For a moment, let’s play pretend. Imagine that you are 9 feet tall. Let’s say your skin is a lovely translucent green hue. Your hair is purple and four feet long, and you are blessed with yellow, gleaming eyes. You are comfortable looking like this, because everyone in your hometown has a similar appearance. Now, imagine that Beloit, Wisconsin has decided that they want to go bilingual. And for one reason or another, they’ve decided that the language of the big, green, purple-haired people is absolutely necessary for the future of their community. They’ve even started printing their road signs bilingual. As it turns out, they’re willing to pay pretty well for you to come live there and teach them your language.
So you move to Beloit, land of the cheese-fed short people. Imagine the looks you get walking down the street. The astonishment. Even if they know you’re coming. Even if they’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of big, green, purple-haired people on TV. I mean, it’s one thing to see the jolly green giant in primetime. It’s another to see him buying groceries.
Thank you for playing along. You now have a rough idea of what it’s like for a 6 foot 4 inch American with red hair to move to rural Korea. The other night, we were walking around downtown, and a group of young men came out of a café in front of us. Upon seeing me, one of them loudly exclaimed “WOAH!” This, of course, drew the attention of his friends. Then they all stood staring in stunned disbelief, with grinning jaws literally hanging open. It was like they’d seen Sasquatch.
Still, that’s better than the reaction I get from little children. Yesterday, Erin and I went for a walk to check out a park near our apartment. On the way home, we passed a mother herding a group of children, two aged somewhere between six and eight and one young enough to need a stroller. The two that could move under their own power gave me the kind of wide-eyed stare that you would give a grizzly bear if you happened upon one in the woods. The smallest, however, loosed great wrenching sobs of terror when she spotted me and attempted to claw her way out the back of the stroller.
It’s a little strange to be a mythical beast. Everyone’s been super nice, but I worry sometimes that they’re just afraid I’m going to lose it one day and start knocking down buildings.