed to cheaply made plastic combs. The combs with longer teeth cause less damaged when detangling kinky or curly hair.  Use soft bristle brushes only,  for gently smoothing the hairline. Using brushes to detangle the length of the hair will likely lead to breakage. Brushes with harder bristles can work well for young boys with short hair. Mist the hair with water first, add oil or butter to soften the hair before brushing. Brush along the grain of the hair, not against it.

Most importantly, hair should be combed after it is sprayed with water or a water based conditioning serum. Never comb the hair when it is dry and unpliable,  this leads to nothing but pain and breakage.   Instead, comb tangled hair from the tips, a quarter of an inch or so at a time. Release any tangles gently and work your way down to the root. The more patient and gentle you are with their hair, the more it will flourish.

Finger detangling is another option, combs can be avoided entirely. This is generally recommended for textured hair, especially for kinky, tightly coiled hair. Combs may not always be necessary and can cause breakage.  Finger detangling is gentler and easier for textured hair.  Spray with water, add some oil or butter and gently finger detangle and smooth edges with your hands. Accessories like ribbons and bows can be added after.

EXCLUSIVE: Robin Givens strolls through midtown with her sons, Buddy and Billy

 

Braid gently with minimal tension

Braids should never be too tight. Style longevity should not be put before the long-term health of the child’s hair. What does it matter if the style lasts a week longer, when the hair breaks and thins dramatically once the style is taken out? Furthermore hair that is braided too tightly causes headaches as well as damaged hair. This will make it harder for them to concentrate at school and even disrupt sleep.   Always keep braids around the frontal hairline relatively loose so that no tension is placed on the hair as the child plays, sleeps, or makes facial expressions. Braiding tightly can cause permanent damage to the child’s hair follicles and prevent them from growing  healthy hair in their adult years.

Mist braids and cornrows with sprays daily and seal with oil for shine. This will prevent them from drying out.  With extensions, it is important to remember that synthetic hair is stronger and heavier than our hair. When intertwined with delicate children’s hair it can abrade the cuticle and lead to terrible breakage. Children under the age of seven should always have their own hair braided without extensions.

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Establish a night care routine

Ideally a satin scarf at night is best. Getting them into the habit of using one is advisable. The next best thing is a satin pillowcase to minimize frizz and preserve their style. If the scarf keeps falling off , a satin bonnet may also work well. These methods will prevent excessive rubbing that can lead to nape and side hair breakage. It is also important to remove all accessories such as clips and hair bands as these can snag the hair as the child sleeps. Release the hair from ponytails at night to prevent ‘halo breakage’. This is when children develop breakage around the rim of their hairline and nape or when they have short hairs around their head that do not fit into ponytail holders. In the morning, to smooth their edges and eliminate frizz, lightly spray their edges and braids with water. Then firmly apply a satin scarf to flatten the stray hairs. Leave it on for five minutes or so and their edges should be smoother and neat once it is taken off.

Be gentle with ponytails and buns

Babies and young girls with very short hair should not have their hair forced into ponytails and hard barrettes. Their hair can be beautifully accentuated with satin headbands, ribbons and clip-on bows. When short hair is manipulated into a ponytail, the tension placed on both the scalp and hair can damage both the hair follicles and strands.  This leads to thinning edges and missing nape areas. The hair underneath the ponytail holder should have freedom to move. Perform a tension test by asking the child to move her head from ear to shoulder on each side and chin to chest. If there is any discomfort, loosen the ponytail. Limit ponytails to five or six, as smaller ponytails are more likely to lead to breakage.  Avoid rubber bands and ponytail holders with the metal crimp in the middle as these can snag the hair.

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Use kinder shampoos and conditioners

All natural, sulfate-free shampoos are best because they are gentle for the hair and scalp. If you must use shampoos with detergents, adding a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or almond oil will reduce the harshness of the shampoo. Stronger shampoos can be used for clarifying every two to three weeks if your child is particularly active and needs deeper cleansing. Clarifying will reduce product buildup or dirt.

Deep conditioning with heat caps isn’t considered necessary for children, as their hair should be at its healthiest. The exception is hair that is chemically treated, in which case a protein conditioner may be necessary every other week.  This will help to maintain the protein moisture balance that chemicals tend to disrupt.

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Lead by example

If your child sees that you love your hair in its natural state, they will learn to do the same.  Many of us grew up believing that God made a mistake with our hair and that it needed to be fixed. We used a European standard of beauty to measure the worth and beauty of African hair. These misconceptions are slowly changing. How you teach your children to love the hair that God has given them is your decision. However resorting to chemical relaxers to permanently alter the texture of a child’s hair is unnecessary. Perhaps it should be left to your child to decide, when they are old enough to deal with the consequences and maintenance that is required for chemically treated hair.

 

How do you manage your child’s hair? Please share your tips below.

 

Hair Care for Children

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Last week there was a lot of debate about baby Blue Ivy’s hair, after a ridiculous petition was created on change.org to ‘comb her hair.  It received over 3500 signatures.  It also brought natural hair into the forefront again and made me question if the stereotypes about it still exist. The woman who started the petition claims to have natural hair herself and has since said it was a joke. Perhaps people should think twice before ‘joking’ about somebody’s child or ridiculing a baby’s hair. So, what is good practice when it comes to hair care for children at various stages?  Here are 6 points that I believe are important for managing our children’s hair. Stayed tuned for more next week.

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Less is more when it comes to newborns and babies under 2 years

Not much should be done with their hair at this stage as their scalps are very sensitive; any manipulation is likely to cause damage or pain.   The hair fibers will  be developing and changing rapidly. In the early months their hair is usually fine, wavy or curly. As they grow, their hair will develop more texture. Most of us have baby pictures of ourselves with softer, loosely curled hair and probably believe it is a contrast to our hair now.  It is also common for newborns and young babies to have uneven hair and bald spots . The most likely area for a bald spot is at the back of their head. This is due to them constantly sleeping on their backs and the friction caused by rubbing. To prevent or minimize this, rub a little coconut oil on the affected area to protect it and lay them on a satin blanket.

Shampoos are not considered necessary at this stage either; a simple rinsing with warm water will suffice.  As the hair grows in texture and thickness, co-washing can be introduced.  A light moisturizer may be used daily to  style and nourish the hair.  As the hair thickens, a thicker moisturizer can be used, followed by a light oil for sealing.

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More moisture is needed for toddler years and older

As a child’s hair texture thickens and matures, the hair fibers will require more moisture, to keep them supple and pliable. A lack of adequate moisture will weaken the hair and lead to breakage. Avoid products that are too harsh for textured hair. With the growth of the natural hair community, there are now a plethora of products catered to natural hair.  Many of these products are 100% natural and free from drying ingredients, like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or silicones. There are a number of kinder shampoo and conditioners that are sulphate-free. Use conditioners that are rich and creamy for adequate slip when washing and detangling.

Low manipulation styling is key

Low manipulation styling should be practiced as the norm. Avoid heat, chemical relaxers and weaves (yes I have seen young children with weaves), as these can hinder healthy growth.  Traction alopecia is most prevalent with women and young girls of African descent. This is a cycle that must be broken.  Most of our bad habits relating to hair started in childhood.  The reasons we are known as the race with the shortest hair is because of generations of chemical use, excessive heat,  lack of knowledge about our natural hair and, an over-reliance on tight weaves and braids.  It is not because there is anything inherently wrong with our natural hair, or because it doesn’t grow.

Don’t fall for marketing gimmicks.

Be wary of marketing gimmicks such as ‘no tears’ formulas in baby shampoos.  These products are marketed as being gentle, but are just as strong and drying as adult shampoos. They still contain high dosages of detergents and surfactants. Being easy on the eyes should not be the only qualifying factor, as they can still be harsh on the hair and have little conditioning values. Afro-textured hair is prone to dryness by its nature. Baby shampoos strip already fragile curly or kinky hair types, leaving the hair shaft unprotected.

Also, be aware that relaxers targeted at children are not gentler than adult relaxers, the ingredients are the same. The only difference is the children on the packaging. The same goes for texturizers, which work the  same as relaxers. Both use the same ingredients, either sodium hydroxide or Calcium hydroxide.  They permanently alter the natural curl pattern, strip the hair of its elasticity and straighten kinkier hair textures. Texturizers rarely leave the hair wavy or curly like it appears on the box.

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Consider using no shampoo and conditioner for the under 5s

A shampoo free regimen is best for those under five years of age. Young children this age typically do not need to use shampoo of any kind on their textured hair, unless it has been heavily soiled (food, playing in the sandbox, swimming etc).  No shampoo or conditioner-regimens insure that moisture is reinforced within the strands and is not depleted due to the harsh detergents found in shampoos. This may be a method to consider if your child’s hair continues to suffer from excessive dryness no matter what shampoo you use.

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Butters, oils and leave in conditioners

There are many products with petroleum and mineral oil that claim to combat dryness.  Instead, these ingredients coat the hair and prevent moisture from being absorbed. This leads to dryness and causes a dependency on the product, causing you to constantly reapply it for temporary relief.  Such products have resulted in dry, weighed down tresses for many of our children.  Baby oil is 100 percent mineral oil for instance.  Instead use natural oils such as coconut oil, grapeseed oil or avocado oil, for sealing and styling.  The type of moisturizer used depends on your child’s hair type. Thicker, kinkier hair works well with heavier butters and creams, whereas looser curls and finer hair would need lighter products, so it is not weighed down.

The simple use of water in a spray bottle will suffice, or a water based spray or leave in conditioner can be used. You can purchase detangling sprays, leave-in conditioners, creams, custards or simply make your own water, oil and conditioner concoction.  Nourishing butters such as avocado, cocoa, mango and shea can also be used instead of mineral oil or petroleum.  The same moisture-sealing rules apply with children. Hair must be moisturized with water, or a water based moisturizer and sealed with an oil or butter.  This will help the hair retain moisture, promote shine and improve manageability.

Shea Moisture for Kids

Shea Moisture for Kids

Next week will include: appropriate hair tools, methods of styling and washing your children’s hair.

Please share your hair care tips for children below?  What did you think about the Blue Ivy hair petition?

 

Sources: babycenter.com

Davis-Sivasothy; The Science of Black Hair

The “fringe sign” for public education on traction alopecia:

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1h81c7s1

Indonesia – Final Week

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After river rafting in Ketambe we made our way to Lake Toba.  Johan the guesthouse manager introduced us to a driver and got us a great deal (for tourists at least).  The drive was not for the fainthearted, we were on a mountain with direct drops on either side.  The driver couldn’t wait to overtake at any given opportunity, taking us closer to the edge. He relied on the horn to warn other drivers approaching the blind corners, never slowing down. The potholes were horrendous and I had a serious headache because of the bumpy ride. He did an excellent job though and certainly knew what he was doing. We stopped at a local restaurant where the four of us (the driver brought his friend) ate for under $2. We also stopped at another lake that had an awesome waterfall.  We arrived safely at the port in Parapat and took a small trip to Tuk Tuk, Samosir.

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Lake Toba had a more touristy vibe and there were a variety of resorts. We stayed at Tabo Cottages and our room was beautiful. It had a rustic feel to it, with wooded floors and panels. We also had a nice balcony with a hammock to chill in. Other than lounging beside the pool or eating in the restaurant, there wasn’t a lot to do.  The hotel also provided a variety of beauty and relaxation services. It was certainly a change of pace and different from our usual style of travelling.  So, we decided to rent motor scooters to explore the beautiful lake and the surrounding areas. This was the main activity planned for our stay. I’ve always said I would never rent motor scooters on holiday because I had never ridden one before and you hear so many horror stories.

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Lake Toba

Lake Toba

We were given a crash course (no pun intended) on operating our motor scooters, we each had one. Then we set off on our journey. It was brilliant and we had a lot of fun at first. We saw some stunning views of the Lake and people kept waving at us, especially the children. Some of them thought I was from Papua Indonesia and would shout ‘hello Papua’.  I was wondering why I hadn’t done this before. The potholes were very problematic  but on the main road there was less to contend with. We went around for four hours without any major problems, other than encountering some very uncomfortable potholes. Then, ten minutes from arriving back at our guesthouse, it all went blank.

I woke up in a clinic and my husband explained that I had been on a motor scooter. I didn’t even remember being on one and was confused. It eventually came back to me. I was told the local people were very helpful. One put me in his car and drove me straight to the clinic, while my husband followed behind.  I was unconscious at first, bleeding from the head and lying on the side of the road. It all sounded pretty horrific.  At first I was more concerned about having a scar, but I soon realized I was extremely fortunate to come through it alive!

Near Lake Toba

Near Lake Toba

Thankfully I only had  a couple of stitches, near my eye though, and one side of my face was extremely swollen. I also split the inside of my mouth, which freaked me out but it closed up by itself relatively quickly.  The nice hotel room was a haven as  I recovered for a couple of days.  I  looked like a boxer after losing a fight; I resorted to wearing sunglasses indoors. We’re not sure why I fell off the bike; I believe it was because of the potholes and gravel. Where the accident happened was a particularly bad patch in the road. I was wearing a helmet but it wasn’t secured properly and it flew off.   When considering renting a motor scooter you have to decide if the risks are worth it. I don’t know if I will rent one again, probably not and certainly not in a country where the roads are so bad. I had to go to a clinic every two days to have my wounds cleaned and to get prescriptions. I had my stitches removed towards the end of the trip in Yogyakarta .   The cost of medical treatment was under $30 in total!

Having my stitches removed towards the end  of the trip

Having my stitches removed

After Lake Toba, we took more long distant car journeys. Our Indonesian friend introduced us to a driver. It really helped to have good contacts.  We went to Ijen Crater where we were hoping to see blue lava at night. However, we were told that it was emitting toxic fumes, and at night there would be no one there to warn us if the fumes were coming. So we went during the day, and it was still very beautiful. We had to hike to the top. It wasn’t that much of a distance but I was struggling, as I was still recovering from the accident.  On the way up we were passed by the people that collected sulfur from the crater.  Some of them would try to sell us some sulfur souvenirs but they did not harass us.

Ijen Crater

Ijen Crater

Sulphur collected from the crater

Sulfur collected from the crater

The following day we had to get up at 2 am to drive to Mount Bromo and make it before sunrise.  There were a lot of tourists there and our view was blocked by people standing on the walls. This was quite annoying but we decided to walk down to a  lower level and had exclusive seats.  The views were stunning before and after the sunrise.  There was some visible activity from it at various points.  We stayed there for quite a while taking photos and keeping an eye on it in case anything exciting happened.

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Indonesia is a great country with wonderful people who are very welcoming.  Three weeks was not enough and it is likely we will be returning in the near future. I had never seen a volcano before in real life prior to visiting Indonesia and, I certainly hadn’t seen Orangutans in their natural habitat.  Neither had I seen Octopuses or Sea Turtles before when scuba diving. So it was a first for many different experiences. The scooter accident only reinforced how lovely the people are, because without their help and the help of various medical staff, it would have been much worse.  Thankfully receiving medical treatment was very inexpensive.

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We packed a lot into the three weeks and finding someone to drive us around helped a great deal. That was our biggest expense but everything else in terms of food and accommodation were extremely economical. We finished off our trip by going on a  jeep ride around Mt Merapi, a volcano that erupted in 2010.  There was a lot of information about the aftermath of various natural disasters, such as the Tsunami of 2006 and towns affected by volcano eruptions.  I have some photos relating to these visits that I will be sharing.

Have you been to Indonesia? Maybe you can recommend some places for when we return.

 

Thanks for reading :-)

 

Is it really ‘just hair’? – The historical significance of black hair.

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Naptural85 before her hair grew to waist length.

Naptural85 before her hair grew to waist length.

I was watching one of my favorite vloggers showcase another tutorial, with her thick waist length hair. I scanned the comments, most of which were gushing about how beautiful her hair is, only to find one that had a lot of replies. One unsuspecting viewer made the mistake of asking if the vlogger, Naptural85 was mixed. I’m sure she wasn’t expecting it to become a heated discussion. Many commenters began to tell her off for implying that Naptural85 must be mixed with another race, in order to have long, luscious hair. Another began to educate her about this misconception and what someone is really saying when they ask this question. Then another inferred that ALL black people are mixed and this started a whole new debate. There were discussions about our ancestral links to other races, the intermixing that took place during slavery and so forth. Others gave examples of the diversity of Africa and how you would find tight kinky hair, to loose curly curls and even straight hair, within the vast continent. During such discussions someone always tries to be the voice of reason and say, it’s just hair people! Although it is true that this all started from a simple hair tutorial, here are some reasons many would consider this emotive topic to be about more than ‘just hair’.

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Hair has always been extremely significant in all African cultures. It has long been socially important because it communicated age, marital status, ethnic identity, religion, wealth, geographic origin, and even one’s rank in the social hierarchy.  Royalty would wear hats or elaborate hairstyles to emphasize their status. Traditionally in West Africa, long thick hair was praised on women, as it symbolized the power of life, prosperity and the promise of many healthy children. Widowed women would not take care of their hair during their period of mourning, as not to attract other men. Wolof culture in Senegal shaved their hair to show that they were not courting. Cornrows and other braids are used for grooming African hair and may often be styled with beads or shells.  Although curly and kinky hair was gloried in West African societies, it became a symbol of inferiority once enslaved Africans reached American shores. “The pride and elegance that once symbolized curly/kinky hair, immediately became a badge of racial inferiority”, says author Ingrid Banks.

Hair use to mean the difference between freedom or enslavement

Straight hair has been pursued by black people ever since. Both women and men desired straight European hair because it was seen as the beauty ideal. Unfortunately this mindset still exists today within the black community. After centuries of slavery, straight hair provided economic opportunity and was a social advantage.  Hair was used to determine Negro status, even more than skin color.  After slavery, up to 80 percent of former slaves were mixed with European heritage due to interracial coupling between slave and master.  Many had skin as light as Caucasians. The general rule was that if the hair showed just a little bit of kinkiness, that person would be unable to pass as white. This would likely lead to them being recaptured and enslaved again. “Essentially the hair acted as the true test of blackness, which is why some male slaves opted to shave their heads to try to get rid of the genetic evidence of their ancestry when attempting to escape to freedom”; says authors Byrd and Tharps in their book; Hair Story: untangling the roots of black hair in America.

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Henry Bibb, a runaway slave who was being held in Louisville, Kentucky before escaping.

Perhaps even today many people of African descent, living in Western countries subconsciously associate straight hair with economic advantage and social acceptance. When I first went natural I was reluctant to wear my hair out at work, for fear of being ‘misunderstood’.  One of my friends felt she had to seek permission from her supervisor before she could display her natural hair.  Numerous cases have been reported of people being discriminated against because of their afro hair texture, and not only by white owned establishments.  The article Natural Hair in Nigeria, highlighted the negative attitudes that exist there towards natural hair; for example natural hair being referred to as ‘village hair’ or believing it would prevent a woman from finding a husband. There is still a fear that our hair will put us at a disadvantage in many walks of life.  These attitudes are especially likely to exist with people from older generations.

 Hair texture hierarchy

There is also a clear division within the black community, when it comes to hair and skin tone. The debate about the hair typing system and perceived hierarchy is still evident. The very suggestion that someone with long, defined hair must be mixed, implies that only mixed people have nice hair.  Of course such divisions have existed since slavery and have not been eradicated in the minds of many black people today.  We’ve all been taught that the slaves with straighter hair worked inside the plantation houses, avoiding backbreaking labor.  The house slaves had access to clothes, better food, education and, the promise of freedom some day.  During this era a skin-shade, hair texture hierarchy developed within the slave community, hence the emergence of good vs. bad hair.  Good hair was thought of as long, kink-free, no frizz or tight curls.  The straighter the hair, the better.  Bad hair was African hair in its purest form.  Orlando Patterson (1982); In Slavery and Social Death: A comparative study; argues that hair, not skin color, became a more potent mark, that symbolized servitude during slavery in North America and the Caribbean. “Hair type rapidly became the real badge of slavery”. Today it’s our minds that may still be enslaved by these principles and not just in America.  There has been much debate over whether the natural hair community has adopted a hair texture hierarchy, with type 3 hair (loose/defined curls) being preferred to  type 4 hair  (kinky/tightly coiled).

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Leyla of Fusion of Cultures who is Ghanaian

Despite being free, this mentality continued in the minds of black people and still exists today.  The spread of European colonialism has also had an effect.  The pursuit of European style weaves and wigs and relaxers is evident of that.  In an attempt to educate people, some of us explain our thoughts on this subject passionately. When someone tries to dismiss those attempts with the phrase, “it’s just hair people!” it can be quite frustrating.  Should we be fixated on hair? No, but certain mindsets should be challenged in order to prevent them from being passed on to the next generation.  These attitudes exist after 400 years, simply because they have been passed on from mother to daughter, grandparent to grandchild, father to son etc. Conforming to European standards of beauty did not lead to acceptance after slavery.  Black people with straighter hair who emulated fashions and hairstyles of whites were ridiculed and satirized in the press, in theaters and on the streets.

“Be yourself because an original is worth more than a copy” ~ unknown

Degrading African features

Wunmi of womaninthejungle.com is Nigerian

Wunmi of womaninthejungle.com

During slavery the idea was pushed that darker-skinned black people with thicker hair were less attractive, less intelligent and worth less than their lighter-skinned brothers and sisters. This was simply to divide, and sadly some division still exists to this day. Some people are still of the mindset  that African hair in its purest form is ugly. And a black woman with nice hair has it, despite being fully black, or a person is beautiful despite being dark-skinned.  Whatever a person’s skin tone or hair texture, we should see their beauty, inside and out. It’s natural to have preferences but prejudice is a different thing entirely.  Perhaps we should stop asking people with two black parents if they are mixed, simply because their hair is long or defined.  Most people, knowingly or unknowingly (whatever their race) have links to other races or nationalities.

So no, it is not ‘just hair’, our hair is linked to our African identity. Our hair has emotive links to a history of oppression. Our hair is also linked to freedom of expression and African pride.  Try to understand where a person is coming from and what they are trying to teach and correct, before dismissing the discussion. For you, it may be just hair, but for many it goes beyond that. Thankfully the ignorance surrounding natural hair is being addressed and many of us are learning to embrace it, however, some still have a long way to go.

 

Do you think it is just hair? Share your thoughts below.

 

Indonesia – Week 2

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We took a flight to Medan and stayed there for one night before heading off on a 7 hour car journey.  We hired a local driver who took us to a small restaurant where there were no tourists. It was unbelievable how little we paid for food. The three of us ate for under 2 dollars. We passed through a town with a volcano; Mount Sinabung, it was really impressive. I had never seen a volcano before in real life. The town had to be evacuated in 2010, when it erupted. There is an exclusion zone around it. We arrived in Ketambe and stayed at Wisma Cinta Alem for our jungle adventure. The guesthouse had a nice family vibe, the rooms were clean and the food was good. The manager and guides were super friendly; we would usually sit around chatting in the evenings. The first night was eventful, the power went out and I ran away from a large bug that had a hard shell. It was so big it looked like a flying scorpion. At this point everyone was wondering how I was going to survive the jungle.

Mt Sinabung

Mt Sinabung

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We set off in the morning for our jungle trek, with a small load each. Ival, our guide carried the food and everything else we needed. We did a two-hour hike and saw some domestic monkeys and long-tailed ones, high up in the trees. We had plenty of breaks so it was a reasonable hike, nothing too strenuous.  It was very humid though, after a few minutes we were dripping in sweat. We set up camp by the river.  It was basically plastic sheets held up by sticks to provide shelter.  This was truly roughing it as there were no toilets or showers.  However, we had  the luxury of having our meals cooked for us, so we couldn’t complain. We ate noodles,  rice, vegetables and egg, the food was good. In total we were there for two nights and three days.

The river near our campground

The river near our campground

Our Camp

Our Camp

The highlight of the trip was seeing Orangutans.  They are extremely rare. The rainforest in Indonesia is the only place in the world, where you will see them in their natural habitat.  We saw a mother and baby on the move and I managed to get some decent shots of them.  Most of the monkeys were at a great distance, high up in the trees. So it was hard to get a clear shot of them. We are going upgrade our zoom lens for our next trip.   After a day’s hiking we would go back to the camp for dinner and sit around having a nice chat with the guides and porters.

Interesting moths. I named them Mathstick Moths

Interesting moths. I named them Matchstick Moths

Ant Photobomb

Ant Photobomber

For the first night we were the only western tourists there, but more people came the next day. After searching for monkeys all day we found it ironic that the domestic ones surrounded the campground in the evening. One night I found a leech on my ankle, I was very vigilant about leeches after that. I was like the leech detective. Thankfully there were no super scary bugs to deal with, not any that I was aware of.  On the second night we went to the hot springs and saw two more Orangutans in the distance.  The water was freezing when I first got in; it was a huge shock to the system. Our guide showed me where to find the warm water and it was like being in a hot tub.  The whole area was surrounded by steam.  Some areas contained scolding hot water, so you had to be careful. There were campgrounds there as well; it would have been a stunning place to camp.

Phunky Monkey

We survived the jungle and decided to spend our last day doing river rafting. Ival and some other guides took us on the raft with some other tourists. It was a lot of fun; some of the rapids were pretty rough. We got to see the local areas and scenery along the river.  We thought we were going to fall in at one point but we managed to stay afloat. It was a great way to end our time at Ketambe, saying goodbye was sad.

Hot Springs

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The last week began at Lake Toba, where we decided to rent motor scooters (big mistake), and we took some really long car journeys to visit volcanoes.  I’ll share these next week.

Indonesia

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A wonderful three-week trip of scuba diving, jungle trekking, volcanoes, and delicious food. I will share what we did each week, along with photos and highlights.

Salak

Salak

Week 1

Our Indonesian friend who works in Australia, picked us up from the airport. We were looking forward to meeting his family and spending time with local people. The car journey in Jakarta was eventful to say the least. Immediately, it was apparent that red lights were optional, and if you missed your turning, you could always go back and drive down the road on the wrong side. It was certainly not for the faint-hearted, but our friend was a good driver so we were in safe hands.  Meeting his family was wonderful, they were very welcoming and hospitable. It was Sunday, so the whole family usually met up after church. When we entered the neighborhood, there were many kids playing on the street. We thought they were kids from around the neighborhood playing together, in fact they were all from the same family and related our friend. He has a lot of nieces and nephews! Lunch was excellent, we had Batak food, which is the tribe our friend belongs to.  We also had traditional Indonesia food. There was chicken, pork, rice, noodles, chilies and vegetables.  We ate with our right hand and each of us had a bowl of water to wash it with. The rice wasn’t sticky so it  kept slipping through my fingers. For dessert, we were introduced to fruits grown in Sumatra and Java. These included; salak and duku. There was a festival later in the day where people of different tribes wore their native clothes and paraded through the streets.  People stopped us and asked to take photos with us.

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People from the Papua tribe

People from the Papua tribe

We spent two nights in Jakarta and headed off to Banda Aceh, the town most effected by the Tsunami of 2004. From there we took a ferry to Pulau Weh. We booked with a local agent and found their price much cheaper than the  price quoted on the internet. Pulau Weh was all about scuba diving and we booked with Rubiah Tirta Divers.  I hadn’t done it for almost five years so they suggested I do a refresher course. They also offered a Discover Scuba dive for those who aren’t certified. I was told there was a very strong current on most dives. I later found that to be an understatement.  The refresher course was pretty straightforward and it felt good to be back in the ocean.  In the afternoon I did my first proper dive at a site called Arus Paleeh, the current wasn’t too bad and there was a lot to see; scorpion fish, clown trigger fish, rainbow fish, nothing I hadn’t seen before.   As my husband isn’t certified, it was only me and the instructor at times. The groups were divided among different instructors to keep them small, as not to scare the fish away. It was organised very well.

The next day we visited East and West Seulako. At both sites I was blown away by seeing certain creatures for the first time in their natural habitat. We saw sea turtles, Octopuses, see horses and tiny lobsters. The current was no picnic though. On both dives I descended with very little air left in my tank. Most of us went through a lot of air and one man ran out of air completely, on both dives! His buddy always had enough to share with him thankfully.  Getting swept along by the strong current for most of the dive probably caused us to take more breaths than usual. The instructors were fine though, some had over half a tank of air left, all of them were Indonesian and dived everyday. It sounded like a dream job, as well as a dream location to work.

Our last day of diving was the toughest, unfortunately I got separated from my buddy and the instructor. I was swiftly swept away by a very strong current, everybody was swept away at some point. Running very low on air, it wasn’t the best timing either. Thankfully they caught up and people from the other groups were around, we all ascended together after a rest stop, that seemed to go on forever. I  kept frantically checking my air.  Pulau Weh is a beautiful  island, the choice of accommodation is very basic though as all you will find are simple beach bungalows.  We were fortunate enough to have a sink in our bathroom as nobody else seemed to have that luxury.  We stayed at Iboh Inn, the staff are super friendly and the accommodation is clean and one of the nicest on the island. We had a balcony and a stunning sea view.

Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle

Pulau Weh

Pulau Weh

A lizard we saw while eating lunch

 

If you have any specific questions about our trip, you can email us or leave them in the comments below.  Next week I’ll write about our trek through the jungle and an unfortunate motor scooter accident. Stay tuned!

Seven Reasons For Excessive Shedding or Breakage

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Hair sheds naturally each day. This occurs when a hair strand has reached the end of its growth cycle and falls out, making room for the new strand.  On average a person sheds up to 100 hair strands a day. Naturally shed hair usually has a white tip at top and will be near to full length. However, at times you may experience more shedding than usual for a number of different reasons. As you know your hair better than anyone, you can monitor the shedding of your hair and spot when it becomes excessive. Shed hair is usually evident after detangling, combing, or styling. At times the shedding may increase to an uncomfortable level. Seven reasons why excessive shedding may occur are as follows:

 

Protective styling

The benefits of protective styling are evident. However there is a way to do it safely to minimize damage to the hair. Weaves, braids and wigs should not be too tight and it is better to have a break in between protective styles so your hair is not constantly subject to tension. Excessive protective styling, done poorly can lead to traction alopecia,  Traction alopecia is more prevalent in black women than any other group. After taking out a protective style, you may find that you have a lot of shed hair. This is perfectly normal as shed hair is built up for as long as the style is kept in. Monitor the amount of shed hair that accumulates each time you take out a protective style. If this amount increases dramatically after a particular style, damage may have been caused.

Deep conditioning for too long

Deep conditioning is a vital part of our hair care regimen. However there seems to be a growing idea that the longer it is left in, the better. Some women choose to leave their deep conditioner in overnight. This is considered unnecessary by some  hair care experts. It is important to note that hair is more fragile when saturated in deep conditioner that is water based. While sleeping, a person is likely to move around a lot, turning their head numerous times. This may cause a lot of rubbing and hair strands may be tugged and pulled in the process, which may result in broken or weakened strands.  This may cause them to shed before their time or break off easily when styling the next day.

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Product ingredients

Glycerin is a humectant that absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. It is a great ingredient to create long lasting moisture for the hair. I like to use ‘glycerin heavy’ products when  putting my hair in a protective style, so the moisture can last a few days without having to reapply frequently. However sometimes I find that my hair becomes more fragile after this and this can result in excessive shedding.  After washing my hair and simply using water for moisture, along with oil for sealing, I experience much less shedding. Glycerin can weigh the hair down and keep feeling damp for longer periods of time, this may weaken the strands. The amount of glycerin used should be limited, as a little goes a long way. If too much is used, it may be better to wash your hair sooner, so it doesn’t  build up and become detrimental to the strength of your hair.

Protein/moisture balance

Too much emphasis on moisture may result in weaker hair strands, as the hair needs protein to rebuild and reinforce itself. However constantly using products that contain protein may cause excessive dryness. Hair that is too dry also becomes brittle. So the protein moisture balance is important for healthy hair. Substitute every forth deep conditioner for a protein treatment and avoid using products that are protein heavy unless necessary.  Alternatively, simply examine your hair regularly and decide if it is in need of protein at that time, instead of your usual deep conditioner.

Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the body starts to lose more fluids than it takes in. Hair is one quarter water and water carries vital vitamins to the hair root. It hydrates the entire strand from the inside. Water is also the main source of energy for hair cells, including the ones that promote growth. It also clears the body of pollutants, which cause hair loss. Suffering from dehydration causes a shortage of a water supply to the hair. Water is then rationed to vital parts of the body, such as the brain and heart. This leads to excessive shedding and the roots will not be stimulated enough for new hair growth. So drinking plenty of water is crucial to the health of your hair. It is recommended that we drink six to eight glasses of water a day.

Medication

Hair loss may be a side effect of certain medications, so check the labels of your prescriptions. Some particular medications that may cause excessive shedding include blood thinners, antidepressants, and birth control pills. For birth control pills, the American Hair Loss Association recommends that all women interested in using oral contraceptives should only use low-androgen index birth control pills. If there is a strong predisposition for genetic hair loss in your family, they recommend the use of non-hormonal forms of birth control. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your medication.

Stress

There are different types of stress.  Telogen effluvium causes a large number of hair follicles to go into the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. The affected hair might fall out suddenly within a few months when simply combing or washing. Trichotillomania is when a person feels a sudden urge to pull their hair from the scalp to cope with  stress and anxiety.  Lastly, alopecia areata is one of the more serious forms of hair loss. This is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss. This can also be caused by stress. This can be reversed with better stress management techniques, exercise and reducing your caffeine intake may help for instance.

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Leyla of FushionofCultures has spoken about dealing with Trichotillomania

Dieting or poor nutrition

Crash dieting or failing to maintain a healthy diet, may have a negative effect on your hair. The hair is the last part of the body to receive nutrients, as major organs are prioritized. Hair needs the right vitamins and nutrients to be healthy. Two vitamin deficiencies that can particularly cause excessive shedding, or breakage, are vitamin A and iron.

Have you experienced excessive shedding or hair loss? If so, what  was the reason?

 

The Great Ocean Walk

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We set off from Adelaide towards the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, South-East Australia. We were not going there to stop along the various lookout points and sample some of the activities along the way. Neither were we going there to admire the view from the car window.  We were going there to be a part of it, and explore it from the inside.  The Great Ocean Walk (GOW) is 97.1km in total and can be completed in five to eight days.  Hikers can also choose to do shorter walks, over fewer days.  Carrying a full backpack; with the tent, clothes, food, and supplies wasn’t easy, but I was looking forward to the challenge.

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Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge

Our adventure began at the Great Ocean Road Visitor Centre.  We took an expensive taxi ride there, from the Princetown Recreation Reserve, where our car was parked.  Essentially, the aim was to walk back to the car. The beginning involved walking through the town. We stood out from everyone else, as we carried our big backpacks through a small market place.   It was a 9.8 Km walk in total, no major hills yet.  Approaching the Shelley Beach picnic area, we decided to take the beach walk, to avoid an uphill climb. There was a scary section, where we had to cross over a gap between the rocks.  This was tricky to negotiate with our heavy backpacks.  We had seconds to cross before the waves hit. I crossed just as a huge wave came in, crashing against the rocks.  The map clearly marks out the areas that should only be crossed during low tide. Not being experts on tides and waves, we certainly didn’t have a scientific approach to determine safety. We just went for it, anything to avoid those hills. Be cautious and refer to the map when in doubt. Walking up a hill would have been a lot safer.

The Elliot Ridge campground was our first stop. Unfortunately, just before entering the campground there was a steep uphill climb that seemed to go on forever, especially as it was our first climb. You may not feel good while climbing it, but you certainly feel good when it’s over.  There were many more of these to come.   Upon entering the campground we heard a strange noise.  It sounded like a wild pig, I immediately wondered if they had these in Victoria. Is it alright to run from these? I asked myself, do they chase?  Thankfully, one didn’t come charging out from the bushes to attack us.  I thought it could also be a motorcycle engine, but we were deep into the rainforest. It was confusing to say the least. We were surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees, which created a shaded and mystic environment. We then saw a Koala half way up a tree, the first of many. Later, we discovered it was the Koala making the strange noise. We had no idea they made this bizarre sound. You usually don’t hear a peep from them at home.  All night in our tent, we could hear the Koalas up in the trees, making a collective sound.

 

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An Echidna

 

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Elliot Ridge to Cape Otway

The following day was our first double day. Instead of camping at Blanket Bay, we had lunch there and continued our journey towards Cape Otway. In total we walked 22.5km. Along the way we saw Wallabies.  They would stare at us for a few moments, before hopping off through the heavy shrubbery. We wondered how they managed to do that so comfortably, without getting hurt.  There was one Wallaby that didn’t hop off straightaway.  As we approached it, we wondered why it wasn’t scared and became a little concerned. Then he appeared to hop away in slow motion. He was an old fellow.

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The Elderly Wallaby

We  passed a lot of cattle, which may have explained why we were harassed endlessly by flies.  They would cling to our backpacks and fly into our faces. Fighting them off was utterly futile.  They would go away momentarily, and come straight back. It was as if there was a magnetic force, pulling them towards us.  We had to learn to accept them; I even took my fly net off after a while.  We stopped at the lookouts at Parker Inlet to admire the stunning views of the Ocean. Stopping became problematic, as the flies took it as an opportunity to pounce on us.

We reached the Lighthouse just as it was closing. We didn’t mind because we had been hiking all day, and climbing a long flight of stairs didn’t appeal to us.  Besides, we were feeling self-conscious about the flies that were following us. I took a chance and entered, to buy a drink. Thankfully, as soon as I went through the doorway, the flies left. Of course they were waiting for us outside like stalkers.

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Cape Otway to Johanna Beach

From Cape Otway, we embarked on yet another double day. We felt stronger and better prepared for the uphill climbs. When hiking, the first couple of days are always the toughest, but your body gets use to it as you progress.  We didn’t see any other backpackers along the trail at this point; we were alone for most of the walk. As we were doing double days, we had already gone ahead of people.  The stillness, and silence was peaceful. Use to travelling to busy places, full of tourists; we experienced a quiet contrast on the GOW. There was just the two of us and an occasional wallaby, echidna or snake. Perhaps the beginning of summer was not the most popular time of year. There were certainly some hot days, but it was usually cool in the mornings and rained heavily on occasion. We were well prepared for the different conditions, carrying warm and waterproof clothing just in case.  Bringing a small tripod was handy because there wasn’t anyone we could ask to  take a picture of us.  Our tripod had straps, so we would tie it to a tree to position the camera.

The walk started with an uphill climb, although it wasn’t as bad as I expected.  We then reached a road that seemed to go on forever, with no bench or log to sit on.  Going downhill was no picnic either; the pressure on the knees was intense at times, especially with a heavy backpack.  Crossing the Aire River was a mini adventure for me; I took my shoes off and stepped into the cool crisp water. It was very refreshing. We crossed a bridge and stopped to have lunch at the Aire River Campsite.   There were tourists stopping at the various lookout points, this was in contrast to the isolation we had experienced before this point.

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From the Aire River campsite to Johanna Beach, we experienced what felt like the longest beach walk in history.  Every step resulted in my feet getting buried in the soft sand, it was horrendous. Even the stunning views of the ocean didn’t distract me from the tedious and bitter task of simply walking on the beach. All we could do was try to find wet sand to walk on, when possible.  The waves along this section were gigantic. An explanation as to why it was deserted.  There certainly wouldn’t be any surfing or swimming in those conditions.   Watching the waves crash was a stunning sight.  Part of the beach was sectioned off to protect the endangered Hooded Plover birds.  Towards the end of this stretch, we had to negotiate passing in between a giant wave, crashing on the shore.  We took our shoes off and went for it.

As we approached the Johanna Beach campsite, some locals told us where the Kangaroos come out to feed at dusk.  We were the only ones at the campsite so we had the pick of the plots. We chose the one with a spectacular sea view.  We set up camp and took a short walk up a hill and through a gate, to see the Kangaroos.  We saw three or four on the field below.  That night we learned that  having a sea view came at a price.  Our tent was totally exposed during a very stormy evening.  We thought  it would be blown away, with us in it.  Thankfully it held up and we survived the night.

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Johanna’s Beach to Ryan’s Den

Rain greeted us the next morning. We waited before setting off and had breakfast and tea under the shelter.  Then we had to reside ourselves to the fact that it wasn’t going to stop raining. Johanna’s Beach to Ryan’s Den was the most difficult hike of the trip so far.  From the onset, there was a great deal of elevation.  We walked up towards the Melanesia Track and had a close up view of the Kangaroos, peeping at us from behind the grass. Although this day was more difficult than both double days, it was one of the most beautiful hikes.  The challenge was more mental than physical. As soon as we reached the top of a hill, we had to come straight back down, then up again. As the trail led us through the rainforest, I would have chosen walking on soft sand in a heartbeat.  Meanwhile, we saw a scary snake for the third time during the trip. A  distraction from constantly asking myself; “are we there yet?”

Take in the views and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, while rising to the challenge of the hike.  There were nice places to take breaks along the way. Towards the end, there were a number of timber staircases.  A stair lift would have really come in handy at this point.  Arriving at Ryan’s Den, we didn’t make the same mistake twice.  We camped behind a tree to provide a barrier against the strong winds.  This was a nice campsite, with communal areas on a hilltop to admire the views.

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Ryan’s Den to Devil’s Kitchen

The plan was to go to Devil’s Kitchen the next day.  This certainly was the most difficult day of the hike. There were many steep climbs up to the cliffs, and downhill walks into the valleys. It was both mentally and physically challenging, but this did not diminish the beauty of our surroundings. We entered the Great Otway National Park and walked through the Moonlight Valley. There were day hikers and tourists doing the Great Ocean Road and going to The Gables Lookout. We felt really under-dressed at this point.  The Gables Lookout provided awesome views of the Ocean and cliffs.

Unfortunately, due to a knee injury, we decided to stop at the Gables Car Park to call a Taxi. We had planned to walk from the Devil’s kitchen campsite to the Princetown Recreational Reserve, where our car was parked. We were going to leave our backpacks in the car and walk the rest of the way, towards the 12 Apostles. Then we would have walked back to the car. That would have been a very long day. I’m glad we drove there instead! The 12 Apostles were great, but we saw many more beautiful sites; through the rainforest, along the cliffs, in the valleys and on the beaches. Everyone told us we had seen the best parts of the walk and not to feel too bad about not doing the last day.  If you want to see the area in all its glory, I would recommend doing the walk. Even a shorter 3 day hike would be worth it. Get out of the car and put your hiking boots on.

 

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Kitchen and Shelter

Have you done the GOW? Share your experiences below.

Is the US Military Discriminating against Black Women with Natural Hair?

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Image released by US Army

Pictures 1-3, released by the US Army.

New appearance standards were recently released by the US Army, aimed to standardize and professionalized soldiers. However, some African-American military women have spoken out in criticism against the changes. A White House petition was commissioned and sent to President Barrack Obama. It received more than 11 000 signatures in the hope that these rules will be reviewed.

So which regulations may be considered discriminatory?

Twists

Twists are banned as they are considered faddish. Section 3-2(d) states:

Examples of hairstyles considered to be faddish or exaggerated and thus not authorized for wear while in uniform, or in civilian clothes on duty, include, but are not limited to, locks and twists (not including French rolls/twists or corn rows); hair sculpting (eccentric directional flow, twists, texture, or spiking); buns or braids with loose hair extending at the end; multiple braids not braided in a straight line; hair styles with severe angles; and loose unsecured hair (not to include bangs) when medium and long hair are worn up.

Hence a hairstyle similar to the one in picture 3 will not be permitted.

Cornrows

Cornrows are allowed but must be small, approximately 1/4 inch in diameter and show no more than 1/8 inch of the scalp between cornrows. Cornrows must start at the front of the head and continue in one direction in a straight line.  I suspect this is to prevent variations of styles, the extreme being  zigzags or squiggly lines.

Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks are banned outright under section 3-2 (h) which states:

Dreadlocks are defined as any matted, twisted, or locked coils or ropes of hair (or extensions). Any style of dreadlocks (against the scalp or free-hanging) is not authorized. Braids or cornrows that are unkempt or matted are considered dreadlocks and are not authorized.

Unfortunately they are automatically deemed unsuitable, perhaps this is due to the headgear.  All headgear must fit snugly and comfortably without bulging or distorting the shape of the headgear. Hair should not protrude from under the edges at different angles.  Hairstyles that prevent the headgear from being worn in this manner are banned.  Dreadlocks may simply be considered to look unprofessional.  There is no provision in the regulations to look at each case individually.

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Wigs and hair extensions

Wigs and hair extensions are authorized but must ‘look natural’ and have the same appearance as the person’s natural hair. Does this mean  platinum blond, super silky weaves are banned for most black women? (I hope so).

Braids

These are permitted for medium to long hair. Multiple braids are allowed but must be small (1/4 inch), uniformed and braided tightly for neatness. The hair must also be braided fully and styled according to the medium to long hair guidelines (e.g. neatly fastened or pinned).

In conclusion; some of the essential means of styling natural hair; involving twists and dreadlocks, are banned according to these regulations. Furthermore, section 3-2(c) states that:

No portion of the bulk of the hair, as measured from the scalp, will exceed 2
inches (except a bun, which may extend a maximum of 3 inches from the scalp) and be no wider than the width of the head

For a woman with short to medium length natural hair, who is not allowed to put their hair in twists, this may present a problem. Afro textured hair grows upwards, so the longer it grows the bulkier it becomes.  The good news is braids and cornrows of a particular style are allowed.

African-American women make up a third of the armed forces, some believe they have been singled out by these regulations. “I think it primarily targets black women, and I’m not in agreement with it.  I don’t see how a woman wearing three braids in her hair, how it affects her ability to perform her duty in the military” says Patricia Jackson-Kelley of the National Association of Black Military Women.

Doris Richardson WWII Veteran US Army 1943-1945

Doris Richardson
WWII Veteran
US Army 1943-1945

There has also been much debate about this in online forums. One of the top comments on Yahoo stated:

Just in case anyone did not notice the first picture, the woman with the three braids, her hair is straight and could belong to a woman of any nationality, including a Caucasian woman. The third hair style, the twists are larger than 1/4 inch and do not lay flat against her head. The twists are not uniform and are raised up towards the crown of her head, which will interfere with the proper fit of her headgear. All three of these hairstyles are inappropriate, do not look neat, professional or natural and were even banned when I was in the military between 1978-1983. - Karen

Some commentators have said it is simply a matter of safety and uniformity, the same reader wrote:

“I’m sure careful thought to safety and years of deliberation went into the formulation of these regulations. I would bet there were numerous accidents that occurred because of improper fitting of headgear due to hairstyles, that led to these changes.”

Whatever the motive behind these changes, they may cause some women with natural hair to wonder if they are at a disadvantage, simply because they embrace their natural hair texture. Many would have considered it professional to put their hair in twists and pin it down, out of the way. But according to the regulations and comments online, it looks unprofessional.   America is a country with a variety of cultures and people, if this is reflected in the Army, they can’t all look the same. However, I understand the need for uniformity and standards.  Women with relaxed hair or those that wear European wigs and weaves  are unlikely to be affected by these changes or labelled unprofessional.

There is still a lot of ignorance about natural hair, simply because society still isn’t used to seeing black woman with their natural hair texture.  Although the number of women going natural is increasing, over 60% of women in American still relax their hair. It is a process that may take decades of education to change.  Speaking up against any form of discrimination is a step in the right direction.

Many argue that  these new army regulations affect different groups of people, not just black women.  The changes also address male haircuts,  body piercings and tattoos. There are also regulations about makeup and jewelry.

I hope black women in the US Army will not resort  to using relaxers for fear of violating these regulations and that any concerns they have are taken seriously.

Do you think these rules are discriminatory against African-American women with natural hair? If you are in the military, do these changes affect you?  Please share your thoughts below.

 

Sources

Army regulations on hair and appearance

http://usarmy.vo.llnwd.net/e2/c/downloads/337951.pdf

Army personal appearance policy

http://1.usa.gov/1ilibHL