This post is about the rest of competition and my stay. Below I have an index if you want to go to a particular section in this post. Again, I have inserted some pictures in this post, but the entire album links are also included.
Day 5 – Wednesday – April 25, 2012
Around the hotel and a traditional Korean lunch
When I woke up, I realized I lost my voice (laryngitis). Thankfully, I did not have a temperature or fever and I did not feel any fatigue. Travis got some energy and appetite back so we went to the McDonalds in the neighborhood. Here are some pictures of the area around the hotel:
He was still recovering from jetlag, so took a nap (as we all wanted to see the evening A weightlifting sessions) while I went to eat Korean food for lunch. (I did not train that day because it was the day after I competed and I lost my voice – so rest was needed) I needed help with the language because I needed to make sure my meal did not have pork or meat in it (seafood and vegetables are OK for me).
I asked the volunteers if they could write those phrases for me in Korean. Instead, they offered to go with me and talk to the restaurant themselves. That was nice of them, because it was also raining. As soon as they understood what I could eat, they got started preparing my lunch.
Korean food is fairly healthy, at least the traditional food. Some dishes might have some sugar (e.g. Bulgogi), but the foods that had the most sugar would be the snacks such as cookies, biscuits, candy and some of the traditional desserts. The food served in the hotel was overall healthy, they tried to accommodate for the various dietary restrictions that some athletes had. If you follow Paleo, then the rice would be your main issue, but you could just choose not to eat it. Overall, I like Korean food, and Kim chi is not spicy for me, it reminds me of Achar (i.e. pickled vegetables, common as a condiment also in South Asian countries).
62KG men’s A session and dinner
We took the shuttle to the competition venue and met Alix. I took pictures and Travis recorded the lifts. I hope to get the video and pictures online later. These blog posts, pictures and video took a long time so I am going to take a little break.
After the session and awards ceremony, we decided to take some Team Pakistan pictures. The podium was still on the stage, so I definitely wanted to use those in my pictures.
Then we had dinner at a Korean place which cooked the stir fry at your table.
Here is a link to the full album of pictures for day 5:
Day 6 – Thursday – April 26, 2012
Today was Travis’s last full day, so we went to Seoul and met Alix there. Getting to Seoul took a little bit learning, but people were helpful when we asked for directions. We first went to the Olympic Park that has the stadium.
Then we went to the city hall/center area. I had to get some coffee and went to Dunkin Doughnuts. I liked thier drinks better because they are not as sweet as in the USA. I also decided to treat myself to green bubble tea. We walked around that general central area then took the train back to Pyeongtaek.
Here is a link to the full album of pictures for day 6 AND 7:
Day 7 – Friday – April 27, 2012
Travis flew out that morning. He gave me a training outline for the rest of my stay there. I decided to get more sleep so I could recuperate. I was getting my voice back but not completely. Waiting for the shuttle, I got to talk with the female coaches from India. They congratulated me and said they know it is extremely tough to break a boundaries, get something started and that they have similar issues in India so they understand, especially for female weightlifters… and God Bless me for my efforts. I appreciated their support and know that I am not the only one that has similar challenges to deal with.
In the training hall, I got to meet some local students who were in a weightlifting club. They asked about me and my background and I got to know about their training. Training went OK, but I had to really make sure I breathed and got my oxygen in, especially as I had started coughing. I met Bud Charniga. He was there for his business and he likes to film/photograph the weightlifters to study their technique. I had first met him at the 2011 American Open.
Unfortunately, the training hall was the place where I met special friend #2. He was a coach in his late 60s, who thought my real age was 20, and offered to marry me so he could get a green card to the USA. I told him I did not want to marry him. He could not speak English in complete sentences, and I am not sure he understood what I was saying. Maybe he thought I was so happy that he was offering marriage he did not think I would say no. More on him and special friend #1 in the final section of this post.
Before the 69 kg A women’s session, I went back to have lunch at the hotel (yum they had extra seafood) and then came back to the competition venue and took pictures of the outside. Here are some of them:
Then I watched the 69 kg A women’s session. It is pretty awe inspiring to see that much weight thrown up in the air. The shuttle bus ride back was kind of fun because all of us were leaving at the same time, so we crammed into all possible spaces. Due to my vertical leaping abilities, I was able to sit in the front seat.
For dinner, I went to Star Kebab, a Turkish place near the hotel that serves halal meat, and I got chicken wings, I assume they were Turkish style. If you ever travel to Songtan, check them out, and Mr Kabob is also good. The food is good and they are all nice people.
Here is a link to the full album of pictures for day 6 AND 7:
Day 8 – Saturday – April 28, 2012 – Seoul
Since on Thursday we did not spend much time in Seoul, I decided to venture out once more for a full day. I will let the picture album tell the story, but some of the places I visited were, inside of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Folk Museum, the National Museum, the Namsam traditional village and halal dinner in the Itaewon province.
I enjoyed visiting Seoul, even though I do not know Hangul, it was still OK to get around and communicate. If I get a chance to visit Korea again, I would definitely like to see the countryside.
Here is a link to the full album of pictures for day 8 AND 9:
Day 9 – Sunday – April 29, 2012
I trained again, which went fine, void of coughing. I reunited with some of the Iranian team and trained next to the super heavy weights (105+ kg). I am sure the juxtaposition of that image was of interest to others, I being a 48kg and they of course lifting a lot more. Contrary to stereotypes others might have, the Iranian athletes and coaches were supportive of me in France and at this competition as well.
Towards the end of my training, special friend #2 came into the hall. He came over to me like we were buddies. I am sure the default look on my face was pretty scary, he just slowly walked off and never talked to me again! YAY! I do not think he would dare to take further action in a hall full of weightlifters. And hopefully that is the last time he thinks he is doing a woman (less than half his age or one he thinks is less than 1/3 of his age!!!!) a favor by wanting to marry for a green card.
Then I got to film the 105kg A men’s session.
Here is a link to the full album of pictures for day 8 AND 9:
Day 10 – Monday – April 29, 2012
Today was my last full day, I went to the training hall but they were packing things up! I had my lifting shoes and was ready to train. I took some pictures (of course!) and also with the female athlete from Team India who competed in the 53kg weight class.
I went to the competition venue and saw some of the 105+ kg B session. Then I got to talk to Mr Hafiz during his break and we took some pictures. I had to get some lunch, and got a little bit lost walking around, so I missed the rest of that session, but at least I got to be ready to see, film (with my trusty tripod) and photograph the 105kg+ men’s A session.
105KG+ men’s A session and closing ceremony
Here are a few pictures of the 105kg+ session. I have a lot of pictures, and videos of all of the lifts, and as with the other media I have of the competition, I will post links when I have them up online.
One of the volunteers there that helped me from the first day till the end was Yom Uki who lives in Pyeongtaek City. He was orphaned during the Korean war, when his whole family was killed. He was able to survive and today he is a proud grandfather. We got to talk more on the shuttle from the Songtan hotel to Hotel Shine for the closing dinner and ceremony.
It took about 40 minutes to get to Hotel Shine, it is a nice hotel by the sea. The dinner had a lot of food options, and in the midst of the awards and ceremonies, there were also some performances. Special friend #1 almost sat next to me, but I was able to avert the situation by moving my and Mr Uki’s belongings and moving them to another table. Again because people were with me, and many people were around, I do not think he would have tried anything further.
While we were waiting for the bus to take us back to the Songtan Hotel, I saw the Iranian team and officials were waiting to go to the airport. I went to give my salaams (greetings of peace) to Rezazadeh. He started speaking to me in English, he asked how my competition went. Then he said he knows that I competed as the only athlete for Pakistan, and congratulated me for my efforts. I told him I appreciated his support and wished them all a safe journey back to Iran. (side note: one of the reasons there were not others competing for Pakistan is because there is no source of funding, and it is expensive to travel to competitions, and this its also hard to train without that support)
The bus was so decorated, again it reminded me of a bus in Pakistan. Check out the pictures in the album if you have a chance. I got to talk again with the coaches from Team India on the ride back. Upon arriving to the bus stop near the hotel, a volunteer helped me make some final purchases (gifts) ginseng tea, and Korean tea.
Here is a link to the full album of pictures for the last day:
Departure – Tuesday – May 1, 2012 – Back to Atlanta, Georgia
My flight was in the evening, so I was able to take my time and pack everything and finally check out. I got so used to being there and seeing the same kind people everyday, that I felt melancholy. I was still coughing a bit, so I took my last walk in the neighborhood (I ran into a US Air Force personel that helped me find my way, he remembered me and asked if I had found my way that day.. the area is next to the Osan Air Force Base), got some medicine and lunch at Mr Kabob.
I went back to the hotel, and they told me I needed to go to the bus stop for the ride to the airport. The lady who worked during the days at the counter gave me a hug a goodbye. Two of the hotel staff helped me take my luggage to the bus stop. We made a stop at hotel Shine then onwards to the Seoul airport. When I loaded my luggage for check in, one of the volunteers went with me to push the cart. He took me to a pharmacy there to get cough medicine. The pharmacist asked me about the weightlifting (I wore my Pakistan weightlifting jacket while I was there). Like many others, they all are surprised and did not think I would be a weightlifter. She asked if I got a medal. I said no. She said sorry but I said it is OK, I was happy to be able to compete and participate.
The flight went well, just as it was when I flew to Seoul. I was able to sleep most of the way. Getting off the plane and walking into the Atlanta airport, I knew I was back when I heard people speaking in English, especially the southern accent I had not heard for a while 🙂
Finally – More on dealing with weirdos, possible psychos and why that should not be a deterrent for women going to competitions
It has taken me a long time to get my posts and content up, because when I got back from Korea, my cough became worse and I developed sinus issues. This put me behind schedule, but finally, I have almost recovered. This gave me time to think, and I decided to include this section after thought and talking with others.
First I want to address why I essentially traveled alone. The plane ticket, plus all other expenses are costly, and one also has to take time off to travel. Also, I was the only one competing, let alone, traveling from the USA to Korea (except Travis, who coached me, but he had limited time). Ideally, I would have liked to have a posse with me. I have traveled alone before, and I was going to a competition where logistics were being handled, and many people and athletes were participating, so I did not have any concerns about safety.
Even though Special Friend #1 was going to be there, I was still not deterred from participating and traveling to the competition. I want to just say that psychos are out there in the world, not just at competitions so that does not mean women should not travel to competitions or that should be an excuse to forbid her. Specifically, a competition (at least one that is established and organized) is going to be a safe environment. It is a great opportunity to also meet and interact with people from all over your country or all over the world. You can always organize a group or have chaperones.
Only a handful of people out of many are freaks, and they can be anywhere, even near your home. So I think it is important (especially for children) to learn how to deal with them and protect themselves.
Back to my personal experience and in traveling to competitions.. People I have met are respectful, friendly and I think would be protective if they knew I was being harassed. Fortunately, my situation with the two special friends did not escalate and I did not need to get outside help.
When I spectated at some of the competitions, and special friend #1 was in the audience and spotted me, the most he did was stare with a creepy smile. I just made sure not to be alone at any time, which was not difficult as there were people everywhere. Same for the closing dinner, even though he tried to sit next to me, I just simply moved my seat. If he did try to get more psycho, there was security there so they would have tackled him. Same for friend #2.
The reason I am opening up about this is because a lot of times women are either restricted or women themselves are afraid to travel, competitions or not. Of course, you do not want to travel somewhere unsafe, or put yourself into a compromising situation, but please do not let things like this restrict you from what you want to do.
Thanks for reading and your support!