The disappearance of my dad changed everything. It all started with a phone call. The message, echoing in my ear like a gunshot, was clear: my dad will move to China without us. At the time my father did not tell me the exact reason for his departure, but I read recently in a magazine that he was escaping from a group of lobbying businessmen, or more specifically, a group of gangsters. He was gone for a year, and, my seemingly perfect life was completely destroyed. At least I thought that was the case just after my dad left us.
The group of men who took my dad away from my family was not only after my dad, but they were also after my family. For safety issue, my entire family was forced out from the tranquil life that we used to have. The change in my life was so big that I thought I would never live through this transition. The biggest change was my enrollment in a Korean school for my safety. I entered an entirely new school system to which I was unaccustomed. I came from a small international school where I was one of the top students. In the new school, however, everyone seemed to be more successful than I.
For one thing, I was a student of Korean descent who couldn’t speak Korean fluently. Not having a complete command over the language, I found myself working harder than ever before only to stand out. And I am not talking about being able to stand out for my excellence, but the other end of the spectrum. Despite all the strenuous efforts, I was the one who always failed in every single class thanks to the language barrier that did not allow me to understand half of the lectures. Failing the courses, however, was not my only obstacle in the new academic world.
Most, if not all, of my teachers were disturbed at my “disrespectful” attitude. In fact, I would have reformed my behavior if any one of them directly told me. However, I realized that fact only when I got my first report card, which was five month after I transferred. Back in international school, teacher-student relationship was a flexible relationship. The free atmosphere in international school allowed me to ask anything in the class as long as I raised my hand and ask a relevant question. However, this action of what I regarded as participating and showing interest came as a disrespective interruption to most of my teachers.
Reading the comments on my report card made me exactly realize that I am in a completely different world. I felt like I had to start all over from learning how to crawl. Indeed, I was living in a different world. I moved from the home I had lived in for 10 years; I left a lifetime of friends; but of all the changes, what struck me deepest was that my father was gone. I needed the man who drove me to church every Sunday, read me “Green Eggs and Ham” every night, and helped me clean my room every weekend. I knew I was supposed to believe that my dad would come back soon, but I had doubts.
I forced myself, with an innocent heart, to believe that if I did not go to church, read “Green Eggs and Ham”, or clean my room, my dad would come back soon, so I tried these reckless actions in vain hope that they would bring him back sooner. However, I soon realized these actions only served to make myself unhappier. I noticed that my immature actions would never bring my father back when my brother got a surgery for an acute appendicitis. I was so scared to see my brother in pain and to see myself completely being helpless. My mother’s unusually confused and panic face doubled my anxiety.
While my mom was preparing herself to go to the hospital, I picked up the phone to call and notify my dad about this trouble. Unlike what I expected, my dad’s calm voice, the sound that came out of my phone was a woman’s voice telling me that the phone number no longer exists. This short, dreary phrase worked to me like that of the sermon of Jonathan Edwards’ towards the pilgrims. The voice, awakening my sleeping consciousness, gave me an enlightenment. I realized that I had no possible way to contact my dad, and even if I did call, I was not sure if he could come back to help us.
Eventually, with my father gone and my mother busy with her new job, I realized it was time for me to stand up and adapt to my new life. I realized that while being quiet and smart could be appreciated at a small international school, I would hardly be noticed in this new community of thousands of students. I needed to learn Korean and become more social in order to survive in both my new school and my new community. I approached my teacher and asked for help to improve my language skills. My teacher offered to let me switch into the first grade Korean class instead of my current class, which I couldn’t even understand.
While at first I was repulsed by the idea, I knew that despite how humiliating the lower class seemed, it was something necessary. As a result, I began learning the basics of Korean in a course with my brother who is four years younger than me. I slowly but surely began to not only improve my fluency but also become more comfortable conversing with my peers. Next, I approached some of my classmates and began getting to know them. During the first week, everyone seemed to show their interest toward me, or more specifically, my unusual background.
Everyone asked me how was life was like in the international school and why I had moved to the Korean school. With my clumsy Korean, I tried to explain the former question. However, whenever I tried to explain the later question, I was struck dumb with sadness that I did not know the origin of at that time. Thankfully, their patience did not last long enough to hear the answer of my second question. Thus, whenever someone asked me questions, I was only left with bleak heartache, which surely was far from what I wanted: a warm welcome.
I had no clue that I would even miss these questions because after a week, everyone left me. Not a single person talked with me or even cared about me. I soon realized the fact that I have had not realized during my first week of the school: unlike my previous school, my new classmates were very apathetic toward new students. It was not that they had anything against me, but rather that it was me who had to take the initiative and approach them. My new school had a lot of students, and with this much students, I should not expect a family-like atmosphere that I used to have in my old school.
Countless cliques existed, and they all seemed to have different interests. I felt like I was the only alien in that seemingly endless classroom. It was hard at first to find things about which to connect. For the first few weeks, I quietly sat down during the break time and observed what others did during that time. After a while, I discovered the Korean game Jackstones that they loved, and tried to master it in order to be able to play with them. Once they realized that I can play Jackstones, they wanted me to play with them during the break time.
As I got closer to the group of girls, who I now call as my friends, my break times and lunch times were no longer a painful solitary hours. Thankfully, all my efforts were not in vain. After the hard landing in my new school, I soon found myself in a smoother situation. I was able to communicate more effectively, be more outgoing, and most importantly succeed in becoming independent. This transition truly helped shape me into who I am today: a confident young woman who enthusiastically accepts new challenges. Although I was no longer the girl who always needed her father, I still missed him dearly.
I will never forget the moment our family reunited after his year-long exile to China. My newfound independence and a step into adulthood would never change the family values I hold dear. My entire family stood in a pack together, waiting anxiously at the airport until he walked through the gate. He gave me a proud look and was surprised how quickly I had grown into a young woman. Even though I was now my own woman, I will always remember standing there; relieved that he was safe, relieved that we were together again, and excited to be standing at the epilogue of my prologue, ready for life to bring on a new chapter.