Friday, July 18, 2003

Free Time

It's called S'ha gu, (pronounced ts ha goo) which when translated means "four balls". It is at once terrifying and awesome to behold, especially for the westerner unaccustomed to such things. Four balls, is neither a genetic defect, nor a venereal disease. It is a game. The playing field is a standard looking pool table except that there are no pockets and it only has four balls, thus the name. Two of the balls are white and two are red. The two white balls are the cue balls. The goal is for each player to attempt to hit the two red balls with his cue ball while not hitting his opponents cue ball. While this may sound simple enough it is not, unless you happen to be Korean. Then it becomes as easy as breathing. I'm not sure why this is, but it is. I know this because I decided to play a round with my Korean assistant, Corporal Park, and in about 30 seconds he had scored the required 5 points whereas I has only agreed to play.

Another Korean game that bears mention is Jok Koo. In Korean it's called Jok Koo. Basically it consists of 2 five man teams on a tennis court kicking a soccer ball over the net in a sort of amalgamation of soccer, tennis, and volleyball. As far as I know it has no rules or points. However, I think victory belongs to the team that can most sound like a bevy of cats being hurled around an empty gymnasium.

The Koreans are not the only ones here who enjoy sports. Just the other day, the American soldiers enjoyed an all day volleyball tournament. For me this was good way to meet many of the soldiers and officers in an informal setting. This was a good plan at first. However, as the day dragged on and the beer began to slowly disappear, it turned from volleyball to something that should be called, "I got it" as that is what every player would shout whenever the ball was within 100 feet of them. They seemed to run around the court in one big mass, kind of like an amoeba moving around a petrie dish. In the end I think they were just trying to hold each other up and just happening to strike the ball occaisionally.

Sports are very important here, both as an outlet for bored young men and as a diversion from the situation that surrounds us. More often than not, there is television nearby with ESPN on and everyone cheering at the outcome of the Men's All World Checker Championships that they just knew, having memorized every statistic since the Eisenhower administration, would be won by the farmboy from Iowa.

The Korean soldiers don't watch ESPN. They would much rather participate in their favorite indoor pastime. They call it Karaoke. They should call it, "How much you wanna bet I can rape this next song at the top of my lungs?"

So that's what we do with our free time sports and play sports. And for one such as I this is about as fun as darning my socks.