For the second grade, I started attending a school called S.E.K. a private catholic school nearby the commercial area of Santiago. The school campus was really nice. It took an entire block that was gated with green posts and tall bushes. On the south side of the school, was a reddish-colored track with white lines, the gymnasium and the swimming pool. If you go up north of the track, you run across the giant stairs, which separated the field area from the cafeteria and the outdoor basketball courts. There were three full-sized courts, one standard size and two that were shorted to accommodate kids like us who were not so tall at that time. On the northern-most and eastern-most parts of the campus, there were classrooms, ranging from kindergarten all the way to high school. So, in a sense, it was a pretty big school, but on the other hand, it was a small class of maybe 60-70 kids per grade.
In Chile, you don't walk to different classrooms for different classes - instead, the teachers come to you, and you just stay in a single classroom for the rest of the year. Nice blue carpets, new polished stone desks that had storage underneath, and brown-wooded cubbies where we put our workbooks for every subject. The buildings were made with spanish-red bricks that towered like castle walls often interrupted by glass windows. If you walked outside, there was a little garden area like a little plaza. The walkways were covered by green rooftops that protected those walking from sun and rain, held by green posts that we use to spin around in.
And then there were the uniforms. Black v-neck sweaters or cardigans, charcoal gray slacks, white-shirt and a tie. And okay, it's not that I'm a fashionista that I remember such things. Let me explain. Since it was only a year that we were in Chile, my parents did not know any Spanish. So in things that parents should be taking care of such as applications, financial forms, school letters and mailings, my sister and I had to take care of them all. And to this day, an application scars my adolescence persona.
Applications steal away the fiction from a child. It demands one to know facts. It demands one to quantify. It demands one to be realistic. It's good to fill out applications and start learning to bear your own responsibility, but I felt that I was exposed to applications a little bit too early in life. To be honest, I was always scared of filling one out because I knew I had to turn it in, but I didn't know what to check, to bubble, or to scribble in those boxes beyond Name and Address.
Sorry, I went off on a tangent. Anyhow, uniforms. I had to tag along with my parents when we had to go buy uniforms. I'm pretty sure I was like the only kid there at that time. I don't blame my parents for taking me - they spoke no Spanish and needed a way to get around. But seeing the price tags on those private-school standard uniforms and the look on my parent's faces, that was dismaying. I must have been 8 or 9, but even at that age, I knew that my family wasn't the richest, and I knew that however much those articles of clothing cost, it definitely wasn't miniscule.
Anyhow, enough of the negative – let me end this post with something positive. This part of my life was very crucial, a gem. These beginning parts of my adolescence, I treasure them to the utmost even despite all the negative environments. I don’t remember too much of what happened in Korea, except for a few snapshots here and there. But Chile, I do remember very, very clearly. These were the days I started having best friends, watched my favorite cartoons, played my favorite sports and GameBoy games, collected my first pokemon cards. These were the days.
I miss Christian – we were study buddies that shared much in common. We worked hard and always competed against each other on who would get the highest grade in class as well as who would score the most in the basketball court. He wasn’t the fastest because he was a heavy kid, but he had a pretty nice shot for a child of age 8, 9. I couldn’t afford GameBoys, so I drew my own Pokemon games on a sheet of graph paper. It was a maze that you played with a dice, you can choose which direction to go, and you picked up items like pokeballs, potions, or cash, or you encountered wild pokemons that you had to fight and catch or run away from. Whoever ended at the finish line first would win. I started that craze at school, and Christian was my Robin to my Batman like escapades from boring class lectures.
I miss Tapia. His first name is actually Michael, but we called our Michaels by their last name because there were just too many. One time, I totally forgot about that and I called his house and asked for “Tapia”, his parents picked up and asked “Which one?” I may have struck blank for a couple seconds. He was one of the fast kids in our grade, and we would always compete who can run the fastest. Like many of the kids in school, he lived about a half an hour drive from the city in a rich suburb. I would go over to his huge mansion like house often during the summer. We would swim in his pool then go into his game room and play video games all day long. He was one of the few kids in school that disregarded the fact that my family wasn’t so affluent.
I miss Glen. He lived fairly close to me and during the summer, I would always walk over to his house to hang out. Actually, even afterschool, I would go hang out at his place. I remember his mom would always give us chocolate milk and salami for snack, for which some reason I still can remember the taste.. It wasn't the greatest, but it was funny combination of something salty and something sweet. We would have adventures. On our bikes, with our Pokemon cards, roaming around his apartment complex. Glen was a bit socially awkward, and I think he really appreciated the fact that I hung around with him. I didn't mind him being so awkward. In fact, I would truly say that although Glen wasn't my favorite friend in school, he probably was my best friend. We spent so much time together, he was the one I had to call before leaving for the airport. I'll explain that story later..