The world has come together once again, with the most athletes ever competing for the coveted gold medal. Everything has the Olympic touch, street lamps, busses, you name it. Hospitality is in the air.
To answer a big question, no, we didn’t get to go to the opening ceremony. Tickets were upwards of $600, and scalping wasn’t very successful. We watched it on TV in a bar right across the street, so we got to be warm while still seeing the fireworks. So I would call it a success.
When I came, I knew of 3 mission groups going to the Games. I assumed there would be more, but I was not expecting what we encountered. We have met everyone across the entire spectrum, from people inviting us into their church and giving us free coffee and dinner, to a man literally screaming through a megaphone in our faces that we needed to be saved. Here are some observations I’ve made so far.
Unpredictability is the nature of this project. Many people asked me before I was leaving if I had a set schedule. My generic response was “I’ll figure it out when I get there.” Jokes. I still don’t have a day-to-day plan. I have a general idea of what I want to do, but opportunities present themselves in the weirdest ways. Just today, as Joe, Seo Yeon and I were waiting in line for the bus, a large group of people wearing jackets that say “Jesus Loves You” on them get off the bus. We then ended up spending 30 minutes talking with them, and it was the best interview that we’ve had so far. Devine intervention my friends. I may not have a set schedule, but the work is getting done.
The opening ceremonies were extremely political. You probably didn’t see it on TV, but in the square outside of the Olympic stadium there were hundreds of people protesting for their cause. There was a group with signs saying, “We are against ugly politics,” another was the Korean communist party (or so we assumed, from their signs, chants and playing the communist party song on replay) Greenpeace, a group against the practice of eating cats and dogs, on and on. People in Korea are taking advantage of the large amount of people they have at their disposal.
I’m intentionally talking to people most people intentionally avoid. As a college student, I’m very aware of people’s constant desire for your attention. When it comes down to it, religious groups are just another group bartering for attention of those passing by. By this principle, the people I am doing my study on are the people most avidly avoid. Perks of this, they are generally very easy to talk to, generally friendly, and will try and hold a conversation even if they do not speak English.
Olympic fans are addicted. When I say addicted, I mean change-your-daughters-wedding-date-so-you-can-attend addicted. People ask me how many Olympics I have attended, and when I say that it is my first, they all say, “just wait,” and talk about how many different Olympics they have been to. I’ve talked to people who have gone to 24 Olympics. Twenty. Four. They’ve been to more Olympics than years I’ve been alive. They have sports they watch, athletes they follow, Olympic pins they want to trade for, and how to accomplish all of those things down to a science. They are masters of the Games.
I’ve fallen in love with the Olympic mascots. Please tell me how you could not think they are the cutest. Soohorang (white tiger) and Bandabi (black bear) have life size statues all over the streets, are in most Olympic videos around the arenas, and are on every sign about the Olympics all over the streets. Definitely getting a stuffed version for my cousin’s daughter, Sophia, but whether I buy one for myself as well is still up in the air. Three cheers to the creators, you might have made the cutest animals I’ve ever seen.
Yelling “GO USA” to strangers wearing American beanies gets unpredictable responses. Some people cheer with you, they are so excited to see someone from home. One guy even hugged us after he found out we were American. There are also people who are terrified because a stranger is yelling at them. Either way, 10/10 would recommend trying it.
Tomorrow is Sunday, so we are going to see some church services, interview some more Olympic ministry folks, and hopefully see an event. Your messages and support are supporting me in ways you don’t even know, so thank you.
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Till next time!
Too good to leave out
She looked at me with wide eyes as she thrust a map of the subway system into my hands.
“Where are you trying to go?” I responded.
She began to shake her head fervently and replied simply, “no English.”
I was not quite sure how to help her. She clearly was lost in the Seoul train station, which can be confusing even for native Koreans (or so they tell me). She started muttering something under her breath and I started looking for Joe, who was refilling his metro card.
It was then I realized, she was muttering in Spanish.
Laughing, I asked her again in Spanish. Her face lit up and she told me the problem she had been having with her metro card and finding the right train. She was from Argentina, and there was no Spanish language option on the kiosk, only English. Once Joe came over, we checked her cards and helped her buy the right ticket. With a grin and a hug, wished “buena suerte” and parted ways.
Right place, right time? Coincidence? Maybe. I like to think divine intervention played a hand in it.