Monday, April 10, 2006

Tomorrow, I am to be observed by two company overseers during my 10:20 class. This is nothing to which an instructor looks forward. In New York, at both colleges, I was observed once a semester. By the time I was observed my last semester in New York, I had become almost comfortable having my teaching skills put under the pedagogical microscope. Now I am in China, I am nervous. I was told I have no reason to be nervous. Still, I am nervous.

After my 1:30 class today, I asked Logan if he could go with me to to get my haircut. I have learned to ask someone who speaks Chinese to come with me anytime I feel as if I could be misunderstood, overcharged, or misunderstood and overcharged. A haircut always makes me feel much better about myself. I had an hour in between the end of the 1:30 Oral English class which ends at 2:10 and the art class which begins at 3:10. Since the hair salon is only a block away (and I just needed a trim) I thought I would have plenty of time to go and be back in time for my class.

Logan escorted me. In front of the shop was a sign in Chinese with the prices. Logan tells me the haircut is 10 and the shampoo is 5. I tell him that sounds fine. This is the place which I walked by a week ago and the women, approximately 16 of them, were in hot pink 1960s stewardess style uniforms doing some sort of Chinese disco dance. The stewardess outfits sold me on the place. Yes, this is where I must get my haircut I thought.

Cut to today, Logan and I walk in. I tell him what I want done - short on the back and sides, a little longer on the top. He tells the girl - today the uniforms are (porno)candy striper instead of coffee-tea-or-me flight attendant. She nods and asks what kind of shampoo. They have what seems to be a 5 or 10 minute conversation about the shampooing possibilities. From their conversation, you would think I was Lady Godiva - or Cher. I have two options but one is 5 kuai more (the anti-dandruff shampoo, both brands are a German company Hydro). I tell him to tell her the regular shampoo is fine. I am neither Lady Godiva or Cher. What would Clint Eastwood do? Clint Eastwood would probably not be in China to begin with. Logan tells her to use the cheap stuff and then starts talking to me about a tea tree oil company with which he has become involved.

She then puts my arms into a vinyl smock and puts some towells around my neck. At this point another candy striper slash salon worker sets a water in front of me. I take a drink. It is hot, not warm but hot. I realize I have never drank hot water in a salon before. I then realize I have never had my hair cut in China before. The next surprise comes when they wash my hair.

The shampoo candy striper salon worker squirts a nice bit of shampoo on my head. Did I mention that my head is not wet? After the dab is on my head, the shampoo candy striper salon worker squirts my head with water. Okay, different than we do it in the West but this is China.

Not many sights are goofier than a grown man getting a shampoo talking to his Chinese friend about his Chinese friend's budding tea tree oil company as lather now and then drips down to his chin and then jumps to his smock. When the suds escape from my head onto my smock, the shampoo candy striper salon worker delicately wipes off the on-the-lamb lather with a bit of towell. Logan continues the tea tree oil discussion as if we are in a boardroom and nothing unusual is taking place. He can get half a liter at a time of the tea tree oil powder for 39 kuai. This is facinating. Call Aveda. While he is telling me this business venture, I am getting the best shampoo of my life.

After a good 10 minutes of lathering, I am taken back for the rinse. The set up is very modern and Western not any different except that when I get my hair dried, the shampoo candy striper salon worker makes certain that my ears are meticulously cleaned out at the same time. After my ears - inside and out - have got the individual attention from the towell I am taken back to the chair where I got the shampoo and head massage.

This is when the shampoo candy striper salon worker reveals the cotton swabs. Logan asks me at this point if he can go back to the office. He has negotiated my hair cut. He sees I am in good hands. I tell him I can handle it. While I am saying this, the shampoo candy striper salon worker sticks a cotton swab into my left ear and goes to town. I have never witnessed such ear swabbing precision. China truly is the land of superb service. I flinch a few times because I am not used to a shampoo candy striper salon worker sticking objects in my ear which is probably because I have never had my hair cut in China. After she does my left ear, she gives the right one equal treatment and, of course, I flinch a few more times for good measure.

Naturally, then it is time for my massage. Those who know me, know how much I hate massages and now I know why. First she beats on my shoulders like Gene Krupa banging on a trap set. I finally flinch and let out enough of a howl that she proceed to the next unfortunate part of my body. She bends my right arm all the way behind my back. I think part of this is just to see if it would bend that far since people have mistaken me for Gumby before. The next thing to succumb to shampoo candy striper salon worker cum dominatrix is my fingers. She does some sort of ancient Chinese voodoo on them and then she bends them back to see how far they go. Last she slings my head down on the counter like I am a druglord and she is the FBI and she uses my back to practice tap dancing.

After I had been thouroughly ravished, she gives me to the stylist who could have been Hanoi Rocks' Nasty Suicide's cousin (or was that Sam Yaffa). The tall thin Nasty Suicide stylist looks as if the better part of the last 10 years he has spent making his hair look fabulous. At this point, I hope he does not spend that amount of time on my hair because I have a class to teach. Fortunately, he cuts my hair in about five minutes with all the other fabulous stylists watching and then watching themselves in the mirror looking fabulous while watching me watch them watch me.

A male (Rudy Sarzo circa 1984) candy striper leads me back to the shampoo room again! He thourougly shampoos my hair once more. He leaves my ears out of the equation. He leads me back to the chair where I had got my cut and blows my hair with the dryer. I did not tell him he parted my hair on the wrong side because I look at my watch and I notice I am late. I didn't know how to tell them I have to go. Fortunately, they had no more masochism planned for me.

When I go to pay, I realize all I have on me is a 100rmb bill, a 5 rmb bill and a bunch of rmb coins in my pocket. I owe 15 rmb. I do not want to make them break 100 so I count out 10 rmb in coins and give them the 5 and say 'xie xie.' The Rudy Sarzo blowdry guy escorts me out while the staff practice saying 'goodbye' and 'come visit again' as I walk out. For all of that attention, I spent under $2. China, my China, I love you!


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