I plan to do at least a few more posts about Colombian beauty (of which there is a lot!), but I thought I’d start simple with something I know well: nail art.
Not too long before I left for Peace Corps, I became a little obsessed with Jamberry. For those who don’t know, “jams” are basically stickers for your nails – but heat-activated vinyl stickers that, when applied right, can last for a long time. My favorite part about jams is that they come in beautiful prints, patterns and finishes. While I loved jams, I always thought that the little flowers and stuff that my mom got handpainted by her nail artist at the salon were dumb. I think maybe just because it was my mom getting real fancy and I was envious.
Then I came to Colombia. Manicures and pedicures are a whole different beast here. First of all, outside of the city they tend to cost $12,000 COP for hands and toes. With the current exchange rate, that’s less than $4 USD for a mani-pedi. Of course, I’m not getting a hot water treatment or paraffin wax, but I am getting a good nail trim and cleaning, plus some amazing nail art done! The second big difference: they usually happen in-home. When I was living in my training town, my host family had a girl who did their nails whose home they went to. Here, my family knows a couple different people who come to our home.
The perks: you’re using your own supplies, and not sharing with the whole world. The drawbacks: sometimes you don’t actually have the supplies you need, but you happen to live with a gringa who does. Wait, that’s not a drawback for anyone but me, the gringa. That is to say that today, I was the only one with nail polish remover, cotton balls, nail files, nail clippers, and cuticle trimmers, because I’m obsessive and packed those things with me. Even for me, the only drawback is that I am losing a little of these precious American products and sharing a few extra germs with my host mom and sister.
Most women who “fix nails” have a catalog of designs on their phones. As someone who finds the “pick a color” experience in a salon stressful, this is like skyrocket veins bursting stressful. Fortunately, almost anyone that does figures beyond the basic flowers can do any figure, so you can take the time at home beforehand to google “pineapple nail art” and narrow it down from 80 different designs to your favorite two to have your artist hook you up.
Even faces can be painted onto nails! The example above on the left isn’t the best, because it’s on the toes of my host sister who 100% of the time messes up her nails before they’re dried, but she got the Virgin of Guadalupe on her toes today. And on the right you can see my negrita puloy figures from my Carnaval manicure. Amazing, right?!
While part of me wishes I could have pretty nails more often, I feel a little lucky that I am so busy/too restless to sit around for the multiple hours I need to in order to not mess up my fingernails. Otherwise I would totally take advantage of the cheap prices and convenience of in-home manicures and get them all the time, which would suddenly make the “cheap prices” not-so-cheap.