Sports Day Triumph

17 May

As a kid in elementary school I always looked forward to Track and Field day. For one whole day classes were cancelled and all the students were allowed to display their athletic talent (or lack thereof) in a series of olympic-like events of their choosing. While some kids(usually the same fatties that hated P.E. class) pissed and moaned about having to spend the entire day pitted against their peers in physical competition for nothing more than the chance to earn a shitty ribbon, I took it quite seriously and wanted nothing more than to dominate and bring home as many shiny blue first place ribbons as possible.

At the risk of seeming like a complete rube, I must admit that I was almost just as excited for “Sports Day” (Korea’s equivalence to Track and Field day) at my school. Clearly this is not because I would be competing in any events nor receiving any ribbons, but I was mainly excited because I knew–if nothing else–that I would be spared from teaching classes and would be able to spend the whole day outside.

As preparations were being made the week before, I began to wonder what my assigned roll for the day would be. Up until this point the only thing that was certain was that I would need to wear athletic clothes.

When I’m finally told by one of the other teachers (with my co-teacher translating) how I will factor into the day’s events, I’m a bit surprised as to what I’m tasked with doing. First I’m told I will need to pull a cart around a giant circle in the middle of the field.

No problem.

Then I’m told that the object of the event will be for the students (in this case, sixth graders) to stand around said circle and hurl as many small beanbags as they can into cart before the time runs out.

It sounds odd and a little painful, but I’m still game.

Lastly, I’m told that I will need to wear woman’s clothing, preferably a dress.

At this point I look up and repeat what was just said to me to make sure I understand correctly.

“Wait, you want me to dress up like a woman?”

I ask for clarification but in all actuality I understand quite well what they are asking of me. For my part in Sports Day, they want me to go drag.

I was  still wrapping my head around having to dress up as a woman when I’m asked if I owned or could get a hold of any cosmetics.  I start to laugh fully thinking they’re joking, but apparently my involvement was not going to be a half-ass production. They wanted me to go all in.

Lucky for me I have some experience with cross-dressing. In the seventh grade school play I was “lucky” enough to land the lead role in a comedic spoof of Sleeping Beauty. Not really the tyoe of role that launches one’s acting career, but at least it was enough to prepare me for my upcoming Sports Day debut.

After agreeing to do my part, I return to my desk and contemplate on how to secure some woman’s clothing within 24 hours, without having to spend any money. I put out a quick message on Facebook and before the afternoon is out I have arrangements to go pick up not one, but two dresses from nearby friend. That’s right, bitches. I had options. Oddly enough some friends had just thrown a transgender party (don’t ask)not too long ago and a couple of my buddies still had their drag wear laying around. In other words, my cry for woman attire was answered by men. Because I figure I couldn’t possibly be lucky twice in one day I decide not to look for make-up.

That night I try on both the dresses and make my final decision: a black tube dress that shows off my shoulders. No sense in going drag if you can’t look good, right?

The next day I show up ready to go, not sure of when the event I’m in will be held. As my official Sports Day day uniform, I am given a neon yellow athletic polo. It looks like something you might wear if you were planning to hike up a mountain and then play 18 holes of golf once you reached the peak. I’m not fond of the color but realize I it’s a lot better then the black dress that is neatly folded in my backpack that I will soon be wearing.

As it nears time for me to take the field for my event, I’m greeted with good news and bad news. The good news: I won’t have to wear the dress. The bad news: They’ve managed to find some bright pink lipstick for me to put on.

Instead of the dress, I’m handed a white blouse, a beige bucket hat, and a plaid pair of what looks like the Korean equivalence of bloomers. I keep telling myself that I’m doing this for the kids, but it hardly helps. The lipstick is quickly smeared on my lips and cheeks and I take the field looking like a transgender ajumma circus clown.

At least I wasn’t alone. One of the other male teachers, a guy around the same age as myself, had to dress up and wear lipstick as well. Only his attire resembles that of an ajossi pimp. He would be pulling a cart in the giant circle opposite from mine that the opposing team of sixth graders would be tossing beanbags into.

As we entered our respective circles, I imagine we were thinking the same thing:  please let this whole ordeal be quick and painless and may no photographic evidence ever surface on the internet.

A strike of the gong signals the start and almost immediately I’m pelted in the face with a bean bag. Then and only then do I realize the shear rediculousness of having an event like this for Sports Day. This was in no way the display of athletic grace and finesse that I took part in as a kid on Track and Field Day. This wasn’t an exercise to foster healthy competition amongst the students. This was something that probably should’ve taken place at a school carnival, where professionals could have been hired to take beanbags to their face and nether regions. I don’t remember any mentioning of this in the EPIK brochure when I was first applying to teach in Korea. But maybe that’s just my bruised ego talking.

After the spectacle came to a close I retreat into the building to wash the make-up of off my face and change back into my neon yellow referee shirt. Before the day is over I witness several other questionable Sports Day events and help out as much as I can and generally enjoy being outside whilst cheering my students on.

Would I agree to do something similar if it took place back in the states?

Probably, but as I alluded to above, most Track and Field days in the U.S. wouldn’t involve foreign cross-dressing circus clowns. Looks this will be another experience I throw in the “cultural differences” category.


Kimchi Dreadlocks


11 Responses to “Sports Day Triumph”

  1. Molly May 17, 2011 at 10:18 PM #

    You earned a blue ribbon for that!

  2. Flint June 18, 2011 at 10:03 PM #

    I was lucky, the sole Sports Day I went to didn’t require me to go in drag. Lucky for me and them, it wouldn’t have been a pretty site. Kudos to you for being willing to do it to make things fun for the kids.

  3. Nombuso December 5, 2011 at 10:41 PM #


    I was in ROK over the same period as you. Im back in South Africa.I must say! I thoroughly enjoyed your blog when I was in my ‘dark moments’.

    Keep writing… whatever you’re writing about! You got talent write theerrr!!!


    • Lionel Drummond March 26, 2013 at 2:25 PM #

      Just wanna’ say, after reading your post about your ‘Sports Day’ ordeal, that it’s the same crap, different continent!

      Those bastards did this to emasculate you; that’s because they think every Black man is a natural athlete. So they had to come up with something to lessen your perceived dominance for whatever sport you might’ve gotten involved with.

      It’s the same crap in the states, damn near every Black man in movies, especially the comedians, at some point has to don a dress to keep in the good graces of the white elite.

      This is also why they had you pulling a cart while people pelted you with bean bags. THAT WAS NO TRIUMPH…IT WAS A DAMN SHAME!

      And please stop hanging around ‘friends’ that are throwing ‘trans-gender’ parties! They want Black men to give up their masculinity because these pale-skinned types feel sexually inferior to Black men.

      And please take down the picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the ’68 Olympics raising the Black power fist; this has nothing to do with your post! That moment was a triumph; what you’re describing was a tragedy.

      • JayDreadlocks March 26, 2013 at 3:18 PM #

        Whoa! Pump you breaks Rev. Sharpton. What happened that day had NOTHING to do with emasculating me. I’m well aware of this practice in the U.S. and yes, I find it sickening, and while Koreans at times can be xenophobic and oblivious to respectful forms of cultural curiosity, my role in Sports Day was less about lessening my perceived dominance in athletics and more about staging a TRADITIONAL game for my students in Korea’s equivalence of elementary Track and Field Day.

        Surely you remember Track and FIeld Day: You got out of school and expelled copious amounts of energy whilst competing in events that mattered very little beyond the ribbons you scored–ribbons that were proudly displayed on the refrigerator for a week before being forgotten.

        My co-workers were not looking to set some quasi-racist example to satisfy the “white” (or yellow, or any other color) elite. If you read the post again you’ll see that there was also a Korean teacher who was with me doing the same thing: lugging a cart around while kids attempted to throw bean bags into it.

        This post was about how odd the event was during a school sports compared to it’s equivalence in the states. I assure you had I felt my black masculinity was at stake, I would have turned down the request. My choosing of the ’68 Olympics photo was to emphasize the irony of what happened–much like my use of images on the blog as a whole. Scroll through a few posts, bra, before you make judgements.

        I appreciate you looking out for my blackness, though–even applaud you for it, but I got this.

        Question: Have you been to Korea? Long-term?

        Oh and as to my friends’ drag party? It was a themed birthday party that I didn’t actually attend, but I’m sure they could care less about your cultural axe-grinding.

        Thanks for checking out the post and commenting. I haven’t been in Korea for a while and haven’t looked back at this post in quite some time. Twas a nice walk down memory lane.

  4. JayDreadlocks March 26, 2013 at 3:20 PM #

    Oh and should you feel the need to read more of my travel blogging you can do so at I’m now blogging from Taiwan.

    • Lionel Drummond March 26, 2013 at 3:40 PM #

      Question: if you consider this a ‘triumph’, what in your mind qualifies as a failure?

      • JayDreadlocks March 26, 2013 at 11:50 PM #

        I consider it a failure that I couldn’t persuade you to adequately respond to my last comment.

        “Triumph,” as it pertains to the above post, refers to me taking a stroll into something strange and unfamiliar and coming out unscathed with an interesting story to tell.

        Unfortunately, that same story has seemed to cause you discomfort, even though it does not belong in the debate you so passionately want to include it in (another failure).

        Again I ask:

        Have you ever been to Korea?

  5. Lionel Drummond March 27, 2013 at 8:55 AM #


    No, I haven’t been to Korea, but I’ve never dressed in drag while people threw stuff at me either. So does me not having visited Korea make me any less worldly or knowledgeable than you?

    After your post, I think I’ll pass on visiting Korea, because I see these pale-skinned types are the same bigoted bunch all over the globe.

    And I still think that your pic of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the ’68 Olympics does more to disrespect our ancestors than display any kind of irony behind what you went through. You say your ‘triumph’ came in the form of you ‘strolling’ into an unfamiliar situation and coming out unscathed at its end; but even you admit that your ego was bruised behind that incident.

    The kicker for me is when you say “Lucky for me I have some experience with cross-dressing…” like that’s something to be proud of.

    But the last thing I want to emphasize is this, what I DON’T WANT TO DO is continue arguing with another Black man over this. We’ve got enough of that going on already! At this point I know neither one of us is going to change our opinions, so I think it’s best that we just agree to disagree.

    Besides, I’ve got other battles to fight with these craka moderators at WordPress who don’t take too kindly to Black men trying to contribute to their ‘forums’. So, walk in peace, and I wish you the best.

    • Molly March 27, 2013 at 10:37 PM #

      Mr. Drummond~Yikes… Make sure you know who your audience is before you start goin’ off about crakas!
      When dealing with Jeremy it is always better to agree to disagree:)

      • Lionel Drummond March 28, 2013 at 6:49 AM #


        I took great pains to keep my blog as ‘ethnically neutral’ as possible; I wanted to speak about the universal injustices we ALL face. But what did I encounter once I asked some questions in the WordPress forums?

        I encountered one moderator-a white woman who probably fancies herself a feminist, who went out of her way to be rude, condescending, and downright bigoted to me because I guess she doesn’t encounter too many of us in WP forums. And before you think I’m being too sensitive, I compared how she treated me to how she treated white WP members who were calling her and the WP team everything but a child of god.

        I’M NOT SPARING THE FEELINGS OF ANY WHITE PERSON ANYMORE! I’ve had it. I just wanted to put up a blog and this is what I’ve been made to go through? So now I’m going to tell you devils what I really feel about you; and you can thank one of your fellow white women for that.


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