23 Days of Elementary School

I have two elementary school diplomas. How that came about is not because I have a superpower to split myself into two or travel in time, but because I actually went to two elementary schools. In Korea, the school year begins with the new year, although winter break is long so you don’t start until close to March. But in the U.S. the school year ends in June. So when I immigrated here almost halfway into my 6th grade, it was time for me to finish up the 6th grade in the U.S. I guess that means I went to school earlier?

My 23 days of elementary school was like a dream. Have you ever had a dream where everyone was blurry and you didn’t quite understand what they were saying? Like that scene in Peanuts where whenever an adult is speaking, you don’t have a clue what they’re saying. Then There are punctuated moments of lucidity where you do understand a word spoken here and there.

I was in a regular 6th grade classroom where there were a couple Korean students who spoke bare minimum Korean. During the math portion of the class, I was with the rest of the class since I already knew how to do all the math problems they were learning. But all other times, I was paired with a student who knew some Korean and was given simple pictures and words for me to learn.

The school felt completely chaotic and I moved through it as though I were moving through a foggy cloud. I remember kids being so loud, which was unthinkable where I came from. And there were so many kids who looked so different. I thought about it, though. It was just a dream, right? School providing breakfast and lunch was also crazy. I’m used to lunch boxes from home, but here I had no one to make breakfast or lunch for me. At least my grandmother had given me giant cookie tubs full of five and ten cent coins. So that’s how I paid for my meals.

The first word I learned with certainty in elementary school was Callate. It is a Spanish word. I just got too tired of kids running wild and screaming, I suppose, so I mimicked others who were near me. Then it seems my first, second-language was Spanish?

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