Friday, June 17, 2011

"Vancouver is Fire!"

The Stanley Cup Pizza Playoffs ended on Thursday shortly after lunch. Class 3-11 was devastated - back in April, they had drawn for the number 1 selection and swiftly snatched-up the Canucks while the second pick went to Washington and the rest was pretty much predictable.

Of course I was cheering against Vancouver all along, and I could go into the reasons why, but perhaps it can be summed-up into the fact that it's always nice to see a smarmy team and fan-base who thought so far ahead as to believe that a 16-win championship road was going to be easy, crash and burn after disrespecting other teams and players along the way. As a Detroit Red Wings fan, I know all about how this "everyone against the front-runner" stuff works. If you're a hockey fan, you get it, and if you're not, you don't.

I don't mean to drop the "burn" reference so casually, I am of course speaking about the hockey game - not the riot, lest you get the two events confused as so many did.

About the only thing that would have kept me from being completely dejected had Vancouver made good on the Sedin promise to win game 7 would have been giving pizza to Yeh-lin.

Yeh-lin is a grade 3 student from class 3-11 who was all about the Canucks the past two months. She attends a daily remedial English class with two other girls in my classroom before regular class begins, and every day when I came into the classroom in the morning, I would update the Playoff bracket on my board and Yeh-lin would get all giddy about Vancouver getting one win closer to the cup. It was kind of fun - I would come in and tell her that Chicago was going to win today, and she would say "No! Ban-kubuh is win!"

Soon, I was tormenting her with the Predators, then the Sharks, and finally the Bruins. Looking at the scores from TD Garden though, she was starting to get a little bit nervous.

I honestly felt kind of bad when I walked into the class yesterday and her eyes met mine and she realized that her team lost and that meant that her class wouldn't be getting any pizza - it would be going instead to class 3-8 (which I actually kind of resent, because they are just about the worst behaved class in the school). But, a promise is a promise. 36,000 won is a small price to pay for legitimizing two months of badly-needed entertainment.

Anyway, Yeh-lin was actually pretty sad. She was sadder still when we saw each other in class today and had a look at the highlights. When it was over, she told me that "Ban-kubuh is fire!" There were other stirs in the classroom and a few other students told me that they had seen footage of the riots on KBS and MBC - Vancouver making the Korean news cycle for the first time since Queen Yu-na captured gold at the old Pacific Coliseum.

I remember coming back to Seoul after a visit home to Calgary, where a great deal of time was spent watching Olympic action from Vancouver with my family. It was March when I got back to my school here, and when I introduced myself to the new middle school grade 1s, I discovered that a city I'm not from can be easily used as an complimentary adjective: "You are berry Ban-kubuh!" more than one student would shout amidst the assertions that I was also tall and "very handsome" which means nothing if you've ever been a white-ish guy living in Korea.

Back then, "Vancouver" meant "tall", "handsome", and "teacher with high nose and small face". But right now, "Vancouver is fire", and as much as we lament that it's going to destroy the "beautiful city's reputation" for years to come, let's not get silly. People outside of Vancouver aren't going to give a rat's ass about this in a week, and people in Vancouver are just going to go back to not feeling safe in large public gatherings, or anywhere near the Rogers Centre in opposing team colours.

That's a sad reality, and as much as I dig Vancouver as a visitor for all of the happy stuff that it has to offer, let me be the first to say that I don't find the riot footage at all reassuring when I think about the fact that I'll be living in that city for a year, beginning in just over two months. With all of it's blemishes, Calgary always felt safe to me - Seoul, even safer.

Vancouver never really struck me in the same way. Enough people who have lived there would speak of a violent undercurrent in the place that is tough to explain or rationalize in anyway. I can ride my bike in the dark of night across an entire cramped Asian metropolis of 14 million people and feel completely and legitimately safe. I won't be trying the same thing in Vancouver.

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