Sunday, August 24, 2008

Korea won gold in baseball tonight. I saw a few of their games over the course of the tournament, and I was very impressed by the harmonious, efficient, Confucian smallball played by the Koreans. For example, in a first-round game against America, Korea came back from a 7-6 deficit in the 9th inning. I tuned in with a runner on second and no outs. They moved the to third, and the next batter hit a grounder to first. The American went home, but the throw was towards the first-base side, and the run scored. The runner on first then went to third on what appeared to be a throwing error and scored on that most exciting of plays, the sacrifice fly, to win the game.

Tonight's Korea-Cuba semifinal was the stuff of dreams. I had hoped that Cuba would oust America (for fun, sorry Americans) and that, of course, Korea would beat Japan. I saw some of the game in the 4th and 5th at a restaurant, and left with Korea ahead 2-1. Every restaurant on the street was showing the game. I came back outside maybe 10 minutes later to a roar. Everyone in restaurants was yelling, people on the street were yelling, and even people in cars were opening their doors to see what had happened. It was a run-scoring double. I saw the game on every restaurant and store, saw some of the 7th inning at a bus station, and caught a tense bases-loaded situation near the end in a cab (yes, cabs here have TV). It felt like I was in a movie. The singular focus on this game was astonishing.

In other news:

- I learned to read the Korean alphabet over two hours on the subway on Monday.
- A 6-year-old girl asked me what that was on my arm. I told her it was hair.
- I realized in a discussion with my students that I haven't seen a plate since I've been here. Everything here comes in bowls. I also haven't seen a bathtub, a house (just apartments), a knife or an open space greater than a few acres.
- All 19 of my students today live in apartment buildings. There was one who claimed otherwise, but I'm sure he just didn't understand the question.
- I work with someone who lives on the 13th floor of an apartment building. No, it's not marked as the 14th floor.

Finally, life as a minority minority is hard. I'm a foreigner, yes, but I was already a foreigner where I was from. I tell people about my first language, and they politely nod. Today, however, I met someone who had heard of Urdu. Why? She had studied counter-terrorism.

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