It’s been awhile since I have really told any stories about what is going on here. In large part that is because I have pretty much settled into a fairly common routine and there just are not that many interesting stories as there were the first couple of months. But life continues therefore so too will my writing.
Last week my school had its first volleyball tournament. Almost every week since I got here they have had me playing volleyball with the other teachers. Three or four times we have had others schools visit or we went to their schools to play a friendly match. But last week was an event that included 11 schools. It occurred on a Wednesday afternoon so the kids were let our earlier than usual, volleyball really is that important.
When we got to the school at which we were going to play I first noticed that it was closer to my apartment than my own school is. That made me happy almost like I knew in advance I would be going home before everyone else. Next I discovered that the games were going to be played outside rather then inside. It was a very hot and humid day. I still have not become used to humidity. I had been warned but there really was nothing that prepared me for what it is actually like. I mean really, I miss being dry. The other issue with playing outside is that all the schools have the same large playing area. It is a soccer field except there is not grass rather it is just hard ground covered with dust and rocks. I have played soccer with some of the kids before and I fell and my momentum caused me to slide along the ground almost like it was ice. I also found out that all the small rocks on the ground rip into your flesh causing a great amount of pain and bleeding. So I was not excited to see that this was where we were going to be playing the game. I quickly made the decision that I would not be diving after any balls in this tournament.
We got their pretty early and had to help set up all the nets. There ended up being three courts spread out over the large space. When our game finally started I was placed at the net on the right side. The last three weeks they have been using me up front and while I still do not share the same level of investment in the game as them it is more fun to be by the net and in a larger part of the action. Our team got down quick 4 to 1. The ball had yet to come to me. The head teacher called a time out and then they asked me to sit down and replaced me with another person. We had two more people than spots on the court and they had already talked about rotating players. That was fine with me but I was a bit surprised that I was pulled so early in the game. Our team came back and won that game but I never got back in because no one else was subbed out the rest of that game. Then for the next game, still part of the same match (you need to win two out of three games to win a match), they switched one person but I still was not put back in. I then got to watched the rest of that match and an entire second match, five games in all, without ever being placed back in. I became less and less invested in the games and finally got up and walked around to the other games. I spoke to my co-teacher during one of the times he was out and asked for his keys, my bag was in his car, so I went and got it. I brought the keys back to him and sat through another game and a half and finally walked over to him (he was not playing the game at that time) and told him I was going to go home. He was so absorbed in the game that he said okay without even taking his eyes of the court.
During the short walk home I admit I was highly annoyed and bothered by the fact that I did not get to play. It was kind of funny since five or six weeks ago I did not even want to be on the team still once I was there I wanted to play. Instead I waited for two and a half hours while everyone else got to play. After I got home I soon cooled off, physically and emotionally, and enjoyed some extra time to play on the computer and read a little. Around 6 o’clock my phone rang and I saw that it was my co-teacher calling. I had been home for almost three hours at this point and I just starred at the phone trying to decide if I was going to answer it. I knew everyone had been planning to go to dinner after the tournament and even before we got there I was not overly excited about doing that. Part of that is because dinner is one of those times where people try and talk to me for a little while but as meal progresses and the drinking continues I become less and less a part of the conversation and just end up sitting there starring at the wall and listening to, or maybe I should say hearing Korean conversations. I hesitated so long looking at the phone that it went to my voice mail. The other part that made me not want to go out was the concern that everyone was going to wonder where I had gone and why I left, etc. Despite these reservations and due to some pangs of guilt I called back.
As I thought I ended up walking down to a restaurant that they had all decided to go to, which was right by my house. When I got there I discovered that our school had won the tournament so everyone was having a blast, drinks all around. As I sat, sure enough, the first question I heard was asking where I had gone. I told them I had gone home and as I tried to think of ways to explain it I was offered, forcefully, food and drink. I had actually just finished my own dinner five minutes before my co-teacher called. Rejecting dinner was quickly strike two against me, the first being leaving the tournament. As I explained my desire to play some asked why I didn't stay just to support the team. I had no good answer for them so I avoided the question. I was then told that they had wanted to put me in the game but I was gone. I did not believe that for a second but I went along with it just apologizing and saying it was probably a good thing because you won the tournament. Dinner turned out okay. People spoke to me a lot more than normal and after the first 15 minutes the volleyball issue was forgotten. I ended up staying out much longer I would have expected being one of the last six or seven people there of the original thirty to forty. So that was volleyball day.