Monday, March 19, 2012

hike up our skirts and climb over the gate

I have some very fond memories of Korea.  I went to an all girl’s Christian Jr. High School, 7th through 9th grade.  We had to wear a uniform, no makeup and our hair had to be cut to a certain length.  The cultural adjustments were very difficult.  I spoke the language but not well enough so there were language barriers.  The perception of me was that I was a snob and I thought I was too good for everybody.  It wasn’t my intent at all.  Life in America was what I knew, so it was hard for me to not talk about it.  I had hard core haters but I also had a good group of friends.  Our school was located on top of a small mountain, so the daily commute to school would consist of taking a 10-15 minute bus ride to the foot of the mountain, then a 20 minute climb.  You can go one of two ways.  The long way was a zigzag road up the mountain and the short way was a straight climb up the stairs that was carved into the mountain.  If we were running late, we would run up the stairs as fast as we could and be drenched in sweat by the time we got to the top.  If we were really late, the gate would be closed and we would have to hike up our skirts and climb over the gate.  Sometimes the gate keeper would catch us and scold us about being late to school. 

My mom would pack my lunch every morning with my favorites.  She would leave me a note telling me how much she loved me and to have a nice day.  We were a bunch of growing teenagers so by 2nd period we would be starving.  We couldn't wait until lunchtime so in between classes we would eat our lunch and stink up the whole classroom with the smell of garlic and kimchee, but no one complained.  By the time lunch rolled around we had already eaten our lunch so we would go around the classroom with only a pair of chopsticks and sponge off other people. 

School  was Monday through Saturday, but we had half a day on Saturdays. It was a Saturday ritual, a group of us would ride the bus back to my neighborhood and browse the video store for the newest horror movie.  Then we would all pile back to my house and cook a big pot of ramen noodles and munch on snacks while we watched the horror movie.  Sometimes we would stop at a street vendor car/shack and get our favorite snacks like dukbokgi, sundae and mandoo.  All of us would chip in a dollar or two and the meal would fill all 5 us up to our eyelids. 

Every spring and fall the school would go on a picnic to some touristy destination like a park or the palace.  This would be our only opportunity to shed our uniforms, so we would plan ahead for weeks and go shopping for the perfect outfit.  The tradition is that when you go on a picnic, your mother must pack a kim bop lunch for you.  It’s a cardinal rule!  Our mothers would make kim bop the night before and pack them neatly in a bento box with snacks and a drink.  We would finally reach our destination after a long bus ride and scope out a spot.  We would sit around a blanket and sample each other’s kim bop with a cold seven up.  Something about eating kim bop outdoors made it taste so much better.  Then we would play games, have a dance competition  and check out boys from the schools nearby.  This was my young adulthood growing up in Korea.
This is my friend and I on the balcony of our classroom. 
Can you see the mountains in the background?
My freinds and I.  I am in the front
(The picture was not taken in 81' even though that is what it says on the picture. 
It was taken around 92' or 93')
My frist picnic in Korea (7th grade)
My last picinic in Korea (9th grade)
Don't you jut love my outfit. I thought I was looking really cute at the time.


  1. I did not know all this about you..was very interesting reading :) ~crista