I had my last Korean tutoring session today. I was freaked out about telling my teacher that I was quitting and felt guilty when she seemed a little sad about it. She has been a driving force behind my research year - tonight I talked about the "behind every great man is a great woman" line to new friends, and she is like that great woman (not just for me, but many of her students). She has a phenomenal talent with teaching language, and uses her power wisely. Today we talked about how my time here has been such a ride - there's a whole history that we can look back upon and even divide up into sections, like the eras of "meeting suspect book artists" or "struggling to find a hanji teacher" or "fighting with my family about being single." I came here terrified of making phone calls and having conversations with people, and even for a moment considered hiring someone to do it for me (she of course told me not to). I went from thinking I'd never be able to read and write well enough to communicate to zipping off texts and exchanging emails with family, friends, and research informants. Just today I met a design professor who marveled at my ability to mix English and Korean without a hitch, as if it was all one language.
Katherine had said long ago that I just needed to meet ONE person who would then connect me to the next, and so on. That was in my desperate fall phase, and I thought that later that my hanji teacher was the one. But all along, my Korean tutor had my back. She's heard EVERY story from September, knows all the major players in my life, can refer to my family by name, and has never given up on me. She's one of the smartest people I've ever met, and the best teacher I could have asked for. I knew this from the moment I met her.
There is nothing I feel I can adequately do to thank her, but I gave her a painting on hanji I made and joomchi-ed (aka wrinkled) and a scarf I dyed tied with a cord I spun. I want to make her something more substantial before I leave. I felt like I was leaving my therapist, and got all emotional when writing my last composition for class, which was a letter to her with the same title as this post. Last week, I had turned in a composition that was a horrid mess, so I worked really hard on getting this right. I only made three minor mistakes! Thank goodness. It would have been embarrassing for both of us to part on a piece of paper completely marked up in red.
Helena and I had talked about the huge reverence for teachers in Korean culture, which she experiences directly as one. I don't know where exactly my sense of it comes from, since my sister isn't like me in this regard, but I certainly do revere my teachers. I know it can be excessive, but I can't help it: I have such deep respect for their work and commitment, and outrageous gratitude for their service towards the goal of my learning. I love them to the point of bursting. I just do. There's no changing the way that I appreciate them, as ridiculous as it might seem. Maybe the only thing that would change it is if I ever entered the profession.
After class, I tried to take a different bus, waited half an hour for it to never arrive, and then walked to the one I usually take, getting me home an hour later than usual. In my crankiness, I got ice cream, and in gluttony I got it all over me. I scored a tiny nap before suiting up and heading back to the Hyatt for what ended up being a lot of waiting around, hearing Bill Clinton's speech at a financial conference, meeting him and getting pictures taken, hanging out with cool people from Nashville (families from Korea and Iran), and doing a big hanji pitch. I even made a bracelet for Inga, the Korean guy from TN, who was super supportive and excited about my research and future plans. I was not that engaged during Bill's speech, but it was b/c he looked SO tired and I have a sympathy problem where I feel how other people look. The colors were very blue there; I kept remembering how red the colors were when Hillary came to speak in February. But it was good, just so far removed from my life right now - dealing w/the current global financial crisis.
I did some phone jockeying in the afternoon between my weaving and dyeing teacher: turns out we will ALL take the bus to Wonju on Thursday to meet another weaving person and also a lacquer person. I think. My dyeing teacher set up the appt; it should be very interesting. In the meantime, I am waaaay behind on weaving (the whole reason I quit language classes). This is it; my time is almost up!