Saturday, November 22, 2008

A magnet for busy

First off, Jami is suffering, so consider getting her a gift while she endures this misery. I just did, which is my excuse for not getting my ass to the studio and making her mail art. I really WANTED to get my ass to the studio, but life has proven to be quite wily in giving me what I want. I mean, I'm getting what I want, but not in the order or way that I had initially asked.

I made a bunch of phone calls on Friday that were pretty successful. I've been trying to contact this professor at a college that recently started classes on hanji in a famous papermaking city, but I only had her office number, which she never answered (and there is no voice mail here). Luckily, the last person I met at the papermill in Andong on Thursday was one of her former students! So he gave me her cell phone number and I talked to her about visiting in early December. Also, my aunt finally was able to get a hold of Kim Kyung, a teacher in her 80s who has been collecting hanji artifacts and teaching paper manipulation techniques for years. She had batted down my call months ago b/c I had no connections, but a month later I found out that my aunt knew her. Finally, two and a half months after I started to try contacting her in Korea, I met her today. This is also well over a year after I first got the info on her from a Canadian artist. I'm marveling lately about how long these things take, things that seem so simple when you're doing pre-research before applying for a grant.

The meeting went really well and the next thing you know, my aunt and I are ripping up hanji into tiny bits and making paper scarves. Of course, the request again was for me to translate the teacher's book into English and be the NY connection. But I think I'll be going back next weekend and already have two big sheets of hanji that I need to decimate and turn into two piles of tiny little bits. That's my homework. As if I needed more things to do! In the elevator while tagging along w/my errand-running family, an artist/dealer called me for a meeting tomorrow. So much for my fantasy Sunday - laundry, Korean homework, and down time.

I ended up spending the entire day w/my family - a cousin that I don't usually get to see, his wife, and their daughter. It also involved watching hours of a Korean drama about arch rivals in the casino business. Juggling a rich family life that involves small children and a research project that has grown a thousand legs of its own all running in different directions while living in a country where being a New Yorker fluent in English makes me as popular as I'll ever be in my whole life (for reasons that I have no control over - I didn't choose NY or English) is...well, it's my life right now.

1. This subway ad (up there) totally shocked me when I got to the stairs near the exit to the station going home a few days ago. I don't even know what it's for, but it's something I'd never in a zillion years see back home. Also, I had made a book almost 10 years ago w/a similar image, only much more subtle (so much so that I had to explain to everyone that it was a breastfeeding baby).

2. I am crazy about the book I am reading and so sad that I don't have lots of time to read it: Louise Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. Thank god for Velma for sending it.

3. I was sad today b/c while meeting w/the hanji lady, she asked where I went to college. She needed a brand name answer, and I didn't have one. When I said Oberlin, it was a "what?" answer followed by my aunt saying "oh, you know, it's obviously not a very good school." This is one of the things I hate dealing with here. I know it's an issue back home, too, but not to this extent. It's awful to feel like my entire education is classed as something that you might as well throw into the trash when it was actually one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I know this is why my mother always told me that I had to go to a brand name school, and when I didn't, she insisted that I go to a brand name grad school. And I didn't. I'm often tempted to just lie, but I'm not very good at it. Though it might be fun, especially if it involves a lot of preferential treatment. But that's for another research grant.

4. I think I'm finally making inroads in my research. I'm scared that I've already run out of time, but I need to stop psyching myself out. I like the random connections that make the hard work that I started years ago suddenly click into place. If I could only figure out a way to get a decent amount of sleep while juggling it all, I'd be golden.

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