My Story: Bike Wreck 2012

May 3, 2014 at 1:40 PM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment
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‘Thought I’d try something a little different from just a typical blog post.

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^ My 1999 Jeep Wrangler (Rocky), my bike, and me — in the summer of 2012. Keep reading. :)

I feel proud to say that I’ve had a lot of travels and experiences in my lifetime, especially in the past few years. From the first time I came to Korea as an exchange student, it just seemed like I had this new-found bravery that I put to test. I started spending money on traveling over buying things like video games, started to take pictures everywhere I went — being outside my hometown and especially outside the US made me realize that there’s more out there to see and do.

Continue Reading My Story: Bike Wreck 2012…

The Ultimate Warrior

April 11, 2014 at 7:24 AM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment
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It’s been another large gap of time to fill in since my last post. I started my grad school program in March of this year and so far it’s had a share of good days and bad days. Mostly good — so not too much to worry on there. My biggest concern pulling me away sometimes is the continuous struggle of just learning a new subject in a (what I would confidently say now is my –) second language. I like the subject material (physical education and everything under its umbrella), but I only now realize how hard it is to learn something completely new in a language that isn’t your native tongue.

But I won’t waste time on that matter anymore. I’ve been struggling to get a post out for months now, yet something happened a few days ago that really shook me up.

The passing of Warrior, known by some of his birth name “James Hellwig” — but known by most as the Ultimate Warrior.

If you’ve read any of my posts on here before, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that while I have a special place in my heart for all sports — the “sports entertainment” world of professional wrestling is very special to me. When I was young, the shows of the (then WWF) WWE and WCW shaped me in many ways. When I’m around those who I feel comfortable enough to talk to it about, I’ll gladly tell them that I was literally born a fan of pro wrestling. My brother — who is 5-and-a-half years older than me — had already become a fan of so many things from 80s pop culture before I came about. There’s a silly story he would tell me about being taken to the hospital with our grandfather and he looked in the “baby room” (I don’t know what it’s proper title is) with two Ninja Turtle action figures in each pocket. Some time later, my brother started to give me hand me down toys of his old pro wrestlers (not because he had lost interest — instead they were toys that had been chewed on by our dog or ran over with the lawn mower).

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I don’t have many memories of being very young, but I can recall one Halloween, when my brother and mom were putting facepaint on me in the design of the Ultimate Warrior. It’s one of my first memories of feeling so happy. I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5, but I remember that rush of energy when I looked in the mirror.

The Ultimate Warrior was an outrageous character who can’t really be explained. He had long “rock star” hair and face paint in the design of something like a bat with radical colors like yellow or pink. He ran out to the wrestling ring wearing bright tights and armbands tied tightly complimenting his jacked arms — and streamers hanging from his boots that just bounced with each massive step that he took in his sprint. His music was so epic. Just this heavy metal riff going on and on, perfectly falling in sync with his energy. He would run around the ring, throwing his arms in the air, then shake the ropes like a maniac to pump up the crowd even more. He was literally having a one-man mosh to his own song, sending energy to the live audience and millions of people watching worldwide.

There were other great wrestlers in that time — Hulk Hogan, the Hart Foundation, Macho Man Randy Savage, Jake Roberts, the Million Dollar Man — I can go on all day. But the Warrior was my first real “favorite wrestler.” I had no shame in telling anyone how much I like him and wanted to be a wrestler like him.

But time went on — I grew up. The Warrior had a falling out with the WWF and by the time I was in middle school and early high school, the internet was in full force and before long, YouTube videos of the Warrior (who by that point had legally changed his name to Warrior) outside the world of wrestling had come to light. I remember seeing a video of him arguing with a group of students at a university about homosexuality, and while I’ve tried to put a lot of it out of my mind, I recall him saying some harsh things. I never saw the comments myself, but I even heard he had said some terrible things about the late Heath Ledger when he passed away (because of his choice to be in Brokeback Mountain). Warrior — the man — was stromg in his opinions and didn’t care whether anyone liked it or not. I’m not trying to classify myself as liberal or conservative here, but I began to see this man who I had idolized slowing go down a path of almost lunacy. Yelling into webcams on YouTube videos and badmouthing dozens of people in the wrestling industry. All while others within the industry began to share their stories of how crazy he could be. How he didn’t want to work with other wrestlers and how he fought hard to be the “top guy” even though he was holding down others.

I almost felt ashamed to ever say I was an Ultimate Warrior fan.

But time passed, and I grew up. He got older, and I heard about the Warrior slowly coming into contact with his former employer, the WWE. I recall seeing an interview he did with 2K Sports for the WWE2k14 video game, and he seemed so level headed and kind. He had so many good memories to share about his time in the wrestling business. At one point, the interviewer asked him if he would ever return to do one more match at a Wrestlemania against his former boss, Vince McMahon. Before he could answer, a small girl’s voice piped up shouting, “Yeah!” Warrior smiled and said, “That’s my daughter, Maddie.” He began to talk about his family — his wife and two young daughters, and he had only recently began to show his daughters what their father used to do. And they were so proud of him for it, which you could see gave him such happiness.

Fast forward to 2014 at Wrestlemania 30, and the Ultimate Warrior is going into the WWE Hall of Fame. Literally less than a week ago as I type this. His two daughters — only a few years older than my oldest niece — brought him out on stage. He watched like a proud father as they walked to the back with Linda McMahon, the wife of Vince and the person he trusted most to give his introduction speech.

He spoke for at least 20 minutes, maybe longer. It was an awesome speech. He had buried the hatchet and had nothing but love for the business, and while he was upset about how the WWE had tried to tarnish his image, he was so proud of the fans for always supporting him and believing in him.

Two nights later on Monday Night RAW, he gave a final “promo” in character as the Ultimate Warrior, talking about how the fans gave him the energy to do what he did.

As I type this, I’m really having trouble getting all my thoughts together. Being a wrestling fan, it’s not unusual to hear about childhood heroes pass away.

If you haven’t heard already, Warrior died earlier this week outside a hotel in Arizona with his wife. He had flown earlier that day with his family and was said to be in good spirits — hugging his friends and taking pictures with any fans he encountered. Then a few hours later, he collapsed as to what is looking like a massive heart attack.

If you’re fortunate enough to see the Hall of Fame ceremony, you can see how proud his wife and daughters are — and how happy he is. A man once so bitter, hugging old enemies and taking his rightful place amongst the legends in the Hall of Fame. He truly did immortalize himself.

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The photo above was posted from Sting’s Twitter account. The two of them had come up in the business together and were friends from when they were young.

It’s an incredible photo. My heart is feeling heavier and heavier with each touching comment or piece of history that surfaces about Warrior. I went through a phase growing up where I felt almost ashamed to say I was a fan of him, but I now I’m ashamed I could turn on someone who really meant so much to me and gave me courage and strength as a kid.

It sounds so corny, but I’m sure he played a big part of me growing up. I really idolized him, as I’m sure so many other kids did. It’s so sad that I truly realize how special of a person he was after he’s gone.

It can’t be said enough — sending all my prayers and thoughts and positive energy to his family. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for them.

Remembering James Hellwig, the Ultimate Warrior.

The Temper of November

November 27, 2013 at 12:11 PM | Posted in (All Posts), Study Abroad Blog | Leave a comment
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Another gap of time fill in.

I took my most recent TOPIK test on the 21st of October. It was the least difficult test I’ve taken yet, whether that be an actual TOPIK or just a practice test in the classroom, but it’s still too risky to feel any shred of confidence. The hardest thing about the test is the fact that I understood SO MUCH of the content. I could read the questions and really get what they were saying, where as previous attempts were just a game of spotting recognizable words — but this one felt good. That being said, a lot of the answers themselves were unfamiliar so it still came down to an educated guessing game.

The writing part was the easiest writing part I’ve take on any test as well, but it’s so hard to tell if I could get any points out of those crucial questions. And the reading…which strangely enough has given me the most points in the past yet is the part that I feel the least confident with — was so difficult. Instead of just scanning through questions, I decided to take my time on the questions and really just try to dissect the right answers. I ran out of time so the last 10 questions or so were basically blind guessing. So that really could hurt me or help me.

Regardless, the results come out on the 5th of December so I’ll know how I did then.

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Driving “Rocky” — my Jeep in the summer of 2012 with my bike in tow. Forgive the goofy look on my face. Having the open road and that freedom — one of the best times of my life. But only now I can realize that.

My mind is definitely starting to wander these days. It’s so hard to focus on studying again after slaving away day in and day out before the previous test. Some days I do just question my reason for being here when it feels so hopeless. I know the grad school program will start next year, but I’ve been caught in this routine of studying Korean day in and day out that it has beaten me nearly to death. And I have nothing to show for it. When I dwell on that…I definitely miss life back home. I miss being able to hop in my beautiful 1999 white Jeep Wrangler with my bike in the back, driving to the park near my home and bike for hours on the lakeside trail. Or just driving on an open road with nothing but my iPod to keep me company. Or seeing my adorable little nieces. When I think about those things it really takes its toll.

But I can say this now with a very clean conscience, and if anyone takes ANY ADVICE or anything from this blog, I hope these words stick.

I used to put the value of my life on what I had accomplished. On the stories I could share. On the adventures I had. I was looking anywhere for happiness. But I’ve learned that I honest-to-God-in-Heaven had everything around me from the start to be happy with. I had a good job. I received a good education. I had good friends. A very loving family. The car of my dreams. And I had my thoughts. I had food on the table and a bed to sleep on.

I have met people who have come to Korea with this program that didn’t have those things. I always can hear my Dutch friends voice of talking about how Bangladesh is one of the only countries in the world where people can still be eaten by a tiger. I mean — that’s a thing that happens. At a point during the year during flood/tsunami/heavy rain season they are pushed to higher elevation, sometimes the jungles — and people get eaten. I have met at least two people on this scholarship from Bangladesh. I have never asked them about it nor do I plan on it. I mean, people can be shot in the US as well — but Tigers are not a problem we have.

That might not paint the best picture, but I have met people that came here to not only better their lives but to take care of their families. They send money home from their scholarship account and try to live on barely anything for the remainder of the month.

I didn’t grow up wealthy…but I was not poor in the least bit. I had a good Christmas every year of my childhood. I had so many good things, but now that I live in a tiny one room in a house owned by an old couple, sharing a single bathroom with 6 people, no kitchen to my access — just a bed and a desk and some places to hang my clothes. It’s not living on the streets, and I have a roof over my head. It’s a good home for now — but I’d be lying to you if I said it was comfortable for a long term place.

I wanted to do a Thanksgiving post after this one, but considering tomorrow is the 28th (in Korea) — well technically right now as I right this — I realize this post could be just that.

I have a lot to be thankful for. I do envy some of my friends back home, working day to day getting a comfortable pay check, living in a comfortable home, being able to eat the foods they want and drive where they want — because right now those things are not with me. At least now like how they used to.

But I have a good life. I do. I know this experience has made me grow up. I’ve experienced feelings of anger after racism came my way. I’ve experienced feelings of depression because my support system is a world away. I’ve experienced feelings of stress when surrounded by a language that confuses me. But I’ve grown up from all of it. I accept it. I know people go through these things and much worse in other lives. So I’ll come out of this better than ever.

I feel like this might be another post that I am fishing for an end, because now I just have thoughts for my next post. But I don’t want readers to feel like I’m upset about being here in Korea. I’m not. I have so much to be thankful for. And I don’t regret making the choice to leave the US for grad school.

Anyways — I wish a very happy Thanksgiving to my family and friends back in the US and to anyone reading this, all around the world. God bless.

Ooljin

^ Went on a trip with my girlfriend and her family back in the summer to the east coast of Korea. This was taken near a small city called “Ooljin.” Next to the ocean with such peaceful weather — a strong memory from my 2013.

Two Weeks And Counting

October 8, 2013 at 4:50 AM | Posted in (All Posts), Study Abroad Blog | Leave a comment
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Seoul CoEx Aquarium earlier this year. The picture doesn’t really apply to what I’m talking about below but hey — I like it.

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So it’s now early October of 2013, and I started this journey into my Korean scholarship a little over a year ago. It’s certainly a unique situation. I find that when I share my story with people face to face, some of them are shocked at my decision to come here, and some (surprisingly some people closest to me) don’t have such a big interest in my story. I don’t necessarily mean that in a negative way. It’s flattering on one hand that some people closest to me just know I’m “off in Korea somewhere traveling and getting paid to be there.”

While that’s not the whole picture, I know when I have a sincere problem and I come to them about an issue they always give me an open ear. But I’m getting sidetracked. Let me update you (on a lot of things). I didn’t pass the TOPIK test in April or July, thus I have a 6-month-extension to try and pass the test in either October or January. Beyond that, I will start my graduate school program next March. And it’s still hard.

This makes the third attempt to complete this entry and my mood is drastically different each time. Today has been hard. The test itself is in less than two weeks and I definitely feel the pressure. Getting out of bed — getting ready –making the long walk to the farthest building on campus to be surrounded by 14 or 15 fellow students who are in the same position as I am — when you do this every weekday from 9 to 4 or 5 (sometimes later) just focusing on one thing — it takes its toll. At least on me.

Even when I devote all of my attention to this goal, it still seems so far away.

I’m not that close with any of the remaining students. One in particular though said something to me that really stuck with me. He’s a 30-something Ethiopian student that doesn’t speak that much (to me at least), but one day after class he and I were both waiting to meet the same teacher for writing practice. I was asking him how classes were going and if he was exciting about starting his grad school program.

He responded to me, “My problem is my interest. I am not interested in learning this, so I can’t make myself learn it.” He went on to talk about how his program will be in English and his professor wants him to use English when speaking to him. He plans on going home (or working elsewhere outside of Korea) when this program is done, so memorizing 65 grammar patterns and all their specific elements is not something he wants to do. Memorizing vocabulary terms and their English counterparts is something he just doesn’t want to do. I was taken back by his honesty, but I really respected his feelings. I thought it was impressive.

I know I need to use Korean in my program, and who knows — I may have a future here in this country, but I still can’t get an interest to learn it (in this environment). But sometimes I feel like I dwell too much on this stuff. On the negative. I listened to Colt Cabana’s most recent podcast with Larry Poffo (retired professional wrestler known as “The Genius” and brother of the late Macho Man Randy Savage) and he and Colt talked about this Happy Bus–Sad Bus theory that was taught to Larry when he was coming up in training. Long story short — it’s about just choosing to be happy — just riding the Happy Bus and going through with it. I admire people that can do that. I won’t say “do that so easily” because as much as I try to chose to be happy, I think it’s hard for anyone.

You have to constantly count your blessings and look how far you’ve come. Look at what you have. Look at your accomplishments, and most importantly — look ahead and know a positive future is there for you. I’m 25 years old living in a foreign country, being paid by a government to learn a new language and pursue a free graduate school degree. I should be the happiest person alive, but if we ran into each other face-to-face on some days you’d think otherwise. The biggest problem I have now is the lack of someone to cope with. I have my loving girlfriend who really is my everything here. But I don’t want her to know me as someone who complains all the time. I don’t want to vent to her about how often I get stared out just walking down the street.

I don’t want to vent to her about how I miss my family and friends and familiar things back home so much. But I do every now and then. I find that most of the new foreigners here at the language school or just on campus can’t really relate to me, and vice versa. I don’t want to bring any happy exchange students down, and most of the other grad students already have their cliques. My closest foreign friends all live in a different city (or different country for that matter) or have already started their own grad school program at a different school. But — I’ll get through this. One way or another this program will end, whether that be me failing the test in October and again in January, or if I can pass and finally start my grad school program and see it through to the end. I’ll try to update again before the test with a more upbeat post.

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In the meantime (to end on a Happy Bus note), I had the chance to play the HD version of Shadow of the Colossus (one of my favorite games of all time) over the summer when a friend let me borrow it. I still own the original PS2 version, but seeing it with this new coat of paint — it looks better than ever. I listen to the soundtrack often when I work out now. Such a fantastic game all the way around.

169 Pounds. And Growing.

June 15, 2013 at 2:13 AM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment
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I used to be someone who was deeply concerned about their weight. Coming from a family with a history of diabetes and other health problems, my fear was that I would balloon up naturally when I became an adult. I probably hit my last growth spurt during my junior year of high school, and ironically at that time I was also my heaviest. I recall going to the doctor for a checkup once around December of 2004 and clocking in at 17o pounds. I played sports throughout my entire life — mostly soccer, but usually during the winter season I wasn’t too active. I’d like to tell you this was 170 pounds of lean muscle that I stacked on to prepare for soccer season — but that’s not true. Even now I would not call myself that overweight — even some people said I looked healthy — but I wasn’t comfortable with myself.

I remember during that time going to a restaurant for take out and I ran into a friend going to a different high school. She told me, “I heard you gained weight. But you look great.” Even with the second half of that comment, it still dug into my self conscious high school self like a dagger. “I was overweight? How did this happen?” Of course I wasn’t — but anytime someone’s weight changes (for better or worse) people tend to notice.

I slowly dropped the weight during soccer season the next year and kept it off — but it didn’t stop. I was so self conscious from that single comment. Being the impressionable teen I was, I can recall being at the beach with my family after graduating high school. We were in a book store and I noticed two pretty attractive teenage girls holding a magazine with the “new” Justin Timberlake, right around his “Bringing Sexy Back” phase. They were just gushing at how attractive he was, and all I could notice was his ultra thin frame and tightly fit suit.

I decided at that moment I had to keep losing weight. Looking back, it was almost a sickness. In the middle of 2008, I was at my lowest weight in my adult life — 125 pounds. I thought I looked great, but my family was concerned. Anytime someone tries to make a healthy choice in their life and loses weight, I feel like those closest to you can be concerned. It’s almost admitting, “I’m not comfortable with who I was so I have to change.” But the truth was, I wasn’t confident even at that point. Being that thin — being able to fit into shorts with a waist size of 28 — it didn’t make me any happier in the long run.

But I did a lot of research during that time when I put the weight off. I learned a lot about basic nutrition — the importance of hitting the daily nutritional values and watching calories. I cut out regular soda and made a choice to only stick with diet drinks and water. Slowly they became lifestyle choices.

Yet — people can always learn more. Now here we are in 2013, and for the past year of my life I’ve tried to go in the opposite direction. I’ve become obsessed with weight lifting.

For the past 3 years or so I’ve floated around 140 to 15o pounds — but since I really started lifting regularly last October, I started to weigh myself less and less. I knew I was eating better and excising regularly, so worrying about the scale seemed less important.

Last week I was at my girlfriend’s home helping her clean a bit, and she pulled out their weight scale randomly and said she wanted to see how much I weighed. Instinctively I felt worried. The self conscious feelings I had registered with “a number on a scale” never quite went away. I resisted at first saying, “I don’t care about that anymore.” She kept pushing a bit, just saying she was curious. She knows how often I go to the gym and has seen old pictures of me — always complimenting me on the muscle I’ve put on — so I knew her intentions were good. Finally — I agreed and stepped on the scale.

The number was in kilograms (as the rest of the world seems to use that), but I pulled out my phone to convert the number into pounds.

169.

Continue Reading 169 Pounds. And Growing….

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