Friday, July 6, 2012

Hey, hey - Out Bood!

One of the great things about life abroad is the diversity of people you meet, and the chance to overcome linguistic, economic and social barriers to make friendships on the basis of shared interests.

The field of sports is often the best place for this, and the opening of a new gymnasium on the compound was met with great enthusiasm by its residents. Koreans are passionate about badmitton, and I have had the pleasure of being soundly beaten by several of my Korean colleagues over the lunch hour. Unfortunately, badmitton has not proven a good way to break down the very pronounced tribal affiliations on the base to allow Korean civilians to play with the military, American soldiers to play with Koreans or most of all for the Afghan and TCNs -"third country" nationals (from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan etc.) to mingle.

Volleyball on the other hand, is a far better mixer - although Korean participation has been erratic, limited, and (unfortunately) been known to perpetuate rather than reduce the barriers due to the sometimes arrogant demeanor of more senior players who insist on playing by the rules that prevail in Korea (which don't allow kicking for example), rather than what is generally agreed by the other dozen or so people who had agreed on a different set of rules thankyouverymuch. More problematic is the built-in conflict with the Korean military who has neglected to put up "blackout" covers on the windows to the gym, and therefore insists on ending the game by 7:30 far earlier than the players would like (since many have jobs in the cafeteria that keep them busy until almost 7). The soldiers are merely followin orders of course, but the night often ends with a game ending halfway through, and players speculating about whether any evil-doers really need the light from a few windows to locate a base that is almost a square mile in size with corners marked by towers, is located on a hill overlooking the valley, and is clearly visible by moonlight...

Nonetheless, it is both a great stress relief and a nice social time where Afghans, americans, TCNs and the odd Korean play hard, but have fun. The forwards (closest to the net) tend to be tall, heavy and aggressive, spiking with full force at every opportunity, and blocking the other side fearlessly. By american rules about hitting the net fouls are committed several times per point as players go head-to-head at the net.  A "fouley" is only called if somebody gets hurt or almost pulls down the net. Any good spike (or spectacular but unintentional foul) is followed by a round of hand-slapping that goes across the net to the other team as well as within your own.

This is part of the fun, and some of the jokesters who play frequently declare "fouley bood" with no justification. "Fouley" is just "foul" with a Korean accent (the E sound) on the end - and "bood" means "was".  Translation - that was a foul...  Likewise, people either admit to, or accuse the other team of "touchey" - meaning, that a player touched a ball before it went out-of-bounds (and therefore the point goes to the other team). Whether a ball landed in-bounds or out-of-bounds is of course another common controversy which leads to admissions, or voiciferous accusations that a ball "Out Bood!".

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