Take a Deep Bow
When Korean children go behind your back, it's bad news.
When I walked into the school ceremony hall, the parents' smiles turned to frowns. I couldn't understand what was being said, but I guessed it was either, "Why is he here?" or "Who's kid is his?" or "Our child goes to school with a half-breed?!"
As one of the few white people in Korea, I'm used to getting stares, and today was no different. However, today some of my students graduated from kindergarten, so I stopped by to see their talent show. Little did the other parents know, I don't have children, but I spent a few hours of my day playing, reading, and teaching their little scamps. Mostly, they punched me in the nuts and called me mean names in Korean.
From the looks on everyone's faces, you can see who runs things around here.
Few things compare to the pride you feel when seeing a child performing, playing an instrument, or speaking the language you taught them. The only thing more rewarding than watching kids succeed as scholars is watching kindergartners demolish the most perfectly planned presentation in front of horrified parents and teachers. Kids forget their lines, stare at the bright lights, walk the wrong way and scream into microphones to see how loud they can go. Intentionally funny things never come close to being this hilarious.
Every anger management skill I knew came into play. I couldn't be seen turning around and snapping at 7-year-old Korean kids as their parents filmed everything. Despite being amusing, I stood impressed. These kindergartners played the bells and violin, whereas I didn't touch an instrument until fifth or sixth grade. That's pretty much where my musical career began and ended. At five, six and seven years old these kids spoke a foreign language, more or less. As an American, I wasn't introduced to another language until 14 when I learned Spanish (that is, if you don't count Sesame Street).
After a few more songs, dances, and skits, the full-time teaching staff took some bows. The ceremonial emcee spoke only Korean. I nearly teared up with laughter, cuteness, and a feeling I actually did something worth a shit for a change.
Then I heard it.
"KC Songsang-nim! KC Songsang-nim!" (translation: "KC Teacher!") the speakers boomed. I shook my head and started walking. I needed to slip my way through hordes of parents snapping photos and recording the entire spectacle.
I made it to the stage where the other teachers and students lined up, and took my place in front of the stands where the little kiddies stood. The school principal introduced me and everybody laughed. I took it as a cue and bowed. Now people howled. I didn't really know how to stand so I hid my hands behind my back, where the little twerps instantly started playing with my thumbs and pulling my fingers. I tried making a fist to stop the groping, but they moved on to pulling my ears and yanking on my collar.
I'm taller, hairier, heavier, and paler than 99.9999% of the humans these youngsters have seen, so I fascinate them. But there's one thing that brings joy to Korean children that only a select unlucky few know of....
The real time to bow came. I showed my respect with a deep bend, and that's when it happened.
Every anger management skill I knew came into play. I couldn't be seen turning around and snapping at 7-year-old Korean kids as their parents filmed everything. Especially since these rugrats put food on my desk (I don't have a table) and booze in my throat. So I took it.
Korean children play a game called "Ddongchim," which works like this: they put their hands together to make a double-pistol, then they stick their pointer fingers as far as they can up your butt. It's not something I, um, like by any means. Not by children, girlfriends, or prostate doctors. All I can say is, at least Korean kindergarten fingers are small.
Get ready to be Ddongchim'd. It's as uncomfortable to feel as it is to say.
Perhaps the emcee thought my wincing, shame-red face meant I felt emotional, so she implied that I should take another bow. Now my semi-virginal butthole displayed a giant "Insert anything you can find HERE" sign. I reluctantly bowed again, and got bent over.
The parents saw the mixed emotions on my face so they clapped and whistled louder, in a sense, praising their little hellions for molesting me. Feeling a little abused, I talked to my friend after the ceremony.
"Um, what should I do about that?"
"Do what I do. Wear thick undies and thicker pants. Then, make them put their fingers in their mouth afterwards. That gets them to quit real fast."