Waking up at 6:00 AM is not on my list of things to do on a regular basis. Call it "lazy"- call it the well-thought out reasoning of a rational mind- but 6:00 AM is way too early. Regardless of my wants, the alarm rolled me out of bed at the buttcrack of dawn to tackle the tasks of (A) waking my sleeps-like-the-dead husband, and (B) prepare for what was certain to be a mentally draining day.
warming up (not at test)
One of the most difficult aspects of testing in Kumdo in Korea, is that we often have absolutely no clue as to what's going on. While the other students know the drill, not to mention speak the language, we are tossed to the wind and forced to trust our wits, our minor grasp of the language, and powers of improvisation/observation. Ice that cake with our being spectacles simply by being a minority, and you too, can feel the eyes canvassing your every step.
As we entered the vast auditorium, we became undeniably visible as the tallest, whitest people. While the students at our school are accustomed to our presence and appearance, most of the rest of Gwangju is not. Even the cashiers at Emart, who have seen me for a year now, still gape, whisper to one another, and stare into my shopping cart. It is to be expected that there will be double-takes and pointing. Trying our best to blend in, we kept our eyes open for points of interest that would help us through the test. Lucky for us, age was one our side placing us in the last group to take the 2nd degree tests.
After sitting patiently, able to observe the etiquette and method of the test, we were finally ushered to the line for the review of our forms. The table judges, the ones actually scoring us, asked that I be placed in the center between Alex and another student on the floor. One of these judges kept looking to me and motioning me to the center, while the line judge kept pushing me back behind Alex. After a bit of this, I completed my first form hidden behind Alex. The table judge again motioned for me to move to the center. As I moved, the line judge grabbed my sleeve and started to pull be back to my previous position behind Alex. A whole test this way may become unbearable, so I motioned for the line judge to look up which he did not. After he repositioned me behind Alex, I followed the table judges' instruction to move center. Before my position could be changed, yet again, the next form had begun. I finished out my forms in the center position after some words were finally exchanged between the judges.
The rest of the test went quite similarly to this, the line judges not communicating with the table judges about what they wanted from us. Alex and I were the only source of contention among the judges, and their indecision was undoubtedly blamed on us being foreigners. We simply can't resist being a freakshow. Regardless of the minor disruptions, the test moved on with the both of us doing extremely well. We received a very animated thumbs up from Jae-Oong on several occasions. Alex will complain about mistakes in his forms, and I'll lament about my horrible first attempt at cutting, but we both passed and with a whole lot more energy and enthusiasm than many of the other students.
Our competitiveness makes us a force to be reckoned with, and Master Lee's faith in us is a constant source of motivation. I will never forget the bamboo cutting portion of my test. I botched the first cut horribly. As a woman I had only to cut once, but as they brought out a second limb of bamboo Master Lee said, "Make her cut twice." He knew I could do it, and so I did. It's these small moments that will always stay with me. Even moreso than hearing my name, "OH-DU-RI", called to accept an award for highest scored test.
Forms reviewed during test: 5
Push-ups required: 30
Bamboo cuts completed/attempted: 4/5
Glaze of confusion in announcer's eyes after calling a western WOMAN for an award: Priceless