I love watching the Olympics. It’s one of those events that shrinks the world for me. I feel connected to our home country as we – from the other side of the globe – cheer on our fellow Americans.
The Olympics also makes me mindful of how much I have grown to love Indonesia, the country we have been serving in for almost 11 years. Of course I felt patriotic and proud watching the U.S. contingent walking into the arena at the opening ceremonies, but I also had a feeling of “those are my people” when the Indonesians walked in, waving the “merah putih” (red and white flag). With great pride, we cheer on the Indonesian Olympians, and our family celebrates whenever they score a victory, which most often happens in badminton.
Badminton – a sport that is usually relegated to backyards and picnics in the U.S. – is a national pastime here in Indonesia. It is the one sport in which Indonesia consistently garners medals. And it makes sense to us, because we see people playing all the time, usually in the afternoons, often barefoot and with no net, in front of their stores and homes, or for the more serious players, in dedicated courts.
What I love about watching badminton is that – unlike events like gymnastics, diving, and fencing, which require more strength and agility than this ol’ mama has – I can go outside when I’m done watching, pick up a racquet, and hit the shuttlecock back and forth with the kids, just like Taufiq “the baby-faced assassin” Hidayat. Okay, so I can’t smash it quite like Taufiq, but it sure is fun to try.
Go USA, and go Indonesia!!!