As you know, whatever winter plans I had during this vacation were completely uprooted by the virus and school scheduling changes. It looks like with a continuation of the virus I’ll be unable to visit my former Chinese students in April like I had planned which is a huge bummer.
I’m not sure there will be many places I can actually visit during our short April vacation since everywhere I’d like to visit is within Asia.
As such I’m in a strange time suspension where I don’t have to work but can’t do much else. So today I decided to cross one thing off my list.
I got an eyelash perm.
Now, in the states, eyelash perms start at around $85. In Korea they start at around ₩30,000 which, with the currently devalued currency, is around $25.
After some back-and-forth I was able to book my appointment online through Korea’s premier search site Naver. When I arrived at the lash salon, the beautician was clearly surprised I was in fact a foreigner. She approached and asked in stilted English where I was from. Initially I answered “USA” but she didn’t understand me so I just switched to Korean.
“어 다행이에요.” What a relief! She exclaimed to the other women laying prone with eyelids glued shut.
I chatted with the two women and the beautician while I put my things in a locker.
“Is everyone here getting an eyelash perm?”
“Yes, that’s correct. At this time everyone here is getting an eyelash perm.”
“Oh! Perm time!” I declared. The middle laying lady thought that was especially funny because I had said quite literally “펌 타임”.
They asked if I was a student (flattering) and wanted to know why I didn’t call to reserve an appointment if my Korean is so good:
“Because dates and numbers… I really don’t know them well and it’s scary!”
The beautician asked if Americans are worried and I said unfortunately people in the US seem to be overly worried even though there are few COVID-19 cases. As for my family, they’re not very worried since I call them and update them fairly regularly.
(I didn’t have the vocabulary to also add that America should be less worried about the virus and more about its lumbering, expensive, and inefficient health insurance system. And yeah, since the pandemic team was fired in 2018 and never replaced, and the CDC budget gutted in favor of military spending, America does not have the range to test and treat the virus.)
She also wanted to know my Korean name which all the ladies had trouble with.
“Abi… jel? Abi… gen? Abi… what? Oh the pronunciation is difficult.”
I noticed a beautician pronounced it with a final N consonant which is something my Laos and Thai friends do.
The ladies seemed like fun but the procedure was a bit uncomfortable. The one time I tried to talk had jostled the glue on my eyelids which was fairly terrifying so I zipped it up and tried to meditate as best as possible.￼
Later I heard another woman come in with an incorrect appointment time and the beautician said oho! while they worked out details. This is also an exclamation from my Southeast Asian friends.
As I was paying after the procedure was over I asked the beautician where she was from. She stared at me in shock and asked:
“Me? Where am I from?”
I laughed to myself, oh how the tables have turned!
“Yes, you said oho like my Thai friends.”
She laughed and laughed and I’m sure there’s a reason but her answer was simply: “foreigner style”.