Entry #20 – June 21, 1997 / Saturday

The room was already bright. I reached for the alarm clock and held it close to my eyes. I couldn’t see clearly without my glasses. Eight… thirty. What? Oh… No school today. Wait, it’s my birthday too! Sometimes I like to stay in bed until mom comes to wake us up, but today I quickly got out of the bed. It was my day today!

Mom and dad were already in the kitchen, setting up the table for breakfast. The comforting smell of seaweed soup wafted all around the house.

“Good morning!” I said as I entered the kitchen.

“Oh, Hajin you are up. Can you wake up Jane? Breakfast is almost ready.”

When I came back to the kitchen with Jane, there was a whipped cream cake with berries in the center of the table. As soon as Jane and I both sat at our seats, mom and dad began lighting the candles. My parents and Jane all sang “Happy Birthday,” and I was so excited and happy that I forgot to make a wish before blowing out the candles.

While dad put away the cake so that we could have breakfast first, mom brought out two huge gift boxes.

“Wow, your gifts are so big!”

Jane exclaimed, maybe half jealous.

I opened the smaller of the two. It was a soft and cushy plush rabbit. He had curly dark chocolate fur, and was wearing an ivory sweater and mint overalls. I instantly fell in love with him! I let Jane investigate the rabbit and opened the second box. It was a soft blue suitcase. Oh

“What is that?” asked Jane.

“It’s a bag for long-term traveling. I guess it’s for my Summer baduk study trip.”

I told Jane, and my parents nodded.

“Do you like your gifts?” asked mom.

I loved both of them. The luggage just made it feel so real that I was about to leave home for three weeks.

“Yes!” I didn’t want to get into that discussion, though, so I just said a big yes.

“Where are we going today? The EXPO park?”

Jane asked with visible excitement. In fact, I was also wondering what we were doing today. I doubted we would just stay home all day on my birthday.

“Hajin has to go to her baduk school today.”

“Really?”

“What?”

Jane and I were both surprised by the unexpected answer.

“Yeah, her teacher said there was special training today. Didn’t you hear about it, Hajin?”

I couldn’t believe this. I was already studying baduk from right after school to late in the evening. Why did I need to study even on my birthday?

“Do I really have to go?”

I knew asking this question wouldn’t really help, but I had to ask anyway.

“Yes, you should.”

Mom answered simply.

When I opened the baduk school door, I saw Colin, Brad, and Tom already sitting around a board. They were working on a life and death problem together.

“Hi!”

“Hey, you came too.”

Tom welcomed me with his usual friendliness.

“Why do we have special training today?”

I asked the group, wondering if I had missed something.

“No clue.”

Colin’s answer suggested that everyone was as puzzled as I was.

“Where is the teacher?”

“He gave us these problems and said he will be back soon.”

Colin showed me the problem sheets. There were two pages, and each page had 20 questions.

“Cool, everyone’s here!”

Teacher showed up with a boxed cake in his hand. I realized that we were here for my birthday.

“So, I brought you here today because it’s Hajin’s birthday today, and tomorrow is Brad’s birthday. We will have a joint birthday party!”

Brad and I looked at each other.

“Is it really your birthday today?”

“Yes. Now that I think about it, didn’t we talk about this before?”

“Maybe.”

“Anyway, I win! I am nine years old, and you are still eight!”

“Haha, true. That makes Brad the youngest here.”

Teacher laughed and agreed with me.

“Then, are we here for the birthday party?”

Tom asked. I could tell that he was asking if there really was going to be any training today.

“Yep, we will enjoy the cake, and you can go home as soon as you solve all the problems there. But since it’s a birthday party, I will let you guys work on them together.”

Oh well, we shrugged and turned our attention to the cake.