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Volleyball

7 Apr

It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’m sitting at my work computer cycling between Facebook, Google reader, and Twitter (insert twitter insults here–I really couldn’t care less) trying to do anything but actual work.  My co-teacher walks in, decked out in full athletic wear, and tells me that herself and some of the other teachers are going outside to play volleyball and that I should join them. I would later find out that during the spring they tend to play every Wednesday afternoon. I’m amped about  being able to get some weekly exercise (I’ve never the gym work-out type as I view it as a waste of time and god given athletic talent),  but have no  clothes to change into so I tell my co-teacher that I won’t be playing, but will come outside to watch for a while. I say ‘watch’ but really I plan on scouting my competition should I decide to play in the future. I’m a fierce competitor and can’t stand to loose, and I’ve heard stories about school Korean school teachers being top notch volleyball players.

The teacher’s at my school play for fun, but some schools have teams that compete against other schools in the district. If you’re game isn’t legit, you may not even be let onto the court. A friend of mine once told me his principal came up to him and explained that while the school volleyball team would be participating in a tournament soon, he probably wouldn’t be able to play due to his lack of skill. It’s just too much at stake.

I shut down my computer and head outside. A game is already in progress and as soon as they see me approaching I’m instantly called over to play. I try to explain that I don’t have on the proper clothes and that I will come prepared next week, but they’re not buying it. It’s intimidating because of course they are all decked out in the latest Korean athletic apparel. I protest a little longer before finally giving in to their insistence . Really it didn’t take too much convincing. Not only have I been aching to play sports since before winter, but I’m eager to  show off a bit. Naturally I figure they think the waygook will be no good (a fair assumption considering I almost never play volleyball and have no skills whatsoever) so I’m quick to toss my jacket over a rail and take to the court to make believers out of them.

The game tempo is slower than I anticipated but everyone has sound technique, except for the fact that kicking the ball is allowed if you can’t get low enough. It doesn’t take long before I’m covered in sweat and dust and trying to make every play possible. Even though I’m playing an extremely unothadox version of volleyball–attempting many plays with my back to the net or else by jumping in front of a teammate–my co-workers seem impressed  and I receive a few oooh’s and ahh’s as I jump around trying to look like I know what I’m doing. Conversely, when I make a mistake ( a mistake being anytime I touch the ball and it doesn’t result in scoring) I’m instantly privy to on-the-spot coaching from every one of my teammates. ” Higher, more gentle, stronger, move back, hop on one leg” etc, etc, etc.  I try not to let it bother me and continue to play the game as I know how.

Towards the end of play the vice-principal comes out and surveys the game for a while. I give him a quick bow and jump back into position hoping he’ll get to see me in action. The ball comes my way and I clumsily swat it out of bounds–other team’s serve. Luckily he fails to notice. I’m saved by an ajossi walking around the school field who calls the principal over to chat.

Why was I so eager for the vice to see me play?

Don’t know, really. He already likes me plenty and has nothing but nice things to say. Once during lunch he told me I look like a strong African warrior. Maybe this was the image I wanted to invoke when he strolled right past my athletic fuck-up on the court. Had I known that in less than a few hours we would be singing our hearts out together at the noraebong, I probably wouldn’t have paid him any mind.

I can’t remember the wins vs losses record but this doesn’t stop me from thinking I at least held my own. After the game a  few teachers come up to me and give me specific feedback on my performance. Most notably that I can jump really high and that I’m flexible (though I don’t understand how the latter factors into a possible victory). In another context these statements might piss me off– choosing to comment on something random yet specific enough to avoid hurting my feelings. Like when a mother shows off her newborn who she swears an instead of saying how cute she is, you compliment her on how nice her baby shoes are, or how she has all of her fingers. Still, coming from my co-workers, I take the comments as a sign of admiration for my stunning performance and accept them graciously.

As the last game comes to an end, I realize that I am covered in dirt and still have a staff dinner to attend after work. Thanfully no one seems to notice so I dust off my jeans and vow to be prepared for next week’s games with a decent pair of tennis shoes and some gym shorts.

Ciao,

Kimchi Dreadlocks

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