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Month: March 2016

O Canada #2: Korea Town

The hair salon was nestled in the middle of Korea Town, but its name was Japanese. Outside the window, I could see the colorful League of Legends characters on the cybercafe’s storefront across the street. Every time the door opened, the smell of grilled beef made my stomach growl a little. The restaurant around the corner must have been preparing the lunch menu.

It was a rainy day, but the salon was far from empty. Most of the customers seemed like regulars; they all chatted about their lives with their hair stylist in Japanese or Korean, like good high-school friends would do. My Japanese stylist, on the other hand, spoke softly while running scissors through my hair. She said she had moved from Nagoya to Toronto when she married a Canadian man two years ago. When I complimented her English since her accent was barely noticeable, she smiled shyly.

Soon my hair went from a shoulder-length colossal mess to a short layered bob – a style someone who isn’t used to Asian hair texture can royally screw up. Her coloring was also even and on point, with no spills or smudges. After several months of hating looking into the mirror every morning, finally I felt like I was back to my usual self. I hadn’t had any luck finding Asian-owned hair salons in my new neighborhood; I wondered if I had to fly or drive to Toronto for a haircut every six months.

Then when I tried to pay the bill, my US debit card refused to cooperate with their Canadian terminal. I ended up running to the nearest ATM to withdraw cash in the rain, and when I got back to the salon, I was surprised to find my hair stylist standing there, opening the door for me with a fresh towel in her hand. She apologized profusely, although it wasn’t her fault at all. It was the good old hospitality that I vaguely remembered from back when I was young and still lived in Japan.

For a split second, I imagined how she would open the door for her husband when he came back home. I felt happy and jealous for the man.


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O Canada #1: On Spadina Ave

I looked out the window, quietly chewing the smoke salmon crêpe. A college student in a hooded sweat shirt hurried to the subway station holding an over-sized textbook against her chest. A young man in a pressed suit held firmly onto his young children’s hands – one on the left and one on the right – as he walked them to school. A grey-haired woman slowly pushed her shopping basket, glancing over at me eating the crêpe for a moment. I was on vacation, but it was just another Thursday morning for the majority of Torontonians.

IMGP0254“So what are you doing here?” the lady behind the counter said with a French accent. There were only two other patrons in the tiny café; an older couple at the table next to the cashier. “We are on vacation for seven weeks,” the man replied. “We started in Vancouver. Traveled all the way across Canada. Later today, we are heading to Niagara.” It turned out the man worked as a fire fighter for 30 years, and nowadays he and his wife spent most of their days traveling around the world, enjoying their retirement life.

Seven weeks! I wish I could have a vacation,” the lady sighed. She had a three-year-old daughter, and as a result, her day off from work was often anything but. I could relate to her feeling; I decided to physically get away from everything for a few days for my sanity after all. But while I could afford a mini vacation, I wasn’t so sure if I would be able to afford to travel for seven weeks in my 60s or 70s. As I finished my savory crêpe and sipped the rest of espresso, I wondered if I would even be able to retire.

It was starting to rain outside. Another man in a pressed suit walked by, pushing a covered stroller. I checked my phone; it was 8:57am. I walked up to the counter and paid the bill with cash, letting her keep the change. Both she and I had a long day ahead of us.


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