Recently, we were wondering what to do for our Korean teacher at the end of the course. There are only three of us, but usually the class pitches in and gets her a plaque or framed photograph or something. There was also the baseball bat, the cavalry saber and the infamous Mae-Mae Stick (that's another story!) but she already has a bunch of both ornaments and weapons. However, in a stroke of pure genius, one of us, M, came up with the perfect plan. His wife is currently doing pottery as a hobby in a nearby town, and they have a little shop where you can go, buy the pottery, paint it however you want, and they will fire it and glaze it for you. Now, one thing you have to know about M is that he is a silver tongued bandit. I've seen him talk on the phone to operators and such, and the moment he hears a woman's voice on the other end of the line, you can hear the change in his voice. He practically pours charm through the phone line, and they eat it up. He's a pretty good guy, all round, but he has a natural talent for charming ladies, and this was one of his typically charming notions. He thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if the three of us went out there and each painted up a piece of pottery and put our pictures in the bottom of them, and gave them to Sunsengnim (that's the honorific title for a teacher or older person) so she could have something useful and cool." So just to be sure, he went out to the shop with his wife one weekend, to make sure it was going to be fun. He made himself a little cigar tray using very simple, bold colors, whipped it out in twenty minutes and congratulated himself on having found the perfect idea.
So then he had to explain to his team sergeant why he needed to get off from PT on monday afternoon.
"You're going to do what? Dude, you know if you want to skip out of PT once in a while, all you have to do is just ask. You don't have to come up with a story like that."
So that was taken care of. He then convinced B and I (I didn't take much convincing) and accordingly we headed out to this artsy little town together after class one day, in lieu of tromping around in the woods for three hours with a 65 pound ruck.
As soon as we got into town I knew exactly what we were in for, and B started having second thoughts. It is one of those old, artsy southern towns with plenty of tea shops, coffee shops, bakeries, and Obama stickers. It even has a wine tasting shop. There appears to be a building code that requires there to be at least one art shop per block, and all the buildings along the whole strip (one street, going one way on one side of the old railroad tracks, and the other way on the other side) are made of brick. I half expected to see some skinny painter with a beret and a scarf sitting at one of the corners, or perhaps a picturesquely unfashionable poet being melancholy over a bottle of wine at one of the outdoor tables. All in all, it's without a doubt the nicest town within an hour's drive. It's beyond me how it managed to remain so clean and pretty, while Fayetteville, just across post, is a total ghetto.
But I digress.
M parked across the street from the pottery shop, and we got out, B voicing his concern about how the shop looked a little on the not-particularly-masculine side (and why shouldn't it? It is owned and operated by women.) Usually he and I play the rennaisance men to M's typical Infantry Officer mentality, but this time it was B who was mentioning how it would look for three soldiers (in uniform) to go into a pottery shop together and sit down at one of those tables that looked they came right out of pre-school, and start painting pottery. And I admit, it was probably not what you would expect, but then I've always thought that it's probably not healthy to be a cold-blooded killer all the time, so, visualizing a samurai composing a haiku about cherry blossoms, I entered into the thing wholeheartedly. Besides, I haven't messed around with painting stuff since I was a kid.
We picked out a piece each, M grabbed a coffee mug, I grabbed a sushi bowl, and B got the plate since he's the artist of the group and that was going to be the center piece, with the picture of us and Sunsengnim in the middle. This was what M had been looking forward too because, while he just likes to throw things together and see how they turn out, he knew that B draws comics and other kinds of art, while I'm an uber perfectionist, so he was ready to watch and laugh as we both became totally immersed in our projects, while he finished his in record time. So we took off our blouses, and sat down at the brightly colored pre-school table with the fingerpaint trays, three big, tough Special Forces soldier wannabes, and commenced to painting. And we painted, and we painted, and we painted. Even M took longer than he expected because he hit upon the notion of doing zebra stripes, and that turned out to be more complicated than you might think. B incorporated elements from the Korean flag with his own color scheme and a fading black border around where the photo is going to be, while I experimented with a blue, watery looking idea for my sushi bowl, finishing it up with a water lily and lily pad painted on the bottom so you actually have to turn the bowl upside down to see it. The flower alone took the better part of an hour, and M's comment was, "Wow, out of control, man. Out of control."
We painted. Of course we made mistakes, and our lines weren't straight and whatnot, but as B said, it's the thought that counts. Sunsengnim is like our Korean mom. She feeds us, teaches us, scolds us, and is actually about the same age as my mom. Actually, she's the grandmotherly kind of lady, whose own kids are grown, but who isn't actually a grandmother yet, so she adopts stray kids, or in this case, soldiers who need to learn Korean. So it really doesn't matter whether the stuff is really a work of art in the end. She'll like it anyway.
A mother and her two daughters (who probably were actually in pre-school) came in, painted, and left, and still we painted. Finally, after three hours, we were finished. Actually, the other two were finished well before I was, but they waited. And it was pretty marvelous, if I do say so myself. B still wasn't sure that he wouldn't rather have done land nav, but he did say he would probably come back with his wife and kids sometime.
Now all we have to do is wait for them to be finished, and then M's wife will pick them up, and we will give them to Sunsengnim next week, which is test week. I need to get some pictures, and post them on here. I'm pretty excited.
Also kind of tired. I stayed up far later than I planned in order to write this.