Friday, September 22, 2006


Cow foot soup count: 17 (but I think it's finally dead)

I'm sorry for the lack of recent postings. I meant to update the other night, but the Korean tradition my students call "Pretty" got in the way. As soon as I arrived in Gongju, I started noticing that the fingernails, and in some cases fingertips, of many of my students were a sort of mottled orange color. A few other ETAs mentioned it as well--one girl speculated on her blog that it was the result of sticking one's fingers in kimchi for too long or of eating Cheetos-like snacks. We quickly found out that it's called bong-sung-ah (봉숭아), and it's made by mashing up the petals of a certain kind of flower. Koreans think it's very beautiful and (this I had to find out from an ETA in English-speaking circumstances) if the color lasts until the year's first snowfall, the lucky orange-fingered person will find love. This all has to do with me because two nights ago, as we were having some fruit at our family friends' house, I was included in the tradition. I was awkwardly trying to make conversation with the mother of the family, and told her that I thought her 봉숭아-ed fingernails were beautiful...before I had time to react, she grabbed one of my hands and started putting little blobs of red plant matter on top of my fingernails. She wrapped 3 fingers on each hand (why only 3? No idea) in plastic and taped them up tightly, then told me I had to sleep like that (at this point Kiyeong demanded to have his fingers done too, just like mine). Almost immediately, a dark, reddish stain started creeping down my fingers--making it look like they'd been dipped in blood. Everyone laughed and marveled at how my white American skin loved the plant dye. My host mom wouldn't let me take the plastic off when I got home, telling me that I wouldn't be beautiful if I did (thus the lack of updating...typing with just my thumbs and forefingers was a big pain. Brushing my teeth with them was too). I felt like a monster. The red color was starting to spread past the plastic when I went to bed, and I was really worried that I was going to stain my face and blankets red in my sleep. When I woke up, I felt like even more of a cuticles were the blackish-red of crusty blood and my fingers were dark red to the knuckles. I should have turned my computer on immediately and recorded it, but I started trying to scrub it off right away. I succeeded in reducing the pigment to an orangey-reddish color on my fingernails and tips. I don't really know what I think about it...if I just look at my fingernails themselves, the color is really pretty in an interesting that fades into deep orange. However, when I just glance down at my hands during the day, it really freaks me out, and the staining on the skin of my fingers is just hideous.
Here are some pics of what my hands look like right now:
See? If it was on all my fingernails and not staining any of my skin, it would be a really cool nail polish-like thing, but as is it is definitely strange looking. I've gotten a lot of compliments on it at school though...and I like being included in a Korean custom.


dave said...

you look like youve been trying to claw your way out of the well in silence of the lambs

Erin said...

Cara! You're fingers are just lovely. . . You were my blogging inspiration, just so you know. Haven't commented because Alden just introduced me a little bit ago. Yes our adventures are very different. . . I do have an address though, you're right. It's:

Chateau de la Napoule
BP 940
06210 Mandelieu-La Napoule

I love mail! (As I'm sure you do too, I can definitely send you some love, though not quite Alden-caliber packages. . .)