anyEnglishatall.ItellthemIhopeherprojectissuccessfulandthatI’llcheckthepictureonlinesoon.Theythankme,bowslightly,andreturntotheirtable behindours.Ourfoodarrivesshortlyafter,andNaJungandIpickupourcon-versation where we had left off. Later when I check the Web site, I find nopictures of beards whatsoever.
3. THE TAXI RIDE IN MOKDONG
“MokDongYok juseyo,” (to MokDong station please) I say to the taxidriver. I’m rushing from my American friend Sean’s apartment to catch thesubway back to my neighborhood, Yeoksamgu, before it quits running at 11p.m.“MokDongYok?”thedriververifies.“Ye,MokDongYokjuseyo,”Ireiter-ate. He tries a couple of phrases with me and quickly realizes I have no con-versationalknowledgeofKorean.Weproceed,listeningtothebarelyaudibleradio, until he suddenly begins an interrogation. Out of his numerous sen-tences, I understand him to ask “Hindu saram imnikka?” (You’re Indian?), but still I don’t totally understand at first. “Hindu . . . Hindu . . . ,” he says,pointing at me questioningly in the rearview mirror. I smile, amused. “Can-adasaramimnida,”Isay.“Canada,”Irepeat.“Hmmm...,”hereplies,contin-uingtolookatmeinthemirrorandnowanimatedlybutunconsciously rub- bing his clean-shaven chin as if he is rubbing a beard. Suddenly he pulls thecarovertothecurb.“MokDongYok...,”hetells me,pointingtothesubwayentrance.Ipayhimandthankinghim,rushoutofthetaxitocatchmytrain.
4. BACKWARD-STARING GIRLS IN BUSAN
SeanandIareonaweekendtriptoBusan.ItisSunday.Weareontheeast-ernmosttipoftheKoreanpeninsula,havingjustvisited theeasternbeachonthe shore of Taejongdae. As we begin to descend along the road toward theparkexit,weapproachagroupofaboutfiveyoungwomenwalkingupintheoppositedirection.Aswegetnearer,theirconversationdropsinvolume,andI feel their eyes on my face. I smile and say, “Anyong haseyo” (Hello). Theycollectively giggle,andwecontinuepasteachother.IlookoveratSeanwho,headturnedbackoverhisshoulder,exclaims,“Shiiiiit...damn...howcomeno girls ever look at ME that way?!!” I follow his gaze back to the group of women and see they are all still staring at me, necks craning backward likeoursastheyproceeduptheincline.Theirconversationhasresumeditsprevi-ous pitch, and a couple smile, giggle, and avert their eyes when they noticeI’m looking back at them. “It’s the beard,” I reply in a serious, quiet voice toSean,“yougottagrowabeardifyouwantthatkindofattentioninthiscoun-try.”“Shit! Ican’tgrowabeardlikeyours!”heexclaims.“Mineis alwaystoo
Kien / BEARD STORIES 3