Hope and Fear

I asked Young-a if there was somewhere I could get a hanbok pattern.  She wasn’t sure what I meant by pattern, but she told me they were very difficult to make.  I told her it wasn’t a problem, and if only I had a pattern I could make one for myself.  She told me I could have her hanbok, since it was too small for her.  I told her I would be interested in borrowing it from her, so I could see how it was made, but that what I really wanted to do was MAKE one.  She told me it was too difficult and I should just take hers. I told her owning the hanbok wasn’t the point – the point was I wanted to make one.  She’s perplexed and incredulous, but I may get my wish!

Lisa, my Canadian friend I saw last week took me past a place that sells the ramie fabric for the jeogori (jacket), and that’s all I want to do now is make one.  I caught a documentary on the making of the fabric, and it was inspiring: They take the plant fibers and bleach and dry them in the sun, then they beat them.  Then they separate all the fibers individually by RUNNING THEM THROUGH THEIR TEETH, like dental floss.  Yup, every single thread was separated by teeth.  It is then spun into continuous threads and threaded through antique looms, the warp threads pulled taught and brushed with sizing.  And then each weft woven with a deft toss of the shuttle and syncopated beat of the foot.

I also read an article on a living intangible treasure that teaches traditional Korean sewing.  I guess every seem is a french seam.  Not one raw seam to be found. Not one exposed stitch to be found.  The seams are about an eigth of an inch wide and super durable.

I have also seen photos of Korean embroidery, and it looks to be predominantly satin stitch.  I have a photo of a really lovely plain hanbok with its jeogori sparsely embroidered on its lapels, and it was really sweet.

I like the raimie jacket and chima (skirt) and the fur-lined quilted vests, but I don’t like the colored silk and brocade hanbok.  Just too full and too busy for my taste.


Lisa also took me by a Korean toy store, circa 1960’s.  Not much bigger than a bathroom, the place was full of reproduction prints, nearly extinct candies, and toys that I couldn’t tell if they were real antiques or vintage.  (most likely vintage, since some of the antiques were protected behind plastic displays)  Anyway, it was VERY COOL.  I must go back with a fistful of won and my camera.


Today my favorite student (well, he’s not even my student really, as he’s grade 2 [junior] ) was by my desk and we were chatting.  He WAS my student for two classes, but his father made him drop out because he didn’t do good enough on a test.

He said he was sorry we didn’t get to talk more, and I asked how he was doing.  “Not good,”  he told me.  The pressure of final exams was killing him.  I told him this lousy system was totally broken.  He agreed.  I told him I hope he can change things, and he said – with great vigor – that he plans to.  For now, he has to get in a top position so he is able to change things.  I told him good, I hope he is successful.  I felt like hugging him.

Please God, watch over this boy and help him change things!


Got into a discussion with the teachers about shamanism today.  Nine Stones got really excited and told me how to find ritual sites if I ever go hiking in the mountains.  We discussed syncretism, compared shamanism and santeria, talked about griots and animism and nature, and also talked about what we would major in if we could turn back the clock twenty years.  Nine Stones would be an artist.  Young-a would be a ballerina.  They all think I should be a photographer and asked me if I was really interested in Korean architecture.  I told them no.  I am interested in the way in which people make their own environment and use it.  I told them I would be an anthropologist.  Or an artist.  Maybe combine all three.  And throw in some puppets or dolls…(ack!)

We also talked about socialism in Central America and the importance of the Chinese language for Korea.  I actually think Korea’s making a mistake not giving Chinese equal focus, since it could be their major trading partner in the future…Most Koreans can write some simplified Chinese, but can’t speak it at all.

Amazing what two cigarette breaks can do.


The kids all begged to have study hall for their tests today, as finals start tomorrow.  Last class I gave the boys a choice between study hall and a movie, and I was surprised they chose a movie.  I had brought the Princess Bride and Donnie Darko.  I’d been worried about Donnie Darko, since one of the first scenes involves a lot of swearing, but Young-a watched it and said it was okay.  So I got really embarassed later on when Donnie is on the psychiatrists couch talking about masterbating.  Totally forgot that was in there!  Then, I got even more nervous because I only have enough time to air half of the movie at a time, and the first half is all Donnie destroying things.  I hope Mr. Lee doesn’t report me to the Vice Principal!  So have some damage control to do after finals are over next week…what was I thinking?  Can I justify playing this movie to the students and possibly have an in-depth discussion about the larger implications of what’s important in life, and deciphering good from bad with one of my worst classes in a private missionary high school?  omg…what was I thinking….


Young-a’s son and husband were each doing their own thing tonight and she took me out to eat.  At dinner, we talked about our relationships.  She’s been putting her head to the matchmaking business, but couldn’t come up with anything, and suggested I pay for a dating service, because I am a teacher that speaks English, I could have new dates every week and that there are many men and not many women who sign up for those, so the price is very cheap for the women.  Then she said a friend of hers got married that way and that it turned out badly, because the guy was not what he seemed.  (duh…)  So she would not recommend…

As much as I’d like to date a Korean, the odds of finding one who is both my age, peer, single, and can speak enough English that we can have some limited communication is about the same as finding a lavendar colored car in Seoul…

ha ha ha!  I crack myself up…


Thank God for finals week and half days.  It’s like the pre-vacation to summer vacation.  A welcome sight indeed.

One thought on “Hope and Fear

  1. Good luck on the hanbok. I will say, that having one professionally done is the way to go. However, it’s not to say it’s impossible. I’ve seen the ones I have and they’re incredible ornate.

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