Friday, August 26, 2011

The Experience of Isaac (Part 2) - My First Year in Chile

Picking up from where we left of from last time, I was on board on a plane headed halfway across the globe. Chile was a country I never, ever dreamt of going. All I knew about it was that it was a geographically skinny country on the west side of South America. I knew nothing of the culture, the language, the people, etc...

At that time, I was only seven. I was still a bit clueless at that age, and I just thought this is what life was. On the other hand, it must have been really hard for the rest of my family. My dad, of course, was being sent away for reasons mentioned in previous blogs. I truly appreciate the fact that my dad stuck with the truth he saw in the Bible, rather than conforming to what other pastors in their concepts thought was right or wrong. Mom always took me to cool places in Korea. Growing up, I remember going to a bunch of museums and afterschool programs that involved raising caterpillars, legos, math classes, etc.. She was always looking for ways to allow my sister and I to have the best educational experiences. Well, going to Chile meant forsaking her aspirations as a educational mother. The language and the culture in Chile, I must say, it's totally upside down than from that in Korea (maybe the opposite hemispheres account to that). My sister, who is four years older than I am, left Korea in the middle of elementary school. I believe she must have had it harder than I had, because I entered Chile with a blank slate. Her, on the other hand, had to basically give up everything she learned in Korea.

First time I set foot in Chile I was fascinated. The street lights were very different from those we found in Korea, and there were these roads called one-way roads that allowed cars to travel only in one direction. That puzzled me for months. I always wondered how the cars would reach a certain destination. We moved into an apartment called the "Monte Carlo's." They were nice 2 bedroom apartments that had a swimming pool across the street.

I still remember my first meal in Chile. In Santiago, they would bake fresh bread every day. It was a kind of round loaf that was a bit hard to chew on. Dad, on our first few days or so, brought a whole bag of them home. Now, I really don't know what made him do that. I'm guessing he probably didn't know that bread was baked every day in Chile... Neither did I know. Anyhow, I have to account my love for strawberry jam to that bag of bread. Even if life was as hard as those loaves, there was something sweet you can spread to get you through it.

In the Southern Hemisphere, it's summer when it's winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and vice versa. So I got to enjoy going to the swimming pool every sunny day.. till school started.

My sister and I were enrolled in one of the few public schools in Chile. In fact, most of the schools in Chile were private with some Catholic affiliations. They required students to wear uniforms in school, if which I remember correctly, they were pretty stylish. You had a tan overcoat, charcoal slacks, a white shirt and a red tie, if I remember correctly.

Anyhow, I remember going to school without having any idea what was going on. I remember going to school and being introduced to the first graders in school. I swear that I was kind of in this weird state where I heard noises here and there but had no clue what they meant. It was pretty darn confusing. We had a spelling quiz the next day though, and I remember studying so hard for that quiz. I don't know what motivated me, but I just felt the need to prove myself out there. Well, hard work did pay off as I was the only kid in the class who got a perfect score. I still remember my teacher being so proud of me and congratulating me in front of the whole class. In Chile, 7 was the highest score you can get in an assignment, and there was this joke that went around that there were some Korean parents who were very disappointed because their child was receiving 7s only (thinking that 10 was the highest score). Anyhow, I was proud of my 7s.

Well, many things happened that year in escuela. I made many friends and began to be the top student in my school. I remember how my mom would pack me this cereal + yogurt combo pack for me to take to school, and how it would always spill on to my coat when I opened it because of the difference in pressure. I remember how I had my first ankle sprain as I was walking back from the restroom back to class. I walked it off and eventually it felt better, which I think caused me to think that walking it off would make every ankle sprain better. I remember how I was first introduced to basketball in P.E., and how we tried to make a shot in that once-impossibly-tall rim. I remember how we had this end of the year performance where we danced a Chilean traditional dance, and how onlookers were awestruck that a korean kid was dancing so well. (Okay, I don't mean to boast or anything, but it was a really simple dance..). I remember my best friend Thomas, we would always hang out together and how I went to his birthday party. I don't remember too much of the party, except that my parents came to pick me up pretty late. When they finally arrived at Thomas' place, they had a little chat with whom I originally thought were Thomas' parents. Well, I found out that they were his grandparents, and that Thomas didn't have a mom and a dad. I was still too young to understand life at that time, but I remember my heart was very sorrowful that night.

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