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08 July 2015 | in Universiade 2015, Summer FISU World University Games, Multisports

Washing away Language Barriers

 

 

GWANGJU – It’s hardly raining during the Korean summer but when it does, rain is the wrong expression for what is making its way down to the ground. I’ve experienced two monsoons during my time at the Gwangju Summer Universiade 2015. Both of them were refreshing in so many different ways.

The first time it rained during the Universiade was when I was working at a water polo game at Yeomju Indoor Aquatics Centre close to the Gwangju Universiade Main Stadium. The pouring rain was a relief after doing interviews in the humid air of an indoor swimming pool. As I was waiting for some athletes in the mixed zone the volunteers were not wasting any time quickly distributing ponchos to everyone who wanted to leave the building – a very nice touch that needed no words.

When I left the venue an hour later, the rain had stopped. But it came back just two days later at about the same time in the early evening hours. This time I was at the Kwangju Women’s University Gymnasium covering the last day of artistic gymnastics. After the event had ended, the shower had already flooded the parking lot in front of the building where I went to look for a shuttle bus. There was no bus in sight.

The two volunteers I asked about the shuttle to MMC as they entered their bus didn’t speak English and didn’t know why mine wasn’t coming. But they came back outside just to stand next to me with their umbrellas protecting me from getting soaked. As I was wondering around looking for transportation they shadowed me to keep me dry. I had to tell them to leave and that I was fine so that they didn’t miss their bus. I know they would have just to help me.

Since there was no bus coming to pick me up I decided to look for a taxi to be able to meet my deadline for an article. But in the darkness I failed to find a taxi and went to a nearby restaurant to finish my writing. After I had finished it, I tried again – without success. Back at the restaurant I asked a Korean couple to help me order a ride. I didn’t use any other word than ‘taxi’ and showed them my phone. They helped me and even went outside in the rain to explain the driver where I needed to go.

While sitting in the taxi I was reflecting on what had just happened. Although communication was really difficult because of the language barrier, the rain seemed to have washed away any difficulties. It didn’t need any water to make visible the hospitality of volunteers at the Universiade, but the rain definitely made the Korean kindness shine more than ever before.

 

Max Länge (GER), FISU Young Reporter