Michelle is an alum of the 2021 Korean summer program. This poem was submitted as an entry to the NSLI-Y 15th Anniversary Storytelling Competition.

Skipping down the apartment stairs

하나 (1)
둘 (2)
셋 (3)
넷 (4),
onto the street
I see the neighborhood ajummas.
They are making
fermented kimchi.
The hot summer weather
of the 장마철 (rainy season),
leaves puddles on the sidewalk.

I maneuver my way
down into the Chung-muro subway station.
Office workers walk briskly,
briefcases in one hand
and mini fans in the other.
I smell the scent of the roasted chestnut truck
operating beside the platform.
I enter the doors
and take the first seat I see.
The cool AC greets me
the beautiful Han River passes
by the windows.

image of a colorful temple in korea at night

Arriving at Hanyang University,
I hear the chatter of college students
and climb the flights of stairs
that accompany the subway station.
When I sit down in my classroom
I study SeoMyeong and Eunyoung’s
recent drama from 대화문 1 (Dialogue 1)
and speak with friends from all fifty U.S states.
5 hours and one jjajjangmyeon bowl later
I am lined up in my Taekwondo uniform
ready to learn how to break a board.
I missed my kick and ended up flat on

the mat.

image of michelle practicing taekwando

Class is over!
Now it is time for chocolate
ice cream from the 편이점 (convenience store).
Yum, 맛있어요! (delicious)

Ending the night back at home,
I close my eyes
and lay down on my
or traditional floor mattress.
and drift off to sleep.

image of a grey building in korea surrounded by greenery