Because he tapped me on my shoulder in the PC Bang and said, Do you want to go to ping pong room tomorrow? Because in the ping pong room we talked over instant coffee, and played Beatles music together. Because he asked, Do you want to go to Amen Church with me? And because I said yes and I sat with him in the chapel pews with his Korean-English bible, reciting Korean. Because he introduced me to his friends, culture, and way of life. Because he gave me hope on Sundays when I was alone. Because one night he said, Duck, let’s eat, and I said yes because I never had duck in another country, or soju to wash it down with. Because he slapped my back when a bone was caught in my throat and we watched it fling in front of us like a slingshot. Because we couldn’t stop laughing about that. Because he showed me pictures of his son and daughter who are married and have their own families in Seoul. Because he’s a proud father and he inspired me to be like him, except perhaps with a little less of the late-night gambling, soju, and cigarettes at the PC Bang. Because I hugged him before I left South Korea. And, because it’s hard to hug people these days.
Spencer Shaak is a MFA Graduate from Rosemont College who taught English as a second language in an elementary school in South Korea in 2015. He misses the kids he taught there. He made many great friends there; one of them, a man named Shim much older than he, is the person spoken about in this piece.