assimilate

Thursday (Korea: Day 39)

Last week I became a real person of the Korean world. I finally acquired my Alien Residence Card (ARC).  Less than an hour later and I was two floors down at the bank. It just so happened to be my official “1 teaching month in Korea” thus payday and therefore important that my banking be setup within the work day. With it being the middle of the school day, I decided not to bother any of my Korean coworkers in helping me setup my banking. My banker was in his mid to late 30’s and spoke little to no English. We struggled through the filling out of documents all in Korea for close to 45 minutes before Lucy Teacher came down to bail me out. Some words were exchanged on their part, some signatures on mine and in less than 10 minutes I had a shiny yellow-silver and gold Shinhan bank card, pressed with my name and ready to go. After the work day was over I was feeling ambitious and decided to journey to the phone store. Again a man in his 30’s with no English ability. After an hour of haggling through the English to Korean app on his phone, I left promising to return the next day with a native speaker and the intent on purchasing one of his secondhand smart phones paired with a non-binding month-to-month contract. Ill spare you the grizzly details but in the end Hailey teacher (young – early 30s? originally from Korea but well traveled having lived in Canada 7 years) was able to score me a brand new LG Prada fresh out of its posh Saffiano pattern box. She also sweet talked a cute flip-book case and screen protector to sweeten the deal (15,000 won in freebies). Feeling very happy with the way things played out, chicken and beer (more prevalent that KFCs in Kentucky) was my treat.

If last week I became official and materially Korean  this week was my more intimate and semblance immersion. That sounds pretty exciting for a haircut but I could not think of better words. Being only a few days out from a trip to China I decided it was about time I tamed the chockablock mess on my head. My last haircut was a freebie off a craigslist ad in Hawaii. I figured I had got my monies worth and was ready to checkout one of the chic looking saloons in the neighborhood of the school. “Chic saloon”may sound pretty effeminate but  this is Korea and effeminate is the way it is. I gave the 3 nearest saloons the ol walk-by. Undecided on whether I was even psychologically and emotionally ready to go through the process of getting a haircut in a non-English speaking environment, I double backed.

After coming upon the first establishment which had been recommended, I stopped and stared inside with indecision.  With me indecisive as it is, getting a haircut in the US is hard enough. I had just made-up my mind to head home and regroup when a middle aged woman sprang out of the textile shop next-door excitedly asking if I wanted a haircut. “Uhh…” hung in my mouth as she rushed into the saloon to talk with the young man at the desk. I had just set down my umbrella by the door before she was back and ushering me into a saloon chair. Contrary to most modern looking seating in Korea this seat was surprisingly comfortable. Soon I had an album of hairstyles in my lap. Sure all the men looked great but I couldn’t know which would work on me. She would point a style out and I would shoot it down; too styled, too short, too homosexual. In the US I normally lay the fate of my hair in the stylists hands transferring all pressure from me to her. “Do whatever you think looks best”. She didn’t understand. For her sake I finally pointed to a picture and hoped I wouldn’t be living the next few weeks in regret. It was not long before the back of my head was pinned up in layers fanned out like the a tail of turkey at the hand of a taxidermist. Soon I was the only client and the other younger stylist was standing behind at attention like a member of the royal guard. I got a Yoko Ono “master stylist” vibe as my hair was methodically pinned up and cut with nothing but scissors. Soon I had shed all my dark “under-hair” that I didn’t even know I had  leaving only the golden shell. Ono gave a few curt words to the younger stylist and I was then turned over for shampoo and conditioning. When I was back in the saloon chair both of them went to work with hair dryers fussing over every wisp of hair. Without a word the younger one unplugged her blower and left. Ono went to work styling. Crumping, foofing, gelling, spraying. I left feeling like a silly foreign impostor.

That bring us to present day – Korea; Day 39 (not so present – this draft got lost in a busy work schedule and trip to China).  I went though work feeling a bit under the weather. After my last class I decided it was finally time for me to experience Eastern Medicine. I walked down the flight of stairs to the acupuncture-wellness center that I’d seen every day on my way to work. Not knowing quite what I was in need of nor what I was in-store for I walked in. The man at the desk asked whether I had health insurance. “not yet” I responded a bit taken aback. He asked of my pains with respectable English. After years of chiropractor work due to a snowboarding injury I was quick to point out my upper and lower back pains. “do you have headaches?” “YES!” “arm pain?” “no” After a short series of questions it was off to the back, a much more sterile and medical feeling environment.

He had me lay belly down a hard table covered with grandmas thin rose blanket. There was a small pillow but it was placed under my abdomen so I was forced to lay nose to nose with the uncomfortable pink table cover. Soon suction cups were secured to my lower and upper back, a switch was flipped and electricity was running through me like I was Frankenstein’s Monster. I couldn’t say it was painful nor could I quite say it was enjoyable. At one point I had the notion that my heart probably didn’t like electricity running through my body then again i’m not the doctor, was he? I don’t recall seeing a diploma in the lobby… After maybe 10 minutes of little control over my body and frequent jerks and spasms the pseudo doctor returned. Suction cups off, needles in. Some hurt more than others initially but once  all were placed (well over a dozen between upper and lower back) there was no pain. Well apart from when I couldn’t handle laying on my nose and forehead any longer and turned my head… 10 minutes frozen by fear not to move and the doc was back plucking needles from me like a pincushion. He adhered something to my lower back (I later learned it was an icy hot patch) I payed my 10,000 won and was on my way feeling cleared headed and relatively better.

Yes acupuncture will be in my future  as well as any other old school medicine Asia wants to throw at me.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Barb Baumgartner on August 4, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I need a picture of your new haircut!

    Reply

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