It’s officially Fall here in Korea! And just like back home, they love their pumpkin. I’ve had it at multiple meals this week. Sadly though, there is no sign of Pumpkin Spice Lattes served at the Starbucks here.
There is a common Korean expression they use to describe fall, tiān gāo mǎ féi 天高馬肥, which translates to “sky high horse fat” but less literally, they mean to say that the sky is high above us and the horses are getting fatter, meaning autumn is here. I asked for a further explanation but nobody was able to give me one. Then again I couldn’t give logical explanations to half the silly expressions we use at home anyway.
With the change in weather, (thank god the humidity is starting to go away) there’s also a lot of changes happening for me this month on my team. First off, we finally got our head coach and 3 of our top hitters back from the national team so things are feeling a lot more complete and upbeat. The league also held their domestic draft, which the teams picked from a variety of newbie players, most of them just out of high school. So we added 4 new players, all around 19 years old to our team to make it 17 total players.
Next week we are moving to a new area in the mountains where we will train with our “sister team” from Japan together and play against them for a week. Every other year this team travels to Japan, and at first I was bummed I missed out on the trip, but now I am thankful because I am just starting to get in a routine here. When that little training camp wraps up, we get to move into our brand new residence and facilities! Since IBK has only been around for 4 years, we are the only team that does not have their own all-inclusive facilities. Right now we’ve been practicing at a university nearby and weight training in the community rec center. I’m excited to see these new facilities but will be a little bummed I don’t get to watch middle aged women do their fitness classes next door while we’re lifting. Especially in the mornings when it’s belly dancing. In sequin bras and skirts. Apparently that is acceptable but when I’m stretching or hitting a ball if my shirt comes up and shows any skin, my team freaks out.
Still trying to figure you out, Korea.
The new facility is still being built, but they claim we will be able to move in at the end of September, after their Korean Thanksgiving holiday. I hear the new gym and weight room will be top notch, and our cafeteria and dorms will be right there too. It’ll be nice to not have to take a bus ride to practice, but not so nice that I can (and will) be pulled at any time to go get more reps or practice in the gym literally right downstairs.
This past weekend was the last free weekend to ourselves we will having for a long time, so it was great to head up to Itaewon and dance the night away. Once again I met up with some teammates but also got to hang with the other Americans. It’s always interesting to hear how similar and yet so different at times everyone’s experiences are going here in this league. I feel like I go so long without speaking English that when I’m finally able to, my mouth moves so fast I don’t even know what words are coming out, it’s just nice to finally talk. And I’m really lucky Seoul is such a diverse city and a very popular study abroad destination, that when I get to the city I no longer feel like such a lost minority.
This weekend I also used public transportation for the first time. By myself. I was very proud of myself for getting to Seoul so smoothly, but can’t say the same thing for getting home Sunday. Taylor and I spent more hours trying to figure out the subway and transferring at all the wrong times than our sleep deprived minds needed to deal with. We coped with ice cream which can be found at every subway station, which are all actually giant underground shopping areas.
I’ll admit this week has been tough, and there have been multiple times where I have to remind myself where exactly I am and what the heck I’m doing here, but I manage to find perspective again.
Season is exactly a month away, with our season opener being on October 12th. I am so anxious to get to see my team and all the other teams competing, and what Korean match days are all about. With season near, the team got to have a little photoshoot this week, and the girls were all excited to get our make-up and hair done. I was prepared for getting my Korean makeover with lipstick and tight, perky ponytails, but since I’m a foreigner they wanted to try and do more of an eastern look. Specifically, they wanted to make me look like Jennifer Lawrence….you can imagine how well that turned out. But I really have enjoyed going with the flow and seeing where it takes me. My translator calls me “yes woman” because my answer to everything is usually “yeah sure let’s do it.” However that is usually my response because I actually have no idea what the right answer is, so I go with whatever they suggest.
I had to hurry through my photoshoot so I could go with my head coach to IBK headquarters. I was able to meet Vice Presidents, CEO’s and a lot of those who work for our sponsor, the Industrial Bank of Korea. It was a lot of being carted around division to division but really nice to see all the support we get and how excited they are to see their new foreigner play.
I’ve had quite a few people say they’ve gotten a hoot out of reading this blog, and quite frankly it’s because it’s a hoot observing Koreans sometimes. I absolutely adore them, but if any of you have Instagram, please go follow @shitkoreansdo. It sums up my daily observations pretty well, but the user has a lot more courage than I for documenting it all on camera. As does this blog page: http://grrrltraveler.com/countries/asia/korea/10quirks-korea/
I’m starting to miss home a little, and certainly all my family and friends. I had my first hit of F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) last weekend because my beautiful cousin Megan got married, and who doesn’t love family weddings. However, knowing that I’m making them proud is more than enough to keep trucking along 🙂 But if any of you back home are awake and free in odd hours, I’m always up for a FaceTime or message!
One more Saturday practice then it’s my Sunday off day! Hopefully I will get to do some more exploring and relaxing and this time take more pictures to share with you next time. And as always, I’ll be following my Illini volleyball girls in their matches this weekend. I’m lucky that my first year being a spectator happens to be with this one, this team is really exciting to watch.