“All about Aj, Part II”
With the way that my blog works, you’re going to see this post first. I implore you to scroll down to the next one, which is written on the same day, and read that one first. Then, come back to this one.
If you ever visit Korea, make sure you look up when you’re walking down the street. In America, it seems like every retail establishment owns street-level property. For instance, in the strip mall down the street from me in Oak Brook, there is a Container Store, a Loehman’s, an Office Max, and a Borders. America is known for retail establishments that occupy land in a horizontal way, and if they are part of a building with more than one story, they own the entire building, or at least the first floor. This is not so with Korea.
For instance, at a major corner in Songtan, there’s a McDonald’s. Above the McDonalds is an office for something (I don’t know Korean quite yet.) Then, there’s a health clinic on the third floor. There’s a gym on the fourth floor. That’s as far as I went; I was interested in the gym. In the strip downtown, a Burger King graces the street level and a Chinese Restaurant has the second story.
It took me some time to realize that most of the good places to eat are in basements or on the second floor above another restaurant. So too is a hair salon I went to to get my first haircut.
The hair salon is called Miss Piggy’s. It’s called that after the Muppet who bears the same name, as there are several pictures of the stuffed pig in the hair salon.
I went on the recommendation of a couple of the female members of staff, and considering that Miss Piggy had done a good job with their hair, I decided I would go check it out.
I walk in and one ajumma is lying down on a bench, sleeping. In the back, there is a bed, which made me wonder if the hair salon also doubled as the pen in which this Miss Piggy lived.
Another woman comes out of a room that is off the main room, and says to me, in pretty good English, “would you like a haircut?”
Given the fact that I looked like a 70s retread, I said yes, and she sat me down.
While I was getting my haircut, the ajumma who was sleeping on the bench woke up and moved her act to the bed, which I thought was somewhat appropriate and really strange. Moreover, another ajumma came in, started talking with the woman who was cutting my hair, sat down, and started counting money. It didn’t take old Forrest Gump here to rifle back through my economics classes to realize that the woman doing the counting was probably the infamous Miss Piggy, and the woman cutting my hair was but a little Piggy who was working for the Big BossPiggy.
The three of us start talking, and I tell them that no, I don’t work for the Air Force; no, I’ve never been on base; no, I’m not a defense contractor; no, I’m not a special agent; and no, I’m not Jack Bauer. I tell them that I’m a teacher at an International Christian School, and that I teach Bible.
As the haircut drew to a close, the hairdresser gave me a massage that actually hurt more than it helped—it involved less massaging of tense shoulders and more pounding of the center of my back.
As I was set to go, BigBossMissPiggy took a once over of me, then looked at me, and as plain as day, said, “Hey, you’re pretty cute.”
BigBossMissPiggy probably was tipping the upper end of her 60s. I had never been hit on before by a woman, let alone one who is older than my mom.
She proceeded to ask me if I would be willing to come teach them English.
Here was the problem facing me: On one hand, I really liked the haircut, and considering my vanity, I wanted to be able to return to get my hair cut monthly, and I didn’t want to offend them by saying “no.” On the other hand, I started to get very nauseous at what “yes” might mean.
Not realizing what I was getting myself into, I said, “yes.”
She then told me, “Cutie, please write down your number.”
It was at this point that expediency took over. I wrote down the number and high-tailed it out of there, absolutely freaked out at what was happening.
Here’s what I imagine happened the next day, say, at bingo with her other friends…
“Ladies, do you see this? I just got the number of a 27 year old. Miss Piggy’s still got it!”
All ajumma hilarity aside, I really am thankful to be here. I really love the other staff, I love my church, and I love my kids. Yes, they are my kids. I feel like a father to 83 students that I get to spend time with every single day. I have found that obedience has brought such a tremendous blessing in my life.
Thank you for praying and for the emails of encouragement. I’ll be back in December, and for those of you around Chicago, I’d love to see you when I’m back.