Monday, 28 September 2009

Badminton with Andeok School

I challenge YOU.


The students at Andeok School meet every other week to let out some steam playing badminton. Stupidly enough, I had challenged some of my students to a game of badminton after hearing how good they were at the sport. I might have said a little too much about badminton and myself. Actually, all I said to the students was, “I played on the badminton team in high school,” and they all went, “Wwwaaaahhhh (the Korean version of whoa).

The gym teacher, after hearing me boast about my badminton skills from the students, casually invited me during one of my teachers’ classes to play every other week. Of course, all of the female teachers giggled when he did. Even in the teacher’s lounge, my co-teacher, Young-hee, kindly let me know, “You don’t have to do this…you really don’t have to do this.”

The week that I was supposed to face the students I had so foolishly challenged, Ken and I were so tired from the week that we weren’t able to make the practice. I didn’t expect very many consequences from skipping, but the next day, the gym teacher quietly mentioned to me from his desk that all of the students were waiting for me (they were probably waiting to pulverize me).

So, I made it my top priority to attend the death matches that were set up for me. Every single day throughout the week, I was biding my time until the students mercilessly embarrassed me.


Today, Ken and I made it to the badminton practice. There were more students on the school grounds this day, because it was their day to tie-dye all of their hundreds of washcloths (the smell of dye was atrocious…think of rotting eggs and sewage rolled into one wafting essence of garbage).

As we entered the gym, I could see only a room full of sweating male students, casually hitting the cream-coloured birdie from one end of the court to another. The gym teacher greeted me with a slight bow, and immediately gestured to the racquet box. Ken and I timidly pulled out racquets from the wire-mesh box.

Since there were only two nets set up, Ken and I had to make do with half the width of a court, playing a fiercer, but casual match of badminton. While we were smashing and sneakily dropping the birdie along the net, I eyed the Principal, who was pacing around the gym, observing his pack.

That’s when he boldly stepped into our game. He marched towards me and told me he was challenging Ken to a badminton match. As if, I thought. He’s no match for Ken…but of course I quickly remembered that he probably had about forty-five years on Ken and that he spent much of his life as a military training officer. Good luck…Ken.

The Principal effortlessly took off his suit-jacket, rolled up his ivory-white pressed sleeves, and swung his sparkling tie over his shoulder. God, he looks like he’s in shape…

He checked out the silver school racquet I had passed onto him and huffed, disapprovingly. “This will not do,” he said as he shook his head stiffly, “Give me yours,” he ordered, as he held out his hand for the gym teacher’s personal racquet. He inspected it carefully, caressing the glowing red frame and feeling the bounce of the racquet’s sweet spot. “Okay,” he said to Ken. “Let’s go.”

The two warily walked onto the court: eyes, brains and muscles on high alert. The match began.

The match was a test of brute strength and meticulous skill. Both Ken and the Principal hit the birdie with all the power they could muster, from one corner of the court to another, sometimes out of the court, sometimes in.

After half an hour or so, age started to beat out skill, as the principal began to slow down his swift swings and remained in the center of his half of the court. Ken looked tired, but I’m sure he still had another ten minutes on him. “Let’s call it a match,” the Principal said, and that was that. The match was over. Now it was my turn.

The gym teacher called me over to the court, and humbly asked, “Let us play?”

I agreed, and we played for what seemed forever. He would get me with his lightning-fast smashes, and I would combat his moves with my strategically-placed drops and swings. Within minutes there was a group of male students lining the edge of the court. One hit…Waaaahh, one drop over the net…Waaaahhhh, one smash…Waaaaaahhhhh….

Of course, they were only Wah-ing whenever I hit the birdie…and also whenever I would pick up the birdie (I only found out later from Ken that they probably had many chances to see down my shirt :().

When the match was over, Ken and I were pooped. With one tiring ‘goodbye’, we set out, back for home. I can’t wait to hear the Waaahhhs and (hopefully) applause as I enter my classroom tomorrow.

- Jess

1 comment:

  1. Good for you! You stood up to the challenge and did yourselves proud!