Second Draft

Still awaiting feedback... I apologize for the crammed page.

I bid a farewell to my lost last week of summer vacation as I stormed into the bus, stomping exaggeratedly on each stair. It wasn’t a yellow school bus that I was getting into, that sealed away my last 7 days of freedom, but a white church van; and the heavy weight on my shoulders was not due to a backpack crammed with textbooks and binders, but a duffle bag packed to the point of bursting with a week’s worth of clothes and other necessities. If you haven’t figured it out, I’m going to camp. No, not camp, I’m going to a Korean Christian Youth Retreat to “spiritually bond” with about 50 bible thumper spawn ranging from ages 9-17 from my church. The cherry on this ruined week would be that most, if not all the kids there spoke Korean as did the chaperones and pastors while I couldn’t say “hello” (ahn yung ha sa yo) without someone thinking I had said “my sister did it” (un ni [ga] ha suh yo).

The loud screeching of the brakes woke me from my inner unenthusiastic rants on this retreat. To my utter delight, I find we are at the retreat location. Note the sarcasm. The grounds were barely livable, even if it was for just a week. There was a recreation room, while large enough to hold the 50 kids and chaperones, was an open air room, meaning no walls to prevent bugs and other things from getting ‘in’, it was basically a giant patio with dirty carpeting. Below the recreation room were two bathrooms, one for the boys and one for the girls, containing a total of two sinks, three toilets, and three shower stalls. Mad morning rushes were to be expected. Next to the bathroom was a room for sermons and while this time it was a closed room, it could probably just barely fit us all. Outside in the back were10 or so small tents set up side by side to form a complicated tent labyrinth of doom. Cabins were available, but not for use as tents were supposed to “bring us closer together”.

I let out an exasperated groan and crumpled to the dingy olive carpeted floor (I guessed it was probably a deep green at some point…) and glared up at the vivacious brightly colored banners badly taped to, and barely hanging from the ceiling, reading “The Change” in rainbow colored letters. They had to be kidding. I almost laughed out loud at the cliché theme. “The Change. Real cute,” a sarcastic voice echoed my thoughts and voiced my silent snickers. I glanced toward the voice and saw a long haired girl, about my age, 13, smirking up at the banners much like I was, but with a confidence and boldness I dared not display. She turned to me, grinned, and introduced herself with a simple, “I’m Nina.” I discovered, like myself, Nina was forced to be here by her parents and was not enjoying the trip so far. Unlike myself, Nina did understand and speak Korean fluently. “My parents only speak Korean. Got to know their language if I want to ask for a ride to the mall.”

We spent the next few days of the retreat complaining about the living conditions and food, which was all Korean soups and stuff; mouthing the overly peppy praise songs; ignoring the sermons, Nina even going as far to doze off in the middle of one, snoring loudly and receiving disapproving frowns from the chaperones; mocking and barely participating in the lame activities; talking back to chaperones, though that was more Nina than I; and making fun of the “dorks who were actually having fun here”. The adults there seemed to expect Nina’s sass but were pretty surprised with me. I was surprised myself. Nina was an inspiration. She did what she wanted to and when she wanted to, regardless of the amount of lectures or glares she got. She had the guts and élan to speak her mind and express what she thought. While I wasn’t exactly joyous about the retreat, I knew without Nina, I would have probably followed along quietly participating as little as possible, but still following everyone else for the most part being a touch irate inside. It was the language barrier that covered my guilt. I felt I had a right to do as I please since I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying and no one seemed to bother to translate anything for me.

The night that marked the halfway point of the week finally came. “Four more days to go!” Nina chirped cheerily, stretching out on her sleeping bag with a contented sigh. The three other girls in our tent glared at her, and by association, glared at me as well. It was strange though. They usually criticized our actions, preaching about how we should at least try to learn something, but tonight they seemed to be giving us the silent treatment. “Here’s hoping those days go by quickly. G’night.” I replied, ignoring the glowers of death from our oh-so-amiable tentmates.

The next morning a chaperone pulled us from the food line and asked to speak with us for a minute. From her tone we could tell she was about to lecture us and it looked like it would take much more than a minute. To my misfortune, she spoke English and I couldn’t block her out. Apparently, last night we were supposed to stay silent to ponder about the sermon. Our beloved tentmates had informed her we had spent the night chatting away. “Blabbermouths...” Nina muttered. I heated argued how I couldn’t understand instructions nor the sermon with them being only in Korean. “You could have asked Nina what was going on. And this is not the only time you two disregarded directions. This entire trip you haven’t shown any attempt to participate.” She went on for another 15 minutes, essentially repeating the same things over and over, then threatened to send us home. She sent us to separate tents to decide whether we wanted to “take up a better attitude” or go home.

I fumed in my tent. I never asked to be here; I never wanted to be here. I do admit I hadn’t acted very “Christianly” the past few days, but I hadn’t completely deserted Christianity. While I wasn’t completely devoted to God, I did have some faith and was somewhat interested in growing closer to God. Yes, this was a good opportunity to explore that part of me that wanted to at least attempt to know more, but how was I supposed to concentrate on taking in anything when I could only understand bits and pieces of the sermons and shadowed meanings of the activities? And why did it have to be during the week that should have been spent relaxing and getting some last minute playing in before the start of school? Even the environment was a questionable place to be learning about God. Stuffed into tents and rooms that could barely meet living requirements? Yeah, it’s the ideal site to be worshiping and having bunches of fun.

It sounded like I was making excuses, but they were true. Yes I could have tried expanding my knowledge of God before. And yes, if this chance passed, I might not ever take the time to do anything to grow. But, reputations of ‘extreme’ Christians, a.k.a. the bible thumper spawn, as they’ve been so benevolently nicknamed by our school, have always been associated with the lower rung of the social ladder at school. Religion was a heavy topic and to talk about something like that at school was just weird.

The argument with myself was interrupted by the chaperone as she let Nina and I out for our answers. We both answered that we’d stay and behave, mainly because being sent home early would not rest well with our parents. We did still continue to mock the retreat, but only to each other in low whispers. I pushed my tent ruminations to the back of my mind.

The last night of the retreat was here and it seemed like nothing could quench our happy glows. We were lead by the chaperones to the dark recreation room one last time. The room was lit only by candle and by their soft light I could make out two long rows of chairs facing each other, so endlessly long, the last chair seemed to disappear into the dark. Nina and sat across from each other, I, a little apprehensive at whatever was about to happen in this dark, slightly cultish room. Under our chairs was a small tub of water along with a towel. We were going to re-enacted the feet washing ritual Jesus had performed for his disciples. The act showed how close we had become to each other, how we had grown to love, respect, and accept each other to the point that we could wash each others feet to show how much we had bonded.

We washed each other’s feet and after formed a chain and hugged one another till every person had hugged everyone else. The directions were in Korean, but the one of the chaperones, coincidently the one that had threatened to send me home, translated. Even without the translation, I knew the story well enough to understand what we were doing. Her translations did help me understand the significance of the action but even that could be understood by the heavy reactions of some. As some girls started to cry because they were so touched by the events of the night, I reach a moment of enlightenment. I actually understood everything that was going on a felt like I was a part of it, not some mute and deaf outsider I felt like the past week. I felt tears blurring my vision and turned to Nina to see how she was affected by this.

We met eyes and through my cloudy vision I though she looked solemn for a moment. But only for a moment. Her trademark smirk broke across her face and she rolled her eyes whispering to me, “Some girls are so emotional.” As if her words were a plug to my tearducts, I stopped crying, or almost crying, and not unlike whenever religion came up at school and my friends scoffed at the over-expressive Christians, I agreed muttering a halfhearted, “Yeah.”

The next morning we drove back to the church where we were being picked up. The kids chattered among themselves shouting goodbyes, exchanging hugs, and saying how much fun they had. One by one, the giant mass that was our retreat group diminished and I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of loss and loneliness. Nina’s car pulled up and she tossed her bags into the trunk. She waved bye and left with a few eloquent parting words. “Hanging out with you made the retreat almost bearable. See you around!” She said this with the same cheeky grin and boldness she displayed our first meeting. I heard Nina’s parents ask her how the retreat was and Nina answered with a heartfelt description on how the retreat “really changed herself and how she viewed the world.” The fakeness of her hollow words rang in my ears as her car pulled away from the church. I had admired Nina before for her ability to express herself and do the daring things she did. I still did. But her blind arrogant haughtiness, her shameless sass were a qualities I could live without.

My parents came soon after and I, like Nina, tossed my duffle into the trunk and go into the car. My parents asked me how the retreat was. I thought about the trip. How I spend it fooling around and how I could have made it a better experience. True, there were a few complications, but I could see what the chaperone meant when she was lecturing us before. With a little effort, I could have overcome little complications. The sermons did have English translations that Nina and I were too lazy to read; the praise songs didn’t have to be sung exactly right for me to be able to praise God; and like the chaperone said, I could have asked for translations from Nina for the instructions. I regret not realizing this sooner, but I am glad I was able to get a worthwhile experience from the retreat. Even if it was just one night of spiritual growth, that one night enabled me to understand what it meant to show love and understanding, helped me find God in my heart, and form a bond with not only God but all the kids at the retreat.

“How was the retreat?” My parents repeated the questions breaking me from my thoughts. “Did you learn anything?” I smiled and answered with a simple, “Yeah.” It was the same answer I gave Nina last night yet completely different. It represented my individual thinking in a single word, expressed what I had been though at the retreat, and meant a so much more than a hundred of Nina’s fake sugar coated lies. I had changed.

Peer Response – 1st read-through:By Andrew SJ Lee, Seoul.

1. On the level of story-telling: if you were the King (or the aliens), would you allow this story-teller to live another day? If no,why not?
Yes, the king would definitely let this story teller live. This story covers various aspects of conflicts, and is very rich in details.

2. Think of plot—is it original? (If an adaptation, is it creative or interesting to you?)
The characters, descriptions... those are pretty original. But the plot as a general, honestly to say, is not that original. It was obvious to me that it would be a story of a mean girl being nice, or learning a lesson.

3. Think about conflict. Does the story have a natural conflict? Are there complications that add enough suspense, tension, or interest? Is there a climax that satisfies you? Is the resolution satisfying? What could be added or changed?
The conflicts are very natural. I also have been in Christian camp before in America(but living conditions were lot better :p) so I understand the story easily, and I could also understand what you were trying to say. Climax was something similar I had in my own camp as well, not the exact same but a group action that ends up everybody shedding tears. You have good tension and suspense on the being mean part. So I think it would be better to just lengthen and enrich in your group-hugging climax.

one question: was your church the only church participating in this? Multiple church engaged would be more natural.

4. Think of characterization—are the characters realistic? Individual? Do we get a good sense of character from many of these: description, dialogue, narrator's opinion, discussion from other characters, the character’s own actions?
Your characterization is really awesome. I learned a lot from you. You describe perfectly how 'you (by the way, is you 'you'?) have changed your attitude over time. Kind of philosophical. And I liked your characterization of Nina being stubborn at her stance; which is not a cliché ending.

5. Think of word choice, imagery, and details. Do they help you see and hear and experience the story? Do any word choices need changing?
You have various word choices. You never repeated the words. For this you deserve perfect.

6. On the level of "culture"--what do you think this writer is trying to reveal about the culture he/she lives in? Summarize what this story tells/shows about its culture in a sentence or two.
I wasn't pretty sure about this part because there were several possible guesses I had that blurred me from finding the real one. So...I think people who loved Bible wasn't considered cool among they're classmates; and that probably affected you and Nina. And Korean services in the retreat are poor. (it was the opposite from mine; my camp had no Korean but all English so abroad-students suffered)

7. Does this revelation of culture possess much insight or show you something unique? Do you get a picture of cultural practices? Of gender roles, love relationships, family roles, habits, religious practices, beliefs, food, social expectations, etc.? Should anything be thrown out? Added?
I don't think it is necessarily unique. I can picture you guys in your culture, but I also can guess within other groups of people. Yeah, since it was a "Christian Camp" there isn't supposed to be any gender role or love shown lol.

8. What areas of the story need the most improvement?
Try to 'show' instead of 'tell' in lots of parts, especially in your climax.

9. Summarize the theme of the story in a sentence or two. Don't just summarize the story, or say what its topic is--that's not theme. "Theme" is what the story reveals about the topic. So put your theme statement in this sort of pattern: "This story reveals that (topic) is (message about the topic)." Do your best here. You'll show the writer what his/her story DOES say, as opposed to what the writer WANTS it to say.
Religion changes people.

One last comment: Your Korean translation on the beginning of your story is really cute >_< lol. It's not supposed to be un ni ha su yo, but in correct grammar it should be "Un ni ga ha su yo."

Organization peer edit-Sunghoon Heo
a. 5 your introducction hooks the reader. It is different from other introduction. It starts it differently. It shows instead of telling the story.
b. 4 It is overall good, but sometimes it was kind of dizzy with the transition between the ideas.
c. 4. Sezuencing is logical and effective. the details are mostly placed, so that it is easily read.
d. 3. Pacing is kind of weak. There was some parts where i ran out of my breath because I didn't know when to stop my pace and to pick the pace again.
e. 1. There is no title
f. 4.5 organization flows smoothly and the reader is barely had to read it one more time or carefully because it has poor organization. So, good.