Dear Korea:

My Dearest Korea,

Thank you for everything.  

Thank you for a second chance at one of my greatest passions.  Thank you for teaching me to love volleyball again.  Thank you for pushing me further than I have ever been pushed before, and thank you for teaching me I am more capable than I ever believed.  Thank you for the responsibility of carrying my team, and thank you for trusting me to fulfill that role.  Thank you for helping me find a groove, that, though I knew I was able, I never thought I would reach.  I have learned more about myself as a player, and grown more as a player this year, than I (arguably) have since my transition from high school to college.

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To my coaches: I never thought I would have an opportunity to be put in a position to grow as a player after I entered the professional world, and you absolutely proved me wrong.  You three rival the few best coaches I’ve ever had, and the coaches who have made the biggest impact on me as a player (I’m looking at you BM, SK, GW, JH).  Thank you for trusting me even when I didn’t trust myself, and unwaveringly counting on me to lead your team.  Your confidence in me allowed me to build my own up to a level I’ve never reached before.  And of course, thank you for introducing me to Asian volleyball practices… best believe when I ever get the chance to coach again I will be bringing lots of drills back to the States with me.  And thank you for working just as hard as the team did, and kicking my butt every single day in practice.

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To my Onnis: (Older sisters)  I will forever admire and aspire to be as ambitious and tenacious as you all.  You will never know how much I look up to you.  Whenever I struggle in practice because I think I am tired or sore or worn down, I am reminded that I have 3 women on my team who have been doing this over 10 YEARS longer than me.  RESPECT.  You are superior athletes, regardless of your age.

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Soyun Onni:  Thanks for being one of my moms here.  Thank you for the post game texts of encouragement whether we win or lose.  Thanks for getting on me when I need it, and being there for me when I need it.  Thank you for being such an awesome leader and coach and pushing through another year…I have learned so much from you that I will always carry with me.

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Hyohee Onni:  It’s so important to have an awesome relationship with your setter, and  I’m glad we had one.  I’ll never forget when you winked at me before they called my name at the draft last summer.  Thanks for your tough loving, you have made me a better player… and thank you for dishing to me all season, I couldn’t have done it without you.

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Ok Onni: Thanks for the pregame pep talks and old school hand holding switches when we are serving.  I’ll love you forever for making tons of impossible digs down the line, when I tell you I’m going to block line but accidentally block cross. šŸ™‚

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To the rest of my lovely team:  Thank you for the laughs, and the trying to speak/teach/learn Korean and English…Thanks for the snacks, and everything you did for Hi Pass this season.  It’s been a hell of a ride with you guys.  Thank you for inviting me into your family with open arms, and bringing it every day.  You guys are all warriors.  I wish you all nothing but the best, and hope you all go on to have healthy long careers.  I’ll miss you all.

To my translator, Olivia/Yoonjun:  Thank you!!! I couldn’t navigated through this whole experience without you.  I know we definitely had our ups and downs, but I am so proud of how hard you worked to get better.  Thanks for showing me the ropes in Seoul and always keeping an eye on me šŸ™‚
To my trainers:  Thank you for keeping everything up and running all season.  I physically could not have done this without you and I really appreciate all the late nights and naps you sacrificed to keep me healthy.

To the rest of the Dorogonza staff:  Thank you all for taking care of me.  It’s always a little weird being in a new place and you guys all made sure everything was taken care of.  From chicken noodle soup when I was deathly ill, to new shoes, to perfect fitting unis, to taking care of my guests, you have all been overly hospitable and I am so grateful for everything.IMG_3339

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To our unbelievable fans:  I have never played in an environment like I have here in Korea and that is all because of you.  I will never forget my first match in that stadium in front of 4,000 fans screaming my name.  It was one of the most thrilling/terrifying moments of my entire volleyball career.  Thank you for supporting me even when I was not at my best.  Thank you for showing up big at away matches when we needed you, and helping send us vibes and energy to carry us to victory.

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Kick some ass next year… Can’t wait to see you back on the court moon!

My coaches, my team, the amazing Dorogongza fans: I wish I could tell you all how much you mean to me. This season has been the most tough physically, but the most rewarding also, even though we didn’t finish quite how I had planned.  I am so disappointed with how things ended with my broken hand, and such terrible timing.  I came here to win a championship with this team, and I wish we could have accomplished more.

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And of course, in no particular order, Khat, Em, Hayley, Tay and Liz:  I could not have asked for a more awesome group of Americans to hang with/get to know/and compete against this season.  I loved getting after it with each and every one of you both on and off šŸ™‚ the court.  Our group text gave me so many giggles when I needed them most and I’m so thankful to have been able to bounce stories and struggles off you guys.  I love you all and I can’t wait to see what volley and more importantly life holds next for you guys.  The biggest Xs and Os.

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My dear Korea,

Like Knoxville, TN, Hermosa Beach, CA, Istres, France and of course my hometown Chagrin Falls, Ohio, you will always have a piece of my heart.  When you travel, you leave a piece of yourself in all of the places you visit, and I will definitely be leaving a little piece of me here.  I will miss so many things about this amazing country and I hope I will be able to come back and explore it more somewhere down the line.  I hope I can find rice cakes and banana milk at the Korean grocery stores in Denver, and I will most certainly be attempting my own kimchi…No matter what happens next year, I am the most thankful for my time here, I wish we could have made a better run at the championship, but who knows…maybe next year.
As always, thanks for following along with another year of adventures, and stay tuned for what’s on the radar next! XO.
With love,
ģ‹œķ¬ė¼

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Dear Korea:

  1. Go Dorogonza! says:

    Dear Ms. Leslie Cikra, We could always see you were really happy and excited to be out there. That was really awesome! Thank you for sharing with us your passion for the game. Really, really hope we can see you again in Korea. Please come back if you can!! Thank you so much for a wonderful, inspiring season. -Dorogonza fans.

  2. martha towns says:

    Dear Leslie; this is one of your best ever. You managed to capture all these months so beautifully. I hope all of your Korean friends somehow get to read this. The pictures, as always, are great. I love the ones where your hair is flying like a banner. It sure is long.
    We are all very excited that you are home and that we can actually see you very soon.
    Much love, Gramz

  3. Korean Fan says:

    I wish your injury get well..
    If you play in dorogonza or not, I will always cheer for you!!
    Thank you Cikra! šŸ™‚

  4. seong si Jeong says:

    Dear Leslie. Thank you so much for lovely writing. Don’t forget you are special person. And I hope always dreams come true whatever you do. Have a nice day!
    – Loves volleyball fan

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