Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The World of Ultimate (that you probably had no idea even existed...)

Today is our Korean anniversary and we're celebrating one year and three months over here yonder.

Fifteen months of kimchi.
Fifteen months of bus transportation.
Fifteen months of being the last person to get the joke.

But our lives in Korea have changed dramatically with the introduction of one little thing...

ROK-Uthe Republic of Korea Ultimate Frisbee league

After a year or so in Korea, you start to get the hang of things. You start to believe that you've experienced a good chunk of things Korea has to offer, but upon joining the league I realized how much I'd missed out on by not joining sooner. The Ultimate community is a fun one, full of good people from all over the world and, suddenly, you begin to feel a lot less alone. There are twenty-four teams in Korea. And what you may not know about Ultimate is that it is a self-regulated sport. Meaning, there are no referees. So each team is responsible for knowing the rules and working out conflicts that happen on the field. This creates some good conversation and compromise on the field, which is always cool to see. 

But beyond that, written into the rules is the basic idea that you shouldn't be a jerk. It's called the Spirit of the Game. These behaviors are as follows:
1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
2. Control yourself even under pressure.
3. Heckling is fun, taunting is wrong.
4. You can be competitive and kind.
5. If you are wronged, don't hit back. Be better.
6. Breathe. Take a step back.
7. Be generous with praise.
8. Impressions linger, your interactions matter.
9. Have fun.

If these aren't also guidelines for life, I don't know what is.

Photo by David Toft

I love playing with people who have agreed to these principles as well. It means, introducing yourself to your defender on the field and applauding her defense. It means, helping someone up off the ground. It means--as I witnessed from the sidelines once--a captain calling his own assistant captain for a Spirit Foul because he felt like he was acting out of line. Whoa.

Last spring, we started playing Ultimate Frisbee with some people around Cheongju and by mid-summer time, we were hungry for more. So we joined the ROK-U league which has two seasons: one in the fall and one in the spring. Somehow we managed to bribe ask enough people to play so we could form a legit team and Cheongju's first: the Cheongju Chewbaccas.

And for all of our excitement and team spirit, we were actually pretty bad. And I say that with all kinds of love and respect for the people I played with. We just didn't have the experience and know-how as the other twenty-three teams in the league. We quickly realized that we were only baby Chewies and had a lot to learn. Things like "offensive strategy" and "rules" and stuff. Sheesh!

Photo by David Toft

Our team was compiled of good folks from nine different countries: Korea, India, South Africa, Namibia, Scotland, Ireland, England, Canada, and the US of A. 

Together, we rented a bus and traveled to Suwon to play.
We journeyed several weekends to Daejeon where we met even more teams.
We stayed in love motels together.
We shared food together. 
We took at 6am bus to Ulsan to join in on the championship weekend fun.
We danced together.
We shared way too much alcohol together...
And then, we showed up Monday morning to teach English and do it all over again the next weekend.

Photo by Ron

And a lot of good people in the league took us in and showed us the ropes every step of the way. They made us their friends and we were so thrilled to have them. What good people. Well, except for Gannett, who is successfully squishing me out of this nineteen person-selfie with our sister-city, Daegu Tsunami!

Photo by Koko

Because while we might've lost more games than we won, we had a lot of fun doing it. By the time it was all said and done, we played fifteen games and our record was 1-14. You read that right (yes, the wins come first). But numbers only tell a small percentage of the story. At season's end, our team reached its greatest accomplishment: winning the league's Spirit Award. 

And that certainly counts for...well, everything.

Now that the season is over, I'm certainly sad, but also ready.
Ready for chill weekends.
And pajamas.
And Skype dates with people we love.
And French-press coffee.
And healing my eternal foot blisters from those 12 year-old soccer cleats.
And no more bus tickets.
And car sick patches.
And dilated eyes as a result of said patches.
And blurry-eyed Monday mornings at school.
And when my co-workers ask what I'm doing this weekend,
I'll be ready to say, "Nothing at all!"


Vickie Bohlender said...

Hey after meeting some of your teammates I agree you had great spirit!