From the BK to the SK
Ok – so I found this fitting and appropriate seeing as one of the things I mentioned in my other blog is a lack of personal space and sort of this iron grip Koreans have when it comes to even the most casual of conversations.

The other night when I went out with a bunch of the teachers, this kid from Pennsylvania (not PSU unfortunately) and I started talking, and somehow the conversation steered toward a dinner he had with his co-teachers. I think I mentioned something along the lines of how I always feel like they’re launching sneak attacks over my shoulder, popping up and practically sitting on my lap whenever they please.

“Oh? You think that’s bad? Have you ever been led to the bathroom by your Vice Principal?”

I look at him, sort of scared for what he’s about to tell me. “Well, my VP is a guy, so I can’t say I’ve had that happen yet.”

He looks down at his beer and starts telling me how he went to get some Soju (basically the equivalent of rubbing alcohol or college-liquor Vladdy) and noodles with his co-teachers one day after school. He asked where the bathroom was in the restaurant and his vice principal, who speaks no English, had to go also.

The way he tells it makes the whole experience seem like some kind of synchronized, sacred event. Mike (the kid) holds his hand up in front of his face and says to me, “We both stand, and he slips his hand inside of mine… interlacing our fingers, and we walk to the bathroom together in total silence.”

Koreans, both men and women, are affectionate with people of the same sex, though more often than not it has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Everybody does it (it’s the cool thing to do).

I’m pretty much in tears laughing so hard, and he struggles to continue his story. They enter the bathroom and release their hands, and his VP takes a place at the stall directly next to my friend Mike, does his business and then stands there and waits for my friend Mike. He steps outside the bathroom for a second and calls into him, “Mike, you OK?”

My friend goes, “Yeah…just stage fright.”

He gives up and decides he’ll go later, and walks outside the bathroom to see his VP waiting for him. Mike cracks a smile and before he knows it, as if it was some magnetic force bringing them back together, his arm stretches itself out and his hand safely slides into place, fingers interlaced and all.

“The one thing I kept thinking to myself is, ‘God, he didn’t wash his hands,’” Mike says, as he finishes telling me his story and I wipe away the tears away.

He gathers together his pride and lifts his face up from his beer. It was a painful experience for him to re-live, that much was true, and so naturally I grabbed three of my friends and made him tell it again.    


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