“So, did you bring your clothes?” my friend Hayoung asked. Sunday school had ended and we were in the dining room.
“What clothes?” I asked.
“Stop! What are you doing? You just spoiled the surprise!” Songeun exclaimed as she hit Hayoung in the back.
Hayoung is one of my two best childhood friends. We were all baptised together and grew up together. I always hang out with them first when I visit Korea. Hayoung has medium length hair and glasses. She can be really smart if she tries, but like me, she’s really lazy. We both love reading and she is one of the smartest people in her grade, which is a big thing in Korea. I would choose her and my other friend over every other friend I have, although they live an ocean away from me. I always look forward to summer so that I can finally visit them again. In summer 2017, I once and for all got to do that.
“What?! You guys didn’t tell her yet? I didn’t know. How are we gonna play in the valley if you don’t tell her?” she asked, confused and looking innocent.
“She has a mom too, you know. We told her to bring the clothes. Do you think I’m that stupid to forget that?” Songeun said, annoyed and frustrated that they couldn’t keep it a secret anymore.
“Oh my god! I totally forgot! Oops,” she giggled and playfully hung onto Songeun’s arm. “Sorryyy. I forgot. We were gonna tell her anyway.”
“Once we got there!” she replied. Still angry.
“We’re going to a valley?” I asked in surprise. A wide smile spread across my face. My heart pounded faster and I couldn’t believe it. Not only the fact that they were taking me to a valley, but that they were planning a surprise party for me.
“EEEEE!” I squealed. “Yay! Thank you guys!” I hugged both of them so tightly they almost choked.
“Our friend’s going back to Chicago and you think we can’t do this much for you?” Hayoung put her hands to her heart pretending to be surprised.
“It wasn’t just us, it was also Youngmin and Yaeji,” Songeun said. Right when she said this both of them also stepped in and greeted us.
Youngmin is my other childhood best friend. When we were younger I used to make fun of him for being shorter than me. Now, he is a head taller and teases me for being short. He is also smart, but chooses sports over studying. He’s very good at sports, but he plays soccer the best. All three of us barely had time to see each other this summer. Now that they are in middle school, my friends in Korea study way more and barely have any free time because of the multiple tutors each has taking up their time. I only got to see them in church and I saw Hayoung on Saturdays too. Korean students study more than Americans and Korea’s summer school break isn’t long. They didn’t even start their summer break until this week, the week before I leave.
“Did Hayoung spill the beans?” Yaeji asked with a smirk. She didn’t look surprised nor did Youngmin. We all laughed because everyone knew that Hayoung’s very bad at keeping big secrets.
Yaeji came up to me and hung her arm around my shoulder. “I asked my dad if we can sleep over at his place because he doesn’t have guests today,” she smiled. “Oh, and you’re welcome,” she said teasingly.
Yaeji’s dad worked in the mountain valley an hour away during the summer. He owns a pension and had an open room for all of us. Yaeji is also one of my childhood friends, but I never got to see her that much because she comes into town mostly only on Sundays, but not all the time. She is stubborn, but a very dependable girl. We can depend on her when we need some help and trust her with any secrets. She is a loyal friend and stays by our side whenever one of us has a hard time. She listens to our problem, if we have any. She is also very strong and doesn’t hesitate to beat up anyone who hurts us.
We all ate lunch in record breaking time and made the adults eat faster so that we could get in the car sooner. Youngmin’s dad was driving us there with the church van, so everyone could fit in one car. As we were driving, we saw mountains and trees all around us. At one point, the road went up in squiggles which made everyone get carsick.
The mountains around us were beautiful and looked like a painting, including the clouds. The one-hour drive felt so short because all of us were playing word games and catching me up on all the things that happened when I was in America. Youngmin dated a girl, Hayoung got third place on a test the whole school took, Yaeji’s family move somewhere else over the past year and more.
All of a sudden Yaeji shouted, ”We’re here!” At the same time, everyone looked out the window and “oohed” and “aahed” at the valley. We crossed a bridge and parked at the pension. I opened the door and everyone rushed out like a flood. We hurriedly put our stuff down in the corner of the room, ran into the valley. The water was so clear you could see all the little fish trying to fight the current. The water was cold to the touch, but cooled us off from the blazing sun. The valley had two parts: on the right side of the multiple, little waterfalls, the water was shallow, but on the left side, it was deep. We wanted to go to the deep water so we started making our way to the little waterfalls.
“Hey guys, wait for us!” Youngmin yelled as Hayoung and I moved down with ease. The current was pushing against our knees, begging us to fall into the icy cold water.
“Rachel! Hayoung! Don’t you guys ever stop!?” He yelled, stumbling on every step. We both turned to him at the same time and started laughing. We continued walking, but his funny complaints weren’t stopping. “Hey shorty! Wait! STOP!”
“Oh my God, you’re so slow.” I stopped and turned towards him, but as soon as I saw him I burst out in another wave of laughter. He was already wet from stumbling and kicking the water so much.
“Your legs are of no use!” I went towards him yelling. I reached out my hand to help him and he also reached out his, but his hand never touched mine. SPLASH! He slipped on a rock instead.
“BAHAHAHAHA!” Hayoung and I laughed so hard, holding our stomachs. The others didn’t see him fall, but when they heard the splash, they all looked up and started laughing. I helped him up and we continued. We finally arrived when I couldn’t reach the bottom any more.
The valley was a blast. We played Marco Polo, dove off the cliffs, raced from one side to the other with tubes, played water volleyball, and even had a splash war competition, girls vs boys.
Every summer in Korea just keeps getting better and better. Our friendship grows every time we see each other, and I get so happy whenever I get to see my friends. In my opinion, friendship is one of the true keys to happiness because being around my friends just makes everything better. Whenever I’m feeling down, sad, or even excited, being with them lifts my mood even more. I can’t wait till the next time I go to Korea.