Throughout the day, I find myself constantly thinking about some concepts we discuss in class. It is usually the smallest of encounters that cause a stream of consciousness to flood my brain, as I link one idea to the next to the next. That was precisely what I caught myself doing the other day.

I was in class with one of my good friends who happens to be an international student from Korea. I noticed that she had been staring at me for a few minutes, and I was about to ask her what was wrong when she blurted out a question first:

“Do you perm your hair?”

It took me a while to understand what she meant— I had to ask for clarification on the word “perm”— but I eventually realized that she was intrigued by my wavy hair. I never really had anyone give my hair that much attention. To be honest, there is nothing special about it: it is black, not too short or too long, and curly or wavy depending on the day.

My friend quickly explained that she had never seen hair like that back home in Korea. She was intrigued to the point where she thought it couldn’t even be natural. That seemed interesting to me because I always thought I had one of the most common types of hair, or at least that’s how it was back in Brazil. I then started thinking about how hair can be related to one’s race, or at least one’s racial lineage. I know for a fact my hair is the way it is due to the diversity in my family; although my origins are mostly European, I also have some black and indigenous ancestors. My hair, as I see it, is the consequence of generations and generations of people from different backgrounds. I can safely say that each person in my immediate family has a different kind of hair: my brother’s, for example, is lighter and curlier than mine. And that was just the way it always was for me. My friend, on the other hand, told be that most people in her family had hair that matched in color and texture, sometimes only varying in style. I asked her about her lineage, and she told me that as far as she could remember it was mostly Korean.

After that exchange, I started finding it fascinating how hair can show so much about where we come from.