local celebrity or dirty little monkey?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

You're bound to think that I'm exaggerating some of this, but I promise I'm really not.

Most Koreans, especially in a smaller city like Sokcho, have never seen a blond-haired, blue-eyed toddler. Even taking that into consideration, I'm surprised at how much attention Liam gets wherever we go.

Adults, teenager, children, men, women, boys or girls; it doesn't matter. Everyone wants to touch him. He's like a freaking rock star sometimes. The other day, we were mobbed in the middle of the crosswalk by a group of squealing teenage girls. Another day at the local park, it was a group of teenage boys that surrounded Liam, touching his hair, handing him rocks to throw, and cheering every time he threw a rock or clapped his hands. Women randomly walk up to me and try to take him from my arms. People want to touch his hands, his hair, his cheeks.

I get fed up with it at times, and so does Liam. He likes the attention from kids the most, but he gets overwhelmed at times and just wants me to hold him. He's getting good at brushing people off if he just doesn't to be touched or held. He's usually a little man on a mission -- to see the fish in the restaurant tanks, to throw a handful of rocks in the river, etc.

And people want to give him things: ice cream, candy, a toy at the Seorak Park outdoor restaurant where we ate lunch. I'm trying to politely decline (especially on chocolate!), since I don't want a child who thinks he's entitled to everything his little heart desires.

On the other hand, Liam always seems to be filthy here. Part of it is a difference in environment. Instead of wood chips, the playgrounds here are covered in the coarse sand from the beach. (Cats are rare, so it's not a giant litter box.) He likes to lie down on this sand. I don't know why. He has a tendency to put everything in his mouth, and to touch everything. I think I'm just being realistic when I say that Korea is a bit dirtier than the States. Part of it is a cultural thing. People do not touch "dirty" things. They remove their shoes when they enter a home or some restaurants. There's a clearer distinction between the public and domestic spheres. So here comes my child, who likes to do everything by himself. It quickly became clear that it's socially unacceptable (and gross) for him to crawl up stairs using his hands. Despite my best efforts, he always seems to have a dirty face and hands and clothes...

He also threw a few very public tantrums (i.e. in the grocery store check-out line) the first few days, mostly due to jet lag. Since he's a representative for all American children, I was quite embarrassed. Since he's adjusted to the time and to daily routines, the tantrums have basically stopped...thank god.


3 Responses to “local celebrity or dirty little monkey?”
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cool post, C2 - I get to know the little guy from afar! Must be frustrating and neat at the same time. What an experience for him, though - learning to live in another culture at such a young age. And a sibling on the way, too. Are you going to do the whole thing over there this time? Keep the posts coming!

A few random questions that I should probably find a better place to ask, but I'm here now, so I'll ask here.

Is Liam speaking very much yet? Do you think he'll pick up any Korean? Do his little playmates speak Korean or English?

Are you going to have your newest addition to the family over in Korea. (I kind of shudder to think of how awful that would be, but maybe you'd be able to find a good doctor!)

Okay...to answer your questions (Sue & Sara):
Yes, we're planning to have baby #2 here. There's actually a doctor in Sokcho who already delivered a waygook (foreign) baby about a year ago. He speaks English quite well, I'm told.
Liam doesn't talk much yet: mama, dad, car...you know, the important stuff. He'll probably pick up some Korean, because people are always talking to him, and we use some Korean words & phrases with him.
He's met some other kids with one Korean parent & one waygook parent -- they speak both English & Korean.

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