25 June 2008

north vs. south

Seeing the North Koreans play the South Koreans was a new enough combination, but beer and dried squid... that straw almost broke the camel's back. I say "almost" because that dubious honor is reserved for the $12 chicken nuggets that in order to rise above room temperature must be put in the soccer stadium's microwave by you after you buy them. At least the sauces were good.

We went with friends to see the soccer game on Sunday night and it was well worth the price of admission. If nothing else, it shows that soccer stadiums can be places where families congregate and petite Korean women feel at home. (Korea is very different from Italy in this regard. I don't even understand the Korean language but I'm fairly positive that the stadium wasn't filled with profanity-laden screaming. Or even anger for that matter. Just lots of chanting and flag waving and clapping. And some serious squealing by the ladies.)

Despite the begrudgery of some members of our party I decided to give the dried squid a chance. It was a school night and I'd already had half a beer, so I figured I might as well go whole hog and eat some dried-up pieces of fragrant sea life too. Good thing I did. Eating the stuff is vaguely reminiscent of fruit roll ups; you tear strips off of a larger sheet and while the concept may sound weird and a touch creepy, it tastes pretty good. Like chewy potato chips infused with salty fish flavor. That might not sound like a good thing - but it is.

The game ended in a 0-0 tie with a lot of running around but no goals scored. The two teams shook hands once the clock ran out and spent some time lingering together on the field. At one point the "One Korea" fans, who were holed up on the far side of the field, unfurled a giant white flag with a turquoise Korean peninsula on it -- the "One Korea" flag. Afterwards we noticed monks (didn't I tell you the stadium was a gentle place?) and others walking around carrying smaller versions of the flag.

Seeing the "One Korea" message was a pretty solid reminder of what would happen next. The jerseys would get thrown into duffel bags and the soccer balls would be collected and put away. The South Koreans would stay where they were and the North Koreans would get themselves back on their own side of the 38th parallel.

A gentle reminder that we live in a country technically still at war.

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