April 29, 2013 by travelinggrits
I bent my face away from the fine raindrops tingling my face and folded my arms across my thin sweater. As I descended the school steps, my shoes tapped a staccato beat as I quickened my pace.
Hi, Teacher! a cheerful voice rang out at my elbow.
Hello! I responded, squinting sideways at my escort. Are you going home now? I asked. This weather makes me want something hot to drink, like some cocoa! I griped lightheartedly.
You can, Teacher, she piped. For only 200 won, in front of the church.
I am always loathe to dish out for overpriced coffee shop tabs, so my ears perked up at the suggestion of a 20-cent cup of cocoa, even though I knew it would be from an automated machine. I was only minutes away home, but a short detour couldn’t hurt.
My student ushered me to the faded, weather-beaten contraption under a small wooden overhang. She stuck in her coins first. The cocoa was delivered within a minute, but she still opened the plastic delivery door twice to check before it arrived.
Koreans always do…like this, she grinned.
She retrieved the paper cup, and after I inserted my own fare, she handed the cup over to me. You first, she chirped.
After both drinks had been prepared, we huddled side-by-side on the picnic table under the simple shelter.
It’s like we’re on a date, she giggled. I insisted that we take a picture to commemorate it.
Sometimes it feels like most of my conversations with my students consist of speed-dating small talk. This was perhaps one of the more intimate chats I’ve had with a student, especially outside of school.
She talked about how the boys make fun of her for her size, but she wants to be strong. She talked about how she didn’t like to study, but everyone tells her tests are the most important. She talked about her parents’ restaurant and having to cook food for her siblings while her parents work or sleep. She showed me her music collection on her phone, and I was surprised by the selections beyond the mainstream.
I didn’t know what I could give her. Reassurances that who she is on the inside is more important? That we always want what can’t have in our physical appearance, right, so we should just be happy with who we are now? That tests will pass, and it’s okay if she doesn’t like to study? I said all these things, but perhaps the best thing I could offer was my Kakao Talk ID so we could continue to chat on our phones. She accepted it with quiet reverence, carefully tapping it into her contact list.
She had asked me about my schedule after school, and I explained that I usually liked to exercise. She worried about messing up my plans, but I reassured her that the rain would change my plans today anyway. I could tell she was in no hurry to get home, and I was determined to stay as long as she wanted.
We sat there for well over an hour, the dregs of our drinks long drained, the warmth the cup had provided slowly seeping from our fingers.
It was only 20 cents. But it was time well spent.
Thanks to my student, now listening to: Falling Slowly by Glen Hasard