April 9

Yesterday started with a morning of feeling defeated and ended with a comforting dinner of hot wings with Busan Boy. But bear with me for today was wonderful.


Yesterday the ENT explained my allergy tests perfectly clearly but told me “I can’t explain it well in English. Maybe next time you can come with a Korean friend.”

He spoke English just fine but I suppose English is stressful for him. I wanted to cry in frustration, though: don’t you think me bumbling my way through every day interactions in Korean is stressful?

He also said “I am yellow and you are white. The things we are allergic to may differ.” I was a bit taken aback by his word choice but I suppose that’s uh one way to put it. I know that race and gender determine your susceptibility to different diseases. And also as a newcomer to this part of the world I’m adjusting to a whole new slew of flora and fauna.

Don’t get me wrong, the ENT is a very nice and helpful doctor, but the whole situation had me feeling a bit “other”.

As my eye was still stinging, he recommended I visit the eye doctor on the fifth floor. In fact, he was surprised I still hadn’t gone since he urged me to go last week. I’m an American, though, and unraveling over two decades of conditioning to never visit the doctor unless in mortal peril can’t be undone overnight.

I hesitated by the elevators. Could I really withstand another bungled communication attempt on my end?

Although I was nervous and the optometrist was not versed in English, we made it through with his English and my Korean. It was surprisingly not so stressful and his straightforward attitude put me at ease.

Last night ended with some good old American food and people watching. And my Busan friend said “I know what it’s like to be alone in a foreign country for your birthday so let me take you out next weekend.”

Today I attended my cut/perm/color appointment with a salon that specifically caters to Western hair. I’m not about to get my hair burned off by a well meaning but Korean only salon.

As the salon has already warned me, the stylist was unable to do the loose wave perm I wanted. Since western hair is thinner and weaker than Asian hair, the only way he could do a wave perm would be to make really strong ringlets a la 1980s style. My other option would be straight.

He said “I could give you a loose wave perm but it would fall to straight within the week and I don’t want to take your money.” He also suggested to wait to get the pink balayage I wanted until my hair is a bit longer. He could feel my disappointment and told me he was sorry.

What struck me though was his remarks about my natural hair and turned my mood around.

“You could get a straight perm but I really like your natural texture.” Later he added “your natural curl is beautiful.” And that Koreans really like this style these days.

I have never once heard that from a stylist. It’s usually “your hair is dry, your hair is frizzy, your hair is….textured, you’ll go gray early, you should blow dry and style this”. Never has any stylist actually expressed any compliments towards my hair.

In fact, I think only my mother tells me she loves my hair. This is also the first stylist, aside from the specifically trained Deva stylists, that said “you need some layers.”

Y’all. How many times have I gone to a salon and asked for layers only to have them say “I don’t know what you mean”.
“I don’t want a triangle head!” I’d say, because if you bluntly cut textured hair, it dries to 2005 Willy Wonka mug. Not cute.

I don’t know what this will look like natural but I’m excited to see how my side bangs turn out. He even said “yeah I think you’d look good with bangs but you should wait until fall. It’s about to be humid.”

What a smart guy! I don’t want to spend an entire summer with bangs sweat plastered to my head.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the same neighborhood passing time until the vegan restaurant I spotted earlier opened for dinner.

I didn’t know vegan mayo could taste exactly like mayo and my life is changed.

Haebangchon is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seoul and surrounds the US base. All the buildings are low brick structures with cute shops and blooming trees nestled in alcoves. It’s extremely hilly and a peek down each alley adds an entirely new and beautiful view of the city below.

I stopped in a small shoe shop and I have to give huge props to the owner. I have never ever encountered someone who spoke Korean so clearly and patiently:

265 없지요? You don’t have size 265, right? (Shoe stores here never do).
265 없는데 주문할게요. We don’t have but we can order it for you.

HBC apparently has a more international population and I imagine she’s probably we trained in non native speakers. I cannot say the same for my side of town.

I bought more cloth masks for the gym at the pop up store in the station and a necklace at another station shop. I couldn’t stop there: I had a feeling the clothing store that I pass going home had something good. I was right!

After too long debating between colors I landed on a tan sweater and tank/jacket set in a style that’s really popular here. The set is very 90s and I’m here for it. My jewelry purchase was the main motivator as I wanted a casual black top to match my new chocker. Together it feels very “Charmed”.

The air was clear today and the weather was beautiful (that didn’t stop my from stress sweating as I ran to get to my hair appointment in time). I felt the love I had for Seoul a summer ago and watching the purple light of dusk color my night wrapped it all up.

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