Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Never look a gift Tokebi in the Mouth

It finally happened about two weeks ago. I walked home after a long day of teaching. I opened the door and stepped inside, closing the door behind me. I put my bag down, took off my coat and put it on the rack, and placed my toes against the heel of my sandal to slip it off. My feet were cold which is to be expected as I was still wearing sandals well into the cold of winter which seems like a bad idea. However it was better than trying to find new shoes which also seemed like a fairly bad idea.

I pushed down the back of my sandal, lifted my foot and swore. The sandal separated from the sole, the shoes where now officially no more.


I held this wonderful pair of sandals in my hand and damn near cried. I loved these sandals. I'd have them for two years and they were comfortable and wearable. I'd wear them all year long if I could get away with it in the winter. I stared at the spot next to my door with the only other pair of shoes I own. A set of boots I bought last year that have a gigantic gash across the top. I'm hard on shoes. The boots were destroyed and my sandals were crumbling before my eyes. I needed to go shopping for shoes.


In my defense I had actually tried on the previous Saturday night to find a reasonable pair of clod hoppers. I walked into the shoe district in downtown Daegu and looked up and down at several dozen pairs of shoes. We pulled bunches off the shelf and tried them on. The Koreans even measured me feet to make sure I had the right size. That would be great if my feet were the right size.

My feet are not the right size.

I have feet the measure at 255 in Korea. Now a 255 woman's shoe is not hard to come by. Unless you have my feet. This is not a new problem as I have the same issue in the US with shoes. I have a fairly small foot. But it's also a wide foot. So the shoe-shucker's would pick up a 255 and be amazed that it did not fit. I skipped the normal in-between step of trying on women's shoes. This would be insane in Korea where foot size, like many other things on the Korean woman, is completely homogenous. There is no way my foot is fitting in a Korean woman's shoe.

We moved instead to the rack of men's shoes and I looked up and down to find something that would be alright, not too butch, not too femme, just in the middle. A nice pair of dyke martin's or something. Alas, there were just none to be had.

I went home with my sandals.

I was actually rather determined to wear my sandals all winter long . Yet when the back of that sandal separated I knew it was time. I pulled on the old pair of craptacular boots and prepared myself for shoe shopping once again. I hit the same markets this time prepared to buy something.

At the market the head shoe-man came around and remembered me. He started pulling off things that fit last time to give them another run. I finally settled on a pair of what he swore up and down where leather boots. I know they are not but I figure it was better then nothing, so said what the hell and asked how much.


I laughed at him and bent over to try the shoes on again before making up my mind. Nope.

"30" I shot back at him.

He laughed at me.

We continued this dance for a while before we finally settled on forty thousand, still more than I wanted to pay but I figured it would be alright. I tossed my old shoes in the box and set in for the painful, painful process of trying to break in new shoes.

The first two days were alright, but by the end of the third day I had to bandage up the pinky toes to keep the shoes from rubbing to much. The flesh was raw and half scrapped off. I bandaged up my heels as well as the shoes were cutting deep into my ankles with every step, even though they were a size too big. I knew that getting through this process would be painful and I just had to keep going.

Until about five days later I went to pull on the shoes and the leather topper pulled straight off in my hand. I was pissed. More so because I knew that my friend the Korean shoe-shucker would not take back the shoes. Even more frustrated because I had already spent a great deal of time trying to break the damn things in. I was irate. I was annoyed, and more importantly my feet really fucking hurt. I cannot begin to explain just how painful the process of breaking shoes in is for me. The width of my feet means my pinky toes always stick out a bit oddly, in fact I know they were broken several times when I was younger when I tried to cram into shoes. It's hurts like a bitch and the shape of my foot is wrong. It looks like I went through some sort of half assed Chinese foot binding that failed to make my foot smaller just weird looking.

At any rate I sat in my apartment with my red and sore feet looking at the shoes that had just broken and wanted to give up. I contemplated the process of trying to wear ten for fifteen pairs of socks at the same time. Perhaps this would substitute for shoes. I was at a loss.

And that is when I saw them. Next to my bike, on the floor a pair of black sneakers.

I do not know where these black sneakers had come from.

I called the boy and asked if he had left them here. The response was no.

I called Mono and asked if for some odd reason I had a pair of his shoes. Same response.

I called Australian chicky and asked if they might be hers, but still got a negative.

I have no freaking idea where these shoes come from, only that they are in my apartment.

So, I picked them up and tried them on.

Now, this is the strangest thing, not only do they fit, but they actually fit pretty well. They are a touch big for my feet, but otherwise they fit. I still had to leave my toes in bandages for a few days to actually walk without pain, but other than that the shoes fit and were not doing any further damage to my feet.

I still had no idea where they had come from.

On Sunday I had dinner with Mono and mentioned about the shoes.

"They were just there. One minute I'm crying over broken leather and the next minute there is a pair of shoes. I'd swear to the mighty goddess they had not been there before. I have no idea where they came from."

"And they aren't yours."

"They are mine now, you would have to cut these off my cold dead feet. They fit and I love them."

"But you don't know where they came from?" he asked me.

"No idea."



"Tokebi," Mono repeats.

"Alright, I'll bite, what's that?"

"Probably where the shoes came from. We should stop talking about it now." And we did. I, as Mono, am just superstitious enough to believe that my apartment may have been infiltrated by a Korean goblin spirit for its own amusement. Perhaps it had destroyed the shoes and placed new ones within my grasp. Perhaps it will come again to demand payment for the sweetest fitting pair of shoes I've had in a dark age.

Hard to say.

What I can say is that while my sandals have gone to the never-never far off land of will not be worn again, I do have something to wear on me feet that is not causing me extreme pain and that seems to be for the most part extremely wearable. It's the first time in my life that finding new shoes was as easy as breaking the old pair.


ALF said...

You definitely need more shoes!

Found your site from Twipply Skwood's - just stopped by to say hi!

Saradevil said...

Hello Alf and welcome to the madness that is my life in Korea. Feel free to comment more often.