There were a couple of reasons why I had been putting off getting a haircut while Chris and I have been here. First of all, choosing a salon and figuring out how to make an appointment was a little intimidating. Secondly, I wasn’t quite sure what I would do once I made it into the beautician's chair and attempted to communicate just what I needed done. Yesterday, the first half of the battle was conquered when my friend Rachel made the offer of taking me to her “regular” place and making our appointments. So, I decided to buck up and take on the second half of the battle.
We arrived at the salon at the pre-designated 3:00. While Rachel’s Mandarin is infinitely better than mine, we weren’t sure if we had two appointments at 3:00 or if we had two appointments with the same girl starting at 3:00, one after the other. So, I came armed with a book and my ipod just in case. When we climbed the two flights of stairs, we were received by a receptionist who wasn’t quite sure who to expect either. However, without skipping a beat, we both were whisked away by two assistant stylists into our separate chairs and our things were taken with a respectful bow and placed into a locker to which we were given the key. I knew that I was in for a special experience when the assistant then brought out two piping hot cups of oolong tea. It was at this point that the assistants and the receptionist got together and were trying to figure out why, exactly, we both were there. One of them finally got up enough courage and came to us both and asked nervously, “Cut?” We smiled and said that yes, we were indeed both there to get a hair cut.
As I settled into my chair, sipped my tea and flipped through a magazine that I had been given to select a hairstyle, the assistant came up behind me equipped with a warm towel and a slightly fragrant lotion. She then proceeded to rub, knead, push, press and squeeze my shoulders, back and scalp through a 20 minute massage. After this, I was led to the sinks where a different hair-washing assistant awaited. Placing my head on a small head rest in the sink (why don’t hair washing sinks have head rests in the States?), she delicately pressed a paper covering on my forehead as to avoid any unpleasant splashing on my face. After about 15 minutes of hair washing / scalp massaging, I hazily made it back to the styling chair.
It was at this point that I finally met our stylist. She slipped on my smock and I noticed that it actually had arm holes! I’m not sure if everyone has these now, but it was new to me and I was excited. Unsurely, I used my arm holes to charade my way through telling her what I wanted, half-way knowing that it wasn’t going to go exactly the way I planned but too relaxed to care. She snipped and combed and chatted with the other women in the shop as she toiled away with my hair. Just when I thought she was finished, I was taken back to the sinks for one more washing to ensure no snipped stragglers were waiting in my hair to cause back-itchiness later.
A few last minute trims and I was ready to be styled and sent on my way. I was given my bill, and I have to say, it was a little pricey at $520. Sorry, I meant NT$520 which actually works out to be about $18 U.S. Two hours after we arrived, we left the salon in a euphoric daze as I pondered the poor Taiwanese immigrant who is rudely welcomed into American culture by a sorely unsatisfactory trip to Great Clips. So, when it comes to the treatment of hair, I must say, “Well done, Taiwan. Well done.”