I finish my third and final class at noon. I'm supposed to meet my girlfriend
and go get my hair cut this afternoon. It's sad that after four years
in Korea I haven't learned how to communicate well enough to get a haircut
on my own. However, if the truth be told, it's not something that's been
particularly high on my priority list. I'd like to be able to speak Korean;
I really would! But I admitted to myself long ago that I don't have the
patience or the discipline to do it. Besides, the practical side of me
says " You've lived here for four years without it. You don't really
I arrive at the Galleria department store and see my girlfriend seated
on a bench waiting for me. She's dressed in her usual attire; T-shirt,
denim jeans, baseball cap, and sunglasses.
"Hey, baby. What's up?"
Peering over the top of her sunglasses, she says " Not much. Just
waiting." and smiles.
I love this woman. She has an effect on me like no one else ever has.
The baseball cap and sunglasses make her look tough, but sexy. When she
smiles, however, the toughness disappears and all seems right with the
We go to the fifth floor of the Galleria and have lunch. Sitting outside
on the rooftop patio, we make light conversation. I tell her some of the
amusing comments made by my students in the morning classes and she tells
me about her plans to meet her mother later this afternoon.
We finish lunch and set off towards the hair salon. I have high hopes
today of getting a good haircut. It's not easy, as most foreigners will
tell you. On the way, I give her detailed instructions to translate to
the hair stylist. Most importantly, I tell her to make sure I don't get
What is "the line" you ask? It's when the stylist takes the
shears and shaves off nearly all the hair over your ears and around the
back of your head. Thus forming an almost bald line. Koreans seem to feel
it is essential for a good men's haircut, but I take particular exception
We arrive at the hair salon and I take a seat in the chair while my girlfriend
and the stylist discuss the finer points of the haircut. Having conferred
for several minutes, the stylist begins preparing me for the haircut and
my girlfriend sits down and begins reading a magazine.
The stylist, smiling sweetly at me through the mirror, starts combing
my hair and moving my head into the proper position. She then picks up
the shears and faster than you can say "Danger, Will Robinson!"
zips off nearly all the hair above my left ear.
I stare into the mirror in utter shock and disbelief. The stylist, meanwhile,
proceeds to do the same thing to the right side. What was supposed to
be my moment of triumph has suddenly become my Waterloo. The stylist examines
her work and with a broad smile asks "Gwain-chan-ayo?" Completely
dejected, I respond with a quiet "no".
She looks momentarily confused, but with a shrug of her shoulders she
begins working on the top. When she finishes, I stand up and pay her.
My girlfriend comes over and inspects the new look, nodding approvingly.
- "Looks good." she says, as we head out the door.
"Yeah, but she still gave me the line."
"Umm..., but still looks good."
"It's OK, but why did she do that? You told her not to."
"I don't know, but maybe she's trained like that. You know, it's
"Yes, but we specifically told her not to do that."
We walk in silence for a few minutes, each pondering the question. When
we arrive at the bus stop, my girlfriend says "I gotta go."
I nod understandingly.
As the bus pulls up, she turns and flashes me one of those smiles. "Don't
worry! It looks good!" she says and runs for the bus.
I wait a few more minutes for the "ma-oul bus" and climb aboard.
Same driver, less enthusiastic "Anyanghaseyo". I guess driving
around in a circle all day has that effect on people.
Twenty minutes later I arrive at my apartment. After a short break, I
eat dinner and weigh my options for this evening's entertainment. After
making a few phone calls, I decide to meet my friend Jeff at our favorite
bar for a few drinks.
I like hanging out with Jeff a lot. He's one of the few people I enjoy
talking about politics and social issues with. He's very intelligent and
can discuss these issues without getting too emotional. He's also a lot
of fun to get drunk with.
Our usual routine is to meet at a little bar in Nyon-yang dong called
"K2". In my opinion, it's the best bar in Korea. The inside
walls are covered with graffiti and the lights are low. The owner is a
very mellow guy with superb taste in music. The place is air-conditioned
and has a great selection of imported beers, but the best part is the
chips. Home-made potato chips served on-the-house with your beer. They're
hot, dripping with grease, and incredibly good.
I arrive to see Jeff already seated at one of the tables. We order and
begin talking about the latest international news. The conversation quickly
turns toward analyzing various aspects of American and Korean societies.
We drink, listen to music, and debate various philosophical theories for
the next few hours.
At about midnight the owner announces that he is closing soon. As we finish
our beers, Jeff looks over at me and says "By the way, nice haircut."
"It's OK" I reply, knowing what's coming next.
"But you still got the line, I see" he says, barely suppressing
I respond by throwing my arms up into the air and answering "What
can ya do?".
We say our good-byes and go to our respective homes. I get to my apartment
about a half hour later. I undress, check the alarm clock and crawl into
bed thinking about the next day's activities. So ends another day in the
life of a typical "wei-gook saram".