Oh SEK. How I miss thee.. You have to remember that this was the time I really began to remember things. I know I had friends in Korea during my kindergarten years, but Chile were the years I spent my adolescence. If I had to choose between Korea and Chile, I would visit Chile. Anyhow, I'll try to condense 3 years into one post, to make sure I wring out all the boring details and just give a good story line.
There were both negatives and positives that occurred in Chile that have shaped me to who I am today. I've encountered much racism as a kid, being the few yellow-skinned kids running around the school among faired-skins (Chileans are more European-like). Many times, I've been taunted for who I was, and how I spoke. Pronounciations were always things that kicked me in the rear. Anyhow, I feel like this really created an inward motive in me to excel academically and socially. I wanted to prove to my teachers and my friends that a different color made me no different. I had trouble in Language Arts, but that was excusable. However, everything that ranged from Math to Art, Sciences to Physical Education, I competed for the best spot. And it wasn't just about getting it done right and scoring high. It was all about getting it done right and scoring high AND being first. That was where all the social glory resided. Being the first one to get up from his chair and proudly walking down the aisle while everybody else watches you in the middle of the test was what I sought for. This may sound pretty competitive, but I made a lot of friends this way and gained a lot of respect from teachers and classmates. My best friend Christian and I would always compete to be in first in class and basketball, and we had this mutual respect for each other. The only person that I counted acceptable to finish before me was Christian, and vice versa for him as well. I guess this kind of environment really translated to the high-speed work I like to be under in the present. Anyhow, in elementary school, we were so guile. We gained popularity by being the smartest kid in class, not by being the rowdiest.
This kind of competitiveness translated onto the basketball court as well. Basketball was not the main sport in Chile, it was obviously futbol. But I somehow found a liking to this sport. Being at a young age, skill wasn't obviously evident, so being a hard-worker was what distinguished you in practice. I pushed and pushed and pushed, and was further encouraged by the coach who admired hard-workers. I quickly ranked to be the captain of the team, but sadly, that didn't turn out to mean much... I was never able to go to the games. The games were always so far, and not having a car or means of transportation, I never experienced the thrill of the competition. I would always be jealous to hear the stories of my teammates, but of course, these were just small exhibition games that kept no score.
The following year, I wasn't able to join the basketball club because of finances. My dad after giving up his pastorship, took up a job as a store manager with my mom selling needles and threads. It wasn't like we were starving, but needs were barely met. Coach would take me out of class to talk to me about joining the team again and again. I was ashamed to tell him that I couldn't join because of finances. I made excuses that we were going to move away soon, and other non-sense. He offered to cut the cost of the club in half, but even then my parents told me it was hard to afford. That was a heart-wrenching experience for me.
Another highlight of my time in SEK were marbles. This was a huge trend that all of a sudden skyrocketed some time during my stay there. There was this wall where there was a bunch of water fountains in front of the cafeteria. On the other side, there would be a line of kids lined up with their backs against the wall, with a certain formation created with their marbles. Other kids would come to challenge them. They would use their marbles to hit the marble formation. What you hit was yours. What you missed became theirs. I still remember very vividly those rowdy walls.
I want to talk about two more stories that are actually one whole story that was a big piece in my Chilean days. Outside of school, I went to Korean school. Surprisingly, Chile had a good number of Koreans - a good number to create a Korean Saturday school every week with every grade and teachers for every grade and even a principal. We used to take the bus in downtown which would take us to this worn-down property that had worn-down buildings. It was in Korean school that I met another dear friend of mine by the name of Sang-Hoon. I honestly don't know how we met, but we somehow met. He visited me in LA, a few years back, and from hearing the recounts, apparently, he thought I was really smart, and thus took notice of me. I did skip a grade in Korean school, since I came from Korea and spoke Korean with my parents. But honestly, I thought those grade levels were a joke.. Anyhow, he noticed me and then somehow, my mom and his mom somehow got in contact with each other. And then, the next thing you know is that I'm getting excited to go over to his place and to sleep over and hang out.
There are two experiences I would like to share with SH. The first is that I really miss those creative activity sessions we used to have. Of course, we didn't call it that. We were just explorers that made use of benches, swings, sand, grass, skateboards, scooters, walls, pavements, sticks, and anything we can find outside the apartment complex. These were awesome times that, of course, anybody who is older will look down at. But I believe these sessions constituted in me an eternal kid-heart that loves crazy ideas. Our adventures would be part-Pokemon, part-Digimon, part-pirates, and mainly-whatever. We would jump over hedges, sleep in benches, heal fake wounds, destroy enemies, find and hide treasures, and a bunch of other crazy stuff. Anyhow, I know it's silly, but I really account these times with Hoon to the perpetual kid in my heart that can come out whenever he wants to. Growing up, I'm learning to balance this.. and I believe it's an extremely useful skill.
Another account I like to share is very negative actually, but an extremely rewarding experience that benefits me to this day. Sang-Hoon was very rich. His parents owned a very good clothing business that had several(?) stores in Chile. So, he would always get the latest Pokemon cards and the best of the shiny cards. I, on the other hand, couldn't really afford to buy any Pokemon cards. All the cards that I owned I got through trading or by having it handed down to me from older kids that didn't play anymore. One weekend, I slept over his house, I took a few of his shiny Pokemon cards and put them in my deck. I thought he would never notice since he had so many, and I could just hide them in my room. If it came to the point that he wanted to search my room, I would sell them, and buy new packs of Pokemon cards (yes, I am really evil). Well, he called me the night after I went home after the sleepover and asked me if I had accidentally taken his pokemon cards. Of course I lied, and pretended to not know about anything.
I thought the plan went accordingly and I was all safe now. But of course, I didn't think it over thoroughly enough. What if SH told his parents who then would end up telling my parents about it? And of course, that's exactly what happened. My mom denied it at first, not willing to believe that I would do such a thing. She came home, and asked me, and of course, being in shock and not knowing what to do, I lied. At this point in stage, it was easier to lie to continue my storyline. Otherwise, if I told the truth, I would have looked like a loser to SH, whom I orginally told that I didn't steal his cards. Anyhow, my mom let my dad know about it and when they both confronted me, I had to lie again. Man, one event in sin just brings in another and another to an endless cycle... I think it must have been a Saturday or a Sunday, or some time during the summer, because I remember we were eating lunch when they inquired. And lunch time that day was awfully quiet. Too quiet that I can hear my own heart pound, and my conscience speak. I guess before that I unconsciously knew that I had a conscience, and experienced it. Whenever I would lie, or hit my sister, I felt this painful moving in my heart that told me that I was did the wrong thing. But, oh man, never this clear. That experience definitely brought me to a definite experience of my conscience.
Soon enough, I couldn't help it. The guilt that was building up, the awful feeling of my conscience crying out, and the silence in the dinner table. I went to my room and brought the stolen Pokemon cards and showed them to my parents. My parents were in shock and angry at the same time. I was punished (which I won't go into details) and it was good that I was punished. I, for that short moment of time of stinging punishment, hated my parents. If only they had given me money to buy Pokemon cards, this would have never happened. Looking back, I appreciate and treasure this expereince. That same day, we went over to SH's place, where I made my entrance of shame. To my surprise, SH forgave me really quickly, and we went back to playing again. Oh, kids.
Anyhow, I would never trade this experience. This matter of listening to the conscience is so crucial in the Christian race. Also, having and bearing to have a soft heart to be forgiven is also essential. It's easy to forgive others; but to be forgiven is a galaxy away. (Of course, this situation varies depending on which side of the equation you are in...). Anyhow, enough dwelling in all this philosophical talk. I like to give you a verse! 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!"