10 9 / 2012
10 9 / 2012
I have written an article for the local expat online magazine about my Olympic summer at home. And here it is. Enjoy.
No matter where you were in the world this summer belonged to the Olympics with the focus centered on London, my home city. It is only once in a lifetime that the Olympics are likely to come to your home country and there was no way I was going to miss it.
I had always supported the Olympics coming to London, although in the eight years leading up to the event this was definitely a controversial stance to take. From the initial joy of winning the Games to the shocking attack on London the next day, through changes in Government, fears of recession and questions of why we want to spend money on sport when most families are in dire straits. Not to mention the worries of venues not being ready, tickets not being sold and security risks, the journey towards the Olympics was certainly tumultuous with a large section of the British public apathetic towards the whole thing.
It was not until British cycler and Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, rang out the world’s largest harmonically tuned bell at the Olympic Opening Ceremony did the whole country finally get the Olympic spirit. And what a Ceremony? Danny Boyle’s Isle of Wonders took you through almost 300 years of British history from the industrial revolution to James Bond and a spectacular entrance by the Queen, with homage to the National Health Service and the wealth of British literature and music, as well as Mr Bean and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. This Olympic ceremony reminded us that we have more to celebrate in Britain than just the monarchy, pomp and tradition. To other nationalities the ceremony may at times have been baffling, filled with in-jokes, but it perfectly summed up the British sensibility. It had warmth and humor, at times was irreverent, but always idiosyncratic
From that first day the country was behind the Team GB athletes. Even some of the hardest critics among my friends couldn’t help but get swept up in the Olympic fever and made a desperate scramble to get tickets. Even for my part I left it a bit late to get tickets for any of the headline sports but I managed to secure tickets to the ever so exciting women’s team semi final of table tennis! But I would have been happy to see anything; I just wanted to be a part of the Olympics.
Travelling home after a year away I immediately noticed the difference in London. Everyone was happy. The mood in the city was fantastic. It was as if every glorious summer day had rolled into one making each day brighter than the last, instantly lifting everyone’s spirits. It didn’t matter that the actual weather was the usual British offering of cloud; rain and intermittent sun; people were full of the joys of the Games.
The Olympics were able to crack the hardened veneer Londoners tend to have partly due to the fantastic army of Olympic volunteers, the so-called Games Makers who directed tourists, kept spectators moving and provided information always with a smile and a greeting. Londoners are not used to that kind of friendly manner and it spread like wildfire across the city and country.
Of course it helped that our Team GB athletes were doing so well on the track and field, in the pool and velodrome with the medals rolling in. It reminded us that we have more to celebrate in UK sport then our over paid footballers.
This feeling was electrified at any one of the Olympic venues. I visited the London ExCel Centre, which was the largest competition venue at the Olympics, home to table tennis, boxing, judo, wrestling, fencing, taekwondo and weight lifting.
As you approach the venue the purple and orange T-shirts of the Games Makers start to vividly appear and greet you with their boundless energy. You are quickly and efficiently taken through security before heading up into the noise and excitement of the arena. Like me, for the majority there they just wanted to be a part of the Olympic experience with many people proudly wearing their Team GB T-shirts and waving Union Jack flags. It didn’t matter that we were actually seeing China and Korea battle each other out for a finals place.
There were of course Chinese and Korean supporters in the audience too, the Chinese being the most vocal, chanting a special cheer for their team. They definitely over powered the Korean cheers and my own “Go Korea” got lost in the hubbub, except at one particularly tense point there was a lone cry of “Go Team GB” which broke the tension with mutterings of laughter.
The game itself was a white wash and over pretty fast. Korea didn’t win a single game in the three matches of the semi final. The Chinese dominance was unyielding and even the tactics from the sidelines of the Chinese coach, being the last person in the entire arena to stop clapping for every single Chinese point won, would certainly have been off putting for the Korean team. However, just being there, seeing the venue, watching the sport, being with supporters, there was a community spirit I have never felt before and certainly went hand in hand with the general feeling of pride and happiness the country seemed to have to be hosting the Games.
I would not say that British people are particularly patriotic, certainly not like Koreans, too much history of the Empire and negative connotations of the British flag to contend with. But for those two weeks this summer I have never felt more proud to be British (although it does make me cringe to even admit that). Britain was the green and pleasant land that welcomed the Games and will hopefully have a lasting legacy of sport for generations to come. In the mean time the summer sun fades, the grey skies return and the hard shell of London sets with just memories of the summer that was.
05 9 / 2012
1. I have to put toilet paper in the bin rather than down the loo.
2. Someone pushes in front of me while queueing to buy a bus ticket.
3. I sweat through my T-shirt within 30 minutes.
4. I can’t read anything.
5. I see all my friends!
6. I see all my students.
7. Being told drinking too much water is bad for me.
8. Having kids bow to me!
9. Hearing Kpop everywhere I go, especially song of the moment Gangnam Style!
10. Having an endless supply of snacks constantly pushed into my hands at school.
11. Always seeing mountains on the horizon and rice fields in the distance.
25 8 / 2012
25 7 / 2012
I got this email the other day from a monk at the monastry I taught at in Nepal. It made me miss the time I had there. I can still remember the view I would see from the top of the hill behind the monastry. The rolling hills and the snowcapped mountains of the Himalayas in the distant background. The patchwork of farming fields, each a luminous shade of green. In many ways it is similar to the views I see here in Korea, and I guess that is another reason I am drawn to them.
This email also reminds me of the kind and generous spirit of the Nepalese people and especially the kindness of the Buddhist monks I stayed with. We may not have had a lot of conversation but their generousity I will never forget.
A message from a monk:
Dear friends & well wisher,
Prior to precede myself any further, initially I would like to pay my warmest greeting to your entire concerned family member. I hope this letter of mine would confine you in best of health.
Nevertheless, like to let you know that you are always in our good thoughts and wishes. We sincerely remember your kindness all the time. I am still continue to pray for your well-being and success I trust that all of you are keeping well.
Here we all students and staffs are enjoying diversities of nature of monsoon season no more sunshine as it was really cool weather for farmer.. Some time the sky is overcast with black cloud and it has begun to drizzle and the rain is imminent. The air is sweet, fresh and pleasant. I am writing to you, with the rattle of rain on the roof. Consequently, the corn and all croops are planted field will promised to have a good harvest this year.
Well…..Our first term examination was just finished. I am sure that all our students have done well on their exam. They are waiting the result eagerly.
According to the school there are 65 students they are age 5 to 17. 12teachers they all are so kind and compassionate to the students. We all are fine and happy with all everything run so well. Recently we have two volunteer teachers from Netherland. They teach English and creative class. All the students excite to share their knowledge and traditional Regarding to the situation of Nepal l sought to restore parliament for the democratic process to continue and to initiate a peace process for the end of a ten-year long armed conflict. This required the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to join democratic competition which in turn necessitated the devising of a constitution to manage root causes of conflicts afflicting the nation. Also price of daily usage, petroleum hiked lot as compare to with last few months back. It was so hard for the people of Nepal. We sincerely pray that such crisis never come all over the world.
We are so thankful for your constant support and love that you have shown upon us.
Hope you will continue to help many other being through your kind motivation. With renewed thanks for all your hard work and good motivation for us.
With prayer & greeting,
Manjushri Di-Chen Buddhist Learning Centre
P.O Box # 9346