I have this favorite pair of shoes (black mary janes) that I wear with nearly everthing. I've had them for so long, the strap was starting to fall off. So... while I was walking around Itaewon (in Korea) shopping for a new set of luggage, I decided I should look for a shoe cobbler. A man in a very nice, long cashmere coat asked if I wanted him to make me a coat, and I said "No, I need my shoes repaired." He pointed across the street to a cabinet-kiosk and said, "Repairing shoes, over there!" I thanked him and crossed the street.

The shoe cobbler was busy hamering away on the heel of a woman's high-heeled boot, but when I showed him my shoes, he ushed me inside his cabinet-kiosk and told me to wait five minutes. I watched him hammer in three very long, skinny nails, and then he got frustrated and pulled the whole heel off. I wondered if he was a very good shoe cobbler or not... The inside of the cabinet reeked of kerosene, shoe polish, and rubber cement. On my left was a mid-sized television that took up one end of the cabinet-kiosk and on my right was the shoe cobbler. I realized I had never in my life seen anyone repair shoes, except on old Dicken's movies or cartoons. He grabbed bits of elastic, twine, a needle I wouldn't want to war against, and a blade in the shape of a shoe horn. Within a few minutes, he was done and my shoes were like-new. We argued a bit over the price -- I thought he wanted 40,000 won ($40), but he wanted 4,000 won ($4). I gave him 5,000. With that, I walked out of the warm cabinet-shoe-kiosk into the freezing air of Itaewon and rambled about looking at hats and Burberry scarves and other trinkets. I bought my suitcase set (a red one!) and found a taxi to take me back to the hotel.

Everything in the market was the same... the scarves, the hats, the tables piles with socks and gloves... the stores with cheap plastic little drums with the Korean flag painted on them and enameled jewelry boxes... Nothing truly appealed to me or my cheap budget. All in all, I did some fine shopping while here and got the minimum of things I needed for Christmas.

Tonight promises a Korean meal steamed in culture.

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