‘Oh yes’ says my co-teacher, mid-morning chat, ‘and the middle school principal wants to see you.’  My high school lives opposite this middle school and another high school.  It seems to be an amicable arrangement: although separate institutions, the respective chiefs meet prior to each school year and swop a few teachers in Pokémon-esque fashion.

However, I have never met the middle school principal before – even our principal, true to Confucian thinking, appears a rather godlike and elusive figure who dwells somewhere on the second floor, defended fiercely by administration staff. ‘Yikes’ I say, ‘Why?’

‘I don’t know’ Jeje tells me, ‘something about the training trip maybe.  You best just go and find out.’

So go I do, across the wide concrete playing ground, mentally rehearsing a low bow and the rest of my respectful nice to meet you routine.  I get directed to the office by a group of middle school girls and I head on in to greet the administrators.

‘Hello.  The principal wants to see me’ I say.  The lady looks unblinkingly for a moment or two and then, almost reluctantly, walks to knock on the golden door. It is opened and thus ensues a rapid conversation in Korean.  Instead of being ushered in as expected, a rather kindly man comes out the room and greets me hello.  It takes me a few seconds to realize that this is the man himself so I bumble the first bow and feel the need to bow a second time, as then does he, thus negating my whole respectful intention.  Then we do the western handshaking, with the eastern arm under the elbow my end, and say various introductory things in both languages.

After all the slightly flustered introduction business is over, Mr Middle School Principal tells me: ‘I didn’t send for you.’

‘Oh’ I reply. ‘Erm… Mr Kim said you wanted to see me.’

‘Do you know what day it is?’ He asks with a smile.  I do, I realize.  It is definitely April 1st.  Apparently April fools is a tradition that transcends cultures.  We all laugh long and hard, then I turn red and he loads me up with cakes as I leave the room.  I return to my classroom to plot revenge.