Is it possible to have feelings for someone you barely understand?
Last week I told The Instructor I would not leave my job after all.
“Sabunim,” I said, as his younger students made kissing noises behind his back. “Me, Pia, no go Ca-li-porn-nia.
Pointing at the ground: “Here–yogi–yes.”
I hooked my thumbs together, made flapping motions with my hands, then unhooked them and made an X with my forearms. “Ca-li-porn-nia, aniyo.”
His eyes flickered with recognition and his jaw dropped. “Pia, yogi?” he exclaimed, pointing at the ground.
“Ne!” I exclaimed, clapping. “Korea, yes.” I gave him a thumbs up.
“Pusan?” he asked, mimicking my bird hand motion.
“Pusan, no,” I said, making another X sign. “Yogi, yes.”
“Wonderland, yes.” I made puppets with my hands. “C Teacher and Pia Teacher, talk-talk. Wonderland good! Pia . . .” I gave another thumbs up. “Happy.”
He spun around and told the boys in rapid-fire Korean. I got teary-eyed as their faces lit up. I hadn’t realized they cared so much.
He pointed to my belt. “Pia, red belt.” He raised one hand, and lifting fingers, counted: “July, August, September, October, November–black belt!” The boys recited the months to themselves and nodded. Yes, yes, five months would give me enough time to train for my black belt.
I wrung my wrists. “Black, no.” I bit my lip, wondering how to convey this. “Chun-bee, aniyo.” I’m not ready.
The Instructor and students squinted in confusion for a moment, before a young boy said, “Chun-bee. Ready.” After all these months, my pronunciation of basic words was still awful.
“See?” I said. “My Hangeul, not so good.” More puppet motions with my hands, then a descending thumbs-down.
I locked eyes with my teacher. “I don’t understand you,” I said weakly, and he nodded, his mouth firm.