Birthday – Today, July 22nd, was my birthday. Thanks to my friends and family who sent birthday wishes and to my Korean family who pampered me. I indulged myself in a new perm today. My perm takes four and a half hours to do because it’s an ion perm, not your usual conventional perms that straighten my very curly hair for a few days then go to frizz afterwards. The ion perm (started in Japan but called “magic-straight” in Korea) leaves my hair silky and straight as if I had been born with straight hair. The last time I checked at Regis hair salons in America it cost $300 for an ion perm. Here I pay $70.

Omani (my mother-in-law) babysat Andy most of the day and also presented me with some new makeup since she knew that I had run out of my American-bought stuff. The shade of makeup that she gave me was as close to my skin color as you can get in Korea but it lacked that tinge of pink that you get in the American makeup. It’s more of a sallow shade with a tinge of yellow. I don’t think of Koreans, or other Asians, as yellow, but there it is in the makeup. As I put it on I could see the pinkish hue of my skin disappear under the pancake batter.

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The makeup was actually a set of two bottles. The first base is a “whitening” base. It’s supposed to make my skin whiter. Koreans, like many other nationalities, favor white skin over dark. Lighter skin opens more doors here and in many other cultures, in my experience. It must be a part of human nature. Even in Mexico you find that the “white” people get the television acting jobs, the political jobs and the “representative” jobs. Once a Mexican Navy ship arrived at the southern port of Pusan here in Korea, the Mexican ambassador here invited Mexican citizens or Mexican-Americans and Korean students of Spanish to come on board for a fiesta evening. As we boarded the ship we were greeted by the more “presentable” European-looking Mexican sailors on the upper deck of the ship. As I continued to mingle I was introduced to the first lieutenant who also happened to be from Durango, Mexico, my birth state. We struck up a conversation and he gave me a tour of the rest of the ship. Low and behold, the ship was hiding the “less-presentable” dark-skinned and more native-Indian-looking men in the lower decks of the ship manning the kitchen, doing the maintenance or just hiding out in the game room. Also, all the Mexican embassy staff here is all white. Most want to keep their European blood pure and thus like marry like.

I’m not going to use that skin whitening crap. I’m not Michael Jackson who sings “don’t stop till you’re white enough”. Isn’t that how it goes? It’s the first time I’ve gotten that as a gift. My African-American co-missionaries used to get that as gifts from their classes. While I was getting lacy bras and panties they were opening their skin whitening gifts to a round of applause.

Soooo, in the evening Tom brought home a frozen Baskin Robbins ice cream cake and we did the candles and cake eating thing, then we left Andy with my kind Omani again and went out to eat. I wanted Mexican food but it’s nonexistent here so I settled on a chicken fajita wannabe dish with sweet-n-sour sauce. Later he wanted to take in a movie but I was tired of sitting on my butt for almost five hours at the salon so we went bowling. We hadn’t bowled in about ten years and it took a couple of games to get the rust out. I bowl about three times a week on my Nintendo wii and my mii is a pro but I found out that real bowling and virtual bowling are not very related. I was disappointed in the bowling alley. We live in a new city where all the buildings are new and most businesses are very chic looking. Fifteen years ago bowling was a favorite pastime in Korea and the bowling alleys were very lavish and modern. Today’s bowling alley was new but shabby and low tech. It turns out that the new generation doesn’t like to go bowling so there’s not much incentive to invest in a deluxe alley.

Oh, and my birthday present from Tom… I just asked that he not complain too much when the electricity bill comes in due to the air-conditioning. Typically it’s about $600 in summer and I don’t even use the AC all day because it’s also monsoon season so the rains sometimes cool the temperature (but the humidity is unbearable) but this year the rains have been scarce and I have been turning on the AC, along with my guilt, during the day. Gasoline and electricity here are about twice the price as in America.

All in all, it was a good birthday.

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One response »

  1. Karen Bemus says:

    Please pass it on to Maggie that I enjoy her column: Cultural Encounters and Tangents. Diversity is one of the great blessings that many Americans do not appreciate. Please keep up the good work!
    Karen Bemus, a fan

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