June 24, 2010

...learn from these streets... accept no defeat, surrender, retreat... just like a wavin flag (pt. III)

The following takes place between 2:00am and 6:30am…

Following a short nap, and an energy drink I sleepily entered a cab with two other coworkers destined for City Hall. I actually had a dream that no one was there, that it was indeed too early and people weren’t that soccer mad in this country. Well I was wrong. The police shut down the streets around City Hall, and there were easily more people surrounding the plaza than my last visit. The differences don’t stop there however.

First it was not raining; the weather was everything you could dreamed of considering the hour. I feel the weather was an important factor for the second reason. The Koreans were mostly sitting down. The plaza and surrounding streets was occupied by a sitting army of red horns. The perimeter of this was jammed, as people shoved their way past each other. In the middle, they sat, not flinching, not wavering, and staring contently at the giant screens. I was REALLY confused, why were they sitting? I didn’t get it. This was a huge game; the energy around city hall was easily enough to make you forget that it was 3:00am. Music was blaring, people were cheering, singing, drinking. Most of the participants just happened to be on the ground.

It was the most bizarre form of riot control I’ve ever seen. The people sitting down refused to budge, they sat their ground. While the people standing were almost crushed by the sheer number of people attempting find a place to watch the game. It was as if the people sitting created a wall, no matter how much people wanted to move past them, they never did..

As we tried to meet up with a friend on the grounds we chose to walk through the sitting army. Few Koreans were attempting this strategy, another thing that confused me, I figured why not? I learned at a young age never to hit a wall straight on. I pissed off COUNTLESS Koreans in my attempt to cross the void. People had picnics set up! I stepped on a roasted chicken, I almost went ass over teakettle stepping on mustard. I even had, well I’m what I’m assuming was beer thrown on me at one point. Some Koreans brought mats to cushion the asphalt roadways (smart), and then took off their shoes so they wouldn’t get their mat dirty. I didn’t become aware of this untill after I stepped on a pair of high heels. Needles to say people were disgusted at the tall slender weigook. I was kind of disgusted that they would cheer on their nation from the ground. I figure we were equal.

I assumed when the game started people would stand up, and we could slide through the crowd easier. But when are assumptions ever right? Some people stood for the Korean national anthem, and we made our move, zigzagging easier through the crowds, however when the anthem ended they returned to their mats. Our small group of three was left stranded in the sea of sitting blinking red horns.

Some Koreans made some room for us to sit, although it was really only enough room for a Korean sized body to sit. My knees were at my chest, Sparta felt her pant leg become wet as she sat on something. The first half was great! The first Korean goal was better; the crowd erupted into cheer, and abandoned their mats to celebrate. I was jumping along with the crowd to cheer, and to return the blood flow to my legs. At the half we called our friend and finally met up with her. There was MUCH more room to sit where she was.

I had a thought while sitting and watching the game. Sitting is the great equalizer. I lose my height advantage over the tiny Koreans when we are both sitting down. It’s something I’ve yet to experience here. I had had to peer between the heads of Koreans to check out the screens, and some Koreans have pretty big heads (that’s not racist, that’s an observation). I found this difficult considering how easily I could see over the crowd my first time at City Hall.

The rest of the match they say is history. The game ended in a 2-2 draw and Korea was able to advance to the round of 16. It seems another visit to City Hall will take place on Saturday. I can only hope that crowd will be a little more excitable and spend more of the match standing. It also seems that you will be privy to a fourth installment of this little series.

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