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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Plump American in a Chopstick Culture

(One of many entrances to Jukdo Market.)
I found a couple of (tiny, tiny) second-hand clothing stores this week in the maze that is called Jukdo Market (a 2500-stall open-air market with fish (alive, just-dead, and dried), crabs (very alive), veggies, fruit, gloves, shoes, shovels, pillows, pottery, rubbermaid bins, etc).  A Korean-American here, a new ex-pat friend who knows Korean and knew I was looking for thrift stores, brought me to get some clothes.  The clothes I brought with me 7 weeks ago are no long sufficient (2 of my 3 jeans have worn holes in them; I have 2 pairs of shorts) and the boat with our stuff won't come for at least another week.  Or four.

Some vegetable and other food booths.

Now, I'm fairly self-conscious about my weight in the US - but not quite bothered enough to deliberately exercise, as my beloved psych department colleagues well know.  Here, where we don't have a car (though an ex-pat who's back in the US for the month is letting us use his), or have much in our daily schedule, we do a lot of walking.  The freight scale near the Place Furniture Goes to Die (we picked up some GREAT chairs there this week - the vinyl just needs recovering, which will be easy-peasy once my staple gun and fabric arrive on the ship) tells me that I am losing weight - roughly a pound a week, which is amazing given the daily consumption of chocolate ice-cream cones and other goodies from the way-too-close-by campus snack/convenience store (called something like "may-jum," which I prefer to warp into "magic" which becomes "the magic mart" which is NOT going to help my kids learn the language).  So, despite my all-too-regular consumption of goodies, the walking and perhaps the devastating lack of cheese here are causing a slow weight loss.

Now, back in the day, I was a skinny thing.  Bony, even.  Then grad school and marriage and a desk job and way too much emotional eating led to my current weight.  (In a fit of niceness last week, Elisabeth said that I was not fat, but "pleasantly plump."  How does one respond to that, anyway?)  Amazingly, despite the slowly increasing numbers on my clothing tags in recent years, my mental body image is far slimmer than what appears in the occasional photograph of my below-the-neck regions.

Ok.  Back to buying clothes at Jukdo market.  Knowing a little bit about Korean culture, I already know that I won't find jeans or shorts for women of my age or weight (an ex-pat's middle-age wife once remarked "I can't compete with all these chopstick legs").  I sure don't want to get the floral pajama-pants favored by the ajeemas.  I therefore was seeking skirts.  I had done my on-line research on what kinds of skirts supposedly flatter my particular shape or at least don't announce its flaws.  I was ready.

My friend and I pass numerous stalls of hardware, housewares, veggies, and some seafood (eels, flounder, fish, crabs, etc.) and get to the shop. Which is roughly 10'x14' and packed with women's clothes, on a few racks but mostly hanging on the walls; the proprietor - a smiley, older lady - carried a stick with a hook so she could reach down the clothes one might want from the wall.  Another customer is in the shop; I crowd in to browse the skirt rack; the owner must stand in doorway for us all to fit; my friend must stand outside.  The owner looks at my girth and starts whipping through the skirts, pulling out a couple that might fit.  She gestures for me to try them on. There is no fitting room. I notice that the other customer has taken off her shirt and is trying on clothes next to me.  So... I drop my shorts and try on some skirts, trying hard to ignore the fact that men and women are walking past the store and my new friend and the store owner have no trouble seeing the bits of me that I try hard to ignore every day.  The owner is smiling and I suspect that she is not as sweet as she seemed.  The woman in the booth next door is chopping veggies; across the aisle is someone chopping off fish heads.  And I am half-naked.

I find a workable skirt (5,000 won = about $4.75) and get out.  The next shop includes a man chatting with the owner.  No way am I trying on clothes here.  Assuming I find any that fit.  Ouch.

One of the clothing sections at Jukdo -  along a street that's under construction.
So the shop owners get to dig the piles of dirt away from their wares.

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