Seoul, South Korea: Seoul Olympic Park and Random Observations

So I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a travel douchebag.

Olympic parks are kind of overrated. 

Now, I’m not saying the architecture isn’t impressive, or that it’s not fun to think about the history, or that nothing ever happens there.  The problem is that they’re built for a very specific purpose, and that’s to accommodate (and impress) hundreds of thousands of people at one time in a gigantic global celebration of sport.

Years after the fact, no matter how well maintained, they’re just kind of… neat.

Seoul’s Olympic Park does have a few impressive elements.  The World Peace Gate is an awesome looking structure and you can’t help but admire (and feel a bit sad about) the inscription on the Olympic flame, which asks everybody in the world to lay down their arms and reject conflict around the world.  Tall order, I know.  The flags of all the nations still look impressive, as does the massive lake behind them, and the brackets for the 1988 tennis tournament is still up, with Steffi Graf’s name in the middle.  There are cool statues dotting the whole park and it’s still used today for concerts and events.  There’s even a “virtual sphere” which recreates the yin-yang on the South Korean flag and doubles as a giant set of wind chimes.  So there’s a lot of interesting stuff.

Still, nothing about the site is going to completely blow you away.  Fact is, it’s a big, empty sporting complex, and sporting complexes get their energy from the fans and athletes that surround them during a big event.  Barring that, they’re window dressing.  Wasn’t disappointed, per se, but…  Well, you can give it a miss. 

Now, a couple random things I’ve noted about Korea in general.  Some interesting facts and social quirks.

– Fan Death:  South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced nations on the planet.  However, there is a legitimate fear here about “fan death.”  There are a significant number of people here – even smart ones – that believe that leaving a fan on overnight in a room with closed windows can create a vacuum, suffocating the person sleeping inside.  Yeah, I know, seems legit.  I know people teaching here in universities who have had this argument with their students – UNIVERSITY STUDENTS – to no avail.  Crazy.

– There is an unreasonable fear of kids – or anybody – getting wet here.  Every day it has rained, even if it was hours ago, the camp I’m working at decides that they can’t walk the kids outside for five minutes to get them to the cafeteria.  When it started to sprinkle just a bit this morning – I mean, literally a drop every few seconds – people started to pick up the pace.  Noticeably.  Apparently – another urban legend – there is a fear of acid rain making you bald.  Sure thing.

– If an old person – male or female – doesn’t like you, they can kick you.  Really.  This has happened. Not to me, but to one of the female teachers at my camp.

– McDonalds here tastes different.  For their burgers, that’s not a bad thing.  For their McChicken, that’s definitely a bad thing.  Also, trying to figure out if their “Taste of Africa” (Chicken McNuggets and BBQ Sauce) is racist or note.

Anyway, that’s all I got for right now.  Might be doing some posts from Dongdaemun on Wednesday, as I’m looking for a poorly worded English T-Shirt and am ready to get the “Pretty Woman” treatment of “I don’t think we have anything that would fit you.” 

That’s not people here being rude.  That’s me being 6′, 200 lbs.  Size XXL (Korean).

What are you going to do?

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