Well… The past few weeks of attempting to learn Korean, eating jars of Kimchee (much to his dismay) and hours of hiking, lifting and volley have led to this…and a whirlwind of a 10 days its been.
Last Tuesday I left him in Colorado, only a day after our one year anniversary. So all the excitement of leaving was of course, bittersweet. It had been such a fantastically perfect four months in Denver, and I’m so excited to go back to life there when I am stateside again. It is always bittersweet leaving home for another adventure into the unknown, but I am so excited about this new one in Korea! A 3 day pit stop in Hawaii definitely doesn’t hurt either!
I hopped off the plane in Honolulu to be greeted by my new translator for the season, Olivia (her English name), and one of the managers of my team. The team met me here, for a little preseason vacation. Lots of girls have come up with nicknames for themselves that are easier for me to say, or picked their own English names for me to call them, so cute! We were shuffled to our hotel on Waikiki Beach and then off to dinner, which was my first of many Korean meals with my new crew. The girls were all very welcoming, especially my setter who I had previously met at the tryout for the league in LA. We rolled pretty deep with an entourage of about 30, myself being the only American.
We spent the majority of the first day shuttling around the island on a bus, stopping off at various lookout points and beaches. Hawaii is sooo beautiful. I was exhausted and we were really go-go-go the entire trip. It was awesome to see the back side of the island is still so remote. Lots of locals selling coconuts and pineapple on the side of the roads, and signs to “Save our Country” and “Stop the Development.” The beaches we drove through had barely anyone on them compared to Waikiki, definitely a little bit more off the beaten path and a little bit more my style.
The second day we spent on Kaneohe Sandbar, which was way up my alley. We took a big boat out of mostly Korean and Japanese tourists and got to ride jet skis and banana boats, go tubing and snorkel. I was the only one on the entire boat it seemed not dressed in head to toe rash guards. Never thought a bikini would stand out in Hawaii, but it did! The scenery was obvious perfection, and hard to believe the water could be so clear. One of the coolest moments was feeding tropical fish in the reefs right out of my hands. We got back in the afternoon and I wandered off by myself and found an awesome farmers market and kind of explored the backstreets of Waikiki.The next morning was spent at the outlet malls…Outlet malls in Hawaii, you ask? Trust me, I thought the same thing, but prices are much better in the States than they are in Korea, so the girls were all excited. I got a little bit of beach time in during the afternoon, but I was pretty wiped and knew we would be leaving for Korea in the morning.It seemed as soon as I got to Hawaii, it was time to continue on to my next destination. So away we went, Honolulu directly to Seoul. We were greeted by many of the girl’s families, and I was off again, with my translator and two other managers to another nearby city called Suwon (not far outside of Seoul). We spent two nights there and ran around the city all day performing medical tests and getting immigration paperwork taken care of. The second morning we were finally heading to Gimcheon! I cannot explain how grateful I was to be to our final destination and be able to get settled and unpacked. As much as I love traveling and living out of a suitcase…It’s nice when you finally get to unpack your life out of your three suitcases and stay a while.
As we drove down the freeway, my translator pointed out our stadium (which I still haven’t been to yet, just seen from a distance) and we made our way to the Korea Expressway Corporation “compound” where my new house is located, alongside the executive skyscraper and several other buildings. Korea Expressway is responsible for all of the HiPass roads in Korea, which is similar to EZ pass tollroads in the States. Needless to say, it is not a small company.
The building that I am housed in is dorm style, so many of the other girls stay here, at least during the week. On the other side of the same building is our gym, training rooms, locker rooms, cafeteria and weight room. Pretty all inclusive, eh? I’m finding the convenience aspect is actually awesome, and have been taken very good care of. But, it’s weird to think that I have everything I need here, and really could avoid going outside for an entire week or more.
The food in our building has been excellent so far. Always kimchee, rice, vegetable or salad, soup and a few main dishes. I realized the other day midway through my meal I was eating spam stirfry! Haha…Supposedly, it has been popular here since the American soldiers brought it over during the Korean War.
The first week (okay really only two days of workouts) have flown by and we only have one more lift before the rest of the weekend off. The past two days have consisted of one non-volleyball related workout/lift/run and one practice with a lot of pre-practice agility work. There’s always a few days of adjusting to playing as a job after not playing every day for a loooong while and I think things will definitely ramp up next week. The ball is also SO hard, so my forearms are feeling it! Yesterday was very high intensity, aka 3 minutes on 1 minute off of attacking and defending pepper, but today was a little lower key, simple practice plan with lots of attacking and hitting. The coaches already seem invested in making me better, which is a really good feeling.
This has been such an awesome experience so far, and I am SO happy to be back in the gym working hard and training at a high level again, I literally was smiling in practice all day yesterday. I’m so thankful this crazy career of mine has come full circle from my experience in Greece last season. I’m so excited for what’s to come. Keep a lookout for rules and customs I’ve learned about so far in my next post! XO