I have taken up a new hobby. I was in a taxi late at night. My window was open enjoying the rush of air from the swerving, speeding, stop and go ride up and down the hills of TAEGU. The cab stopped at a red light. Two young women were standing on the sidewalk next to my window. They said "HELLO MISTER". I said "AN-YONG-HA-SAE-YO". They giggled, and we all had exhausted our language abilities; so they said "Hello MISTER", and I said "HELLO" again. The cab driver was enjoying the scene. After a few more "hello misters", one of them came over to the window and gave me a little crumbled up piece of newspaper about the size of a dime and said "KABUKI". It was a little origami something, but it was not obvious what it was exactly. I said "KABUKI?". She said "KA-BU-KI" with a little shake of her body. I said "KA-BU-KI??" and shook myself in the seat as best I could. The light turned green. I leaned out the window, shook my body, and said "KAM-SA-HAM-NI-DA" (Thankyou) as the cab raced up the hill.
I asked the driver "What is KABUKI?" (with the required body shake). He didn't speak English, but managed to come up with "animal". When I got home I tried to look up KABUKI. Korea has its own alphabet, and I really had no idea how to spell it and was quite unsuccessful in looking it up. The next day I took the little KABUKI to work and asked my Korean co-workers.
"Hey Mr. Pak, come look at this. Last night some girl gave this to me and said "KABUKI". What's a KABUKI?" Well, this brought out the grand inquisitor, and a game of 20 questions about the ladies. My co-workers are very concerned that I am 35 years old and not married, so any talk about a women is very interesting to them. After several detours, we finally made it back to KABUKI. I tried about 10 different pronunciations. KA-BOOK-I; GA-PU-KI; etc... Mr. Pak finally came up with "TURTLE". KABUKI was a turtle. (I don't know what the body shake is, but I still do it whenever I say KABUKI.) Mr. Pak spelled it out in Korean, and explained that a turtle was a very good omen, or charm, or symbol. It means "a long life" at least 100 years. Many grave markers have a turtle incorporated into them.
I went to my dictionary and looked up TURTLE. Sure enough, it said KABUKI. The dictionary was quite current, and had many "turtle words" Among them were; "turtle graphics - LOGO" (for those of us interested in computers and Childhood Educational Theories); and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" (for those of us who aren't).
I now have an interest in origami, and I can make a bird-like crumbled piece of paper. It is fairly easy with only 6 folds. A KABUKI ,on the other hand, is very complicated with maybe 30 folds AND a strategic scissors cut. It just may take me 100 years to make one of them!!
John Del Ferro /Taegu,Korea/28MAY95
author: john title: Ka-bu-ki pubdate: 1995-05-28