Korea Republic vs. Australia friendly, Seoul World Cup Stadium, September, 2010.
The doors opened. We staggered out of the subway train into the station—a newly-arrived tour group of adoptees and our families, our eyes assaulted by the bright fluorescent lights, our brains still reeling from end-of-the-first-day jet lag. I could feel the rumble in my chest as the train sped off into the tunnel at the end of the station. But when it subsided, I became aware of a roar, punctuated by a rhythmic pounding like a distant war beat. My jet-lagged mind snapped into awareness as we stepped onto the escalator. Lifting our heads towards the noise from above, we saw lights cutting through the patch of night sky above us, growing larger and larger until...
We broke ground level and emerged upon the greatest scene I’ve ever witnessed. In front of us, a forest of thundersticks in a broad canyon of skyscrapers, stretching off into space, dancing in unison to the pounding beat. Underneath them, a vast sea of people sitting knee-to-knee, completely filling a street wider than any I had ever imagined; chanting at the top of their lungs in a language I felt a primeval bond with despite not understanding a word. “What are they saying?” I asked the girl next to me. “Hail Do-min-go?” She couldn’t hear me. On the enormous screen that stood off in the distance, across the vast multitude of people below: live, the third place game of the World Cup. Men in red and blue jerseys flitted across the green field, casting a glowing, dynamic, Technicolor blanket on the crowd—a nation living its dream, willing itself on. I stood stunned while I soaked the scene up. And then I began to wade into the crowd, screaming along with them.
How many people were there around me? Seven hundred thousand, I read in an English-language paper the next day. It might as well have been the entire nation. Where were we? City Hall? It didn’t really matter. At that moment, it felt like the center of the universe.
I was 15, and I was back in Seoul for the first time.
Thursday, July 01, 2010 | Posted by Mark Z at 12:17 AM |