Okay. So I think I've moved enough with my dad's story to come back and catch up with mine. Being only 8 years old, I had no idea what was going on at that time. I did recognize how we moved from a nice 2-bedroom apartment to a 1-bedroom apartment, and then to that old-blue apartment I talked about a few weeks ago. I did remember how we had a car once a upon a time, and then we didn't all of a sudden. But yet again, I don't think I've lived life too long... I just thought that all this was part of life.
Anyhow, I want to devote three more series on my part to Chile, and then it's time to move on. I'm sorry if I've been boring you guys with personal details... The first one (this one), I'll talk a little bit about the church life in Santiago and some characters that really influenced me. The second one, I'll talk more on a human level with what happened at SEK (school life), and the third one I'll talk about the journey to America.
Since we no longer had a car, we had to journey ourselves to the meeting hall of the Church in Santiago. It was like an hour's worth of walking+train+more walking. I remember walking those hot, dry streets of Santiago that resembled nothing like something. Old buildings, untrimmed grassy areas, broken sidewalks filled with black gum patches. Anyhow, my parents, my sister and I would walk to the subway station (or was it a bus?) and after getting off somewhere we would walk for another half-an-hour to this one building structure. It had no cross or some symbol that resembled a church building. It was literally a box shaped structure that had a rectangular opening that was closed by one of those steel roll-downs. No door. Just the roll-down. It was a very interesting open area that was still going under constructions. There were no long benches you find in large cathedrals that were grounded on the floor, just those single, white, plastic Sterlite chairs arranged in a neat semi-circle. No cross. No decorations. No statues. No flower arrangements. Just a simple gathering. For the most part, I went to the younger elementary group, which met upstairs right as you walked in the rectangular entrance. There we participated in a lot of the crafts and story-telling they do in a youth group. Except it was no longer all korean kids. Actually, we were the minority group.
In fact, for the adults, the Korean saints that followed my dad must have been quite a surprise for the Chilean saints. One day, this group of Koreans just decided to join the fellowship and they would sit at the right hand side of the gathering because most of them needed translation. One person would kind of sit in the middle as everybody would listen to the live translation.
Anyhow, we did this every week. And I really liked it. I don't remember much of what I did or what I heard. The few moments that still kind of remain vivid in my head are: that one craft where they gave us a pack of this clay material and we had to chip it with spoons till we "dug" out the dinosaurs in the middle (I thoroughly enjoyed that craft), the first day of moving up to the upper elementary class - we were moved to another room way in the back, in a creaky wooden upstairs room. One of my best buddies Manuel played the guitar and for a kid his age, he was really good. And we would sing together with our teachers some scripture songs. That one time when I kind of started realizing how competitive I was - we went out to the park to play soccer (or futbol) and I was paired with Esteban and I scored and we were up 1-0. Esteban wasn't as athletic so he would be kind of slow, and the other team scored the next two points. I was FURIOUS. I was so mad that I cried, screaming at Esteban to play some defense.. Thank the Lord that when my teacher saw this, he called half-time and we rested a bit to drink some soda. I calmed down. And I guess my screaming at Esteban kind of made him realize that I was pretty serious about winning. He started playing some more D and he stopped all the other team's goals in the second half (to this day I feel terrible for screaming at him). And being small and uncoordinated, it was hard to go through two defenders. I remember this one play though, through a combination of mostly luck and some coordination, I was able to pass through both defenders and score to tie the game 2-2. Then time ran out. I was a bit sore that we couldn't win, but I was elated by that one play that tied the game and Esteban's unheralded defensive abilities.
Two more events that are vivid in my mind -- we had a gospel trip once to a even more rural town than Santiago. The whole church participated in this week-long trip? We would stay in these hostel like commons while going around town to pass out tracts and preach the gospel. I was scared. But even at such a young age, I was surprised to see the openness of the people. We would travel in this huge bus that would carry all of us. It was so packed that sometimes, we little kids had to sit on the steps of the bus. Good way to get to know the bus driver and torture him to death by asking him how much time we had left on the trip.
It was during that time I met Jose, who has become a personal role model to me to this day. He was in the sixth grade, and was also really tall. To me, I thought it was going to take me ages to get to where he was going to be in height and in age. I thought he was the coolest kid ever. And he would take care of us. We stayed in the same room during our trip and we had so much fun playing tag. During the bus rides, we would ride together and just talk. He was an exemplar model, and I told myself, when I grow up, I want to be just like Jose, take care of kids younger than me, listen to them, play with them, and spend time with them, cause I feel very cherished and I want others to feel loved like I did. He even introduced me to cheese! When I first got to Chile, I hated cheese. It was everywhere and I didn't like the taste of it at first. I was grossed out by all the kids who ate Cheetos, and I kept loyal to my Frito Lays. Anyhow, we were on this bus trip going somewhere, and we had just stopped by this place. It was midnight so I was falling asleep by every step. Jose was getting hungry and he had prepared a snack for himself -- white cheese on bread, microwaved. I woke up by the smell of food and realized how hungry I was. I was hungry. He offered me melted cheese. And ever since then I have fallen in love with cheese. (It took me some time to break into Cheetos though..)
So the saints in Santiago had a few huge gatherings like these through our tenure in Chile. They were fun. Once, we went to this ranch where we had everything from horses to ping pong table. Anyhow, I've written a lot today.. I think. Please spare my fingers...