Fencing in Seoul – Yonsei Fencing Festival

As the US Summer National Championships blew my Facebook feed up with pictures and witty retorts by coaches, refs and competitors I joined my Seoul Fencing Club teammates at Yonsei University for their Fencing Festival.  This annual event is one of Korea’s biggest fencing tournaments.

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The day began with individual tournaments.  Normally this would be a simple event but today we were told the pools would be 2 minutes bouts to 4.  Slightly strange but the bout committee had never handled such a large crowd we quietly shook our heads and fenced our butts off!  Well, everyone except Geoff that is.  Despite this being his last tournament in Korea (he’s moving to Hawaii at the end of the summer) he was told he couldn’t fence pools.

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You see, Geoff won this tournament last year and between that and their “perfect number for pools” the bout committee decided he would simply advance to the second round with the first seed.  Strange, but I guess this is a different country right?

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En route

6 hours of flying down and here I wait in San Fransisco.  In just under 3 hours I’ll board my Singapore Airlines flight to Seoul and be sitting on a plane for another 12 hours as I traverse the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  Excited?  Absolutely!

With my extra week at home I managed to see a few more good friends, some that I hadn’t seen or talked to in quite some time.  I loved their reminders that the last time we spoke, maybe as much as 2 years ago, I was talking about teaching in Korea and well, now I am!  If I can do it so can you.  Set your goals and go for it!

The nervousness has mostly died down.  I barely slept last night between repacking and all the adrenaline pumping through my system.  It still seems so surreal and I’m not sure if I believe that I’m actually going to be finding my home for the next 1+ years in the coming hours.

Friends and family, you will be missed. I’m terrible at farewells but gave out lots of hugs with only a few tears shed and plenty of my signature “until next time.”  Although these days I’ve been telling everyone next time is in Seoul because everyone is invited to come visit!  I’m already pumped for my brother’s visit in October.  We wanna check out Bukhansan National Park, the old city in Seoul and see if he can get us a special DMZ tour through one of his buddies on base.  But right now that seems too far away to think about.

I can’t wait to meet my coworkers and my students on Thursday and set up my apartment this weekend.  Its hard to fathom that I’ll be spending my upcoming weeks exploring a new city and new country.  Lets hope the culture shock isn’t too bad, I know the food will be great, even if it isn’t as good as my pizza joint back home.

Signing off for now.  See you in Seoul!

T-1 week!

I leave in one week, I think?  My flight has not been booked yet and I don’t have an apartment but somehow I’m not worried.  My recruiter hasn’t given me any reason to doubt my August 20th departure; especially since the teacher I’m replacing told me they booked her flight on Friday before she flew out on the following Monday.

The last few weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to catch up with most of my friends through a going away party, last week’s trip to DC and a few other occasions.  I’m throwing myself a farewell barbeque on Thursday and have a wedding Saturday so will certainly see anyone that I haven’t gotten to!

I got a little surprise last night after my documents arrived in Korea.  An email from a disgruntled former employee who went into quite a lot of detail about the travesty that is the school I’m about to start at.  Oh joy!  I responded and spoke to a few other contacts and it appears my biggest cause for concern is that the administration is “more concerned about money than kids or education.”  Well that might be disheartening but a Hagwon is specifically a “for profit private school.”  Oh, and my principal might not be my friend.  Isn’t that what most principals are like?  Even so, the disgruntled employee said I’ll get paid on time and don’t have to worry about them breaking my contract but that I should be scared of the CCTV cameras they just installed.  You mean they aren’t just for security?

Needless to say it startled me but hasn’t swayed me from my path.  I’m packing my luggage as I write this and putting the rest of my life here in NJ into storage.  That’s the weirdest part.  Who knows how long they’ll stay there or if I’ll ever open them up again; frankly right now my main concern is getting ready to go!

As a whole I’m quite excited about it and can’t wait to wake up in Seoul.  I’ve got some key people that will be missed and will be Skyping with.  For the rest of my friends this’ll be a test.  If we stay in touch great!  If i don’t hear from you while I’m gone that’s cool too.  I honestly am more concerned with whether or not we’ll be able to pick back up again whenever I return.  I already have a few friends that I know are timeless, those who have already been away for a year or more and can jump right back in.  I hope that most people in my life are like that but for the rest of you I guess there’s always Facebook.

Counting down the days is tough when you don’t have a flight but I wouldn’t be too sad if I get an extra day to hang out.