A public school somewhere in Sydney, 1982. Probably near you.
He grabbed her sandwich, snatched it away – wax paper and all.
“What’s this – slope?” He demanded, brashly.
Hyun-jung looked on with horror. She straight away thought of the horrors she’d seen in her life remembered that day those army men had come to her village, when she was “back home”.
“Passed through”? – hardly! It was more like bullying, heckling, intimidating whoever they could, whenever they could.
The North Korean army doing North Korean things. Because power over another human being makes a person so strange things. They were looking for somethin – she remembered fearing for her mother, her father. And then thought of her older sister.
Sun-hwa. Sun-hwa? Sun-hwa!
What did they want with her.
Hyun was only 9 at the time, but she remembered.
She thought she saw her sister near the rice storage hut, just at the village entrance. She called out to her sister – those soldiers, those men – what were they doing? They seemed to be smiling, like great apes. One of them walked towards her, he was pulling up his belt with one hand, using the other to block her view…Sun-hwa!
“It’s alright, I’m alright” she remembered her sister yelling… And screaming “Find mum and dad – go to the school!”
And then – those army men with their helmets and guns, heavy eyebrows and loud voices were gone…
“What is it wop?” Don’t look like no sandwich I’ve ever seen –
He held her food out for display, like it was infected.
“Yuck, there’s omelette in here. What is this, Chink?” the bully demanded.
“I’m Korean” responded Hyun-jung, meekly.
“What did you say, you slope eyed freak”
And he stood over her, pushed his head out, waved his finger in her face
“I’m Korean – not Chinese” she said, gently.
He thrust the sandwich toward her face – held her in a moment of intimidation and fear. And then suddenly, callously he flung it over the long school benches. She flinched. It was the reaction this bastard wanted.
Hyun-jung just wanted to cry. Maybe a tear or two trickled out.
But she didn’t want the school bully – getting the better of her.
“Why did you do that?” she asked, remembering her in breakable spirit as a Korean.
“Because I can – and what are you going to do about it wop?” – he said – threateningly.
Hyun-jung couldn’t remember exactly what happened next.
She just remembered the bully sprawled on the ground next to her crying – and all the kids running over – faces filled with elation.
“H – what did you do?”
“What happened here?”
“Where did you learn to kick someone in the head like that?”
The bully never took her lunch – or tried to intimidate her or make fun of her “omelette in a sandwich” again.
And Hyun-jung was never, ever embarrassed by what her mum put in her lunch box.
(this story linked to the Gaerun Toast recipe)