Once upon a Time in Chile
By Kang Ju-won 강주원, January 27, 2014
From 1982 to 1986, I lived in Santiago, Chile. I attended a school called Trewhela’s English School (now it’s called just Trewhela’s School). I was the only Asian kid in my class. There were only a handful of Asian kids in the school. We were taught (mainly) in Spanish, but learned a little English too.
I remember some older students used to make fun of me by stretching their eyes and calling me “Chinese.” My classmates were all nice to me. Some mornings, they would come out in advance and tell to take a circuitous route because some older kids were waiting for me. Although I was never beaten or anything, the scene where Daniel tries to run away from the bullies in The Karate Kid strangely reminds of my predicament back then. I think I’ve since developed a soft spot for “outsiders.”
We would do some interesting things back then. On time, three girls would be sitting in front of the class, and each boy had to go out and give a flower to a girl of his liking. To this day, I have no idea why we were doing such things. Anyway, all the boys were giving their flowers to one specific girl. I wanted to give mine another, but I could not. No one else had given her one, and I would be singled out as the only boy who had given her a flower. I regret having cared too much what others might think of me.
Another memorable incident was my last day in school. A very close friend of mine could not stop crying. I did not cry at all. Inside, I was really sad, but I could not imagine being perceived as that vulnerable in public. Other kids would ask me “Are you sad?” and I answered “Yes I am…” I regret having cared too much what others might think of me.
As a child, Spanish was the first language I ever learned. My parents tell me I would walk up to strangers and ask them about their day. Just before returning to Korea, my mother sat me down to teach me hangul. I still vividly remember writing “ㄱ,ㄴ,ㄷ” for the first time. I thought they looked really weird. I would get to learn English much later in Manila. I’m grateful because I can blog in English now. Right now, I cannot speak Spanish. I hope I can re-learn it some day.
I joined Facebook in 2012 (although I don’t use it). I remember being asked: “Where did you grow up?” I could not answer that question. I had to think hard. It was like how Mr. Spock was not able to answer “How do you feel?” in that Star Trek movie. Haha.
Thank for reading!