The snow is falling in sheets.
I help to zip-up 24 little jackets
and usher 24 little eskimos into
the boudoir bus with the no seat-belts
and the deep purple and crimson lace upholstery.
The bus creeps slowly, it’s sound muffled by the snow.
The photography studio, apparently, is on the fourth floor
of a Hyundai dealership. We get inside and pile
24 little jackets onto couches and coffee tables.
The studio is small. Smartly-dressed Koreans
bustle around putting tiny little caps and tiny little gowns
onto kids one by one. The main photographer is a wiry guy
with a thin little mustache. He keeps yelling something and laughing
at the kids before every snap of the camera and flash of
the lightbulb. I see hesitant smiles dart across some of their faces.
“He said fart!” one of the kids tells me. “No, it’s a poop joke,” says
a Korean teacher. I shrug and smile.
One of the workers brings me an Americano from
the photo studio’s coffee machine. It isn’t tiny and
sugar-filled like a lot of Korean machine coffee. Instead,
it’s a full 12 ounces of black, shinny, albeit slightly weak,
smokey goodness. I walk over near J, my main Korean co-teacher.
She’s grimacing into her cup. “It’s not sweet enough,” she tells me.
“Did you ask them for sugar?” I say. “Yeah, they put but not enough,” she sighs.
One by one, two by two. The pictures, the poses, the outfits never end.
There’s a bird cage in the studio, and there’s always a group of about six
kids sticking their fingers between the little metal bars. Finally, one of the workers opens the
cage door and brings the bird out amid gasps and squeals from the kids. Meanwhile, 7 feet away, the flash is still bursting every few minutes.
Not one kid cries. Not one kid whines that they want to go home.
We stay at the photo studio for nearly 3 hours. Each kid has their photo
taken in at least six different ways. The room is filled with snowy, milky sunlight.
I finally get up the courage to practice my Korean by asking for a “little” more coffee.
좀 means little but the pronunciation of ㅈ is difficult for me. It’s like something between a
“J” and a “Ch” and the difference seems to depend on the context?
I’m not sure. Anyways, my request is understood and I’m handed another cup of Americano
to hold while some kids climb my legs as we watch others play with birds, and the camera keeps flashing.
Not every outing is this happy or seamless.
Part of me thinks we have Groupthink to thank for the incredible compliance of our
kindergartners. Some days, they astound me.