Korean Christmas, Backwards Lady Bugs, and the Final Stretch

Welp, the days just continue to tick by!  Days turned into weeks since my last post, and that was definitely not my intention!  Since I started this blog post in mid-December, and never quite got around to finishing it (and much has happened in the past six weeks)…let’s start there:

There goes another month! We were super lucky to get a few days off after a big win right before my birthday (Dec.12), so I sat down to write this post, didn’t get very far and a lot of excitement followed in the next few weeks as we got sucked back into busy volley life.

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I headed up to Seoul after a day of lounging and sleeping for a solo day excursion. I got my nails done for my birthday and had an awesome day of wandering and exploring and Mexican for dinner. (Since then, I have found an even better place for tacos than my normal spot). I also discovered this awesome hipster nook of juice bars and quinoa bowls where I had a bomb salad on the second floor of this cool restaurant made entirely of glass. Unfortunately, I managed to leave about $30 of pressed juice to bring back to Gimcheon in the fridge at the hotel. Darn it! On the plus side, I also got to open bday goodies from my fam and boy at home. What awesome surprises. Although I’ve been away for my birthday before, I felt extra loved this year.

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I’ve started noticing a trend on my team…if we have a big break coming up in between matches…our staff rewards us with multiple days off, and then gets us back in the gym for multiple double days of hard work. So as awesome as it is to have a few days off, I’m never really sure what practices are going to be like when we get back.  And sure enough, after three days off, we returned to killer double days until we got back to our normal schedule.

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Shortly after our break, the secret santa saga began and the Christmas music continued, as little gifties started showing up outside our doors from each other. The grand reveal was the day after Christmas, and my secret santa got me birkenstocks and made me a photo album that immediately had me in tears – for those of you who know my love for actual, tangible photographs…you will understand.  It was by far the most awesome gift I could have received.  Not sure anyone was expecting that reaction from me, but I was so taken aback by the thoughtfulness and time that went into making it and I know I will have it forever.

Josh arrived right before Christmas, right after we lost a tough four setter at home to IBK, whom we hadn’t lost to in the first two rounds.  Being up in the first set and losing a big lead caused us to lose a lot of momentum.  That followed with an upset by KGC, who we also hadn’t lost to.  They played their butts off against us and we lost in five at home.

That was just a few days before Christmas and we had the 23, 24, and 25 “off.”  While many of the girls got to spend those three days with their families, a lucky few of us were invited to be apart of the All-Star Game on Christmas Day.  Josh and I headed up to Seoul on the morning of the 23rd to do some touring, and got to explore a bunch of different neighborhoods in Seoul.  We hit Invading (naturally had to get a caricature drawn!), Myeongdong (where we both had our first cat cafe experience) and Itaewon (a must!)

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On Christmas Eve we had a charity event for those invited to the All-Star Game, but we had all Christmas Eve night to ourselves.  Christmas and Christmas Eve in Korea are similar to New Years and New Years Eve as far as partying goes.  We headed to Itaewon for dinner and a little celebrating, but didn’t expect to be greeted with lines to get into almost every place!  Despite a long day, we weren’t quite ready to call it a night, so we headed to Dongdaemun to hunt down the electric flower gardens I had heard so much about.  Minus the whipping winds, it was an awesome end to our pre-Christmas celebration.

Christmas Day we headed out early to the gym where they held the All-Star Game.  I had no idea what to expect as far as what the days activities would be.  It was definitely all about the fans…I couldn’t believe the packed house that showed up on Christmas to support all of us!  It was also cool to meet and chat with a few of the guys foreign players and hear about their experiences in the Korean League.

This was my first Christmas ever in my life not being in my beloved Chagrin Falls opening presents in matching jammies from the elves with Mariah Carey and Frank Sinatra playing, and it definitely was celebrated far from how I expected it.  I’m so grateful I could have Josh come for a few (too quick) weeks to support me and spend the holidays with me, meet my friends and get a taste of the overseas life.  And our first NYE together!

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Also, quick shoutout to two Vols passing through who came all the way down to Gimcheon from Seoul to watch a home game and support a fellow Volunteer. #VFL!  On another note, I am so so grateful to all of you, both in Korea and at home who have followed along on this journey with me and supported me.  The Hi Pass fan base is absolutely incredible…And we love and need your continued support these last few months!

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With the start of 2016 my goals are to be more present and engaged on a daily basis and drink more water. When I look back on 2015, I am just so grateful. This has been one of the years of greatest change in my life, as I started January 2015, working at lululemon, thinking I would never lace up my volleyball sneaks professionally ever again. I’m lucky to have come out of that experience with new, awesome human connections. I took a chance moving to a new city that I am absolutely in love with. And I got a second chance at one of the thing I am arguably the most passionate about in this life. And here I am at the beginning of 2016, in the dog days of season, with no plans on retiring anytime soon thanks to this new opportunity in Korea.

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This is the time of year when you can’t see the finish line quite yet.  We had another big win against Hyundai this month, because of a mostly tough January when it comes to matches we are still (disappointingly) unsure of whether our team will make playoffs or not.  I’m working to remind myself every day, that no matter how tired I am or what condition my body is in that I still have a healthy, working body, and that I am grateful that I am sore/tired/all of the above because that means my healthy body is still doing its job and it is a job that I absolutely love.

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We are holding on to 5th place in the league right now with 9 wins and 13 losses and it’s hard to believe we only have 8 matches left.  We are 9 points away from third place, so it’s still possible if the volleyball gods are with us that we can push back up to the top half of the standings.

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Here are a few highlights from this month:

MVP Highlights from the January Hyundai win HERE

Highlights from the home KGC win HERE

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In non-volleyball related news:

Every lady bug I have seen here in Korea is backwards. Black with red spots! And they are not lucky everyone thinks they are gross just like any other bug.  A weird little tidbit, but also, something that I thought was worth sharing.

A few of my teammates and I started teaching each other words over meals back in December, so my Korean vocabulary is rapidly expanding.  I have mastered almost all of the consonants of the Korean alphabet…still working on the vowels.  I always tell myself I wish I would have started teaching myself earlier, and Korean is sooooo hard… Slowly but surely I am making progress, BUT the problem is once I actually can read it then I have to figure out what all the words actually mean.

As always, lots of love and positivity from Korea.  Mom comes in a little over 3 weeks for the last few home games… and I am looking forward to the next 5 weeks of regular season, and hoping to finish strong and still make a run at playoffs, because, of course, that’s what I came here to do. XO

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3 thoughts on “Korean Christmas, Backwards Lady Bugs, and the Final Stretch

  1. martha towns says:

    Dear You Tube star; Who would have ever imagined that girl who used to stand in the back row and chew on her fingernails would grow up to be a beautiful athlete? What fun this has all been for us. This is a great post and the pix are terrific. I love the one with your hands on your hips, looking suspiciously at something. I do hope everything goes well for you these last weeks. I wince every time you make a kill and hope it doesn’t hurt too much.
    Biggest hugs ever, Gramz

  2. Go Hipass! says:

    It’s so nice to see you enjoy playing in South Korea! Win or lose, your attitude is really great. I think good things keep happening to people who take time to be thankful for they have. Go Hipass!

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