A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hair apparent

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with work and K-life. This too shall pass. Over the weekend though I at least let some weight off my scalp, if not my shoulders.

About 7 months worth...

I had a haircut last August before my Visa was processed, and that about gets you up to speed.

Saturday was my first haircut in Korea, since arriving on September 16th. It wasn't that I didn't realize I needed one. I had enough innocent teasing from the kids to know I was getting more than slightly unkempt, i.e. "Teacher's hairstyle is bvfuuuuuunk!!" The sound being one of a small bomb going off, complete with hand gestures and wiggling finger shrapnel arching out in both directions.

My procrastination was because off all the horror stories I'd read on ESL message boards of uncompromising barbers basting people's heads with their clippers and leaving many horrified expats with lame bowl cuts, and a style best dubbed "the sad sheep."

On arriving in the neighborhood back in September, my boss recommended a place near our school where I could get a cut for 5000 won (5ish bucks). He was very enthusiastic about the good deal I could get, but I was more worried about quality knowing that at home 5 bucks is too cheap even for the army base barbers and the skittish Beauty School newbs, with lazy eyes and shady pasts.

I turned to advice from Shane (as I'm want to do), who warned me implicitly to avoid all generic barber pole jobbies, after the traumatizing experience of getting both the worst haircut of his life, and being made to wash his own hair afterwards. That's what 5 bones gets ya— plus a punch-card for yer 10th one free!

Being "affluent" English teachers, we headed to a neat little shopping street near Jamsil in Seoul, and on to a European-named Salon that Shane's ladyfriend recommended. It proved to be a real winner.

We went inside expected (having even been called ahead about, after we had a stupidly difficult time finding the place that was right in front of us the whole time) and were greeted by two smiling hair dressers, once of which took me to a small locker room to hang up my coat, safely store my shopping bags and outfit me with a gown type deal. No one in the place spoke any English, but I conveyed the cut I wanted with the picture taken from my Foreigner I.D card, which had a passport photo from the time of my last cut, way back. I was something of a spectacle with my loose association of curls, and I think the woman who cut my hair had fun with them. My worries melted away with each snip. I even got a free glass of delicious peach iced-tea while being worked on. Shane got two, and he was just a spectator. Service!

After the great shearing I was very pleased with what she had done, but was a little confused when she wheeled over a strange looking rubber-spiny contraption.

"Shampoo," she explained.

I thought it was a little odd, since they had already washed my hair before the cut. Were they going to do it again right here in the chair?

She held aloft the device.

It sort of looked like the love-child of a power sander and one of those vacuum cleaner attachments that you never really use.

As it turned out, it was a scalp massager, and I was promptly lathered with zesty lemon shampoo and felt the rubber nibs jive over my brain for a good 2 or 3 minutes. It was great!

After the deed was done, I stood before the mirror carefully washed, cut, massaged and styled. The hair dresser smiled and said something in Korean which I didn't understand, but I think was along the lines of: "you look much better with short hair!"

The cost was 20, 000 but compared with fancy treatment back home, $20 is still a bargain.

After having made you read all that, you deserve a before and after. As an added bonus, I'll give them cheeky titles:

"Loup Garou."


"Apostle of Tousle."

The kids hate the new cut.

HATE it.

I think they mostly enjoyed the novelty of me having big, funny, curly, clowny hair for them.

Monday at school was like shock and awe. There were nooks and corners of many wide eyeballs I had never seen before, for lack of such profound surprise.

"Oh Teacher! You cut the hair!?"

"Well I didn't steal it off of someone else," I thought.


"Is very ugly!!!!!"


"You look like grandfather!"

Jeez. Tough crowd.


Pam said...

It looks great and you must feel a few pounds lighter!

Stephanie said...

Oh! SO cute, both ways though. I expected, from your descriptions, your hair to be moppy and very weird.. But it was just a little shaggy. Not so bad.

Shane said...

Yours was the first haircut I've ever benefited from. I got free drinks! Holy Crap!
Looking sharp, man.

mandy said...

lookin' sexy sam!!
I love your new hair cut. Although I have to say, you do have beautiful curly hair too.

Sam said...

Thanks Mandy.

I needed that.

paul said...

They got your locks and 20 bucks, and (what do those dung-obsessed students know!) you look BETTER than Johnny Depp. I said Depp, not Elizabeth Hurley.

Anonymous said...

I swung by the Salon Excellance today for my own groovy haircut. More evidence that they care about the customer like no other: They hung on to, and returned, the headphones that I lost last weekend during our outing. Sweet.

Sam said...