‘I’ll never forget the kids’

By Ed Graper
This item appears on page 21 of the December 2021 issue.

I was alone, exploring the historic Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, Korea, in 2006 when I was approached by a young woman. She was followed at a good distance by a group of young teens.

The woman explained that she was a teacher at a rural school and that her class of 7th graders was learning English. She shyly asked if I would take a few minutes to talk with them. I told her, “Yes, of course!”

The kids were so excited, chattering away. We talked for half an hour. Some even took my email address and later wrote to me.

Less than three minutes after leaving these kids, I was approached by a second teacher who asked if I would talk with her class. She had apparently been watching.

This class was very different, made up of students with significant disabilities. Most had very impaired sight, while others had limited or no hearing. The kids were so shy, but they wanted to know me — a little like scared kittens.

I spent the remainder of my visit at Gyeongbokgung Palace talking with these totally wonderful kids. I don’t remember much of the palace, but I’ll never forget the kids.

Goleta, CA