I am not exactly sure when I first met my friend Erwin Valencia. I think it must have been at least 6-8 years ago when he came to the AP office in Tempe for a tour. We had a great talk, remained in touch, and regularly exchanged clinical ideas over the years. He was working for the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time and I was just starting to consult with the Dodgers. I am just realizing how influential Erwin has been in my education and career path. If it weren’t for him, I would have never met and would not be embarking on a new adventure of teaching techniques to allied health care professionals. If it weren’t for Erwin, I would have never been to Seoul with the most amazing group of people he brought together and I would never have been able to do the things I’ve done over the last 10 days. So Erwin, it goes without saying, much #gratitude my friend. I can’t say it enough.
About 6 months ago, Erwin asked me if I would join him in Seoul to do some teaching on behalf of his relatively new company, KinetIQ. I had already made the personal decision not to return to the Dodgers, so I knew my calendar would be open. Other than locking down the dates, I will admit that I didn’t really give this commitment much thought. Between leaving two positions that had been so much a part of me personally and professionally, having to deal with some personal items that sucked away quite a bit of my energy, realizing my new path and forming two new companies, this trip wasn’t at the forefront of my mind until it was almost upon me. It is amazing to me how something can be brought to your life at a certain time and you don’t think twice about it. Then, when it becomes a reality, it is exactly what you needed at the exact time you needed it.
My experience in Seoul is borderline indescribable. I will divide into categories and do the best I can.
The People: Wow! What a gracious, welcoming, amazing, fun, educated, professional group of people! I felt immediately bonded with the group we were with. Dr. Jong-hyun Cho, Dr. Yong Kwon Kim, and Dr. Eun Young Oh were gracious hosts and did everything possible to provide us with an amazing local experience of food, drink and culture. Their professionalism was immense, and their lively spirit was even more. So much gratitude goes to Steve Hong. The man who can make it all happen, interpreting everything as we go. You provided me with a local experience I could have never scheduled and can’t be repeated. Thanks to you and your parents for inviting us into their home, cooking us amazing homemade Korean meals, and giving us a place to lay our head after some enjoyed soju. JR Romero was the photographer that was with us the entire time, documenting this amazing journey. I cannot wait to see all of the pictures, JR! The way you can capture a simple moment or a large event makes your work unique. It was my pleasure to work with you. All the people in the class were amazing. What an open-minded, knowledge hungry group of people, who were equal parts professional and fun. I very much enjoyed teaching there, and am so thankful that you all devoted your weekend to spend with myself and Erwin.
My Grasshopper: Yongchan! Jackie Chan! JY! My Korean Brother! What can I say? We had so many “firsts” for both of us. You completely took care of me from the moment I landed to the moment I left. We had great discussions about your culture and mine, and had some great talks on professionalism, education, life and the world. There is no doubt that we will remain life long friends and colleagues. You have so much to contribute to this profession and this world. I am so excited to see how it all plays out for you. I cannot wait to host you in the US and welcome you to my country the way you welcomed me to yours. Highkick!
The Food: Overall fantastic! Other than my “skin eating” experience (check out my Instagram) I loved everything. I ate everything from octopus, samgyeopsal, samgyetang, bibimbap, “sober” soup, to kimchi. I know I am forgetting some interesting items. But truly, the cleanest, freshest food I have eaten in a long time. Things literally picked from the farm and brought to the table, or eggs collected from the chickens in the parking lot. You can’t get more FRESH and organic than that!
The City: Wow! Seoul traffic makes LA look like an open field! The great thing about all that car time was the talks JY and I were able to get in. Everything happens for a reason, and car time was great time. The city is packed with excitement and people at all hours of the day. Food, drinks, socializing, karaoke…my kind of city for sure. The Gyeongbokgung Palace was my favorite. And the Gwangjang market was a sight to see!
JeJu: Ahhhh JeJu. A beautiful volcanic island off of South Korea. We stayed at the most amazing place (Attene Pension. A must stay place if you are on the island). We walked the coast and took amazing pictures, basked in the sun and put our toes in the sand. We visited the Osulloc tea farm and ate every green tea treat they had. We found two of the most amazing restaurants. The first served the largest hamburger ever, although not what Americans consider a hamburger. It was one of the freshest, most delicious things I have eaten. The second place was a small cafe owned by a local poet on the outskirts of JeJu, serving only 7 pizza’s a day since they each take an hour to make and they only have one oven. The only thing we missed was www.nolman.com He was renovating. Something to do the next time I am there, no doubt!
#TeamKorea2014: Erwin, Steve, JR, JY- I had the most amazing days with you guys. I had so much fun and laughter with all of you! A fabulous combination of work and play that I enjoyed more than I ever thought I would. Great talks, great times, great stuff all around. Highkick!
To everyone I met in Seoul and JeJu Island: The only thing I can say is thank you for welcoming me into your country the way you did. Many friendships were started and will continue for years to come. You all made my experience so special, I am overflowing with #gratitude.
Gamsahabnida, my new friends! Gamsahabnida!