Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My first Korean baseball game - KBO

Last Friday night some students invited another teacher and me to go to a baseball game with them.  I've been wanting to got to one since the season started a few weeks ago but the right time hadn't presented itself, so I was eager to go.  There is a stadium in the neighboring town, Incheon, that is home to the SK Wyverns.  I had to look up a wyvern to understand what we were dealing with here.  Evidently, it's a legendary winged creature with a dragon's head, reptilian body, two legs (sometimes none) and a barbed tail.  The description sounds much more fierce than the actual logo...

 Doing my best 'Korean' pose

We got to the game very early, which made my sports-loving soul very happy.  The Wyverns have been to the last 6 Korean Series, and won 3 of those.  They were playing the Kia Tigers, who are like the Yankees of Korean baseball, having won 10 titles overall which is 4 ahead of the next in line.  We walked in just as the gates were opening up which allowed us to watch the teams warm up and take batting practice.  Each team is allowed to have 2 foreigners on the roster, and with our early arrival I took the opportunity to go talk to a KIA player warming up in the outfield.  

Me in the blue sweatshirt talking to Henry Sosa

It was a great idea really, because it netted me this...

Official KBO ball at my first game, score!

It ended up being a really cold night.  It was about 48 degrees and extremely windy so the crowd was about half of what I expected.  But that didn't stop them from living up to the reputation of the Korean baseball fan!  These people are awesome.  In America, MLB players have a song of their choice that will play when they are coming up to bat.  In the KBO, the fans have a specific chant that they do for each player when he is coming up to bat.  It is LOUD.  And everyone; kids, teenagers, adults, inebriated adults, and grandparents all get in on the action.  

The video starts with the SK fans on the other side of the stadium losing their minds chanting for their hitter, and ends with the KIA fans around me losing their minds over a double play.  It's probably the best example I have of what a half-full stadium of crazy, freezing fans are all about.  

It was a great game.  KIA went out to a 4-0 lead before SK came back to keep it interesting at 4-3.  But KIA was too strong and held on for the victory in the opener of the weekend series.  I had some great company too, which was the best part of it all.  

I'll be going to plenty more games over the summer.  There are a few stadiums within a 45 minute subway ride from my house and since the season is just starting I'll have a lot of opportunities.  One of the best things about going to a game in Korea is that you can bring in your own food and beer!  So one more than one occasion, when my students are with me, I'll be picking up a 6-pack and headed out the the ballgame.  As any good American should.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

KBL Finals and Attack Birds

Last weekend I really needed to get some rest.  I didn't.  

Samgyeopsal (삼겹살) - Korean BBQ is simply amazing

American pitchers just seem small now

Yes, we were many soju (소주) bottles into the night
Look closely you'll see what it did to one of Ireland's finest

And this was just my Friday night.  It is crazy how meeting up for dinner can turn into a cab ride home at 3am and wondering why you ordered that last round (last two rounds) (ok, last three).  I met some friends in Mokdong and we had a great time.  It mainly consisted of eating a lot of Korean food, despite what the pictures may show.  I could probably eat Korean BBQ 4 nights a week.  Before I got here I read numerous reports that it was the favorite Korean food of many westerners, but I guess I had to have it myself to really understand.  

On Saturday, after sleeping until 11am, I met my friend, Micah, for Game 1 of the Korean Basketball League finals in Jamsil, which is part of Seoul.  One of his students had given him some 'VIP tickets'.  In Korea, VIP doesn't always mean something special, so I didn't know what to expect.  However, we were straight up VIP!  As we were handing our tickets to the cute girl at the gate, she looked at us and said in just about perfect English, "Wow, these are good seats!"  We found our way to the front row on the baseline and enjoyed watching the SK Knights and Ulsan Mobis play quite an entertaining game.  SK was up nearly the entire game before Mobis made a huge comeback in the fourth quarter, taking their first lead with 1:30 left in the game, and holding on to win Game 1.  


Korean cheerleaders!!!

Itaewon (aka foreigner central)

Enjoying some mojitos with my crew after the game

On Sunday I spent the day with some students exploring parts of Korea I'd never seen.  Another teacher, David, and I joined our students Nicole, Kelly, Victoria and Jen and went to visit a couple of islands off the coast of Incheon.  We saw both Daebu Island and Jebu Island.  It was pretty cold and windy so getting in the water was out of the question, but we were able to cover a lot of ground and see a lot.  We also ate some pretty good seafood.  Yes, you read that correctly...I ate seafood and I liked it.  At first, I was just trying to be polite and eat what was offered to me. But then I liked one of the dishes quite a bit.  I sure do wish I could remember what it was!  I'll have to check with my students so that if I'm ever eating seafood again I can just order that dish. 

My first view of the Yellow Sea 

The beach on Daebu Island

Jebu Island waters

Being attacked by seagulls on Jebu Island

About 5 feet above my head

My island hopping crew

Overall, it was a great weekend.  Of course, I was pretty busy so I didn't get much rest at all.  I've been exhausted this week so far, but I only have a day and a half left teaching before I get another weekend.  We only have next week until the end of our first term, and we'll have a 5-day break before the next term starts.  I think a weekend of relax and just studying some Korean is in order.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Long days and busy weekends

I don't have a lot to post, but it has been two weeks since I updated the blog and I know an email from my mother requesting an update is imminent so here I am.

The school that I work for has two-month terms and I'm only two weeks away from finishing my first term with them.  My schedule will change every term, depending on need, but this term I've been starting at 10am and finishing at 9:30pm.  I have a huge break in the middle of the day, but my late classes prevent me from being able to do anything social during the week.  My last few weekends haven't been as adventurous as the first bunch when I arrived in Korea.  I guess that means I'm really starting to settle in.

The best part of our training weekend

Two weeks ago all the teachers that work for my school (40 locations around Korea) all gathered in the countryside for a training weekend.  It was fun to meet people from all over Korea, and of course great to see the group from my orientation.  Last weekend was mostly spent studying Korean.  This is a really hard language to learn.  I've picked up little bits and pieces here and there, but I've mostly been focusing on my pronunciation and ability to read Hangul (The Korean alphabet).  I now have the ability to read, albeit slowly, and just need to work on understanding what it is that I'm reading.  I do know how to order a green tea latte though!  

My office 

A few streets over, on a quiet Saturday morning

My apartment building, I'm on floor 12 of 15

In the park across the street

Also in the park.  Wish I knew what this said

Spring time is now officially here.  People kept telling me it was already springtime, but they were telling me that while we were bundled up in 30 degree weather so I didn't believe them.  But now we're getting cool mornings and nights, with awesome 60 degree afternoons.  The cherry blossoms are gorgeous to look at all over the park.  I'm lucky to live right across the street from a large park, so I get plenty of time to hang out outdoors during my daily 4-hour break from class in the afternoon.  A sore knee is preventing me from getting out and hiking this weekend, but it will be a priority for me in the coming weeks.  Hopefully after that I'll have more to talk about and more interesting pictures to share.  Now to go enjoy some 맥주 and 소주.