Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One Western Fan's Journey, Conclusion

Apologies for not completing this sooner. I wrote up the first entry when there was time and I was kind of inspired. But most of the interesting parts of becoming a KBO fan probably happened within that time period I already described.

In short, I visited Korea a few times afterwards including stints working. I was definitely less in awe of things going to Korea as an adult, and other interests kept me from a linear path to the KBO. My subsequent visits to Korea included a "sabbatical" of sorts from my university years in the winter of 1996/1997, three years as an EPIK teacher in 2002 to 2005, a summer visit in 2008, and my most recent trip as an international school teacher from 2009 to 2010.

I've stated that even though I'm ethnically Korean, I am pretty much fully westernized. And Korean culture, language, and all that seem very much foreign to me. Some might say that my Korean ethnicity would make the culture more familiar to someone like me than a foreigner without any Korean roots. But I believe from my time in Korea that this is not the case. Everyone grows up where they are, what their family or ancestors are does not matter as much as what's right in front of you when you're growing up.

I say this because I think this is the reason why I did not become a watcher of this league a lot sooner in my life. I remember struggling for years and years to become accustomed to the KBO. Struggling is not an exact word. The true scenario would be me, personally, trying to watch KBO games during the times I visited Korea and giving up after a few innings because of how foreign it felt. It's here I sympathize with say immigrants or expatriates that have a hard time getting accustomed to new places and cultures. It's not an easy task.

One step that was really important to turning this league into one of my main sports interests is the time in my life when I studied Korean very hard. The Korean language was also something I was very much interested in knowing but was intimidated, lacked time, and all that stuff and couldn't get anything going. It was during my 2002 to 2005 EPIK stint in Korea (English teaching thing over there) when I learned up most of my Korean language skills. EPIK stands for English Programs in Korea and places university grads from English speaking countries in Korean public schools to be assistant teachers. You're generally placed in a provincial community and are immersed in Korean culture.

Also, at the time, EPIK was not very labor intensive. There was days I'd teach an hour or two and was told to go home. I took advantage of the immersion and free time and studied the Korean language very hard. I read as much as I could and had language study notes all over the EPIK provided pad. One great source of reading material was the very popular Korean sports newspapers which had a lot of Korean baseball coverage.

It was actually during my last trip as an international school teacher when I fully started to follow the KBO. I got in contact with Matt, who was running this blog all by his lonesome and asked if he wanted anyone to translate articles for him. Building on the Korean I had learned from those years I described, it worked out pretty well and it was actually here that I started to become very familiar with the league, including its players, stats, and all that stuff. Doing this was very confusing at first but it got easier with a lot of Korean language articles and stat grinding. And the KBO pretty much began to open up for me.

Oh yeah, I started to work with this one dude who was down with the Lotte Giants when he was in Busan in the 90's. His name was also Matt and he said he used to chill with the players and get drunk with them and all that. This for me was during my last trip as a teacher outside of Busan just a couple years ago. I watched Giants games for hours both with him and alone while I was there and thought I was becoming a Giants fan. I moved to Seoul right after and my interest in the Giants did not last.

Now, this article's turning into a bunch of rambling. Anyway, to close it off. I'm very glad I had a chance to become a fan of the KBO. This turn of events in my life resulted or maybe is a result of a lot of good things. I'm a lot open to things that are not familiar with me personally. For instance, I have been following European soccer since the beginning of this soccer season, and this would not have happened if not for my experiences with Korea and Korean baseball. European soccer is one thing I really disliked growing up. I believed just about everything a stereotypical North American sports fan would say about soccer, and now I'm checking Premier League stats and trying to bring it up with Canadian hockey fans (not working very well). Also, initially getting into Korean baseball and Korean stuff in general was a very hard struggle, but after a lot of effort, I have this cool thing to enjoy forever. That's the lesson I'll end this article on for now.

So, the lesson here is to never give up. Be awesome and maybe your life will be awesome.

Happy Off Season!! Stay Awesome!!

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