1 month down, 7 to go! Hard to believe it’s already September. I’m still enjoying my time here in Korea!
Practice is still a grind; the attention to detail here is incredible. They are totally redefining my fundamentals and breaking down every habit I have developed over the 12 years I’ve spent playing volleyball. They are making me rethink what I once thought was the easiest, hitting. I receive feedback after every single ball I hit, and it’s usually along the lines of I didn’t use my arms or legs enough during my approach, I didn’t reach high enough, I didn’t hit soon enough, or fast enough. I didn’t contact the ball in the right position, I didn’t follow through strong enough, etc. Oh and I’m also too tense and thinking too much when I attack now too. But it is a good thing that there is always something I could do better, because as long as I stay patient, it means I am learning and improving.
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” -Vince Lombardi
And don’t worry, whenever I feel like I’m terrible at volleyball, I remember that time last weekend when I basically air-balled a basketball shot when I was asked to be a part of a Korean basketball league game’s halftime contest. Then I feel a little better about my volleyball skills. 🙂
I finally got my cat café fix in, I’m lucky there is one right down the street from my apartment! There were about 16 cats there, of which maybe 12 were asleep the whole time, and the other 4 were so immune to the same toys being waved in their face all day long. After all, it was called Lazy Cat Cafe, but I still loved it of course. If I’m going to be bored, I might as well be bored while petting a sleeping cat. Gonna try and smuggle some catnip next time to get the party rocking.
Saturday, my interpreter, 3 teammates and
3 super fans/friends and I took a little trip to a lake to the northeast of us for some fun. We drove up into the rural areas of Korea and winded around mountains until we reached our destination that was gorgeous. It was a day filled with inflatables, tubing, slides, and grubbing on Korean junk food and instant ramen. It was definitely different from any lake experience I’ve ever had. First off, nobody wears bathing suits and certainly not bikinis. Most people had leggings and wetsuit type outfits, some people literally wore jean shorts or dresses for the activities. And you must wear a life jacket the entire time, and even funnier was having to wear little foam helmets whenever you go on a tube or go off a high jump. Now I was all ready for tubing because I haven’t been in a couple years, but this was not the usual tubing I’m used to back home. This was not the kind where you get thrown off the tube or hold on for dear life. You pick whatever raft or tube you want to use and they hook you up to one of the boats, which move pretty slow and you may get a little bumpy but nothing too scary. Well that’s what I thought at least, my Korean friends on the other hand were terrified. I don’t think they participate in water activities very much haha.
After an eventful day we grabbed dinner and ate in an area known for its spicy bbq chicken and it was delicious. It was actually my first time eating at a restaurant where you sit on the floor on pillows and the tables are low to the ground, and where the giant hotplates are plugged into the floor. Food was very enjoyable. But the seating arrangement was not. The cross-legged sitting situation made my knees scream the whole time.
I am certainly learning more and more about Korean culture every day but I will tell you that I am learning nothing when it comes to the Korean language. Not out of lack of effort though, I swear I’m trying, but hardly any word sticks with me. I’ve gotten all my teammates names down, however they still sound different when actually said by a Korean. They all speak so fast that I hardly recognize any word. It really is a beautiful language though. I was not expecting to to be so fluid and nice sounding, and part of that is because I learned Koreans don’t always have the best annunciation. Like Chinese for example is made up of rougher and shorter sounds. Also the idea of having words that are only one syllable is not popular. For example, the word catch is actually pronounced catch-ee, the word toss is toss-uh, attack is attack-ah etc. Hence why Liz is Li-joo. They often add sounds to the end of things that rarely have a meaning. No wonder why I’m still stuck on hello and thank you. (Which sound like anyeong-haseyo and gamasabmida by the way).
I’ve been scolded by my coach for not talking enough on the court and its not that I don’t want to, believe me I wish I could communicate but I just don’t know any words!! So I’m torn between babbling English no one will understand or babbling Korean words that they still wont understand and chances are they, will be more comical than effective. Right now I am thanking the lord that “mine” is “my” because that at least I can handle. The other thing Im trying to adjust to is the idea of everytime you touch the ball, they let out a sound that sounds like “aayeeee”. Which also, means nothing. What seemed like a waste of energy and communication to me at first, I’ve now realized that I just have to do it and well if you were to listen to practice, that “iiiiiyeeee” sound that is about 5 octaves lower than my teammates is me. Also, I said shit in practice this week and I think everyone laughed for 2 straight minutes and then mocked me the rest of the week.
This is the second year my interpreter has had this job, so I’m lucky she’s been introduced to volleyball a bit but there are still quite a bit of things that get lost in translation. It doesn’t help that they don’t have the same terminology as America at all, instead of setting it is called tossing, instead of passing it is catching, and for digging they say subee. A.K.A. Catch toss attack. Not bump set spike.
Before every practice we do some sort of agility, conditioning, or circuit, some have been brutal others not as much. But a fun little game my trainer enjoys is to say something in Korean and expect me to answer yes or no. Sometimes he’ll ask if I want to run today in Korean knowing I have no idea what he’s saying and if I say no, we won’t. My team usually does a pretty good job of giving me subtle nods behind his back when he asks but other times I have not been so lucky. Or when we are running, he’ll ask if I’m tired yet or if “I wish it would end” in Korean and if I say yes, we stop! Gosh with all this power I have I really need to pick up learning some Korean.
On the court is where the most frustrations with the language barriers happen, mainly because volleyball is such a fast paced, intense game where talking is used to ease the pressure, not add to it. Off the court life is easier, I’ve stuck to going places where I can point to something and then just wave my credit card and get it. The odd thing is there are plenty of American stores and restaurants where their menus are in English like Starbucks or Baskin Robbins, etc. but when you order a Carmel Frappacino they have no idea what you’re saying, although it’s what is written on the menu. The other thing I’ve gotten a kick out of is their obsession with graphic tees/hats with English writing on them. But the writing makes no sense. Like there will be a shirt that has big letters that say “Happy Apple Life” or something totally ridiculous that they just threw together but I’ve been told it’s because the words look cool, not because of they’re meaning. Which must explain the shoe store I saw the other day that was called Small Chocolate. And its even cuter when the English words are misspelled like this shirt that read “Steewie Pie” which Erica told me was supposed to say “Sweetie Pie.”
My last post mentioned the obsession with dessert cafés and coffee but I have quickly noticed that I also have to add to their obsession with fried chicken. Specifically, chicken and beer. There are dozens of “bbq chicken and beer” restaurants on every street and tons of delivery boys flying around on their mopeds with fried chicken in the back. Have I mentioned mcdonalds and kfc deliver like that too? HOW DO THEY STAY SO THIN I DON’T GET IT.
In my most recent blog post I left you with 5 things I loved, and I have plenty to add to that, but right now I’m going to leave you a list of 5 things I just still don’t understand:
- Language– see above . The sounds are not natural for me. Like just so many vowels and silent letters. AH but I did buy some poster art with Korean bible verses and I have no idea what they say but they looked pretty and if they’re from the bibile im assuming they’re inspiring in some way.
- Walking– everyone walks so slow which is something that has always bugged me. But I’ve noticed even more now that I want to walk fast but I cant because I have to follow people because I don’t know where the heck im going ever and can’t lead the pace. Also, the whole coming one way on the right side of the sidewalk and the other way on the left doesn’t work. Which I assumed would still exist because they drive on the same sides of the roads as the states but no, every time you pass someone you have to do the awkward shuffle dance with them.
- Stink– don’t worry even Koreans agree with me when I say some areas and foods just smell awful. I have no idea where they come from or why, but they do. And of course they stay “its so stinky” rather than it smells or it reeks because that is such a more adorable way to complain.
- Driving– lots of traffic, and lots of random lights and intersections constantly means lots of stop and going and man do Koreans have a heavy foot. Constantly car sick. And the insane inclines the roads are on have me praying the team bus will make it up the steep hill every time. But Mr. Song, our driver is a G.
- Using chopsticks to eat chicken wings- this one speaks for itself. Oh the struggle.