The classroom felt uncomfortably warm today. Maybe it was the sunlight shining directly on my seat through the window. Our homeroom teacher was explaining the main characters from our reading assignment before we went through the exercise problems. Reading the passage was homework, but when the teacher asked who had read it, only half the students raised their hands. Time seemed to be moving too slowly, and I decided to do something I would never think of doing – I tore off a corner of my notebook paper and wrote, ‘this class is boring, isn’t it?’ and passed it discreetly to Mina, whose seat was right behind me. Soon, I got the note back with Mina’s writing on the other side. ‘Yeah, I am so tired.’ The thrill from exchanging a secret memo gave me some energy to sit through the class.
“I really need cold water on my face. Wanna come with me?”
I asked Mina as soon as the class was dismissed.
“Sorry, I didn’t finish my homework yet.”
“It’s for the math academy.”
“They give you homework?”
“Yeah… I am so tired with everything these days.”
“Ugh. Can I help you with the homework?”
“Really? You would? Wait, can you do fifth grade math?”
“Then never mind.”
“Sorry. I will be back soon. It’s too hot here today.”
I left Mina to walk to the restroom. I felt bad that I couldn’t help her. Then I thought it was fortunate that I never received homework from my baduk school. On the way back to the classroom, I checked my pocket to see how much money I had.
“Mina, let me get you ice cream to cheer you up after school.”
I told her as soon as I came back to my seat, and Mina gave me a happy okay.
“At least summer vacation is starting soon. Will you have more free time then?”
Mina and I were sitting on a park bench with our ice cream in our hands. I liked ice cream all year round, but it was especially good when I felt hot.
“I don’t think so. My mom said I will be going to an English academy in the morning. It will be just like going to the school.”
“Oh, that’s tough.”
I wanted to say something to make Mina feel better, but wasn’t sure what.
“What about you, Hajin? Are you doing anything special in the summer?”
“Actually, I am going to Seoul for three weeks.”
“That’s so cool! Are you visiting relatives?”
“No, I will be studying baduk at a dojang for the whole three weeks.”
“What is dojang?”
“That’s where you study baduk if you want to become a professional baduk player.”
“Do you want to be a pro?”
“I think so. I like playing baduk, and I could play it for living if I become a professional player.”
“I see. Then what will your family be doing in Seoul?”
“They are not coming. I will be staying at this girl’s house for three weeks. Her name is Sara, and she also studies baduk at the dojang.”
“What? Wait, you will be leaving your family for three weeks and stay at some stranger’s house?”
Mina looked really surprised.
“Sara is not a stranger. I met her on my trip to Japan. She is nice, although I have no idea what her parents are like.”
“That’s so terrifying! Will you be okay?”
“Um… is it?”
“Isn’t it? I can’t imagine not seeing my parents for more than a couple days.”
“Well, I am not worried about the three weeks actually. I might need to do something like this for years to become a professional player.”
“Are you serious?”
Now Mina was looking at me with sadness in her eyes.
“Wow… I guess I can’t complain about my math homework.”
Discussing it out loud, I felt scared about this unknown path to become a pro, but on the other hand, I was proud that I made Mina feel better.