Thursday, August 30, 2012

배구 - Volleyball

This one's for Tracey, a fellow Norcal-er who randomly played professional volleyball in Slovenia for one year. In Korean language classes during Orientation, Tracey was our go-to sports example person because she talked about volleyball at least once a day. Seriously, nobody in our class will ever forget that paegu means volleyball.

I also happen to really enjoy volleyball, although two years on the high school JV team and two years on the college club team have proven to me beyond a doubt that I'm perfectly mediocre at the sport. Still, when I was invited by some of the other teachers at Changwon Science High to their weekly "Sports Day" with hints that they liked to play volleyball, I was more than happy to accept. First of all, I want to get to know the other teachers at my school better. There are only around thirty total. (The English department consists of three teachers, including myself, and because I spend all day in the English department office, I basically never see anyone else at this school except for during lunch. It's maddening sometimes.) Secondly, I've been a total couch potato for the past week, sitting at my computer for six or seven hours a day, and coming home to sit on the couch to play board games with my younger host brother. I've definitely been restless, and I am sore in need of exercise.

So, yesterday was my first Wednesday sports day! I had brought along a change of casual clothes, and at 4:45pm I wandered over to the gym to see what was up. I was met by about a dozen teachers, all male, some of whom I'd never seen before and some of whom I recognized from the teachers' conversation course I threw together on Monday. All of them knew who I was already, of course, but I still felt a bit out of place. I think the youngest of these teachers is in his mid-thirties; I'm closer in age to their students than to them!

But whatever. We played three games to twenty-one, and it turned out to be tons of fun. 생각보다 재미있었어요! Much more thrilling than I'd anticipated. I don't know how long these middle-aged men have been doing their sports club together, but they mostly knew what they were doing when it comes to volleyball; some of the rules had been simplified, but I had no trouble fitting in during the match. My team recognized in the second game that I had some spike potential, and our setter gave me some great fours. The third game, our tie-breaker, was especially close and intense; the gym teacher (who runs the club and who was obviously the most competent of us all) went for a tip I sent over the net -- which was lower than usual, definitely helping my spikes -- and slightly pulled a muscle. Oops :(

In the end, my team lost, and my t-shirt was soaked through and practically dripping with sweat, but that was okay. It was all fun and games! At least, it was just fun and games for me; I gathered from what little Korean I understand that all the other teachers had placed bets on the outcome! Like, serious bets: ten bucks to each player on the winning team! Ha! And that's just the first of three stereotypically Korean additions that I witnessed to our little competition.

The second is that none of the men would ever dive for a ball -- for obvious reasons -- but if a ball did happen to go short, they would all invariably stick out their feet to kick it back up. This wasn't even done for humorous effect; it seemed as if this randomly thrown-in soccer move was just as legitimate as a normal bump or set. As far as I'm aware, "foot digs" are technically not illegal during play. It's just that while they're super-rare in American volleyball, I'm not at all surprised that soccer-obsessed Korean men made ample use of it, an often to great effect, to boot.

The third is that when we took water breaks, there was no water. Instead, there was Gatorade (normal), Pocari Sweat (normal for Asians), and... Hite (하이트), which is a rather cheap Korean beer (not normal?). Oh, and there were chips. Haha! I think that next week I'll just bring my own water bottle. And to be sure, I will be there next week. I had a fantastic time this time around, and I'm looking forward to getting my butt kicked in indoor soccer (축구, chukgu).

P.S. One thing I forgot to mention was that after Sports Day, all of those teachers go out together to eat (and probably drink themselves silly). It's known as a 회식 (hweshik), which I guess roughly translates to a dinner meeting? But it's not really a meeting at all, just a camaraderie-building hangout time. I've already been to one, but it was with my school's soon-departing principal (long story, I'll explain later) and probably isn't what a normal 회식 will look like. The point is, I wasn't aware that they were going out after the match, so I had to awkwardly and politely decline, but I'd like to go next week.