I spent the night at my friend's house on Friday. Our friendship overlaps because I tutor her son. It's a trade of things, sometimes horseback riding, sometimes food. Anyway, her son has no idea that I'm an English teacher or that he's ever had an English lesson. His four in Korean age and three in American age.
He asked me "Can you sleep over?"
"Yes," I said.
He turned to his mom and in Korean told her "I told you she wouldn't make me say please."
I'm pretty certain he's what us Americans call gifted, specifically in language and math. Anyway, I know my friend has a tent and I asked her if she'd mind me putting it up and having a camp out in the living room. Korean homes are made differently to American homes, so there is a living room on both the first and second floors. The living room in question was on the second floor and doubles as a play room. There's also a two large rooftop spaces, one the same level as the second floor and the third is at the top of a circular staircase. It has grass. Grandpa put the grass there so his grandson would be able experience it.
But the weather was too cold for outside camping and probably Gabriel (this is his second English name) wouldn't sleep in the tent. Even if the weather was warm enough, I'm not crazy enough to take a sleepy three-year-old down a circular staircase in the middle of the night to pee. No sir.
Liz's tent turned out to be an eight-man Coleman gifted from a friend. She had never put it together and her friends had said they were going to get a better tent. That's probably translation for how the #$*&!!!!! do you but this together. I haven't assembled a tent in years or an eight man tent ever. But camping is like the ability to ride a bike: hard to forget. The only thing I had not anticipated was the difficulty of assembling a tent with the help of a three-year-old. (Parents everywhere are grinning about now.)
He took the poles apart as I but them together, put them together as I took them apart. (It's tricky assembling an eight man tent in a living room in. Those poles are long.) He jumped on the tent as I put the sticks into their slots and pulled them out. Then he got bored and tired of this learning experience.
His mom took him downstairs so I could finish and I did, in about twenty minutes. Just in time for dinner. I love Grandma's cooking. Grandma is Liz's mom. I've eaten some of the best Korean at her house but Friday night was spaghetti. Then it was back upstairs.
You know, I think my friendship with Liz is because I do stuff like this. Mother and son's eyes were enormous at the sight of the tent. Her son promptly jumped inside and then started taking all his toys in. He really was going to sleep in the tent. He got his blanket and pillow and teddy bear. Then he got me two pillows a blanket and a big teddy bear. We put his toys in their box and laid down.
"Mariel is a fish," he said.
"Gabe is a turtle," I said.
"Mariel is a snake," he said.
"Gabe is a monkey," I said.
"Mariel is an Elephant," he said.
Gabe's dad was horrified the first time he heard his son call me an elephant. I'm U.S. size sixteen in size 0 -2 Korea. The comparison is apt. But little ones love fat people. It's soft and safe and good. Psychology backs this up. Mostly, Gabe was complimenting me in the way only little ones can. He loves elephants and rhinosoruses
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).