Friday afternoon we were due at immigration to renew our visa. This is usually simple: take a number, go to the desk, submit form, sign form. This time however, the clerk wanted my actual contract, which wasn’t listed on the needed items. The good thing is that my agency’s office is six blocks away. We strolled over to the office and acquired an authorized copy. Then repeated the process with success. Home.
Saturday, a word that is always a sentence. A Sabbath. A recovery. We spent the day playing and sleeping. After a late breakfast, we took a bus to the toy store to buy a Ninja Turtle bo staff and a new light for Kaiser’s bike. I also bought three Trolli burgers.
There is a political element to playing at the park. All expats with kids know the subtleties of simple play; it’s not child’s play. Koreans aren’t used to having foreigners on the peninsula, so we attract much unwarranted attention: gawking, pointing, giggling. Mostly innocent reactions; silly really, but constant. On the playground it takes nearly forty-five minutes for everyone to settle down when our fair-hair child comes out to play. Some kids panic, some ogle, some take pictures; we’re not new here. We’ve lived in this neighborhood for over two years! Still, the paparazzi, still, the flashbulbs.When we first arrived at the playground, the entire playground population reacted, a hushed wave of “foreigner” went through the crowd (forty people). Mothers gasped. As my son set his course on his scooter, one over-excited boy ran after him screaming and laughing. My son was horrified and tried to escape the maniacle boy. When my son started crying, I put on my goalie mask, plowed through the crowd and extracted my son from the din–giving icey stares to the mothers. The guilty mother reeled her child in.
We exfiltrated to the opposite side of the playground until things calmed down (30 min). I am prepared. My contingency: gummie scorpion. We ate scorpions and played until the roaming soccer game eventually included Kaiser.
As always, the oldest boy or girl adopts my child and cares for him during play time. Typically my parenting style at the playground is passive, but aware. This isn’t my break time. I’m on duty, on site, on call. These kids need to learn to play together, so I stand back observing, and coaching as needed. As to maintain a friendly police presence, I applaud the kids’ antics and feats.
The playground is large enough to host simultaneous games of badminton, soccer, and baseball, blended together in the shared space, along with bike riders and skaters, and toddlers toddling between them all. Peace is possible.
I’ve never had a bad day at the playground, but the peace process/calming ritual detracts from playing. Kaiser is better adapted to this than I am–he keeps his eye on the ball, as all good athletes do (As seen in the picture above. What adds to my frustration with hair touching isn’t just the touching, but that it took these girls a half hour to gather the courage to sneak up behind him and touch his hair. Does his hair really warrent a thirty minute, stealth approach?). He just wants to play. I feel edgy.
Another element that makes our entrance uncomfortable for me is because I am most often the only adult male/father in the arena, and I am actually there to father. I play and I coach. I engage my child. I have snacks and first aid. I don’t drop my child off, or play cell phone games. I’m all in. My presence and activity, my loud presence, upsets the local harmony. I’m unusual (here). The good thing is that I will never fit in, so I don’t have to try. It’s all play time for this dad!