Transitions commence new adventures. Make 'em last…
Don’t kid yourselves, revenge does work. Despite what anyone might tell you, rendering revenge is a completely satisfying experience. Being granted the opportunity for revenge is like craving a bucket of ice cream; it’s not fairly healthy to consume, but once the craving is fulfilled, a lasting satisfaction lingers far beyond what you might imagine.
Last fall I was dealt, or shall I say, my school was dealt with the brutal blow of having to accept 2nd place in the Fall Volleyball Tournament after losing the final match to our primary rival (Tongjin Middle School) by just a few lousy points when our potential of winning was so great. Despite having placed 2nd among 12 or so different school teams that day, and even though it was our school’s best placing in quite a long time, the ripple effect of losing that final match was felt in everyone’s souls for weeks. Our school’s pride was tarnished, and what I’ve learned is that these sporting tournaments are a serious deal here, more than meets the eye. I played my heart out in that tournament, and 2nd place was not worth the bruises and pain I felt for the following two weeks, and this sentiment was also felt among all my colleagues and local townspeople.
We endured six long months waiting for another opportunity to knock the chips off our shoulders and yesterday we were given that chance. The Spring Volleyball Tournament for our region was being held at Hasung Elementary School, which is near the DMZ, and it had been the talk of the town for weeks. Much planning, preparation, and practice had gone into girding ourselves for this tournament; the time had finally come to prove our worth.
Last Monday we played a serious scrimmage match against my principal’s husband’s school’s team in Ilsan and we won the best-of-5 match, but only by a slim margin. They were indeed a tough team to beat, but we managed to adjust our positioning to ready ourselves for the upcoming tournament. The scrimmage match was great, but I went into it with an aching neck and back and was initially worried I’d pull a neck muscle and not be able to play in Thursday’s Spring Volleyball Tournament. Well, my neck and back ended up fine, but it was my left knee that was aching and hurting quite a bit after the scrimmage, and I had a somewhat of a tough time walking up and down stairs for the next few days. The day after the scrimmage I went to get a sports massage at the local Jimjilbang (Public Bath House), and this managed to ease all the tension in my neck and back, but unfortunately not my legs.
In the previous month’s Wolgot-town Spring Soccer Tournament I had to opt out playing goalie because of a pulled back muscle that occured during the final plays of a scrimmage and prevented me from bending over. I played goalie for years and I’m very good at it, so my school was very disappointed in me that I couldn’t play. However, my substitute, one of my student’s parents, did fairly well and thank God my school won the tournament.
So even though I was experiencing pain around my knees, there was no way I could opt out again; trust me, it would have been detrimental. Therefore, I would have to grunt the pain and risk the chance of injury, which is exactly what I did, but not before some serious stretching.
I stretched in the morning, on the bus, between classes, after lunch, basically any chance I could, and then once more when we arrived to tournament and right before out first match in attempt to loosen up tight muscles that were troubling me. Well, it worked. As we walked onto the court for our first game, my knees felt fatigued but there was no pain. My prayers were answered; however, the games still needed to be played and we needed to win them all without getting seriously injured.
Upon starting our first match one of the opposing players exclaimed, “Oh no! Strong English teacher!” I grinned and then winked at the guy, who then immediately decided to switch positions with another player. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Well, what I thought would be an easy win, was infact a tough one. By mid-match, the opposing team was beating us 14-9. I was pissed, I mean PISSED. I thought to myself, there is no way that we can lose this first match and be out of the tournament so early. I then motioned to my colleague Mars, the setter, and he understood to just keep setting them to me. On the next volley, Mars set it perfect and I jumped as high as I could and sent a rocket to the opposing team letting out a loud roar. Many hands reached out amid its trajectory, but to no avail; ACE! At this point, I wasn’t messing around, this was a real roar which elicited a huge energetic reaction from my team and spectators. It became the turning point of the match, and despite being down 14-10, we managed to catch up and tie it at 14-14. I then decided to change my gameplay as I noticed the other team kept bringing up 2 to 3 blockers in attempt to block my spikes which threatened my chances of spiking it well. The next 6 of 7 points were from perfect sets from Mars to subtle tips over the blockers hands into “no mans land” for easy points. By the time the other team realized what was happening, it was already too late; game over, our victory.
What soon transpired was a series of victories on our part as we managed to make it to the final game once again, with, yep, you guest it, our archrival, Tongjin Middle school. The memories of losing by a few points last fall had briefly floated through our conscience like a breeze and we were quick to put them out of our mind and focus on squashing this team. Our vice-principal, who had to work under the current Tongjin Middle School principal for quite a long time at another school, are not on speaking terms anymore and dislikes him very much. Before the best-of-3 match began, she came up to me and said “복수” (buk-su), which applically translates to “revenge.” She then said to me in English, “You the killer.” Now, here me out, this is a 58-year old short, petite woman, that is so very sweet that it actually shocked me a little to hear her say such a thing. I suppose bitterness runs deep in these parts. Thus, almost automatically and emphatically, I said, “네, 맞아요” (Nae, maja-yo), which translates to “Yes, that’s right” or “Yes, I agree.”
As we walked onto the court, I felt the tension amongst everyone. One of the opposing players even had the urge to mad-dog me as I walked to my position. I grinned and said under my breath, “You’re going down.”
The first match was a climatic back-and-forth immaculate display of determination and will that made it difficult to establish who had the upper hand at any given point. My spikes would penetrate through their blocks with ease, but their style of play would fake out my colleagues, including myself at times. Despite our fierce effort, we lost the first match 16-14.
I was PISSED. We lost a match that I thought we had in the bag. After our team regrouped, it was agreed that all sets would come to me no matter what. “Keep’em coming!” I exclaimed. The “killer” instinct was then in full force and there was no relenting.
During that second match I must have jumped over a hundred times as I was all over the place spiking as hard as I could and running to provide extra blocking against our opponent’s primary spiker. The killer instinct paid off; we won 15-8.
It was then tied 1-1 in the best-of-3 match, and our gameplan would stay the same – all sets to me. My knees were so fatigued at this point that I was a little concerned that I’d have to step out of the game as it was getting hard to jump. Upon starting the match we quickly scored 5 unanswered points, making it 5-0. However, after a few points were scored by our opponent, James, our school’s 1st grade teacher and one of our attackers, rolled his ankle and had to leave the game. He had been very apt and useful in being able to manuever to block spikes as well as hit the ball through blocks. Paxton, a social worker that works at our school stepped in to fill his spot and he immediately made an impressive block. The next volley, I made a block. It seemed like we were on a roll, but Tongjin came back to tie up the game 9-9 due to some consecutive costly mistakes. We again regrouped and it was emphasized to me to continue spiking it hard. I concurred, and then I recalled the feeling of losing the Fall Volleyball Tournament to this team and how much of a disappointment that was. On the next volley, the ball was set perfect and I gave the ball a super-sonic flight directly into chest of the center, which almost knocked him over. I let out a sinister laugh similar to that of the Joker as all my teammates and I high-fived one another. Then after some incredible blocks on behalf of my colleagues, it was then a 14-11 game.
The next volley was indeed the longest of all matches played as spike after spike and block after block the ball would not be put to rest. Finally, after one of our opponent’s spikes were blocked and then tip up in the air in my direction, Mars called it as I saw him running toward it in the corner of my eye. However, the ball was arriving to the perfect position for me to hit it over the net with ease. Therefore, despite Mars’ adamant call, I stepped and leap up as I high as I could amid slamming into Mars and tipped it over the blocker’s hands and then watched the ball fall into “no man’s land.” Game over!
Scoring the last point in the final game + Defeating our archrival + Fulfilling revenge + No serious injuries + All my colleagues grouped around me jumping and cheering the moment we won = Priceless!
The satisfaction of fulfilling our volleyball revenge against our archrival still lingers, and will indeed linger for weeks and months to come. Thus, I must emphasize again – Revenge Does Work.