I have bitter memories of taking classes at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. As a sophomore at Korea University, I had taken so many classes on international politics, the main subject students need to focus on to pursue a career in diplomacy. Eager to know more about international affairs, I attended some special lectures given by prestigious HUFS professors. Upon finishing my regular college classes, I would hop on the 4 p.m. bus. The lecture was set to start at 6 p.m., but I needed to arrive early enough to get my preferred seat in the first row.
One gloomy fall day, sitting on the playground stairs in the chilly fall weather, I watched some boys throwing a baseball, yelling out to each other. A bit later, I started walking to the restaurant for dinner, smoking a cigarette with one hand and holding an umbrella with the other. As I walked, an unexpected fastball struck me right on the cheekbone. I dropped to the rain-soaked ground, not knowing, at that moment, where the ball had come from and losing both my cigarette, umbrella and worse, my glasses. Vaguely, I heard footsteps approach me and the embarrassed voices of two boys, urgently calling out, “Are you OK?” Surprised to see my puffy face, they asked me again, “Are you alright?” To which I angrily retorted “What?” as I put a hand to my swollen face, trying to control my temper. I stood up, astonished, and looked at the two young boys.
The damage had already been done, I reasoned to myself; to scold them out of rage would be meaningless. More important was my relief in knowing that my eyes were OK. What if the fastball shattered the glasses and splinters got into my eyes? I grabbed the cigarette from the ground and relit it, trying to get over my distress. Sigh! The boys returned to their game, and I continued walking toward the restaurant in silence.
Today, HUFS is hosting the Korean Association of Teachers of English 2017, an international conference for the social dimensions of English education. As I was a prospective English teacher, I could not afford to miss this annual event. Over two days, I met renowned professors and attended many outstanding presentations.
Fifteen years have quickly passed since I last visited HUFS, so determined to learn more about international politics. Since then, the campus has grown and now has some new, tall buildings.
I have always known that life is full of uncertainties. And yet, I never saw myself returning to such a forgettable place from the past, which I had hidden away in the bottom of my heart.
I eventually found the playground and decided to linger there and relax. I sat down and looked around the campus. It looked so peaceful, I thought, yet vibrant from the activities of the energetic students — one group played basketball, another baseball.
Rested, I stood up to leave the campus and go home, when suddenly, I heard a boy, who was wearing a baseball glove, from the middle of the playground shout, “Watch out! Heads up!”
The writer is an English teacher in Gwangju. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.