Monday, August 04, 2008

Can't see straight

The intensity of Korean life is hard to handle. It's easy being a hard worker back home b/c the standards are so different. Here, an underachiever works about as hard as a pretty hard worker at home, so just trying to stay afloat is a real challenge. I have gotten really good at dozing on the bus and subway (though I don't like it when people and their hair lean all over me while THEY are dozing). But I don't know how everyone gets through their days w/o collapsing!!

We got our new teachers today; they seem nice enough. I mailed letters after class and then ran to the subway so I could meet Na Rae Kim (prez of the Korean Bookarts Association) at the Korea Paper Culture Center, which is in the neighborhood where my family used to live, long ago [the residence of all of my Korean childhood memories]. I recognized the slope of the land underneath all the pavement, and how confusing it was once we got beyond the main gate outside of my late grandfather's house. The first floor houses Seoul Hands, a big arts and crafts supply store (kind of like a Paper Source), where you can get all sorts of paper, bookbinding supplies, and even Keith Smith books.

Na Rae was teaching a big class of elementary school teachers, who are doing a week-long training in arts and crafts that they can apply to their classroom teaching. I came just in time for paste papers, papermaking from recycled paper, and paper casting (in wooden molds usually used for traditional rice cakes). They had already made some books and pop-ups. It was alarming how gung ho they all were. Somehow, I could never imagine my elementary school teachers getting this excited about smearing colors on paper. After looking around at the paper museum (where I saw two pieces that I swear I saw in Chicago five years ago) and store, we had dessert at a Red Mango and talked about what she is up to in Korea and why I am here. I tried to explain in Korean and failed miserably (which was okay since she did her grad work in England and knows some English), but was TRYING to say: I'm here for a year and papermaking is what got me here but who knows what I will end up doing here, and that is fine by me. It's just about seeing how I fare living in another country for a year, getting to know my family, understanding my parents better now that I'm getting a sense of their past, meeting a new community of people and artists, and letting myself learn what I need to learn (even if it's not what I thought I would learn).

I've been having horrible fears that I will have to settle for my own mediocrity. Examples: I will never be a fluent Korean speaker / reader / writer, I will never be a technically impeccable violinist, I will never be an Olympic swimmer. Some of these make me sadder than others, but the really scary one is: I will never be a good artist. I was thinking yesterday, how come I'm not an amazing athlete? Or any number of things? And my answer was that I am just not willing to sacrifice certain things for any one thing. Like, I really hate not sleeping enough hours in a day, therefore, I won't practice violin for 8 hours a day. So, I might be a mediocre violinist, but at least I'll be less cranky. But what if I just don't have a very good eye or sense of space? It doesn't matter how much I practice making things if I don't have a real talent for it.

I'm having a hard time unraveling all of this b/c I am not getting enough sleep. Which is what happens when you are on government funding!! It all makes sense when I'm laying on the floor on a bead pillow (like an abacus built as a cube w/beads on taut strings instead of metal rods) reading Murakami stories. But when I try to articulate it in written English, it all disappears. Which I am about to do, so that I get enough sleep for the coming adventures - wait until you hear about what is in store for the next few days!!

1 comment:

  1. shhhhhhh, Aimee, don't tell anyone, but all artists have the same fear.... even if we don't talk about it.

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