In the past 2 weeks I've experienced a few cases of really feeling like an outsider. The mother who stopped her car in the middle of a busy intersection and rolled down her window to point us out to her kids takes the cake. Being a "waygukin" sure gives you a new perspective on what it must like to be an immigrant in Canada.
On the whole, though, Korean hospitality has been outstanding. Last week our landlords (a very old Korean couple) invited us up to their place for birthday cake. It was the Ajima's (old lady, basically) birthday. They didn't speak any English but they had lots of family over and one of their daughters spoke English pretty well. Their hospitality was fantastic and could be best compared to an Italian family (eat, eat!) We also made friends with some Korean swimmers at the beach who fed us watermelon, cake, galbi and kept us stocked with makali, a Korean wine. While sitting outside a corner store having a few drinks some friends were talking about how small of a world it really is. As if on cue an older Korean man came up and asked if we knew David. Sure enough, someone did. It turns out the man is a physics professor at a local University and was meeting some of his students for a social drink. In Korea having a couple of drinks outside of the corner store is normal and they have tables set up for this. The professor and his students sat down at our table and hung out all night. Cool guys.
Pusan was great last weekend. There were eight of us that were going to go but we almost cancelled the trip because of bad weatehr in the morning. When the skies started to clear in the early afternoon on Saturday we got our act together and headed across town to the train station. We took the high speed train (Korea Transit Xpress or KTX). The train only took an hour and was $17 ROUND TRIP. Amazing. We went to two beaches, both of which were fantastic. Both beaches were on the sea of Japan, although that's not what the Koreans call it. We wanted to give surfing a try since this was the prime area to do it, but there was no surf to speak of this weekend. Apparently last weekend had four foot rollers, which might have been a bit much for me anyways. In the end we just layed in the sun, read some books, walked around to check out the shops and got sunburned. We also met some new friends from "Busan Aquatica", an open water swimming club that seemed to do everything at the beach except swim. We invited them to play frisbee with us which was hilarious. Frisbees are not common in Korea and by the end of an hour only a couple of them were starting to get the hang of it.
The Busan nightlife was great. Without getting into too much detail, we checked out a few restaurants, a few open air bars, a few vendors, a casino and, of course, lit off a ton of fireworks. When we finally hit the sack the night time view from our hotel window was awesome. For $30 we got a 5th floor room with a view of the Sea of Japan and the huge lit up bridge that crosses the bay where we were staying.
On Sunday we went to another beach which was a bit better than the first. Right before we left some of us were going to take one last dip to cool off. As we waded into the water I saw a HUGE jellyfish next to Mitch. We ran like OJ circa 1994. Actually we ran like scared little girls, not a heisman trophy winning tailback. Turns out the jellyfish was dead and ones that big don't usually come to shore. it eventually washed up and we snapped some pics before it got torn apart by the surf.
Training has been going well, except for the fact that a week of no-gi practice gave me a false sense of ability. Without the gi I've been able to use my wrestling, speed and athleticism to be competitive in sparring with most of the best guys at the club. Last night was the first time we were back in the gi for a week. I think the last time I had my ass handed to me that badly was when I scrimmaged with Gia Sissauori (World Champion, Olympic Silver medalist wrestler) in 2004. Most of the time I can feel myself being set up for something but I don't even know what that something is. The best way to describe it is to say that it feels like you're drowning in the gi and all you can do is try and keep your head above water. At one point I notced there was only 1 minute left in the 5 minute session and I set a mental goal to not get tapped for the last minute. I didn't care if I got totally dominated positionally, I just wanted to survive. I didn't make it.
Saturdays there's a "Fight Club" for foreigners at Daegu MMA. It's pretty low key; a bunch of people who want to get a workout in or give boxing or jiu jitsu a try. Most of the people don't know anything about anything as far as MMA goes and but this week I met two East Coast Canadian guys who are pretty good boxers. One of them has fought ten times and has super fast hands. They're cool guys and were happy that there was another guy around who knew something. I'm glad I found those guys, since my Muay Thai gym didn't pan out.
Turns out the Muay Thai gym owner and the owner of Daegu MMA have some bad blood and I wouldn't be allowed to train at both places. It sounds dumb but gets even dumber when you consider the fact that the two gyms teach completely different styles of fighting. They are not in direct competition with each other and don't take business from each other. Although I was disappointed, I wasn't shocked. This is an all too familiar story in the martial arts community. So and so doesn't like so and so which means none of his guys can go to those tournaments etc, etc... This drives me crazy because I don't care about the issues these guys have, my only interest is in getting better and if both places can make me better at different things then I want to train at both clubs.
This mentality seems even crazier coming from a wrestling background. I wrestled at one of the top Universities in Canada. There were teams we didn't get along with. There were teams we hated, but you can be sure that any wrestler anywhere could walk into any other wrestling room in the world, regardless of affiliation, and be welcomed. The idea is that having a good wrestler and another sparring partner in the room is beneficial to everyone else in the room and that you can always learn something from somebody who has a different style. It's the "steel sharpens steel" idea. In the martial arts community there often seems to be resistance to new people coming in with new ideas, a sort of "our way is the best way" mentality that can only take you so far before you have to branch out.
Misc. I forgot to mention that last week we went to Daegu World Cup Stadium to watch a Daegu FC soccer game. The stadium is amazing. They've hosted the world cup (Duh) in 2002 and the 2003 World University Games. Next year they're hosting the World Track and Field Championships. The game was okay I guess, but a 0-0 tie isn't really my cup of tea. The stadium itself is amazing and set right at the bottom of a mountain which gives you a pretty spectacular view.
Next week the K1 kickboxing World Grand Prix Final 16 is in Seoul. I' hoping I'll make it up there for that one. I'm getting pretty broke as I haven,t been paid yet, but I'll try and make it work. There's also a pre-world championship track and field test meet with a lot of Olympic medalists coming up. Cost? $5. I think I can swing that one.
My buddy Wade and the rest of the Sault Steelers for wining the National Football championships. Way to go guys.
All of the Canadian wrestlers at the world championships this week. Special shout out to former Thunderwolves teammate and all around killer Katie Patroch.