▲ Hundreds of Koreans and expatriates gathered at Iho Taewoo Beach on the last weekend of May to play in a volleyball tournament and raise funds for the family of former teacher Nathan Furey, who died in March 2009. Photo by Noura Ibrahim
I’ve always had a fantasy America in my head, as I imagine many Americans do also. I’ve never visited the country, so it’s completely composed from music, films, television and books, my primary influences being “Home Alone,” Bruce Springsteen and an endless stream of high school movies such as “Teen Wolf” and “Ferris Bueller.” My America is a land of suburban mid-sized towns, rock ’n’ roll, baseballs being thrown around neatly manicured lawns while granddaddy rocks on the porch, where there are prom nights and parties and everyone smiles a lot. And to me, the third Jeju Furey Beach Volleyball Tournament on May 29 and 30, with camp-fires, music on loudspeakers, woods and beach and wholesomeness, fit my fantasy (though it could have done with more Springsteen).
The Furey tournament serves at least three excellent purposes: people get the chance to compete at a great sport in a fun environment; residents of Jeju and visitors have a two-day beach party; and lastly (but by no means least), it raises money for The Furey Foundation. The foundation and tournament were started by teacher Dan Nabben to raise funds for the widow and two young sons of fellow teacher Nathan Furey, who died in March 2009. The foundation has collected nearly 20 million won with this third tournament contributing 3.5 million.
The tournament was held on Iho Taewoo Beach, with teams comprised of three male and three female players. Twenty-eight teams took part, totaling 168 players and many spectators also. With the addition of music, both recorded and live; swing dance demonstrations; barbecues and cooking fires scattered over the beach and near campsites, and the social lubricant of beer (on sale by organizers) and whatever other beverages people brought along; the tournament became more of a festival. More Korean players and teams have taken part in each subsequent tournament, growing from 19 percent of participants in the first event through 31 percent in October and 37 percent in the May games. Perhaps it will rise to a 50/50 balance next time.
On the first day of play, each team played six matches consisting of two games to 21. The results from day one were used to seed teams for the second day, and then the tournament worked on a triple elimination system — once a team lost two games, it dropped to a lower bracket and once it lost three, it was time to join the spectators.
The winners, for the second tournament in a row, were Korean team Red Sun, who beat The Monkey Sisters and Peace Frogs in an exciting final. There were also awards for individuals with Jeff Carey scooping the “All-Out Male” award and Allison Caverly taking the female gong (or cake voucher).
“People are already talking about the next tournament in October and all the reviews on Facebook look good, so I’d say it was another success,” organizer Nabben said. “The near-perfect weather for the third time in a row didn’t hurt either.”
From a personal viewpoint, the volleyball tournaments are some of my favorite events of the year and I’m already looking forward to the next one on Oct. 9 and 10.
It may be strange that I relate a volleyball tournament on a Korean island to my imaginings about suburban eighties America. But to paraphrase the Boss, when I’m old I’m sure I’ll sit back and try and recapture a little of these glory days.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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