The laughter erupted around the room.
I was used to this by now and so I stood there, with a helpless smile upon my face as they giggled loudly, before slowly bringing themselves under control.
“Is that wrong?”, I asked, aiming my plea for guidance to the one girl I knew would definitely understand.
“No. It’s Ki Hyun”, she responded in her American twang.
A tall, slender 6th grader, she was the eldest sibling of four in the small rural school of Seobyeok and like her younger sister in the 3rd grade, she was my trusted translator; a role earned from the three years her spent on the US island territory of Saipan.
“Ki Heun?!” he echoed, prompting more laughter.
“No, keee hYYuuuuuun!!” she replied with a twang.
For two months now, I’ve wondered how to offer this girl any kind of mental challenge as she is practically fluent in her Americanized brogue, yet sits next to another girl who struggles with the very fundamentals of basic conversation.
And now, today, she is teaching me….
Apparently, it would seem, the student we are waiting for is Che Ki Hyun.
In Korea, the family name is listed before the first name, so from a Western point of view, this would be Mr Ki Hyun Che.
Although I was well aware of this long before touching down in Korea, somewhere in the chaos of meeting hundreds of students across my four schools, this kids name got scrambled.
For two months, I have been calling this kid ‘Cheki’, which is like calling Joseph Bloggs, “Blogjo”, or calling Heather Dickson “Dickhea”…
As the realisation dawned upon me, Cheki walked in admidst the laughter.
Feeling like a bit of a ‘dickhea’ I promptly apologised in Korean.
He was a bright kid, so hopefully he understood.
Korean names certainly aren’t easy said or remembered and with over 100 students and countless teachers, I can honestly say I know less than 10% of their names.
And now, I’m not so confident if I can say them right at all.
Perhaps, I’ll just stick to the old Irish slang, “Hi you, with the head!”