Catherine Becomes Truly Jorean

Catherine Becomes Truly Jorean

by Bo_Emp

catherine_becomes_truly _jorean1

Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.

Introduction:
This tale is set in Jorea, part of the fictive Vippon world. Before reading the tale it is recommended that you read the Introduction to Jorea so that you comprehend fully just what it is all about.
Further this is a direct follow up on the first Jorea story ‘Curious Catherine‘ by GhostWriter. It takes place a few months after Catherine has married Jin, and they have decided to live in his family home.

1.

The clock strikes. It makes Catherine’s mind slip out of the self-induced ‘blank’ void, and she turns away from the corner of the main hall where she has been standing since her previous task of ironing her husbands newly washed clothing was completed a little more than ten minutes ago. Her next task is to accompany Mi-Roo to do the shopping. Walking along the wall of the sleeping quarters the few doors down to her bedroom she just gets a glimpse of Mi-Roo entering her bedroom at the other end. The plain clothes worn while doing house work have to be changed.

After undressing and a quick freshen up Catherine puts her hair in a bun the traditional Jorean style, puts on her hanbok consisting of a green chima and a white jeogori, adds thick white gloves before finally putting the mutemask to her face and looking in the mirror. She is not pleased. Despite immaculate mask and clothing she doesn’t appear as an impeccable Jorean woman at the sight. The skin seen through the eye openings of the mask is too pale and her eyes are shaped differently, but even worse in her view is that her hair is too thin, creating a flat bun rather than the ideal spherical one, and neither it is as shiny and black as the women born here. Not all women born here have the right hair, but she has never met anyone with hair even close to her own misery. Mother-in-law is visiting a neighbour and Mi-Roo isn’t fanatic about the rules as long as one takes the punishment. Catherine has to accept infraction points for asking her for advice right now. As the one most recently married it could take many months before she gets the opportunity to pose a question of her own. On most occasions where women are allowed to chat, either mother-in-law or guests do most of the talking and set the agenda, only allowing for a few comments on the subjects already laid out to come from the other women of the house. Catherine leaves the room holding the mutemask to her face. Although gloves and mask are considered part of the public ensemble and always worn, even at home indoors, except while eating, drinking or speaking, usually when men are not around.

Mi-Roo is waiting for her just to the right of the door in her full public attire, standing masked and unmoving like a mannequin. Her hanbok is dark blue and forest green with her mutemask and gloves, as always, shiny white. She doesn’t move when Catherine takes her mask down, leans to her ear and whispers loud enough to be perceived through the mask “I know my hair looks like a mess Mi-Roo, but it’s neither thick nor black enough to look like Jorean women do. I could of course dye it black, but I can’t get the thickness or volume to make a correct bun. Doesn’t the hair of some women here deteriorate with age?” Before Catherine is finished Mi-Roo has started rocking her upper body backwards and forwards a little, which corresponds to nodding for a masked Jorean woman because the mutemask makes her neck rigid as well as keeping her silent. When Catherine stops speaking Mi-Roo taps her own left wrist and then points from Catherine’s mask to her face. Catherine immediately masks herself and gestures ‘you’ll report this?’ Mi-Roo makes the nodding movement, making Catherine nod likewise to accept her misdemeanour. She then steps into the doorway to let Mi-Roo take the lead like her seniority calls for, even though this is only necessary in public. They start moving along the wall to the kitchen where they take a basket each before entering the yard, walking along its walls to reach the door to the street. Catherine had not expected an immediate answer. If Mi-Roo will take infraction points for answering between the two of them, now is not the time because the time used for this could be added to an unexpected delay while shopping, risking exceeding the time scheduled for the shopping trip and thus risking more infraction points.

Outside the temperature is below twenty degrees Celsius but it isn’t cold when being close to completely covered, even with a gray sky and a substantial chill factor from the little but ever blowing wind. Jin, her husband, having travelled outside Jorea, agrees with Catherine that Jorean women are overprotected and masking against the cold is more a tradition than a necessity. Masking persists because it matches the position of women, shows a perfect face free of the faults of the human skin, hides emotion and prevents chatting. For Catherine it also hides her foreign origins if she is not looked at too closely, and thus helps her feel Jorean. Being recently married, Catherine never leads in public no matter who she accompanies, implying she sees very little of her surroundings and street life. As is customary, women walk in a close line along the house walls and, unable to move her head, Catherine mostly sees nothing but the back of the head of the woman ahead of her. She has to concentrate very much on that head, because each time they pass a door or a gate a man might appear from inside or cross the street to enter, and then the leading woman, possibly very abruptly, has to stop to let him pass. The same goes for side streets of course, but here the leading woman stops gently and turns her body several times from side to side to look for clear passage. Passing a street rarely results in the women of a line bumping into each other, but it may take some time before it is possible to pass without interfering with the path of a man.

The family lives only a ten to fifteen minutes walk from the local market. Despite her only function being to accompany another woman because no woman ventures out alone, and she hardly experiences anything, Catherine loves the shopping trips. Mother-in-law, who makes the detailed planning, knows she makes everybody happy assigning her. To Catherine it is easy. No one can inspect her work afterwards.  She gets exercise and although there is little communication, she is not alone like with many household chores. The market itself is not very different from any open market anywhere in the world. The mostly male vendors shout their bargains or, if customers are few, chat among each other. Mi-Roo recalls her shopping list, listens and looks, then chooses a stall. By pointing and other finger signals she gets the vendor to pick what she wants from the stall. To pay she lifts the credit card tied to the basket with an elastic string, puts it in the card reader and pushes the keys to complete the transaction. Finally she holds up the basket or a hand for the vendor to hand over the goods. If she holds up a hand it is often to hand the goods on to Catherine to be carried in her basket. That is Catherine’s only involvement in the shopping. Today they are only out for fresh vegetables and bread. Getting two thirds of the vegetables at one stall Mi-Roo only shops at three stalls then they are homeward bound. Turning around to look while her companion is shopping is disgraceful. Despite this it is the moments where Catherine sees any other people on a shopping trip. Women, only walking along the walls except for aiming at close neighbouring doors on the same side always walk at the right side of the street. This implies women walking in the opposite direction are always far away on the other side and thus hardly ever even glimpsed when always facing straight forward and most of the field of view is filled by the back of the head of the person ahead. When at a stall, accompanying women stop a little before the counter, making the woman doing the shopping occupy less of the field of view. Further the woman shopping may take a step to the side to point at close range at items of interest and with the vendor moving along to pick up the item Catherine has a clear view, sometimes for half a minute. On her way home Catherine estimates she has seen five or six women at reasonably close range, and perhaps two dozen at a distance. She has of course in particular been interested in their hair, and she hasn’t noticed any women with visible flaws. When close to home Catherine notes there have been no extraordinary delays and with the little shopping being achieved quicker than what the general schedule assumes, there will be time before the clock strikes for the next task.

After having passed the kitchen to leave the baskets they reach the sleeping quarters to change back to home clothing for work. With no one else present or to be heard this is the moment Catherine has hoped for, so it is no surprise to her, but nonetheless kind of Mi-Roo, that she stops and turns around outside Catherine’s door, and then removes her mask. As Catherine at first is only to listen she stays masked while Mi-Roo whispers.
“Many women with poor hair and when getting gray wear wigs. Jorean wigs are of such high quality and made of natural hair that they are indistinguishable from the real thing. Contributing to this is that they, like our masks, are individually tailored. All wigs are made and sold in towns situated above 2000 meters, because at these altitudes it is considered too cold all year round for women to be out without having the hair covered as well. But no Jorean woman wants to deviate from the traditional look, ruling out caps or hoods, and instead all women up there wear wigs. I can’t help you any further. You have to convey your wish to go there to your husband somehow, and then if he approves, wait until he finds the right time. When going up there of course you’ll have to endure the top of the head becoming close to freezing, but for the body you have to wear the extra inner covering that women living there put on. I’m not sure where to buy such items. I would start asking at the clothing shop.”

Mi-Roo holds her mask to her face with her left hand and gestures writing, which means reporting infraction points, with her right hand. Catherine rocks her upper body to confirm she will report her, immediately making Mi-Roo head for her own door without waiting for Catherine to unmask for developing the subject. She has broken the rules enough for today to help Catherine.

Some minutes later Catherine leaves her own room with seven to eight minutes before the next task is scheduled. Looking along the wall, as expected, she observes that Mi-Roo is now standing in the far corner. Catherine turns the other way to take her stand in the corner near her door. She has learned to enjoy the Qizen religion and master it’s techniques to relax the body and mind. All Jorean women use this to clear their mind between work tasks, not to worry if not having obtained the perfect result and to start the next task rested and refreshed. But clearing her mind does not mean erasing her memory, just pausing her conscious thinking until a sufficiently powerful sensory input brings her back to normal. During this pause the working memory is tidied up like when sleeping, but the muscles stay active but with no conscious control there is no motion. Catherine as usual focuses on a nail that holds the foot panel. Focusing her sight and mind on this detail quickly makes her forget all about her hair and getting a wig, it empties her mind of any other thoughts and soon she stands unmoving with her mind a complete void until the clock strikes again, which makes her recall her next task.

2.

As usual Catherine has no opportunity to bring up subjects of her own later that day when the women of the house are gathered and allowed to speak. She has, like most days, only spoken as part of her work or to show she has understood what others have said. But unlike all the women she knows who have been brought up in Jorea Catherine is permitted to speak freely with Jin when they are alone. In all other situations they adhere to the customs of Jorea where women never address any male, and only speak if asked. The other women make no exception when alone with their husband. But Jin has studied outside the country. That is how they met. One of the few foreign customs he likes is communicating freely with the wife, to learn another opinion without any risks, and exchange views about whatever comes to his mind, no matter if it’s topics men rarely discuss with others, topics or problems from work, male only subjects like sports or female only subjects like clothing. Catherine is allowed to bring up subjects as well, everything solely depends on that both of them know where to draw the line when it becomes too uninteresting for the other, or interpret when the other gets tired of conversation in general and wants to go to sleep.

Jin enters the bedroom putting up a smile when Catherine faces him. That is promising, because, despite their very liberal manners in private, Catherine has found it right only to discuss on nights where Jin shows he is in the mood by always letting him start the conversation. Tonight he starts by asking “What do you think about the daenjang chigae? I think it was too salty and with too little chilli pepper.” Catherine says “I’m not very keen on chilli pepper, but I agree there was too much salt. I wasn’t in the kitchen when it was made, but if I find out who made it, I’ll complain about the salt and say some more chilli pepper might be good”. Taking a deep breath she continues “You have said several times that you would like to show me more of the country. Take me to some secluded scenic places where a woman can stare as much as she wants, and has to because of its beauty. Perhaps we can do that by going up in the high mountains where I would also like to visit a town.” Looking a little puzzled Jin replies “I was thinking about maybe a full day trip on one of the days of a weekend, but always something else has come up. There are plenty of scenic views higher up in the mountains and we can reach several towns at substantial altitude within a few hours. Where there are other people anywhere in Jorea women must stay close to the walls and only look at their path. You won’t see much of any populated area now after you have decided to follow the customs of Jorea and dress accordingly. Which town would you like to visit?”

Catherine loves Jin because she is sure any other Jorean man would have lost his patience by now and cut her off. But on the other hand, beginning the conversation by talking about her hair not being perfect might have made even Jin change the subject before she got to the wig. So Catherine comes to the point by saying “Any town of sufficient altitude for all the women to wear wigs. Perhaps a man can’t see it, but my hair is thinner and not jet black like native Jorean women. It can’t be fixed with dye, I have to wear a wig to look like the impeccable Jorean woman you deserve and I desire to be.” Jin smiles again and leans over to give her a quick kiss on the cheek before saying “I love you Catherine. I love your dedication to Jorean customs. We’ll go and get you a wig as soon as possible I promise you. Yes, women living above 2000 meters all wear wigs to be completely protected against the cold while still preserving the traditional appearance of Jorean women. I think it will be sufficient to go to Kuyon, less than two hours by bus. And you know what? I’ve got a cousin up there. I’ll call him tomorrow to ask if we may visit, and if he accepts, agree on a date in the first weekend possible.” Catherine gives Jin a big hug, but then says “I’ve been told I need some extra clothing to go up there. Can we afford that? Or can I rent or borrow it somewhere?” Giggling Jin answers by telling her “Jorean women are fragile, or at least think they are. I remember you telling me you were skiing when something like ten years old.” Catherine nods smiling, and Jin continues “But you are here now, which means you survived despite wearing a lot less than by Jorean standards. Am I right?” A smiling Catherine, recalling the past tells her husband “Yes, in addition to normal outdoor clothing I wore woollen stockings, woollen mittens and a knitted woollen cap, I think. My face was never covered, the mittens were often removed to handle the skies and the cap often fell off during our play. I most likely got red skin and icy ears and fingers, but no permanent damage. Do you mean I can go in my normal public clothing?” Jin says “It sounds like it was really fun then. I wish I could have seen you, or even better, been playing with you. Perhaps we can go skiing with a child of our own. We could give it another try right away. But as it’s only late summer now you won’t freeze in going to Kuyon within a few weeks covered as you always are. But to be absolutely on the safe side you could wear some long stockings or thick pantyhose underneath and choose a hanbok of reasonably strong fabric.” Leaning forward ready for a kiss Catherine says “We are both ready to go then. Let’s make a skiing girl while we wait for the bus.”

3.

On the Saturday, only ten days after learning about the wigs, Catherine is waiting with Jin at the local bus station. She stands with her back to a wall with other women waiting on both sides, Jin standing some three meters away in conversation with another man. The two men fill Catherine’s field of view. It looks like they talk sports, but Catherine can’t hear the words. Less than five minutes after having taken her stand, Jin quickly ends the conversation and waves a hand towards Catherine. She comes up close behind him and they walk less than twenty meters before stopping to be part of a queue at the door of a bus. Within a minute they enter the bus. A dozen rows down Jin stops and turns, pointing to the window seat. In ten seconds Catherine has taken in all that she will see during the ride. It is improper not to sit straight in the seat and, unable to move her head her entire view is filled by the seat back in front. Turning her eyes alone to one side she is able to see a part of the seat back in front of Jin, to the other side she can see the road side moving by, in a way creating car sickness, and as they are in public Jin, won’t speak to her just for entertainment. She can hear he has started to get to know the man on the other side of the aisle. Catherine won’t get bored on the one hour and forty seven minutes long drive as the ride will effectively come to an end in a few seconds when she starting using Qizen to empty her mind. The bus driver attempts to move steadily to avoid sudden braking that might trigger a ‘blank’ woman.

Catherine senses her mind has become active again because of her ears clicking. While swallowing a couple of times she recalls that subconsciously both her senses and the engine sound have told her that most of the trip has been, and still seems to be, uphill. After five minutes of staring at the seat back and listening to unintelligible male talk she is sure it is the change of altitude that have trigged her mind and they still have some way to go, so she focuses her mind to go blank again.

Fingers tapping her shoulder hard makes her brain return to normal again. Sensing the bus coming to a stop she turns in her seat to see Jin getting up with a gesture to follow. Timing is a Jorean virtue, and while the bus rolls the last meters they move down the aisle along with other passengers. When the first of the passengers reach the door it opens for them all to continue their movement out. There are three steps down, giving Catherine a few seconds of clear vision while Jin is below her. Catherine notices a couple of women waiting against a wall a short distance away and seen from this distance their hair is, as she has been told, not distinguishable from what she is used to seeing, wig or not. Something about their masks looks different but during the short glimpse and focusing on the hair, Catherine is unable to catch what it is.

A few meters from the bus Jin stops and Catherine hears a voice say “Cousin Kim Jin! It’s Kim Sang-mi speaking, over here.” They walk a little to the left and then a man embraces Jin, so Catherine gets a look at Sang-mi’s face for a couple of seconds. But of course he goes on speaking to Jin without greeting her. “Welcome to Kuyon cousin. It’s a shame we haven’t met since your wonderful wedding. Have you been to Kuyon before? As you have been in foreign countries you have probably told them that all Jorean cities are built on mountain tops but your home, Bujan City, is just built on a large, high plateau. Here most streets are stairs, and those which are not have a gradient of more than ten percent. Only specially trained people with specially equipped vehicles are allowed to drive in the town itself. The main road and the bus station where we are now are on the more level ground below the town. But it’s only a ten minutes walk up stairs to our house.” They start walking, Catherine of course just behind Jin, while he asks Sang-mi why he settled here instead of in Bujan City where the family has lived for generations. It’s something about getting a job just after university and after marrying settled with his wife’s family.

Catherine gets an icy surge of wind through her hair, the only uncovered area on her body. The air is much fresher and also much cooler, as felt on her head and from what she breathes in through the deep but quite large nose opening of the mask. But still she figures it’s more than five degrees above the freezing point and she could easily, but perhaps not that comfortably, go with her head uncovered for at least half an hour at a time. After a couple of minutes walking up stairs she learns that it’s the icy gusts of wind coming from the uninhabitable higher mountain tops around that stick like needles in her skull. On the other hand she feels that it’s good to have a part of the body ventilated because the energy required to constantly walk up stairs produces heat. The men walk with both head and hands uncovered without seeming to suffer. For the first minutes of walking Catherine was glad she wore thigh long woollen stockings and her thickest cotton chima and jeogori, although they are ordinarily not used together because the colour combination is mainly used by middle aged women. She is glad to know it’s only a ten minutes walk or she would be sweating considerably.

Due to her the men walk at the side of the street with Jin closest to the side and, as usual Catherine has most of her view covered and is at the longest distance from those walking in the opposite direction, but despite the narrow streets, often only passages, she only gets a few glimpses of hanboks. Few are at work on a Saturday and few women work outside the home at all. On Saturdays people visit family or friends, and it’s too early to be visiting if having been invited for lunch.

Suddenly they cross the street and Sang-mi takes a few long fast steps to open a gate and hold it for Jin and Catherine to pass. The little Catherine is able to see of the house it looks like any other Jorean house, like their own, but perhaps smaller. Through the yard they enter the main hall and it appears as if Sang-mi is about to gesture them to wait, but then he seems to reconsider and for the first time he addresses Catherine by facing her and pointing towards a door.

As Catherine opens the door she enters the kitchen and two women at her own age are working supervised by a middle aged woman. Her entry causes them stop working and the older woman gestures Catherine to approach. As she steps forward she gets a glimpse of a woman coming from the side towards the door. She just notices she is wearing a formal pale pink, almost white, high quality silk hanbok. She is masked of course and again Catherine gets the impression the mask is different.

Now all three women are facing her with a welcoming smile, but it looks affected, mixed with surprise or disbelief. It can’t be because of her own expression as this is hidden behind the mask, which by custom stays on until she has formally been welcomed and it is confirmed she is with the people expecting her. A surge of horror passes Catherine’s mind – it is her hair. Sang-mi’s family, knowing why she is visiting, have immediately focused on her hair, and it looks horrible. But after they have exchanged the formal bows the older woman, straight from her heart, very unusually and wrongly breaks tradition by blurting out “Your mask is not … ” Stopping her outburst she continues in the voice expected “My deepest apologies honoured madam … Welcome to the Kim Hae-won home. I am his wife Kim Na-young, and next to me is the wife of Kim Ok-hwa, Kim Cho, and next to her the wife of Kim Sang-mi, Kim Kyung-hee.” They all bow again while Catherine reaches for the back of her head to untie the mask. While pulling it off her face she tries to find the correct formal tone in her voice when saying “I am the wife of Kim Jin, Kim Catherine Robinson. Please call me Catherine. I am delighted that you have taken the time to receive my husband and me. Being family I’m sorry that I hardly know you at all, but today we can make up for that. You must have been at our wedding, but that is not the day when the bride meets other people. You will have to excuse my appearance. I would like to live up to the high standards of Jorea but my origin is against me. Improving my appearance is another reason for coming here you as you know.” Starting slowly and trying, as all Joreans do, when first trying to pronounce her name, Na-young says, “Catherine, when masked I would never have questioned you were not Jorean born by just your impeccable looks. Your face is clearly not Jorean, but your exotic looks are very attractive. Your husband studying in a foreign country among faces like that, unmasked to be admired by everybody I understand, it is little surprising he asked for the most beautiful in marriage. But again I have to apologise for my inexcusable introduction, for which I give myself a well deserved ten infraction points, but we were all shocked to see you arriving in a mutemask that is not modified for high altitudes. Considering why you are here it can’t be avoided that you have to suffer and risk cold weather injuries to the top of your head, but elsewhere you should have been protected correctly. You have walked all the way from the bus station in normal city clothing and the traditional mask?” Catherine nods, making her hosts shiver and show disbelief and, when she starts speaking Na-young points at Kyung-hee, who rushes to the sink. “It is definitely colder up here, but it was only a ten minutes walk, and I must admit I have chosen my hanbok because of its thick fabric, and further I am wearing long woollen stockings. I feel completely safe and comfortable, confident I can manage to walk twice as long if that is what it takes to reach the wig shop.”

As Catherine stops speaking Kyung-hee is ready with a hot damp cloth, which she applies all over Catherine’s face. It is nice, but just as much because she has become sweatier than usual under the mask by climbing all those stairs and she puts on a smile to thank Kyung-hee. Na-young says “Considering you are not wearing high altitude clothing it is allowed, with your permission, to ignore for a minute or two that it is customary to stay gloved while wearing public attire.” Catherine knows it would be rude to reject the kindness and lifts her hands to remove the gloves, but the hands of Cho reach out and Catherine only has to keep the hands raised. Kyung-hee is ready with a new hot damp cloth and while she wraps it around the hands, Catherine notices an expression of pity on their faces on seeing that she wears nothing under the gloves. Na-young says “I apologise for my son-in-law not having acquired a set of high altitude garments from his wife or me, which could have been sent to you, but at least you can borrow a set now for going to the wig shop and any other outdoor activity. We can easily do without them for a week or more so you don’t have to hurry returning it.” While being nursed Catherine has become curious of what all this high altitude attire actually means. She would like to ask to be dressed correctly and walk to the wig shop as soon as possible, but it would be insulting to ask when and where to go right now, perhaps the men, or at least Jin, has to accompany her. So as Kyung-hee removes the cloth from her hands she faces Na-young and says “You have taken my foreign carelessness most tolerantly by trying to rectify possible harm. I understand now from your expressions that coming from a country just about as cold as Jorea where we walk about outdoors wearing much less doesn’t mean that I’m safe up here where the conditions may be much harsher. Living here you obviously know what is right and I would be grateful if I may borrow what is needed to go out. If I shouldn’t change right away, perhaps I may ask about my second reason for coming here. What I want to know is how do you all manage to have such perfect hair when, as I understand it, your hair is often squashed under a wig when outdoors?”

While speaking Catherine has noticed that Cho very elegantly and without addressing Na-young has made her aware of that tea and kimchi is ready by putting Catherine’s gloves on the table where she is to be seated, so that when Catherine goes to put her gloves back on Na-young has to say “Please sit down Catherine. After the long ride and the rough walk I am sure a cup of tea and some kimchi is what you need. After Catherine has seated herself Na-young sits down opposite her and Cho and Kyung-hee follow on the two other sides. Na-young pours the tea for Catherine and then says “The wig shop is only open in the afternoon on Saturdays, so we have about an hour. It is not far, five to six minutes walk today where delays due to men crossing are fewer. Regarding our hair it is not flattened by being squashed because what you can see are our wigs. We all have our heads shorn bald and wear the wigs all the time we are out of bed. The best fit is assured when there is no layer of hair under the wig. Further, to ensure complete protection outdoors the hair is mounted on a micro thin latex membrane which covers the entire top of the head down to the ears, including the forehead right down to the eyebrows so that there is an overlap with the mutemask all way round, leaving absolutely no skin uncovered. As the face never gets sun the hue and texture of the skin of the face can be copied accurately to the latex and be matching perfectly for years. Please look at any of us close up, you will see the edge of the membrane between the eyebrows and from there as a thin line back above each ear. The wig fits like a second skin and it would be very difficult to remove if there wasn’t a deliberate fold in the membrane at the back under the hair. – – I can see from your aha-expression that you have spotted the edge, but remember the edge is hidden while wearing the mutemask, which is the time we should look perfect.”

Despite admiring the marvellous technological piece of art the wigs are, Catherine feels a little reluctant at having to wear a rubber cap and thick hair made to isolate against zero temperatures all day, even indoors. She asks “It certainly looks wonderful, even without the mask, but doesn’t it get hot having the upper half of the head enclosed in latex and on top of that isolating hair all the time?” Na-young says “The first hundred nights you feel it as an improvement right after removing the wig, but from then it’s the same as when removing clothes from the body, mostly often feeling a little chilly, making you want to get under the sheets quickly and squeeze your head into the pillow. Some even buy a membrane without hair to sleep in. It is warm wearing a wig but you probably also disliked putting on the mutemask in the beginning and now you would feel naked in public without it. The advantage of always having your hair looking perfect with just a little care and not having to fit the wig during a busy day, but only once in the morning when you can take your time, far outweighs the inconveniences.”

For a minute it is almost completely silent while they all drink and eat, and Catherine considers Na-young’s words. Of course it can’t be that bad if most of the female population up here act as in this house. She may feel a little sad having to stay bald, although her hair is of poor condition by Jorean standards, it is what the Creator has granted her and it was very attractive where she used to live. That is in the past, she now lives in Jorea and only Jin will see her bald head and Jin is not interested in her hair. Besides Na-young was right, it would feel strange walking in public unmasked, but to some extent it is because then she would literally look strange.

Catherine is just about to think of another question when the formally dressed woman in the silk hanbok enters the kitchen carrying a pot of tea, which Kyung-hee gets up to take and replace. Now it’s Catherine’s turn to be astonished. She had been right in her glimpses of the mutemasks, they do look different, seeming to have no facial openings! The tiny ventilation and breathing holes over the mouth don’t appear to exist, the nose opening is filled by a black stopper and the eye openings are covered by a clear, dark yellow surface that looks like sunglasses. The eye covers are sufficiently opaque to hide the little showing of the individual behind a normal mask. Of course wearing the wig just described with this mask without openings means a woman is one hundred percent covered, not showing the least bit of herself from the top of the head to the floor. Catherine assumes there must be some other way of breathing but she cannot work out how.

They all notice her surprised expression and Na-young says “I can see you have never seen a mutemask for high altitudes before, but before I explain it to you, let me introduce the last female member of the house, second wife of Kim Hae-won, Kim Mi-cha, who today is serving the men.” The completely anonymous hanbok, Mi-cha, makes a deep bow to Catherine who, while staying seated, knowing her position as guest is above a second wife or concubine, nods deeply in return. Catherine is also aware that the reason Mi-cha wasn’t presented when she arrived is not her low ranking in the house but simply that serving the men of course take precedence. Mi-cha gets a steaming hot pot of tea and leaves.

Na-young then says “Catherine if you will trust your mutemask in the hands of Kyung-hee for a few minutes, borrowing another in case of a male entering here of course, then she will modify it for high altitudes as if it was done by a shop. Don’t worry all the modifications can be reversed.” Catherine, unlike most Jorean women, does not see her mask as something so personal it is never to be touched by others, but only to be admired, and therefore says “It is most kind of you to do something it sounds like I should have done myself, but never having done it before it would of course require close instruction and take much longer. You have my permission and a thank you Kyung-hee.” Kyung-hee gets up, makes a small bow to Catherine, turns and heads for the door without the mask. In her mind Catherine smiles, not having turned completely Jorean yet. The likelihood of a man entering the kitchen is very small, and if one did she could simply hide her face in her lap or hold a towel in front of her face, but wearing a public hanbok and not part of the household means, to Jorean women, that a male must see a masked face, so she has to borrow a mask for the few minutes her own is away. She can’t even wear a mutemask not her own, but only hold it to her face, as all masks are individually fitted. On the outside she wants to be Jorean and looks interested when Na-young starts speaking “There is no need to describe the high altitude modifications with a lot of words, when you can watch and feel for yourself. Please take some more kimchi. Would you like another cup of tea?”

Catherine, reaching for the kimchi right next to her bowl, answers with a “Yes please. The kimchi is fresh. Is it homemade? It’s got a wonderful flavour I haven’t tasted before, is it a local herb that makes it special? Is it possible for me to have the recipe so I can make it at home?” Na-young says “I’m glad you like it, but the reason you haven’t tasted it before is that it contains several fresh herbs only grown around here. Storage for just a few days of either the plants or the final produce makes the flavour fade.” Kyung-hee has returned and makes a small bow in front of Catherine, indicating that she should take the mask she has brought and hand her own to Kyung-hee, who then leaves again. Placing the borrowed mask where she had her own, in her lap, Catherine says in reply to Na-young “If I can’t make this kimchi at home then I have got another reason besides the hospitality and good company for returning here soon.” A further reason Catherine tells herself is that she, as the only female guest, is the one talking with the female head of the house. As is her own fate at home Cho and Kyung-hee haven’t said a word. Catherine enjoys being able to chat and she will tell Jin that she wouldn’t mind just the two of them visiting more of his family.

Na-young tells her about two other dishes, which in the local version use the same herbs to taste special, making Catherine say she would very much like to taste them. The minutes pass quickly to Catherine, and again Kyung-hee is bowing to her, handing the modified mask back to her. Catherine takes a look at the inside of the mask and then turns it to closely inspect the outer surface like all Jorean women do whenever having an unallocated moment and just before putting it to the face of course. Kyung-hee has mounted lenses in the eye openings, placed a black block in the nose opening, filled the small holes of the mouth area and polished the mask. Kyung-hee has done a wonderful job and Catherine especially admires how she, like by magic, has removed the holes over the mouth. Holding the mask directly below her eyes and tilting it to get the right light on the surface she is only able to see where perhaps one or two holes were.

Having let Catherine have time to inspect her mask Na-young says “Your mask is now suitable for high altitudes. If the shine is satisfactory then try holding it to your face without tying it for a minute or two. The nose block is filled with micro balls that heats the air due to the friction created when the air has to be squeezed through the narrow spaces between them. As your lungs have to pull and push the air through the block, it requires increased breathing power. To avoid panic while learning the feeling of this restricted breathing, it is best if you are able to remove the mask in a second, if you feel like you are suffocating.”

Catherine wants to thank Kyung-hee for her work, but it is not good manners to address Kyung-hee just to praise her, so Catherine faces Na-young to say “I will in a moment, but first I have to thank you for all your advice and all that I’ve learned about high altitude protection. I’m sure that the immaculate look of my modified mask, which looks as if it has just been bought at the best of mask shops, is more due to your highly skilled daughter than because the modifications are simple.”

Catherine has while speaking turned the mask in the light to have an excuse to look sideways to see Kyung-hee reaction to her appraisal, which she does by blushing with pride. She then lifts the mask to her face and enters a different world. It is as if she is no longer in contact with her surroundings. Inhaling each breath is now something she has to concentrate on, requiring her to activate all her abdominal muscles to fill her lungs with air. Exhaling also has to be forced to get the right feeling of empty lungs before inhaling once more. The air is warm, but not stuffy like when breathing through a woollen scarf. Catherine quickly decides that this is just as it should be and will become enjoyable outdoors for close to eleven months a year anywhere in Jorea. After getting used to the new way of breathing for over a minute Catherine discovers her sense of isolation comes from having almost lost her sight as well. She hopes it’s acceptable to turn in her seat while testing her modified mask because she has to look all around the room to learn how much sight is left. The darkest areas appear as pitch black. Most of the room, where there is only indirect lighting, is just dark surfaces and contours, while the area close to the windows appears like a normal but badly lit room where she can see most details. However the coloured eye lenses turn everything yellow, implying everything blue looks black.

After having taken in how different it is wearing a mutemask modified for high altitudes she lets her hands with the mask sink to her lap and takes a deep breath with no resistance while considering what to say. But Na-young beats her to it saying “Seeing you quietly breathing through the mask for more than two minutes shows you will soon get used to it, but seeing your inept movements makes me recall that it is very different from having openings direct to the face. In many ways, to me openings are like wearing no mask at all, like being naked, but I’d better not sound too certain because I haven’t had the openings uncovered for some time, since your wedding if I am right?” Her question makes her look from Cho to Kyung-hee. Both nod to tell Catherine it’s more than three months. Catherine has to explain why she turned and says “Breathing was restricted just like you told me but I can manage, although I will probably enjoy changing the mask back to normal tomorrow. The eye covering is much darker than I expected, I could hardly see. Is it my eyes not adjusting within the few minutes I was masked or are my lenses extra protective for someone not used to the strong light outside?”

Na-young tells her “Neither. There is only one kind of lens. The attenuation of light is of course designed to protect the eyes and give about normal vision, but yellow, non-dazzled sight outdoors when in direct sunlight. The especially strong light up here makes the contrast to indoors lighting wider, making it difficult to orientate indoors and outside in deep shadows and after dark also brings difficulties as well of course. The problem is simply solved by always being guided by someone knowing the surroundings. It means we, the women of the Kim Hae-won home, know our house intimately from the hours unmasked. We, and our female neighbours, know the district and most of the town from numerous walks in sunlight. Then, when having to walk masked in our own home or in the shadows outdoors, we orientate by the faint contours and available light sources and walk where our knowledge tells us to go safely. Always walking along the walls helps the orientation and, when unable to see anything at all, enables you to orientate by sensing doorways and corners. Walking alone while masked where you are not known is out of the question. Guests are simply never to take any steps on their own, always walking behind a guide knowing the house, the streets or, if we venture out of town, all women have to be accompanied by a male or a girl who is not yet an adult.”

Catherine, although fond of the Jorean lifestyle, is also curious, and coming to town wearing the traditional mask she has at least seen walls, the ground, plenty of stairs and glimpses of street views and the surrounding mountains; all in natural colours. During her remaining stay she will hardly see anything in places where women mask, which means no scenic views. She then realises that the high altitude mask is actually more in line with Jorean culture than the traditional version and says “Although the mask may feel annoying at first it makes me feel safe that I will always be accompanied by an experienced guide while staying here. And I realise that when it comes to serving the men, which is our purpose as women, the eye covering is a great improvement. The men see a beautiful hanbok and a glossy white mask, while the serving woman sees almost nothing of the men, just enough to catch a commanding gesture.”

In a thrilled voice Na-young tells Catherine “You are truly a Jorean in your heart and mind. Serving the men by being present at their side is of course one of the most important female tasks, but to serve them well requires a certain closeness, which might lead to the servant perceiving matters women shouldn’t know about. The high altitude mask reduces the risk of picking up such inappropriate visual impressions. I have a dream that our version of the mutemask becomes fashionable all over Jorea. Although it may seem so, tradition is not fixed. The ‘traditional’ mutemask we know it is only a generation old regarding the thin but at the same time strong, rigid and breathable high-tech material it is made from. I have tried wearing its predecessor, a metal frame covered by leather. Although it was muting, held the head still and made the wearer anonymous, it was extremely unpleasant to wear, and maintenance, just to keep it clean was nearly impossible as the material simply didn’t allow for our present dedication to an immaculate glossy face adornment. Up here the eyes were just covered by a leather half dome with the opening downwards and a ball of cotton was placed in the nose protrusion.”

Catherine says “May your dream come true. But I’m sorry I can’t help you. As a foreigner, if I try to change tradition, I will always be accused of trying to force customs alien to Jorea on you. On the other hand, I could explain wearing eye covering by wanting to hide my foreign appearance completely, to look like at least as if I was Jorean.”

Na-young says “Thank you Catherine, I’m afraid I’ll have to dream for the rest of my life. I guess you could become indistinguishable from native Jorean women in public by settling in the high altitudes somewhere. But back to your reason for this visit, a Jorean wig. It is almost noon, and we all have to change, or in your case have your body properly protected, but the dressing is the same. I have decided to let you borrow some clothing of Cho’s, which seems to be a good decision, the two of you being very close to the same size. Besides she is similarly aged and the senior of your generation. I have no doubt she will behave with utmost decency, but if you are too reserved to be in a room with another woman without hanbok, then please don’t hesitate to speak up. I would rather take a little more time than offend you. Cho, you are allowed to speak in your room to assist Catherine.”

Catherine says “You are very considerate Na-young, thank you. Modesty is a female virtue. But before I learnt to appreciate Jorean morals I was studying where it is common for two students of the same sex to share a room. Please escort me to the bedroom of Cho.” Catherine lifts the mask to her face and this time ties it.

Concentrating on her breathing it makes her wonder how it will affect her having to walk the way the multiple steps of this town require with this forced breathing. Meanwhile Na-young has got up and stood right in front of her. Although it’s probably only twenty-five metres to the bedroom they line up according to rank, with the leading woman of the house at front, followed by the guest, and then Cho, the second most senior woman of the house. While walking the short distance Catherine only thinks of coordinating her breathing with her steps while maintaining the distance to the black, actually blue, back right in front of her. Within a minute Na-young stops, turns half a circle and very clearly, so as to be seen by Catherine with her reduced vision, gestures her to turn ninety degrees and enter the door now in front of her. Cho immediately follows closing the door.

4.

Although they are of similar age Cho sounds very insecure when saying her first words with Catherine present “This is where my husband and I sleep, but you can be assured he won’t come here until tonight. Please remove your mask Catherine to see what to put on. I have to put a suit on as well, so we have to undress almost completely, but somehow we’ll avoid showing each other our bodies while indecent. Please let me know if I’m saying more than permitted and report it to my mother-in-law.” Catherine removes her mask to see that Cho looks as insecure as she sounds and, although most of her words are superfluous, Catherine answers in the same manner, hoping to get Cho to relax and just chat with her “It is very kind of you to permit me to borrow some of your clothing. I’m sure you understand that, unfortunately, I can’t tell you when it will be returned, but I’ll try to check up on it each day until it’s on its way back.”

Catherine doubts if her strategy is successful and that Cho will speak more than the absolutely necessary, when, without words she opens a cupboard to point to half a dozen white suits. She then points down and says “I only have three pairs of boots. With you borrowing one I have only one pair left for change or in case of damage.” Catherine says “But I can keep my own shoes on then.” Cho says “Neither I, and no less my mother-in-law, would accept you not having your feet properly protected against the cold. Of course I have to accept if you refuse, but then I have to take infraction points, so please.”

Catherine says “I can’t let you have infraction points when borrowing a suit of yours. I’ll borrow the boots as well. Let’s start changing. If you take the suit, the pair of boots and perhaps other items I am to borrow and put them on the sleeping platform, then I’ll stand next to it facing the window, while you stay here between the dressing table and the cupboard, where your public hanbok is, and face the door.” Cho says “Being this good at organising you should be the senior woman of a house making schedules. Dressing is done like this: Please remove your gloves, hanbok, skirts and shoes and put the suit on top of your underwear. Then put the boots on and the skirts with the hanbok and the gloves on top of the suit. Please ask as soon as a question arises.”

While Cho places a suit on the sleeping platform and a pair of boots at its side Catherine says “I don’t know if I would like making schedules, but I am recently married being the lowest ranking at my home. Because of this I really enjoy coming here only with my husband to be treated as the most important female guest, because I am the only one. I also get the chance to chat with you and Na-young.” Catherine has started removing her hanbok, and from the sounds behind her Cho is doing the same thing as, Cho to her delight, continues speaking. “I think we could be chatting for hours if given the opportunity and permission. Even if being just below mother-in-law I rarely get to speak as well. Because each time mother-in-law goes visiting or shopping, she prefers to leave the house for Kyung-hee to look after. She has just a week less seniority and is good at using her hands, and I have to be the company of mother-in-law. On ordinary days we are at most allowed to speak at meals and tea breaks if permitted, where mother-in-law can listen as well. You heard I was allowed to speak with you, but perhaps I have already taken infraction points speaking not just about our clothing. How many points will you report?”

Catherine has removed her shoes, jeogori, chima and two skirts and lifts the white suit to take a look at it and see how to put it on while saying “At my home I would have to report at least five points by now, but please keep talking, sometimes it’s necessary to bend the rules to learn. Keep talking about any subject you like, and I’ll at most report ten points in total for all said by both of us to retain a clear conscience. Answering my next question is undoubtedly allowed and free. There is nothing else required to put this suit on than putting the feet down each leg, putting my hands through the sleeves and pulling the zipper closed?”

Catherine has inspected the suit from all angles and looked inside to find it an almost normal cold weather suit, like those she used for skiing but perhaps with quite a bit more padding which would probably lower the wearer’s mobility somewhat. The integrated socks and gloves are without padding, but the most unusual thing is that the collar seems very thin and there is a band like a belt around the waist where the suit doesn’t bulge. Cho asks “I assume you mean the long front zipper? There is also a zipper between the legs, which should be closed, to allow your husband access while you’re fully dressed by just pulling up the chima and the skirts. But you are completely right. It has to be simple. Women up here can’t spend any more time to dress to go out in public than the rest of you.”

Catherine, about to put her woollen covered leg down into the thin integrated sock of the suit, finds she has another question. “As I understand it is sufficient to only have underwear inside the suit in the form of bra, panties and what follow, to have the suit directly against the skin over the remaining body? But not having a suit when coming here I have been wearing woollen stockings under my skirts. I’m in doubt if I should keep them on, and if they can fit inside the suit stockings and boots at all?”

Cho replies by saying “The more covering the better. If I may have a look at your stockings you can have my opinion. But don’t turn if sensitive to seeing a disrobed body, I’m not wearing my hanbok yet!” Catherine while turning says “Please take a look, but beware, I’m not even wearing the su …”

Cho stares at her with a look as if she has seen a ghost, then quickly turns bright red, but she keeps staring until discovering Catherine is looking at her, which makes her put her hands over her eyes and face the floor. A surprised Catherine is shocked at such a strong reaction to seeing a woman, who after all still has her intimate part’s covered “Cho! You certainly are the one sensitive to a disrobed body. I am not even a man. You react like you have never undressed or bathed in front of another woman before?”

Cho now clutches her hands at her waist, her breathing audible. She still has a red face now with tears in her eyes. After close to half a minute she says in a low childish voice “No. – Not since puberty, and before that only with my mother. I feel so ashamed. We can never meet again. I have to go back to my parents.”

Catherine has forgotten all about the stockings, she quickly puts the suit on still wearing them. Now with her hand, gloved by the suit, she lifts Cho’s head to make her look into her eyes while she says slowly and quietly “Cho we are friends. I don’t mind you seeing me like that. You might have learned that seeing a body unclothed is immoral and shameful, but in the right situations, and especially between women, it is acceptable where I come from. So I am neither ashamed nor offended. Just dry your eyes and relax. You are not ashamed at night when seeing your husband naked, or him seeing you, I suppose.”

Cho says in her normal voice but lower than before the incident “You are the most unusual woman I have ever met Kim Catherine Robinson. If you are serious about still being friends we have to share this as the deepest secret you’ll never tell even to your closest and best friend on New Year’s morning while waiting for the sun to rise.” Catherine, looking completely serious, nods, so Cho continues speaking “With my husband, except at my wedding night when I was too tense and afraid to sense much, I use the Qizen technique ‘conscious fainting’, which means I lay down on the bed before my husband enters the bedroom and empty my mind even from reacting to sensory inputs, and when the condition after thirty minutes slowly cease it fades into sleep, so I never register him coming to bed or remember what he does before actually sleeping. My mother has taught me this is the best for a successful marriage.”

Catherine says “That is a Qizen technique I haven’t learned to master. It may be good for a problem free marriage, but although it has a risk of misfortune to respond to your husband in bed, it might on the other hand make the marriage even better to both parties, and I take the risk because so far it brings us both immense joy and pleasure. You could try for a couple of nights just lying still without emptying your mind, then I guess you’ll enjoy the sensations going through your body and mind while your husband is in close contact with you.”

Cho says “I’m not sure if such a foreign custom, even if you recommend it, is something for me.” Changing the subject Cho tells Catherine “The suit is correctly put on and fits you well, but I only see three skirts on the sleeping platform. Although your hanbok is thick you’d better borrow two more. Three is okay for home use but for in public it is normal to wear five.” Catherine says “I have put on one more skirt than usual for extra protection. I’ve only heard of five for celebrations. But if they are not scarce please let me borrow two to be protected just like the women living here.” Cho points into the cupboard “I have several dozen, but they are not for protection against wind and cold. The suit is so warm that we could walk outdoors in the middle of winter with nothing on top. Because of that we can wear thin delicate high quality silk hanboks, but they require many skirts to make them spread so they show at their best. Please put on the boots to let me squeeze at the toes to check you’ll be alright, and we can end this shocking incident.”

Catherine puts the boots, which are thick and soft due to a lining of artificial fur, on. Of course they reach exactly to the point on the lower legs where the padding of the suit begins, to make the insulation unbroken. Cho presses her thumb down on several toes and nods. Catherine takes a few steps to check how the boots feel and notices she has to waddle due to the padding around her legs, but she only says “The boots feel fine Cho. I guess my feet are a little smaller than yours. Let’s get on with the dressing as I guess Na-young is dressed and waiting by now. I hope you’re fit again to chat a little more, even though dressing takes priority.”

Catherine begins putting on skirts starting with her own. She immediately sees why the suit has a waist band with compressed padding. Here the skirts are tied without having to be tight, as there is no padding which would make the skirts slide down. Cho meanwhile says “You’re right, mother-in-law is probably waiting, but she has anticipated it taking much longer for you to get dressed. In the kitchen while you masked she gestured me she will be waiting blank, giving us all the time we like without her getting impatient, as the scheduling bell has been turned off while you are here.”

In some minutes Catherine is back to putting her chima on. The additional skirts, as intended, makes it fuller than before, but it’s the high waist part where she feels the difference because it now is much tighter, having to fit on top of the padding of the suit. With the jeogori it’s even more pronounced. If it wasn’t designed to be loose fitting it would never fit around the bulging arms. As Catherine reaches for her gloves Cho says “I’ll put your shoes in the cupboard. Remember to take them with you home somehow.”

Hearing Cho speak makes Catherine turn towards her while fitting her gloves. She widens her eyes. Cho looks like she is on her way to a party. The chima is burgundy with a handful of small flower bouquets embroidered on the lower part while the jeogori is midnight blue with a white heart embroidered on each cuff. Catherine, while having to pull at each finger of each glove to make them fit on top of the thin but still insulating gloves of the suit, subconsciously slows down to enjoy the sight of the beautiful young woman in her just as beautiful hanbok and asks “Cho we are going to the wig shop, aren’t we? You look like you are about to get married. I think that if Na-young wear’s something that matches your hanbok I shall feel ugly. At least when I am wearing my mask our faces will look identical.”

catherine_becomes_truly _jorean2

Rather bashfully Cho tells Catherine “As mother-in-law said, women up here take advantage of the suit to wear thin and beautiful fabrics on top. When she was praising your face I think it should have been stronger. You are simply beautiful – and I can say that about the rest of you as well. If you are ready let us mask. But first I have to apologise for what I said just after my breakdown. I would very much like to talk to you another time, but it may not be today.”

While watching the beautiful and smiling face of Cho changing to a decorative but blank white facade Catherine says “Cho, we share a secret which we can laugh about when we meet again, hopefully soon. I’ll feel very safe knowing you are right behind me during this walk to take place now. Open the door please.” But Cho doesn’t move until seeing Catherine taking her hands down after having secured her mask.

5.

Just to the left of the door facing the wall is, as expected, the unmoving hanbok mannequin Na-young. It looks to Catherine as if she is behaving as the perfect host, not dressing as stylish as Cho and Mi-cha, to make Catherine better fit in, but it’s hard to tell from only seeing dark surfaces with a yellow hue. Cho has tapped Na-young’s shoulder and after a moments hesitation she turns towards them, making Catherine with large clear gestures tell Na-young that Cho has earned ten infraction points for speaking too much. Both Na-young and Cho bow to thank her, and then Na-young starts walking along the wall. Catherine, as a guest, is of course immediately behind her.

To her surprise, after just a minute of walking, they stop with Na-young turning to face the wall. Catherine turns a little more than ninety degrees as well and twists her body enough to see that Cho stands facing the wall likewise. They all stand still for about five minutes. There has been no signal to blank the mind. Suddenly Catherine hears Jin’s voice speaking loudly “It is Kim Jin speaking. I hereby permit my wife to remove her mask at the wig shop and answer the wig maker Lee Ha-Neul if he is the only male present. I also give permission for her to have her head shaved.” Catherine shudders. She had not yet fully accepted the idea of living without her own hair. This means Jin would like her to wear wig all waking hours as do the women here and sleep with a bald wife. There is no more time for consideration, Catherine gets a pat at her side to turn and sees Na-young passing her. Catherine trails her back again and this time they walk out of the house.

At first Catherine is irritated that she can’t walk naturally due to her bulky legs then she has to focus fully on walking, because it’s either steps up or down. At a pause walking steeply up, but without steps, it first occurs to her that only a gush of cold wind on her hair now and then makes her able to feel she is outside and not indoors. She still would like to be able to breathe more freely but there is no added discomfort when walking, there is only a natural increased breathing rhythm.

Because they have stopped to let men pass a number of times, it comes as a small surprise to Catherine when at a stop they turn to enter a door. Even with her limited sight she can immediately see they have reached their goal. The walls are covered with shelves holding dummy heads carrying wigs of black hair and having only ‘skin’ down to the eyebrows. There is a counter, but there is no one in the room. Then from the door to the back an unmasked woman in a plain hanbok for working in public appears and immediately says “Welcome ladies, are you here to collect an order or repair? Or do you have an appointment?” They still stand in line, only now shifted sideways as well, and Catherine sees Na-young make the nodding movement at the last question, making the shop lady say “Very well, please follow me.” Catherine thinks they enter a corridor, but it’s very dark, and she just clings to Na-young’s back. The shop lady holds a door, they pass, and she closes it to say “This is a single customer room, where only me and, if needed, my husband shop owner Lee Ha-Neul enter. My husband will always knock to announce his arrival, so please unmask to state your request.” Na-young gestures to Catherine, who unmasks to state her name formally. Only the name of her husband is used “I am Mrs. Kim Jin. I would like to have a wig for everyday wear.” Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul says “Yes I can see that you are the foreign woman wanting a wig to look Jorean. Besides a few Vipponese women you are the first foreigner I’ve met. Your commitment to look Jorean is most admirable, although you have an exotic appeal that would attract most men if you showed it to them. Because your foreign appearance requires special professional challenges, my husband would like to handle as much as possible of the procedure himself. Please mask and I will fetch him to inform you.” Catherine says “Thank you, but I can stay unmasked as I have permission to answer him.” Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul says “Mr. Kim Jin is a liberal man. Using his permission will speed up things.” Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul leaves and Na-young and Cho turn at the same time to take their stand facing the wall a little away from the door. Catherine, as is customary for such a situation, holds her mask in front of the face, not to be seen fully while speaking.

There is a knock on the door and ten seconds later Mr. Lee Ha-Neul enters followed by his wife, and after a small bow he says to Catherine “It is a great honour for me that Mr. Kim Jin has trusted me with the special task of making a wig for his foreign wife. I will do my utmost to make a result to his full satisfaction. If Mrs. Kim Jin would please lower her mask a little to let me see the top of the head down to the eyebrows, so I can assess the head professionally.” Catherine lowers the mask to have its top over her eyes, now totally blocking her vision. After spending some seconds inspecting her head Mr. Lee Ha-Neul says “Very interesting, very interesting indeed. Mrs. Kim Jin there are three basic options when wearing a wig. The first is to put it on top of your hair, in which case you have to choose if you will stay with your current length of hair or a more practical shorter cut. The second option is to have your hair cut off and your head shaved to wear the wig all waking hours and sleep bald or with a second small wig or cap of some sort. The third basic option is to have your hair removed and your head treated chemically so the hair will not grow again and have the wig permanently glued to your head.
The first option is only if your husband feels your hair is what he loves most about you. You’ll have the trouble of both keeping the wig neat and keeping your own hair, the latter being greatly increased by the wig always ruining your own hair. But most importantly it is difficult putting the wig on with the best result, because every strand of your own hair has to sit right not to spoil the look.
The third option is mainly for those who worry about putting the wig on wrong or fearing the entire wig or part of it to loosen. There are also those where the husband likes to see hair always and when having to tidy up hair in the morning it might as well be the hair on your head as a second wig. And of course if you can’t grow proper hair because of age or medical reasons a wig glued to the head becomes more attractive. The drawbacks of the third option are most important to a young woman like you, that you cannot regret the decision and get your own hair to grow again. For the rest of your life you either show a bald head or wear a wig or some other form of head covering. Further it can’t be avoided that after sleeping with the wig, like with normal hair but to a lesser extent, it has to be tidied up. Lastly, with the wig glued to your head, while making repairs of course you have to be in my workshop for the duration of the work. Removing a glued wig is possible but a slow and unpleasant procedure.
For all of the above reasons a large majority of women prefer to keep their heads shaved bald and put on a wig each morning to wear all day. With the technology of the wigs I make, the fear of a wig loosening is completely unrealistic. And regarding placing it wrongly, like skewed, this is solved with a feature that more than ninety percent add, and I strongly recommend you to take as well. The machinery makes six small indents on your head and then the artificial skin membrane attached to the wig is equipped with six matching pins which you easily click into the indents, thus ensuring the entire wig is placed exactly the same each time.
Now I would like you to use your husband’s permission to speak and tell me which of the three options you would choose or to ask if not everything is clear to you.”

Catherine takes her hand down to show her face to Mr. Lee Ha-Neul and says “From your excellent explanation and, as the females of my family here do, the second option seems the right one to me as for most women. Of course always placing the wig right is important, but indents on my head sounds to me like holes in my skull and may be too drastic for me.”

Mr. Lee Ha-Neul has, since Catherine lowered her mask, rather immodestly been staring at her face and says “I’ve always been told that Jorean women are the most beautiful in the world, but today I’ve learned there are foreigners who compare very well. Regarding the indents, technically you are right because the skin on the skull is very thin, but these holes are very small, just large enough to be sensed and not very deep, nowhere near going through to the inside. The procedure has of course been thoroughly investigated to be completely safe, painless and healthy. Perhaps the other women in here can indicate if they have indents to ensure perfect alignment and, if so, say whether they have ever encountered problems?”

Catherine looks at Na-young and Cho who, backs to the wall both first tilt forward and back and then both tilt from side to side. Catherine turns to Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul, who nods and then shakes her head the normal way. Catherine says “My female family using this addition without problems is most assuring and a great relief, but most important is that I am going to have a wig and have immaculate hair like all Jorean women, and then opting out of what ensures this result would be wrong. I just hope it still means I can have a wig to put on today, and I don’t have to come back too often to have the wounds examined.”

Mr. Lee Ha-Neul says “What a wise decision, and the indents are made as part of the measuring process, taking almost no extra time. The indents are made with a laser technique, creating skin inside the indents, and with cuts so small no scars are created, and the indents get their final form at the end of the procedure to be ready for use minutes later. Your aim of looking like a Jorean woman, in public attire only of course, is what makes this professionally interesting. Because it means the membrane on top of your head down to the mask is to be coloured like all my other wigs to match the skin of Jorean women, but below the line of your eyebrows your own fair skin shows when unmasked, and thus the membrane between its edge and the top edge of the mask gradually has to change hue in a way looking natural although it is not. To make the change as unobtrusive as possible I will copy the skin colour for the top of your head from a subject in my database having a relatively light skin for a Jorean. But please follow me to have the system measure your head, then the manufacturing process itself can work while you get your head shaved – and get some lunch by the way. Clients always get tea while waiting, but clients coming from out of town are offered a meal as well. Of course your family here with you are invited as well.” Talking about tea and food Mr. Lee Ha-Neul has been gesturing towards an empty table against the right wall. Lifting the mask to her face again, but while speaking tilting it to have the mouth free, Catherine says “Thank you on behalf of my family and me. May I ask how long the measuring takes?” Catherine follows Mr. Lee Ha-Neul out into the corridor while he says “Fifteen to thirty minutes – possibly closer to the last because some parameters will come out unusual due to your different skin colour. Just relax, this is just like having your head measured for a mask, only here we take two measurements – with and without mask. Your only involvement is to sit in that chair.”

They have entered a room with a sort of dental chair at the centre with a lot of fixtures and equipment around, which admittedly would have made Catherine afraid, if not having been told this will be like a mask measurement. She recalls her first mask measurement was frightening as well, although all the Jorean women she had asked had told her it is nothing. Catherine is just about to tie her mask when Mr. Lee Ha-Neul says “I’m sorry Mrs. Kim Jin. It’s actually the other way around – first without the mask. It is all about your head, but to get the best result the body has to be fixed as well. The ankle fixture is automated for no one to look under your chima. Step backwards to the chair ensuring to get your ankles into the braces then sit down, back firmly against the back of the chair and feet flat on the floor. When seated like this comfortably, nod.” The ankle braces are mounted in the floor to allow the chima to brush the floor all way round. After having seated herself as instructed, with her hands folded on top of her mask in her lap, Catherine nods and immediately senses her feet and ankles being locked tightly.

Then Mr. Lee Ha-Neul says “Very good Mrs. Kim Jin. Now lift your arms above the waist please.” From each side a thick curved metal bracket is turned around a hinge to be locked together at the centre of her waist. The fixture then starts moving backwards to press Catherine firmly against the back of the chair at the waist. When it starts to get uncomfortably tight and Catherine can’t avoid looking worried Mr. Lee Ha-Neul says “Don’t worry, it measures the pressure to stop automatically before it hurts.” He is right, when it stops after ten seconds it is just extremely tight, preventing Catherine from breathing normally, but she is not to exercise while seated here anyway.

Mr. Lee Ha-Neul tells her “Please put your hands in the leather muff on the front of the waist bracket.” Catherine does as asked to feel the tip of her fingers stopped just before they would meet. Just as she senses the stop, Mr. Lee Ha-Neul pushes at the right rim of the muff which crosses her wrist, apparently pushing a hidden metal bracket into the waist bracket where it is locked in position to hold her wrist in a firm grip. An instant later her left wrist is likewise locked.

Next Mr. Lee Ha-Neul reaches up to swing a fixture just over Catherine’s right shoulder. It rests on both sides of her collar bone and then, like the waist bracket, moves backwards until Catherine’s shoulders and upper body are completely fixed to the seat back.

As the shoulder bracket stops moving Mr. Lee Ha-Neul says “Now only the reason for sitting here, the head, remains. To hold it still a cast for each side is placed around the lower head and neck. It is loose and only a soft rubber lining touches your skin, however the lining contains a compound that hardens when an electrical current passes through. For ten seconds only you have to keep your head completely still with your teeth clenched, that is all. The cast reaches to just below your nose and across the ears, which means you can still breathe and hear, but you are muted. Communication is still possible as the muff contains a button for each hand. Try pressing first the right hand fingers and then the left against the bracket for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ respectively. – Thank you. Hold your head straight, both vertically and horizontally. Here come the casts.” Catherine, looking straight forward, can’t see anything, but senses something approaching her head from both sides. After some seconds a rubber surface touches softly on her left cheek to make her move her head a little to the right, where it meets another rubber surface. Seconds later she senses rubber all over from her ears and nose down to the shoulder bracket. Mr. Lee Ha-Neul says “If you feel ready then clench your teeth, hold your head as still as possible, and press the right ‘Yes’ button.” Catherine finds she can’t move her head more than a few millimetres to either side and she clenches her teeth, trying to hold her head so it does not press anywhere then bends her right hand fingers. It is completely quiet and Catherine notices she subconsciously holds her breath as well, but nothing really seems to happen. She feels like moving her head, but hopes she is keeping it still. She starts counting to herself: One – two – three – … The voice of Mr. Lee Ha-Neul interrupts her saying “Thank you. The system is ready to measure. Sitting like this with machinery buzzing around your head for about a quarter of an hour is uncomfortable. I suggest you blank your mind and I now show you a Qizen board.” Catherine hardly listens. Although having being told what to expect she gets a shock when it occurs. The feeling of not being totally confined because she could move some millimetres by squeezing the soft rubber ten seconds ago are gone. Her head is completely locked in a firm grip much harder than the mask she is used to. She can’t move her lips, can’t separate her teeth, and activating her head muscles is useless. Then her field of vision is filled by the board and the symbols for training Qizen techniques showing on the board tells her what to do just as much as Mr. Lee Ha-Neul’s words. Just seeing the symbols makes her brain begin the practised procedure. Catherine doubts she could have gone blank in this situation without – is her last wilful thought.

Next she senses a tapping on her left arm. The board is gone and she turns her head to directly face the smiling Mr. Lee Ha-Neul. – She is able to TURN her head, which means the cast has been removed, is the thought that passes through Catherine’s mind while he says “Close to twenty minutes has passed Mrs. Kim Jin. Your hands are free as well. Now please put on your mask and then put your hands back in the muff again. Then the final set of measurements necessary can be made.” While lifting the mask to her head Catherine senses some areas on her head are different, but it doesn’t hurt anywhere, so she just ties the mask which almost fixes her head by itself. Now, having to breathe much harder, she immediately senses she is tightly confined at her waist, but she doesn’t feel like fainting, and of course every aspect of this procedure has been evaluated to be safe. With the mask it makes little difference when the casts are once again brought to her head, and immediately after Mr. Lee Ha-Neul says “Press Yes when you are ready,” Catherine pushes the button. This time she is ready and it feels a bit more natural getting the head completely fixed while wearing the mask, but there is no doubt that she has to go blank to endure this. With her restricted vision the board is superfluous and Catherine has to concentrate on saying a meditative sound inside her head. Om, om, om, om __.

Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul this time is at her side tapping. She just gestures Catherine to follow, and Catherine, a little surprisedly, notices that she is completely free to leave the chair. They walk back to the first room where Na-young and Cho are seated, both masked, one on each side of the table, now ready and laid and with food. Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul, having closed the door, says “Please unmask. We have some forty minutes to spend with only the one task of removing the hair of Mrs. Kim Jin to accomplish. Therefore I suggest we start having some food and drink, and then Mrs. Kim Hae-won and Mrs. Kim Ok-hwa can have another cup of tea while I work with Mrs. Kim Jin. Mrs. Kim Jin might sense that a little has already been done. Please take a look in the mirror before taking your seat.” Catherine walks in front of the mirror to immediately notice two slightly red spots, one above each of the eyebrows. And then her hair has been cut and an area shaved above each ear to hold similar spots. In the mirror Catherine sees Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul is observing her and, after Catherine has turned her head to look at the spots above her ears, Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul says “Your indents have been completed. You can’t sense them with public gloves, but there are two more at the back of the head.” Catherine goes to sit down saying “I am very relieved that I can only sense that the skin has been shaved and cleaned, but not the indents themselves. If it’s not because I’ve been sedated it’s a fantastic piece of medical work. And the indents on the forehead can even be seen as an adornment. Now I feel confident that we can have this meal to celebrate my new Jorean look.”

They eat, drink and chat for twenty minutes. Catherine is still the guest from outside and Na-young the highly respected older generation, while Cho of course never takes part in the conversation. After a couple of minutes where no one has been eating Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul says “It looks like everyone has been filled. Excuse me for a minute while I take the food to the kitchen. She fills two trays, making Cho put on her mask and pick up one tray to follow Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul out. They return in three minutes, Cho carrying a hairdressing cape and Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul a basket with tools. As women wearing public hanbok always have their mask within reach when not wearing it Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul makes a special request by saying “Mrs. Kim Jin, I would recommend you leave your mask on the table so as not to get tiny pieces of hair on the mask even if it is kept under the cape.” Catherine of course leaves the mask in the care of Na-young before moving to the chair that has been placed in the centre of the room. Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul fits the cape on Catherine and puts on elbow length disposable plastic gloves herself. Holding up a pair of scissors she says “Would you like to have your hair with you? If so then I will place it into a bag?” Catherine thinks this is a good proposal, because it might help her feel better, being able to look at, and sense her own hair if she gets sad when seeing herself bald from time to time, so she answers “Yes please. Is it common to keep the hair?” Na-young answers as Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul begins cutting. “When coming-of-age, and thus starting to mask, the young women up here of course start wearing a wig as well, and thus their hair becomes a souvenir of their childhood, something they have to give up to become adult women. Many, including myself, have bought a small doll, made a small copy of our favourite girls-hanbok and used part of the hair for the doll.” Catherine considers getting a doll herself but doesn’t answer Na-young so as not to disturb the work of Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul. Just removing all hair without any styling is quick. Five minutes later Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul turns off the shaver, carefully removes the cape and gestures Catherine to stand up and look in the mirror. She is aware of that it is another woman that meets her in the mirror. It worries her if Jin will love this woman as much as the old Catherine. She puts a smile on her face that she recognises, hoping he will do the same. She sits down again to have a look at the plastic bag with her hair in while Cho pours tea. After sweeping the floor for a couple of minutes Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul sits down as well. Now they are only waiting for the machinery to finish. They are all a little excited, no one knowing if this mix of Jorean tradition and a fair skinned foreigner will be successful. Na-young and Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul exchange a few phrases to break the silence now and then. That is all.

There is a knock on the door and Na-young and Cho put their masks on while Catherine only lifts hers. It is a good sign that Mr. Lee Ha-Neul looks very happy. He has seen the 3D combination of the scan of Catherine’s head and the wig, which is very close to the real thing. Catherine gets up and with a bow Mr. Lee Ha-Neul hands her the wig then, with a gesture towards the mirror he says “People have different opinions about what is beautiful, but personally I think Mr. Kim Jin is a very lucky man now to have one of the most beautiful women in Jorea. Mrs. Kim Jin you might as well put on the wig yourself this first time, as it is you who have to put it on each time in the future. Hold with both hands a little behind the front pins and make the pins meet the indents, which will make the membrane stick to your forehead. Then let the membrane slide between your fingers while pulling the hands backwards until behind the ears, where you adjust to let the next set of pins engage. Finally you grab at the membrane at its lower back, pulling to make it smooth, and last make the set of pins at the back of the head fit their indents. Actually it requires some practise to do it while wearing public gloves, but I can go outside for a minute if you’d like to take the gloves off.” Too excited to think about being immodest, Catherine takes the gloves off without saying anything, but as she is now showing the suit gloves, she isn’t actually revealing more of herself. With only the thinner gloves it becomes much easier to follow Mr. Lee Ha-Neul’s instructions and soon the last pin has engaged and Catherine is able to concentrate on her overall look. She is astonished at the strange but very beautiful, perhaps even erotic, head facing her. She has become the dream girl of both Jorean men and men of her home country. Catherine makes some faces that only belong alone with your husband, having totally forgotten a strange man and his wife look in the mirror from behind. After having turned her head to see as much as possible all way round Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul passes her a hand mirror so she can see herself from behind. After looking for a minute she turns to hand the mirror back, which Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul exchanges for a mask saying “Please hold this traditional mask without eye covering to your face to get an impression of how you look wearing your own mask.” Catherine, after turning with the mask to her face, is once again amazed. From the sides, where the eyes are less visible, she sees any Jorean woman with a perfect hairdo put up in a fully rounded, pitch black bun. Putting on her own mask with the eye lenses she will become an immaculate Jorean woman, totally anonymous if not identified by the hanbok. Catherine is filled with joy, which clearly shows on her face as she hands the mask back to Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul and then instinctively does what Mr. Lee Ha-Neul deserves and wants, but of course never would ask for or just hint at in any way. Catherine puts her arms around him and gives him a tight hug. She pulls away again after five seconds to see Mr. Lee Ha-Neul trying, quite in vain, to put on a face of dignity and seriousness, but he can’t really hide that he is happy, proud and very surprised. Luckily Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul isn’t offended, but looks to be proud of having a successful husband, breaking the mood by saying “A foreign expression of gratitude that I doubt Joreans will adopt. Men embracing women in the presence of others would be deemed weak, and women would get at least a hundred infraction points and most likely some other form of punishment in addition. But I like that the work of my husband is appreciated.” Na-young and Cho have been facing the other three to see what is possible from a little distance through their lenses of Catherine’s great moment. They would in seconds have turned to face a wall, but Catherine’s move, luckily for them, comes before, and her unprecedented action easily seen even through the dark yellow lenses, make both of them forget manners and move closer to perhaps catch something of the reactions of Mr. and Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul. Catherine is still extremely happy but manages to look a little regretful when answering Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul “You are completely right Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul. This was a major breach according to Jorean social convention. I got so excited that I forgot where I am.” She bows facing Mr. Lee Ha-Neul while continuing “My deepest apologies Mr. Lee Ha-Neul, I’m so sorry I invaded your privacy. I don’t think I can really make up for this in any way, but of course I’ll report to my husband that I went beyond his permission to answer you and let him punish me severely, perhaps ask for the hundred infraction points that Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul suggested.” Mr. Lee Ha-Neul has composed himself to say “As a scientist I am open to learning and, although human interaction is not my field, I understood that this a way to express a job well done where you come from. I will only remember a satisfied customer and not that a married woman was indecently close to a man not her husband. Let this be a secret between those present in this room. Do we share a secret?” Catherine bows even deeper. Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul of course nods, never opposing her husband’s decisions. Na-young and Cho, who, as Catherine started apologising, went to face a wall, are now both nodding the masked way. Seeing everybody has agreed Mr. Lee Ha-Neul says “I’d better leave before this becomes an embassy of Mrs. Kim Jin’s home country. I have an address for the invoice. I would very much like to see my work again soon, but unfortunately for me with normal wear and handling it should be several years before a refurbishment large enough to come here is needed. But I’ve got the 3D scan. Goodbye Mrs. Kim Jin.”

The sound of the door makes Na-young and Cho turn around and Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul say “Would you like another cup of tea before leaving?” Without looking at Na-young, who is just noticeably tilting from side to side, Catherine says “The tea is lovely Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul, and the meal was wonderful, thank you. My husband is waiting, and we have a bus to catch. Goodbye.” Catherine masks herself and lines up behind Na-young and they all bow while Mrs. Lee Ha-Neul is on her way to open the door.

catherine_becomes_truly _jorean3

6.

In a minute they are out in the streets again. A couple of minutes later Catherine thinks to herself she mainly notices she is outside because the light is stronger and their path is never level, but she has no idea how cold it is or if there are icy wind shears from time to time. After another two minutes she senses she wasn’t completely right. The air she slowly pulls through the nose filter is no longer warm, but fresh in a way like breathing freely indoors in a well ventilated room. In other words it’s just the temperature the filter is optimised for, which is probably close to zero.

Back at the home of Na-young and Cho they walk directly into the living room to stop when Cho, last in line, is inside. After some minutes of waiting the voice of Jin calls loudly “It is Kim Jin speaking. We have just time to catch the next bus. Wait for me in the main hall and part with the women. I’ll be with you in three minutes.” Then Sang-mi says “Sang-mi permits all tasks to be postponed until my cousin has left.” They walk to the kitchen door. Na-young knocks on the door while opening it. She gestures Sang-mi’s words and Kyung-hee and Mi-cha come to the door. Mi-cha is still masked wearing public hanbok to serve the men. Mi-cha steps out into the hall, but Kyung-hee stops exactly inside the doorway with a gesture towards Catherine’s wig and an exaggerated happy expression to be perceived by the reduced sight of Catherine. Then Na-young starts closing the door making Kyung-hee bow to Catherine, who immediately reciprocates, first straightening when the door is completely closed. Then Mi-cha points to Catherine’s wig and as she can’t show any expressions, she makes the nodding movement a couple of times saying yes, yes, yes to Catherine’s wig. They make a parting bow to each other and with a gesture from Na-young, Mi-cha turns to face the wall. Catherine and Cho turn to face each other. Cho very inappropriately lifts at her chima showing a booted ankle. It is a good thing Catherine is wearing the mutemask or her outburst of laughter would have dishonoured herself and Jin, but luckily she stays a hanbok mannequin, noticing Cho is standing next to Na-young a little behind her where Na-young is unable to see the inappropriate move. Catherine responds to Cho’s hint to the secret between them by holding her gloved hand to her mask where her mouth is. Probably Na-young will interpret this as a reminder to the secret they all share. Cho continues along this line by holding her arms outstretched ready to embrace, and Catherine hold up her hands likewise, but none of them move. Having both expressed they like each other so much they would have hugged if in private, they both make the formal bow and Cho walks to the wall. Catherine would only expect that Na-young in the main hall with men arriving any instant would only greet goodbye formally, but instead of bowing she lifts her folded hands to her heart, indicating Catherine is like a daughter to her. Deeply touched Catherine takes her hands to her heart as well, and while keeping them there twice bows as deep as she can. Then for more than a minute they both stand hands folded at the lap, both just facing an unmoving hanbok and a blank mask. If the time expected to wait had exceeded five minutes they would both have blanked their mind, but there is no visible difference. Just seconds after Catherine hears the men approaching Na-young starts bowing, immediately making Catherine bow as well. Catherine straightens to walk up behind Jin, while Na-young stops halfway to bow even deeper and stay down until the men are out in the yard.

This bus has tinted windows and in the rather dark environment with a seat back appearing as almost black filling her field of view Catherine, being totally covered and her body cocooned, is in her own private world and would, if not in Jorea, have dreamed sweet dreams about being a perfect wife and being with Jin. But having just succeeded in becoming a Jorean woman in appearance, she has to work harder on becoming Jorean in her mind as well, and in this situation this means recharging herself by blanking her mind. Within a minute of being seated Catherine just focuses on one word: Om, om, om, om, – .

Jin is patting her. They are to get off. She hasn’t experienced her ears popping, or it has been too weak to trig her mind. After walking for a few minutes Catherine wonders if Jin has a meeting or some shopping to do. Men often do this without informing the women accompanying them, making Catherine just walk on. Some five minutes later they enter a yard, and Catherine jumps a little on recognising they are at home. She realises they have walked the normal way from the bus station, but having experienced her surroundings differently through her high altitude mask she has believed they were taking a detour.

Mother-in-law receives them and although she is of course facing Jin with downcast eyes Catherine notices that she has measured her appearance and looks pleased with what she has seen. Not in any way since her coming back from the wig shop has Jin shown if he likes her new appearance or not, but now he says “I want tea and kimchi please. If the other men of the family don’t disapprove I’ll grant the women ten minutes to have tea in the kitchen and pausing any scheduled tasks.” Catherine blushes under her mask. Jin is proud of her and wants all the other women to admire her. She loves Jin. A truly Jorean woman heads for the kitchen to report her misdemeanours of the day. A hundred infraction points is a small price to pay for becoming a Jorean woman. In fact accepting infractions is what makes a Jorean woman. Catherine better report some more.

Copyright © 2009, Bo_Emp; Bo_Emp ‘at’ yahoo ‘dot’ com

Thanks to GhostWriter for reviewing the story

Thanks to Nye North for proof reading

Back to the Vippon menu…

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