Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
- Discovering the lure of luxury at Hong Kong Airport and with Le Clos at DXB - November 25, 2022
- Nearing the end of my year of the RAT - November 21, 2022
- Q-rating a sense of wonder in Qatar - November 12, 2022
And the sky is black and still now
On the hill where the angels sing
Ain’t it funny how an old broken bottle
Looks just like a diamond ring?
But it’s far, far from me
– John Prine, Far from me
Early morning at my Interim Busan Bureau in Songdo Beach and there’s something to catch the eye at just about every point across the panorama outside my fifth floor window.
There’s the sky for a start, stretching gloriously, almost biblically, into the vastness of the Busan metropolis across the bay. Could a master painter create anything as sublime?
Down below, the early morning joggers and walkers make their way briskly along the promenade. In the distance the beach is dotted with beach umbrellas but as yet only a handful of hardy early morning swimmers are braving the waters. And while the Songdo Marine Cable Car – also known rather nicely as the Busan Air Cruise – won’t start up for a few hours, there’s plenty going on out in the bay with small boats meandering their way across the gently shimmering waters, while much bigger ones, some anchored, punctuate the horizon.
The headlines in the Korean media are very similar to those just about anywhere else at the moment.
‘Korea sees record daily cases despite toughest distancing rules.’
‘Tokyo Olympics kick off under the shadow of COVID-19’
The Republic of Korea saw a record 1,842 new infections yesterday, including 270 sailors on an anti-piracy mission in waters off Africa. If you think you have it tough, imagine being on that boat a long way from home. Just over 83% of the nation’s new cases were in Greater Seoul (494 in Seoul itself, 363 in Gyeonggi Province and 130 in Incheon) but infections here in Busan – relatively unaffected until now – spiked to 102.
We’re here for another two weeks, followed by a few days in Seoul that now, as a result of restrictions, look likely to be a whole lot less social than planned. Already several planned business meetings have had to be cancelled due to strict social distancing measures applied by individual companies. After nearly two months on the road it feels like time to go home. And wait, there’s a third headline which suggests I might need to do exactly that…
‘S. Korea lose to New Zealand to open men’s football tournament.’
We’re talking Olympics again and let’s just say that while South Korea is football crazy, New Zealand is not. We prefer an egg-shaped rather than spherical ball and while the team the Kiwis have curiously dubbed the OlyWhites has made the front pages of the New Zealand media today (below), they’ll disappear just as soon as news breaks of what an All Black star had for breakfast.
I do love the contrasting Korean/Kiwi match reports of the winning goal. The Korea Herald wrote that Olywhites striker Chris Wood potted the match’s lone goal in the second half after a shot attempt “went off a defender’s leg and landed on his feet”.
Landed on his feet? Hardly a Pelé-like term is it? If you watch the video, you might find he controlled it superbly and finished brilliantly. According to Kiwi media Stuff, Wood scored “after the incisive pass from midfielder Joe Bell struck a South Korean defender and fell into the Burnley marksman’s path”.
Note: You learn something every day. While checking google for the correct description of a soccer ball’s shape – why didn’t I simply settle for ‘round’? – I discovered it is actually a truncated icosahedron. That may sound like a Neolithic elephant but is actually a reference to a shape comprising 32 faces (pentagons and hexagons), 60 vertices and 90 edges. Still with me? Thought not.
Alas, there’s something else that is a truncated icosahedron – a Hexapentakis Truncated Icosahedron to be precise – and that is COVID-19’s geometric structure (pictured below), an image and a reality that has come to dominate our lives in a way that even football cannot.
In global terms right now you have to forage really, really hard for much good news on the pandemic as more new waves descend on an already traumatised world than on an Oahu beach when surf’s up.
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The Tokyo Olympics I mentioned earlier – which, despite some sports already being underway, officially start tomorrow – are sadly going to be played out in front of empty stadiums, parks and arenas. Almost 2,000 new COVID cases were reported yesterday in Tokyo, 91 of them linked to the Olympics. Here in Korea, health authorities fear a possible shortage of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients as cases surge.
In the UK, infections among those aged between 20 and 29 have hit the highest rate seen in any age group in England since the pandemic began. In France, visitors now need a COVID-19 pass to ride up the Eiffel Tower or visit French museums or movie theatres, following what the government calls a “stratospheric” rise in Delta variant infections. Of France’s 18,000 new coronavirus cases reported Tuesday, 96% involved people who were unvaccinated, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex. And despite all that and a new wave sweeping the USA, nearly half of House Republicans will not declare publicly whether they are vaccinated.
“I don’t think it’s anybody’s damn business whether I’m vaccinated or not,” Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas told CNN, in a complete abandonment even of any pretence at being a public role model.
Forbes reported recently that 99.5% of deaths in the US in the last six months were of unvaccinated people. Over 34 million COVID cases in total across America since the pandemic began, more than 610,000 deaths (one of them the late, great John Prine, whose words as so often I do, I started this Blog with). So with respect to Republican Chip Roy it is people’s damn business.
But there is good news if you look hard enough. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating, which at least keeps him out of public sight. And in the Chinese capital, Beijing, nearly 91% of adult residents have been vaccinated. Full vaccinations of adults in other large Chinese cities have also made significant headway, with Shanghai and Wuhan exceeding 80% and 77% respectively.
Perhaps Chip Roy should take a look at yesterday’s case numbers from China – 12 locally transmitted new infections and no deaths. That’s right, no deaths in a population of 1.4 billion. Personally I would rather be in a country where it is everyone’s business if you have been vaccinated. A country that like Chris Wood against the Koreans, has kicked that Hexapentakis Truncated Icosahedron where it deserves to be kicked, rather than into their own goal.