Entry #7 – March 10, 1997 / Monday

Mondays always felt longer. Perhaps it’s the weekends that felt short and Mondays were just too close to them. Yesterday, my family went to my favorite park in the afternoon. This park has a lot of birds and several street food carts. I love the roasted chestnuts from the old lady we often see there. Anyway, I felt like time was going very slow this morning at school, and now again here at the baduk school. I just want to go home and play Lego with Jane after dinner.

“Hajin, where are you going?” my baduk teacher asked. I looked at the clock on the wall again. It was 5:30, the usual time to leave for home.

“Home?”

“You are staying longer starting from today. Didn’t you hear it from your mother?”

“No… What about the shuttle bus?”

I knew that the last shuttle bus left at 5:40.

“Your mother will be coming at about 7:30 to pick you up.”

Two more hours! I couldn’t believe what was happening. I wondered if this was how Mina felt when she was accepted to the math academy, the one she didn’t really want to attend.

“Come, I will buy you some ice cream. You can have a break. The other guys will come at about 6, anyway.”

“The other guys?”

“Yes. I teach a group of older and stronger students in the evening. This is a private group. They are much stronger than you.”

“What about Colin?” I looked at Colin, who was working on a life and death problem book.

“I am staying longer from now on, too,” Colin said calmly. He must have known about this for some time. I felt somewhat better, knowing that I was going to get ice cream and Colin would be here too.

Once all the other students had left, the teacher took me and Colin to a nearby supermarket and let us choose ice cream. Luckily the market had my favorite chocolate ice cream cones. Colin picked out vanilla ice cream in a cup. The teacher didn’t get anything, saying he just wanted a cup of coffee at the baduk school. He often drank instant coffee from a packet.

“I will put you both in the league in the evening class. Hajin, don’t worry even if you keep losing for a while. You will be the weakest in the group.”

It was intimidating and exciting at the same time. During my trip to Japan, I saw how strong the other students were. Will I be able to win? I sometimes managed to beat Colin. Maybe I should focus on getting some wins from him.

A little after 6, a tall boy showed up. His name was Tom. He was bigger than Colin, but it turned out they were the same age. Our teacher asked Colin to play Tom, in an even game. Soon, three other boys showed up one by one. Taylor and Jackson were thirteen years old, and Aiden was twelve. When everyone had arrived, the teacher introduced Colin and me to the group, and paired me with Aiden for a game. Aiden was short and skinny, and wearing a thick pair of glasses. I wanted to put up a good fight, even if I didn’t manage to win, but I lost horribly.

After the game, my teacher asked us to replay the game for a post-game analysis. We never did this in the afternoon classes – we would play, and then play again. Sometimes the teacher would come around and point out some key areas before we took the stones away from the board. After the stones were put away, we couldn’t remember the games very well. Although I felt embarrassed by my terrible moves, I kind of enjoyed my first review. It was fun to see that Aiden had also made mistakes, not only me, and to learn where I should have played instead.

As my teacher had promised, my mom showed up at about 7:30. I was feeling okay with the ice cream and the fun review, but I remembered that I was upset with my mom. She didn’t tell me that I was going to start staying longer at the baduk school. So, although I was happy to see her, I didn’t run to her or give her a big smile.

“How was your new class?” Mom asked in the car on the way home.

“It was okay. They are all stronger than me. Teacher says I won’t win for a while.”

“Are you okay with that?”

“I guess. I will try to win against Colin.”

“Is everything okay?”

Mom noticed that I was a bit standoffish and not speaking much. I hesitated for a bit, and asked, “why didn’t you tell me about it?”

“About what?”

“That I am staying until 7:30 from today.”

“Oh, didn’t I? I thought I did. Don’t you like studying baduk longer?”

“No, you didn’t. But it’s okay. It was fun today.”

Now that I had talked about it with mom, I felt better about the whole thing.

“What’s for dinner today?” I asked mom.

“I was thinking about making kimchi jjigae. How does that sound?”

“That sounds perfect!” I said with a big smile.