My co-teacher swears by fortune tellers. If you’re stupid enough to even mention the words “fortune”, “future” or “stars” she triggers off like a flame to a paraffin trail with her bizarre fortune teller tales, which she discusses with all the seriousness of an economist discussing a nation’s economy.
“So you know, there are two types of fortune tellers; one who gathers intuition from the surrounding nature and one who gathers information by reading your palm,” she tells me for the sixth time.
The fortune teller is the reason my co-teacher is happily married. She met a man. He asked her to marry him. She asked the fortune teller if she should say yes. The fortune teller said yes. She said yes.
“If the fortune teller said no, you would have declined him even if you got along really well?”
She looked at me as if I asked her whether a dog has legs.
One week, back in my first year, she asked me if I would like to go and see for myself. Do I want to see the woman responsible for my co-teacher’s happy marriage? We made a date for the following Tuesday.
Tuesday came. I had my 20 000 Won fortune teller fee folded and ready in my pocket. I made peace with the fact that I was essentially giving someone R200 to talk nonsense to me in Korean.
Before I embarked on my adventure, these were my expectations:
I would be on a long, bumpy bus ride to some grassy place hidden in the countryside, where I would be met by a wrinkly, bent over Korean woman who was obviously wrapped in colourful material complete with a turban sprouting feathers and emblazoned with rare jewels.
It wasn’t like that. We walked to the train station which is in the center of town, we turned right and left and crossed a bridge and took a few more turns. Every now and then my co-teacher pointed to a building and said, “that’s a fortune teller over there..there’s another one over there.. and another..”
When we reached the front door of our fortune teller’s house it was already dark. A strong whiff of incense stung my nose at the door. A short, middle-aged woman opened the door. Her face was perfectly made up. She wore dark jeans and a brown fur sweater and her hair was tied in a neat bun. Her face lit up when she saw my co-teacher. They exchanged annyeonghaseyos and then she led us into a small, well-lit room which was stacked with cheap, dusty trinkets.
We sat down cross-legged in front of her ready to begin, but she merely stared at me. My co-teacher told me she wasn’t going to start until she received the money, so I handed it over, which triggered her off like one of those kiddy mechanical car rides when you inserted a R2 coin.
My excitement kicked in. She closed her eyes and mumbled and muttered in Korean. My excitement died soon after when she took a cell phone call in the middle of one of her chants. Once her call was over she continued muttering, while my co-teacher translated when it was important.
“What is your date of birth?”
“The 5th of April 1989.”
Nodding, she then took my right hand, gave it a fleeting glance, then let go and took out from her pocket a small piece of paper, which looked like it was torn out from a diary, and scribbled on it in black crayon. The scribbles looked something like this:
From my date of birth, studying my right hand for three seconds and those three squiggles, which were not even drawn by me, she made these predictions (which were meant to come true in that same year):
- I was going to hate Korea and run away home.
- I was going to fall in love with a Korean.
- I was going to land in hospital.
- My father was going to sell our farm.
Side note: Almost three years later today and I’m still living in Korea, I didn’t fall in love with a Korean, my health is still great and we still live on our farm.
I thought maybe I’d shake things up a bit by asking some questions.
“Where will I be in five years time?”
“Would I eventually achieve my career goals?”
This was definitely going better in my head. I was about to ask her another question when she barked something to my co-teacher. I glanced at my co-teacher.
“She said you’re asking too many questions.”
I asked two questions. Talk about poor customer service. I gave her 20 000 Won, which is pretty steep considering I paid someone to make up stuff about my life, and now I couldn’t even ask questions.
But apparently she had enough because she was already getting up and moving towards the door. I checked the time. We were there for about half an hour. She said something to my co-teacher which I later found out was a confirmation of another appointment my co-teacher had made with her. The door closed behind us. And just like that, it was over.
I felt like I was five and someone popped my animal balloon, which is stupid because everything went as I expected. There was no creepiness, no crystal ball, no tea leaves, no dimmed lights..heck, not even a candle. Pretty sure I got fed lies. I couldn’t ask questions and I was twenty dollars poorer.
My co-teacher and I were reminiscing the other day about that evening. I asked her why none of the predictions came true for me.
“Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t get it right.” Right.
“Let me take you to the other kind of fortune teller – the one who reads the skies!”
Maybe I’ll be allowed to ask questions this time.