I wonder sometimes why I do some of the crazy things I do. I think it’s because I don’t want to miss out, I don’t like there to be places where I don’t belong, and I like to know what’s behind closed doors. I will be the one who—after everyone has gone home—pokes her head in the men’s bathroom. Just to see what it looks like.
The people who know me would not be surprised by that disclosure. They might, however, be surprised that some of my antics require me to get my nerve up. But Sunday, entering the Korean Church felt quite comfortable now that I was in the company of a Korean, my co-worker Chye.
The time I came without her, the Korean greeters had taken one look at my auburn hair and round eyes and waved the Korean bulletins in their hands as if to ward off smoke from a campfire gone awry, shouting “This is not the right church.” Of course, they said it in Korean, but it was quite clear they believed I had made a wrong turn and ended up in their midst by mistake.
They took a step back.
I took another step, reached out, and my smile tensed as I tugged a bulletin out of the tight grip of one of them. I gave it a cursory glance, nodded and entered the sanctuary. I sat as close to the back as I could, certain I was a distraction, but hoped I wouldn’t ruin the service for the people who worshipped there regularly.
This morning they had the same set-up. Two Korean
guards women greeted the oncoming with smiles and bowing heads, handing out church bulletins. Their eyes glowed when they saw Chye and the Korean words rushed and swirled as the introduction conversation ensued. With grand hand gestures, one of them handed Chye a blank piece of paper and a pen. Chye wrote something down, turned to me and told me to write my name down.
“Why?” I asked suspiciously.
“They want to introduce you. They say your name and you stand.” She pointed at a spot in the bulletin, ‘Welcome’ it said in bold letters followed by circles and hash marks I recognized as Korean.
“No. No, way,” I answered, taking a step back.
“Just do it,” she said, then the smile tightened on her lips as if to say don’t embarrass me.
I glanced at the women. They smiled encouragingly and waved the bulletins as if to fan the fire of invitation. I grasped the pen, narrowed my eyes on Chye and scratched my name on the paper under hers. Just you wait, I thought, if they make us speak I’ll announce we’re on a man hunt.
We stepped into the carpeted sanctuary and eased into the back row as soft music lilted from the small orchestra at the front of the church: violin, viola, cello and keyboards. We stared at our bulletins. One of us could read it.
A congregational hymn began, a few hands clapped in rhythm. My head jerked up.
I understood Korean. At least one word…
More to come…