The Best Day
I was a shiny, new freshman, and brand-spankin-new to Hawaiʻi as well, when a very animated Korean-American student walked into my Korean 101 class. He introduced himself as Josh, and began to talk about a Korean club on campus. This organization, Hanwoori (한우리), was getting a fresh reboot that semester, and it was going to be lead by this puppy-like figure, Josh. He told the class that there was going to be a welcome picnic on an upcoming Saturday. I shot a cheeky glance at my classmate, Liana, and we both decided we would go.
The welcome picnic had an overwhelming turnout of around 100 people.There were students from foreign countries (mostly Korea), the mainland, and of course, locals. The atmosphere accurately encompassed "welcome." I can’t count the number of times I laughed at the ridiculous games or smiled while meeting new people who would later become my friends during my first year as a university student.
Before we all knew it, the sun was down, and the event was over, but many of us were reluctant to leave. Fortunately, the club president, Josh, had planned for more. A handful of the club members drove, so we packed ourselves into cars and drove off. Our next location was a private movie theater room which was part of Josh's apartment facilities. Somehow, we came to play a game called Mafia and telephone charades. Perhaps the most hilarious part was that Josh believed he was the best storyteller for Mafia, but he turned out to be quite terrible---terrible in a funny way. When I was selected as mafia, I nearly succeeded in ‘killing’ everyone in the game.
The setting switched, and in a moment we were at Zippy’s, an iconic restaurant chain in Hawaiʻi. Right next to Michael, the club's secretary, I had my first chicken katsu. He was flabbergasted that no one at our table took a picture of the food before we ate it. Our group spanned a few tables and our chatter filled Zippy’s.
Our last stop was a noraebag(노래방) /karaoke. The time passed by so quickly, and before we knew it, it was 2 A.M. The drivers were kind enough to drop off the members at their homes, and I had the privilege of riding in the president's car. Before I got out, I told him that it was the best day I had experienced in Hawaiʻi. I still remember seeing how he put his hand to his heart and how his voice turned sentimental when he responded to what I said.
It truly was the best day I had experienced back then.
The Favor is Forwarded
Flash forward two years. The event is not a welcome picnic, but club hiking day, and instead of Josh as president, I am occupying that position. The day had taken an unexpected turn because of a last-minute change in hiking destination, but to my surprise, everyone wasn’t perturbed by the switch.
I borrowed my friend's car and drove it along the skinny road leading home. There were high rocks on the right and the vast ocean, more blue than can be imagined, was on the left. It had been a long day of hiking in the strong sun and swimming in a rough inlet. More natural than I would have guessed, the conversation in the car took a turn to appraising the event. A member who had been coming to our events for a year or two spoke up.
“You know, I think this is one of the best days I’ve had in Hawaiʻi,” she stated in a soft, but decided voice.
I felt my hand go to my heart. This was the feeling that I had given Josh years ago. In that moment I had come full circle. I felt that best-day wonder, and also the honor of creating a best day for someone. I smiled and drove on, telling the car the story of my first event with Hanwoori.
Giving and Receiving
I think that’s the beauty of being in an environment where you have the opportunity to give and receive. The moment I decided to go to that welcome picnic, I set my college life on track. Over these three years, Hanwoori has been a large part of my life. I went from member, to vice president, and now I'm leading as the president. I have seen all types of giving and receiving. Hanwoori, a club based on spreading Korean culture and forging relationships cross-culturally, has helped me so much with networking. I have met more people than I would have had I not been a part of Hanwoori. I have touched lives and lives have touched me in the smallest, yet most important ways. Those important connections made with other people have added up. They are my best days.