Korea: The Sandlot of Dreams

I did it. I suited up, put on some spikes, tipped my Dodgers hat and took the field. On Sunday, I played in my first baseball game in Korea.

It was a practice game of sorts that was not actually on a field but rather a big dirt space usually used for soccer. It kinda had a mound. It kinda had a backstop. It kinda had foul lines. It was kind of a baseball diamond.

I played with a group of guys between the ages of 27 and 42 against a team with the same demographics. They were all Koreans, they all smoked in between innings and they all loved playing baseball. The warm-up drills were formally done with batting practice and ground balls to go with it. Everyone had matching uniforms and expensive gear. Pep talks were given with vigor and we even lined up before the game and bowed to the opposing team.

I felt exhilarated. I came from playing in an old-man-softball-league where everyone crushed Keystones, cussed at each other and the idea of a bat-in-hand brawl breaking out always loomed.

Here, respect for the other team and the game comes first.

Our team, Khazon, scored 7 runs in the first inning while I walked and scored on a double. I then played first base. The idea being that I grew up playing baseball so I could at least catch a ball. I liked it. The pitcher tried a few pick off plays and the other team tried speaking English every time they reached first.

It was a perfect way to spend my Sunday. But, after about the fifth inning, and after I had hit an RBI-double and popped out, (4-hours and 15-minutes after I arrived at the ballpark) boredom struck. Everyone stopped talking to me because they had used up all of their English vocabulary and first base is historically a boring position reserved for non-athletic lefties and fat dudes.

But in the sixth, inspiration struck. From the on-deck circle I realized that the bases were loaded when one of my teammates said, "Mark, hit ball fast." I said OK and strolled to the plate. The pitcher had gotten me out my last time up and he looked confident. (Poor guy)

He threw a first pitch fastball. Strike. Then he shook off the catcher's pitch call and smirked. (Again, poor guy) I knew he was going to try his curve. The pitcher reached back, legged kicked like his hip spasmed and floated up a very weak pitch that spun furiously without curving or moving fast.

I crushed it. A grand slam.

While jogging around the bases, everyone on the other team came to a base to high-five me. My team had a high-five line at the plate and the pitcher even gave me a bow after he was taken out of the game. They gave me the ball after and even when I told them it was not necessary, they refused to have it back.

I hit another home-run on my next at-bat and the same parade went down. To be honest, I got a kick out of how excited they got but this is nothing to brag about. The bat I used would have been illegal in American high schools because it was too light and both pitchers were pretty much beginners. I actually felt kind of bad about it after because my RBI's alone put the game out of reach.

The whole day ended up being a very unique and touching experience. The players really went of their way to make sure I was having a good time and to see how passionate they were about a game that is generally taken for granted in the states, was humbling. Most of these guys have only been playing for a few years and even take baseball lessons as adults during the week to get better.

After the game I was called the hero of the day and received many congratulatory hugs.

And to think, it was only a practice game.

Get Lost my friends....


I Hate Taekwondo

I've said it once, I'm saying it twice and I will most likely saying it again and again--I hate Taekwondo.

A country that trains kids in Taekwondo, is dangerous.


So I'm teaching right. Everything is going well. The kids are laughing, I'm laughing, everybody is having a good time. Generally, after my 30-minute session of singing the ABC song, I say 'Bye bye class!' and they all rush in like metal marbles to a magnet. Each vying for hugs or sleeve grabbing, maybe even a little arm hair petting. After a moment of group hugging, I start pulling them off one by one and try to get to the door. This is very normal.

But on this particular day, one of my little Korean students had a different version of the goodbye hug in mind.

Eddie, who stands about pocket high, reared back and unleashed a Dragonball Z style two-handed side punch to the 'oh-so-sensitive-region.


I kid you not, I dropped to my knees and could not breathe for about 5 seconds.

While the rest of the class began a free-for-all dog pile on me, I pleadingly looked toward the my Korean co-teacher for help. She was giggling.

I hate Taekwondo.

...get Lost my friends.


Turning 22

Liz had yet another birthday this past weekend. It's getting a little ridiculous. Every year, they keep happening...ZING.

Oh yeah, I'll zing yah.

Anyway, Liz has turned 22. Her big two-one was in Lyon, France last year ( a phenomenal three days) and the two-two happened in Seoul. I'm sorry America, this chick simply does not want to celebrate with you. Good thing she has plenty of people to celebrate with throughout the globe, and plenty to celebrate.

She recently shoved away any doubts or anxieties about moving out here by getting a job at an English radio station. She's almost famous. She has a great group of friends. All of which came out for her celebratory trudge through the city streets of Seoul on Saturday night. Thank you guys.

Her connection to her father out here has been a perfect evolution of discovery, love and support. They have the same smile, or maybe they smile the same way at each other. Either way, it's really cool to witness it unfold naturally.

And finally, she has a ton of love coming from the guy typing this.

The small details our Sunday together are not important so I thought I would post some pics to serve as a small outline.

{We went to the Seoul Tower.}


{I etched our names. The Korean couple below it thinks we are nail-bitingly cute.}

{We then made our 'lock of love' to put on a fence at the base of the tower.}

{My 'lock of love' gesture was obviously very original and not something I discovered on google, I swear...Liz and I were jealous of the bike lock couple. That's real protection.}

{It's cute though.}

{Then of course, you must huck the keys off the mountain to symbolize locking it up forever.}

After our trip to the tower, we settled into a cozy restaurant for a glass of wine and talked about how good her birthday was.

We both agreed, it was the best yet.

Get Lost my friends....


Pics from Liz

My lady's blog has some beautiful pics of our night in a very unique neighborhood in Seoul and since I have no pics, I thought you may enjoy this.


Get Lost my friends...


I Got A Bike. So Stoked.

I got a bike. A good one. And for a good price. This is big for me because while on it, my palate for discovering nuances of my new life is frothing.

1.) I have discovered that instead of taking a 30-minute metro ride with cramped and grumpy Koreans I can get to the same spot in 20 on my bike.

2.) I have discovered that riding in the shadow of a sunrise along the Han river with perfect music eliminates the possibility of a bad day.

3.) I have discovered that stuffing your right pant leg into your sock to avoid chain catching or rubbing saves lives and dry cleaning bills...I officially apologize to all of the riders I mentally called 'dorky' at UC Irvine.

4.) I have realized that a fanny pack is very practical when riding a bike. It holds plenty and erases the threat of sweat stains from backpacks...Again, I officially apologize to all of the riders I mentally called 'dorky' at UC Irvine.

5.) I have discovered women and children will not move out of the way in Korea. As a matter of fact, women will cuss at your swerving-self while kids scurry to get in the way. ( I don't like this discovery)

6.) I have discovered that the stigma of Asians being bad drivers is America's fault. You see, out here, everyone drives crazy, thus creating a very alert and controlled driver. In America, Asian drivers must be weirded out by people following rules, thus the timid entries into corner turns.

7.) And finally, I have also discovered getting Lost on a bike. (So much better than on foot)

{There she is}

{I'm pretending to fix the bike while Liz takes a good pic.}

Get Lost my friends...


The Intimate Mover

Last night I was walking back to my apartment with my headphones in when I caught a peripheral of a man waving and yelling in my direction. I looked and he smiled back. I was the target of his excitement. I did not recognize this man but while I processed all of the people I have met in the last six weeks he had already hustled up to me. So, I took out my headphones and heard this.

"I am Woobong Shin," he said. I just looked back.

"I like America," he said. I kinda smiled back.

"Do you need truck service?" he asked. I shook my head, no.

"OK, well, you are teacher, yes?" he asked. I nodded my head, yes.

"OK! The teacher in Korea is our best profession. I move Americans!" he yelped and gave me his card while completing the interaction by giving me an unannounced bear hug before I even said one word.

He stamped off and I put my headphones back in and looked at his card. Along with his name, cell and a picture of his flatbed truck, it read:


Despite the fact that I did not say one word, felt slightly violated on the hug, did not know what he was talking about and missed the signal to cross the street because of him, I enjoyed this exchange.

Thanks for the hug Woobong.

Get Lost my friends...


Teaching Gophers

Every so often I am victim to gopher screams. The gophers, of course, are my students.

I usually open a class with my 3-year-old non-English speakers by saying very slowly and clearly, "Hello class." They reply, very loudly and rushed, "HELLO MARKUH TEACHAHH!" I will then ask a series of simple questions to get them into English mode.

This generally goes over smoothly. But sometimes, every fourth day or so, one student will stop listening, lift his head like a gopher and start screaming. These are high frequency screams too. Not scared or sad shrieks like a baby. It's more like an animal call.

Because within one second, another will raise his head, like a gopher, and scream. Then two more join in. Then three more. In a matter of five seconds, 10 different students will be howling in a directionless commotion that can only be compared to a 'Dumb and Dumber' scene of, "do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?" But with Korean children and in a classroom.

Now, if I try to get louder and say be quiet, they get louder and more join in. So the only way to stop the phenomenon is to gently put my hand over the face of the initial screamer to calm him or her. This shuts down the beacon signal and the others come out of the daze within seconds.

The whole scene lasts about 15-seconds total. It's intriguing to watch unfold , really.

But to be honest, if I wasn't getting paid to teach, I would probably partake. They look so satisfied after a good group scream.