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“Small Arks” by Shin Ju-hee


ⓒ Getty Images Bank
“Let’s say there’s a flower.” 
“I’m saying there’s a flower and the bees and the butterflies. The flower, the bees, and the butterflies all have work to do. Let’s say that they leave for work early in the morning and come home on the last train. But the honey isn’t for the bees or the butterflies to take. Where does the honey go?” 
“What do you mean, Eun-jae? The honey goes to the beekeeper.” 
Honey Cookie looked rather confused. 
Strange questions filled my mouth. Let’s say that something is there, let’s say that something that isn’t there is there. 
Let’s say, let’s say...
I flinched as I mumbled those words. What I was saying was like lying, conning, stabbing someone in the back. 

“진주가 자꾸 우유니로 오라고 하네” 

엉겁결에 나온 거짓말에 허니쿠키는 호들갑을 떨며 부러워했고
질투와 아쉬움이 역력한 그 얼굴을 보면서
은재는 희열을 느꼈습니다.

그런데 며칠 후, 인사팀에서 연락이 왔습니다.

“쉬는 걸 고려하고 계신다면서요?” 

“네? 제가요?”

“해외로 가신다는 얘기를 들었어요.
친구 분이 우유니에 자리를 잡으셨다면서요? 
결정 잘하신 것 같아요. 뭐니뭐니 해도 자리 사업이 최고잖아요.”

허니 쿠키는 은재가 곧 우유니에 간다며 떠들고 다닌 겁니다.
등 떠밀리듯 사표를 낸 은재는 우유니로 가기로 결심했습니다.

 “Jin-ju keeps telling me to come to Uyuni.” (Eun-jae)

Honey Cookie acted as if she was excited at Eun-jae’s unwitting lie and Eun-jae was delighted as she watched Honey Cookie’s face dim with obvious jealousy and disappointment. 
A few days later, however, Eun-jae got a call from the human resources team.

“I heard you were thinking about taking some time off.” (HR employee)
“What? Me?” (Eun-jae)
“I heard you were going abroad, that your friend has a job at Uyuni. I think you made the right decision.” 

Apparently, Honey Cookie had told everyone that Eun-jae was going to Uyuni. Forced to quit her job, Eun-jae made up her mind to go to Uyuni after all. 

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong
Eun-jae meets a mother and her son at the salt flat. She digs up salt for a living, but she shows none of the useless greed, humiliation of being left out from modern society, or the guilt of having sacrificed someone. Eun-jae sees the innocence and wholesomeness of someone who works hard and receives fair reward for her work. Eun-jae cries once she realizes that the woman has something that Eun-jae never had. She vows to show their photographs to Jin-ju and Honey Cookie, which implies that she wouldn’t surrender to a society that puts a price on everything and that she would keep honoring priceless values.

여자 앞에 자리를 잡은 아이가 나를 향해 손을 흔들었다.
페달을 밟자 의심 없이 느껴지는 소금의 무게가 묵직하게 여자의 발에 실렸다.
여자는 석양을 등지고 사막 저편으로 멀어졌다.

마음 속에 소용돌이치는 말들 중 어떤 것도 쉽게 꺼낼 수가 없었다.
나는 길게 늘어지는 여자의 그림자를 사진 속에 담았다.
말 대신 꼭 보여주고 싶었다.
진주에게 그리고 허니 쿠키에게도.
마지막 실족에서 물러서게 하는 것,
걸음을 멈추고 끝 너머로 눈을 돌리는 것,
그게 최후에는 꼭 자기 자신이었으면 하는 마음을 담아. 

The boy, sitting in front of her, waved at me. When the woman pushed down on the pedal, her feet indicated undoubtedly how heavy the salt was. With the sun setting behind her, the woman went away toward the other side of the flat.
I couldn’t let out easily none of the things that swirled inside of me. I captured the woman’s long shadow in a photo. I wanted to show this picture instead of describing it with words. To Jin-ju and to Honey Cookie. Hoping that something that pushes them away from the last misstep, something that makes them stop walking and look at something beyond the end would be none other than themselves.

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