At times I wonder what I am doing, taking a year-long vacation in Berlin. But last week, the satisfaction of accomplishment replaced those doubts. On Wednesday, I completed my skirt at sewing class. I then proceeded to wear it five days in a row. I met up with different people each day, and somehow managed to work into every conversation at least once that I had made my skirt myself. My listeners feigned due admiration, and followed along carefully as I showed off my hand-sewn hook-and-eye fasteners, my functional zipper, my nearly symmetrical pockets, my sporty waistband. They even abided my self-scrutiny of the wonky crease that flares off the pocket on the zipper side, the wavery bottom hem, the myriad subtle irregularities that I can only explain in technical sewing contexts. My irrepressible enthusiasm actually convinced one of my German classmates to take up lessons with Linda herself. And I must say that if I ever encounter anyone as delighted with their activity as I am with my skirt, I will think seriously about taking up the endeavor.
Linda suggested that I attempt pants for my next project, so off I go. I visited the open air market to pick out fabric. Luckily, my sewing classmate Lauren came along. Those of you who have shopped with me will remember that my clothing tastes run to the whimisical and fabulous. Raw fabric presents the same temptations. Lauren steered me away from 70s blue, bright yellow with baby blue polkadots, and my brilliant idea to sew the legs in different colors and patterns. I settled on a sensible brown with a bit of texture. They’re shaping up into a wearable, if unremarkable, article of clothing. In my sewing experience, “unremarkable” is an adjective to strive for.
As if that wasn’t enough for one week, the very next day was my Tae Kwon Do test, giving me the opportunity to move up to the next level. Tae Kwon Do belts come in six colors (white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black), but my traditional studio breaks each of those colors into two stages. So, my test would move me from White Belt to White-and-a-Half Belt, signified by a adding a black stripe to the white belt.
The Grand Master came all the way from Florida to administer the test. He’s from Bavaria, in southern Germany, and so sports an accent my Berliner friends swear is incomprehensible. I didn’t have that much more trouble understanding him than I do any other German speaking quickly. But before the test itself could commence, the Groβmeister put us through our paces for a two hour class.
The tests finally got underway after 10 p.m., at which point I was already exhausted after hundreds of jumping jacks and endless repetitions of kicks, blocks, and punches. Thankfully, we white-and-no-half belts got to go first. The test comprises four parts: a little set routine, a few self-defense moves, two basic kicks, and, the pinnacle of anticipation, the breaking of a board. As a white belt, all my requirements were quite simple, but the board part intimidated me. There were three of us at my level, and I ended up the last to attempt the board. It took me four tries to destroy it. I didn’t feel so bad because it had taken the boy next to me about 12, and I figured it was mighty polite of me not to show him up by breaking through on the first kick. Until I compared our boards, and saw that his was almost twice as thick as mine! Finally it dawned on me that my teacher had asked for a Brett (board) for my male classmate, but a Damenbrett (lady board) for me! I suppose now I have a Damen-White Belt with Black Stripe. Even at the higher belts, the women all got Damenbretter. My success means that I get to start learning the new routine and skills for the next level, to prepare for the next test coming up in May.
The Tae Kwon Do school put the pictures from the test on Facebook, and I’m tagged in two or three of them. So, Facebook Friends, you can see proof of my success there. For the rest of you, I’ll put some pictures of my new TKD belt and skirt up tomorrow.