There was no way they were going to win.
I’m no sports expert, but matched against Sweden, there was no hope for South Korea.
Yet every time they came close to scoring or being scored on, I gasped or groaned like I believed they could succeed. I was faking it, believably so. All for the sake of a fellow solo traveler in a tiny hostel in Seoul.
Now, let’s get those minds out of gutters, please.
What we’re talking about is the odd happenstance while traveling solo, even for an overnight trip.
Having traveled to South Korea a number of times, I wasn’t too fussed about this latest 24-hour excursion. The plan: Netflix and Chinese flashcards. A few hours after landing, I’d found my hostel and settled into the creaky bunk. My landlady had left. I was alone in the place.
And then the door creaked open. Wide-eyed and bag-laden, my roommate walked in.
“Oh, hi!” She tossed down her shopping. In her early 20s, I’d guess, she was a smiley Korean girl nearing the end of her time in Seoul. Eager to chat — and oblivious to my less-than-enthusiastic engagement — she began, in great English, telling the tale of her past five years.
“So where are you off to next?” I asked politely. As a frequent hostel dorm resident, I knew the standard Q&A we solo travelers adhere to.
It seemed an odd choice, so I asked why.
“Well, my church …”
As it turns out, she was a member of the World Mission Society Church of God, a Christian new religious movement that began in the 1960s in South Korea.
I’ll leave you to Google it. Not religious myself, I’ll skip my commentary.
What I will say, though, is this presented us with a unique dichotomy, roommate-wise. An avid missionary paired with a former booze columnist. What a sitcom we’d make.
After regaling me with her church’s accomplishments, she read from her bible and took a nap. Just a foot away, I queued up a graphic episode of “Orange is the New Black” and set out copying more flashcards.
At 9 p.m., it was game time. The World Cup has had Asia in a tizzy, and I’d serendipitously timed my trip with South Korea’s game. “Let’s go!” Off we went to the common room.
So there we were: her, me and our odd little landlady, reacting with gusto to every play. And while I had no belief they’d win, I cheered with the best of them. Their passion was contagious.
As it ended, a 1-0 loss, my roommate looked so disheartened.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “Maybe next game.”
“You think so?” she asked.
“You bet.” We smiled before drawing our bunks’ curtains closed.
A next time, too, I thought to myself with a chuckle, for whatever new hostel adventure I’ll be on next.