What is Saturdays in Korea?

Tired of doing the same old thing every weekend? Saturdays in Korea is activity club for those who want to break their normal weekend routine and do something different. For Koreans, it's a good chance to practice English. For ex-pats, it's a good chance to practice Korean. For everybody, it's a great chance to meet new people and have fun.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Table Tennis Tournament (탁구대회)

While last Saturday wasn't the worst day to be outside in a Korean summer, it can get much worse. Usually during this time of the year, Korea is plagued by the monsoon season (장마철) that brings lots of rain, heat and humidity to the peninsula. Because of this adverse weather pattern, a lot of our summer activities have been planned for inside. Last Saturday, we ended up heading over to the Songpa District (송파구) to have a table tennis tournament.

View Table Tennis Tournament (탁구대회) in a larger map

We were able to find a nice Tennis Table Center (탁구장) called the Songpa Table Tennis Club (송파영탁구클럽) in the Songpa District, just a short walk west from both Seokchon Station (석촌역) and Songpa Station (송파역). The actual place to play table tennis was located in the basement of one of the many four storied buildings along the road.

Before entering the table tennis center, a few of us who were wearing sandals had to buy a cheap pair of socks at one of the small stores along the street. At this place, people must wear appropriate shoes in order to play on the wooden floors. For those who don't have the correct shoes, there were plenty of shoes that one could borrow for free. My rule of thumb for any pair of communal shoes: always have on a clean pair of socks before putting on the shoes.

When we first got to the establishment, there were only a few middle-aged regulars playing table tennis. It seems that at this time in Korean history, it is mostly the older folks who are out and about doing physical activities and exercise. I'm sure that once the Olympic Generation (those Koreans born in or around the 1988 Seoul Olympics) start hitting their 30s, they too will become more physically active.

For our group of 11 people, we were able to rent three ping pong tables for 10,000 Won an hour. After a bit over 2 hours of playing table tennis, it cost each person about 5,000 Won. Not bad considering what it costs to go to the movies or to go to a bar with your friends.

After a warm up, we organized everybody into two groups. For each group, a miniature round-robin tournament was held. The top two people from each group went on to the semifinals to determine the winner overall. On the opposite end of the spectrum, one person from each group played for the "ultimate underdog" position.

When the finals were concluded, we asked a gentleman who seemed to be a regular to play the champion of our group. We didn't want the winner from our group to get a big head, so a bit of humility was in store for him. After three lightning quick games, our champion was left perplexed, trying to figure out how he could have countered the large amount of spin that the veteran table tennis player was able to put on the ball.

Overall, we had a great time, worked up a bit of sweat and burned some calories. Even though there was a "tournament", the greatest part of the day was just hanging out with friends and having a good time.

Some of you may have noticed that my style of writing for the blog has changed. My original goal for this blog was to write a bit of a travel guide for ex-pats living in Korea. Instead, I've switched to more of a journal style of writing. With my very full work schedule this summer, trying to teach and write a travel guide blog every week was a bit overwhelming. While I did enjoy the challenge, I found that at this time a travel guide wasn't my favorite style of writing and the overall process just didn't feel right.

For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, I would love to hear your feedback on the direction that the blog is taking. If anyone does need more details on how to run one of the trips that we have done here in Saturdays in Korea, I am more than happy to share. Please contact me at anytime.

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