Wednesday, April 20, 2011: Beijing Bound
Mega Makeover 大改造
I got a haircut along with Mom and Kelly. Since the beginning of the trip, I’ve been ambivalent over whether or not I should curl my hair or leave it straight. The last time I curled my hair was during middle school into most of high school. That was many curly years. In college, I got lazy and left my hair straight. I learned to love silky, smooth hair because 1) it was cheaper and 2) it was easier to manage in the mornings. No more gel and mousse. No more stuck combs. No more frizz and hair frenzies. I liked my long, black hair. So when Mom asked me if I wanted to perm my hair in Beijing, I was not too sure I wanted to part with my long straight hair and trade in for the Shirley Temple look.
Even on the car ride to the salon, I was still debating whether I should perm my hair. Mr. Kang took us to a pleasant, classy beauty salon called 東方柏麗 Belle Salon. I walked up the steps and immediately greeted by some lovely ladies in green dresses and nice gentlemen in sexy white-Tees. Again, it was not part of their job description to appear dumbfounded and using all their strength to lift my poor Dad up the few steps. I walked in casually and the next thing I knew, I was escorted to a comfortable, leather seat and offered a cup of hot tea. One of the masters (who also happened to look slightly like Chinese version of Ryewook from Super Junior, with his face shape and haircut), there began playing with my hair and commenting on my ‘horrible’ layers. Apparently my hair was too choppy and messy. I was never an expert on hair, always expecting my master stylists knew what they were doing. I guess for the first time, I had a real stylist who knew what he was doing, perform his best with my hair.
Never before did I experience such star treatment. Next thing I knew, they were pampering me, dressing me in a smooth robe, washing my hair, massaging my back, and handing me rose tea. I asked for a perm like Mom and Kelly. Specifically, it was an Electric Perm, where your hair gets rolled onto electric curlers. The heating part only takes maybe 10 minutes maximum, as they were also careful not to burn my scalp. I asked to keep my hair length, leave some bangs, and use medium curls.
The whole process, from washing to styling, took a full 2 hours. During that time, I was chatting up a storm with my hairstylists, a young girl student and one of the professionals they called 老師 lao shi, or ‘teacher.’ Kelly was next to me with her noob, a little on the quiet side. She later said I was practicing my Chinese. I disagreed and responded I was just being friendly. And I was, I enjoyed talking with my stylists, more than I have ever with my other Asian hairstylists in America. The girl spent most of the time with me, serving me hot tea and asking me if I was comfortable and happy. She told me to call her 小雨 Xiao Yu, and she likewise asked for my name. The only thing I was proud of was writing out my Chinese name, which is 虞鈺淇 Yu Yu Qi. I filled out a questionnaire form with them, and the only thing I could do was 1) write my full name and 2) draw circles and attempt to read a few phrases like “Name.” When I pointed and said 性名, Xiao Yu said to me, “Oh wow, you CAN read!” I shook my head modestly and responded, “Only a little bit,” making little flapping motions with my index and thumb. We chatted about life and such, basic girl talk to pass time. She was young, around Kelly’s age. She moved from the countryside to Beijing just recently. She loved to play around, get in trouble, always a tomboy. In turn, she asked about my American lifestyle, what I was studying (medicine), where I lived (Long Island, Manhattan), what I was up to in China (Shanghai, family), how I enjoyed Beijing (wonderful), etc… A few instances, I turned to talk to Kelly, strangely quiet for once. With her, we spoke mainly English. While we exchanged sisterly chat, our hair stylists were fascinated with our conversation. I saw out of the corner of my eye how focused Kelly’s noob stylist was on us. He was smiling and appearing curious. It was rather cute. Then, I switched back to Mandarin with Xiao Yu again. On and off, I juggled between English and Mandarin, between Kelly and hairdressers. Kelly would later laugh at me, with her high-pitched girlish tone and crossed fingers, “Client-hairdresser relationship for life!” in that Valley Girl voice and attitude. Boy would she not let me forget that line.
I was very satisfied with my new look. My main hair stylist did my hair so well. He did not spend too much on my hair, only applying the curls and then finishing up at the end. He was also very nice and talkative. He had a nice Mohawk atop his head, with a good build and height. I got to know him as much as he learned about me. He moussed up my hair and Voila! I was looking at a new person. I thanked him and Xiao Yu, as well one of the other stylish masters and Kelly’s noob.
It was by far the classiest, most enlivening salon I went to. The atmosphere and aromas catered to my inner chi. The place was spacious, clean, and hospitable, fully equipped with Internet and storage lockers for our belongings. They played music I enjoyed, including SNSD “Gee,” K-pop music and Mandopop. It really shows how Asian I am when I actually recognize what songs are played at various Chinese venues. Anyway, the place was absolutely soothing. Multiple times, I almost fell asleep in my chair because I was too comfortable. When I was getting my hair washed at the sink, I laid down on the leather recliner with my head nestled into the semicircular indentation. What would you expect with warm rose tea, massages, roomy leather seats, white walls and floors, and enjoyable music? I believe Mom actually nodded off, as I saw her head tilt forward heavily several times.
When we left, nearly everyone at the salon left his or her clients to bid us goodbye. Yes, the ladies and masters stopped cutting or washing, and came out to send us off. They also had to get Dad down the stairs again. They were probably extra polite to us because Mom paid them REALLY generously, in tips. But mostly, I think they were generally congenial and happy people who liked to interact with American people. On the way out, I was tempted to ask for a photograph with our hairstylists for doing such a remarkable job on all of us. But I felt awkward interrupting their duties and just asking for a random picture. My sister said it should be fine, speaking we ARE tourists and they’d understand. In the end, I did not have the guts to document our splendid time at the salon, in our new hairdos. This was the one time on my trip I did not take a picture unfortunately, and I am still hitting my head for it. Instead, I came out with a pink business card and a promise I’ll return next time for a professional perm. On the good side, I came out of that salon feeling very clean and fresh. I was going to step back into Shanghai and New York as a different Connie =)