I’VE BEEN IN SOUTH KOREA for almost eight months and I haven’t crocheted one thing since I’ve been here. Back home I get restless if too much time passes before I get my hands on something homespun. Crochet is how I cool it. It works almost like hypnosis for me. The repetitive motion along with some music blasting through my Beats headphones sends me into a peaceful stupor. Since moving to Korea, I have all but forgotten this favorite past-time.
Then last week my friend Lucy, who I only see on Wednesdays, made me a handmade soy candle scented with roses. The mornings and evenings were getting that fall bite so I decided to reciprocate with something woolen instead of chocolate or Lays original potato chips, Lucy’s favorite snack. I went to a tiny little yarn shop just down the street from the school I teach at most days. There’s always three women sitting on a wooden bench in there among the bags and bags of yarn that are stacked up against the walls. There’s an older man too, who rests placidly behind the cash register. I pointed to a color I knew Lucy would like and said “Se-ge ju-se-yo.” Three please. All together they laughed at my sudden command of this phrase. The last time I was there, collecting bright colors of yarn for my students to make Ojos de Dios and Dreamcatchers for culture camp, I couldn’t say anything I wanted to and only pointed furiously in several directions while they looked on distressed.
The scarf takes less than three days to work up. My hands remember the pattern easily. It’s a scarf I’ve made many times for friends and relatives back home. After I gave Lucy her new scarf, she wrapped it around her neck and we headed out to our favorite spot with a bag of Lays to share. It was the pagoda sitting at the edge of the school yard overlooking the tiny hillside of Namcheon-dong. We sat in our pagoda with greasy fingertips and talked. Knowing that one day when I leave there’ll be another scarf on this side of the globe makes me feel nostalgic and homesick for something I can’t even name yet. Knowing that I won’t stay here forever, but that this place has become my new home, home enough to make a scarf for someone, is perhaps it. That’s exactly it.