Monday, February 19, 2018

Thoughts from Pyeongchang 2018

Where to begin? 

When I first moved to Korea 2 and a half years ago, the Pyeongchang Olympics were a distant star on the horizon. Yeah I wanted to go, but I had no idea if it would actually happen. At the time, I didn't know if I would still be living in Korea! Et maintenant? Well.

Pyeonchang was amazing. Crazy. Unforgettable. Unbelievable. 
Outside Gangneung Train Station, raring to go.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Would I do it the same? Probably not.

I was a noob. I was busy with work and didn't bother to research some things ahead of time. Now I know, and now here are a number of things I learned (for next time!).

Our 1st event:CAN vs USA women's hockey
1. Stay close to transit.
If you can't stay near the central areas, at least stay close to readily accessed transit. I know each venue is different in how they organize themselves and their transit, but Pyeongchang was pretty spread out. It makes sense when you have that many events and that many people--it would be foolish and suicide to have everything in the same area! Shayna and I lucked out with an Airbnb situated a short 5 minute walk from the Kwangdong Hockey Center. With shuttle buses running frequently throughout the day, it was easy to get back to the train station and other shuttle points. If you stayed further out, there were parking lots located with frequent shuttles as well. The only downside is that shuttle buses don't always take the most direct root and it can be a long trek between locations.

2. Consider location when you plan your events.
Building off the end of (1), even with the convenience of shuttles between venues, consider the spread of the land. We had to forego one of our scheduled events (where Canada ended up with a medal!) because it was impossible to get there after our previous event. We were with friends at the SWE vs NOR hockey game at the Gangneung Hockey Centre. The Luge was out in the mountains at the Olympic Sliding Centre. Transportation time? 2+ hours on the shuttle. With security and lines, they recommend you arrive 1-2 hours ahead of time. Between events we only had about 2 hours. If our event had also been in the Gangneung Olympic Park, it would have been feasible, but... When I first booked the tickets last spring, I never really thought about location which was our downfall. 
Waiting with the crowd for the Skeleton races.
3. Event Selection?
We had a good spread: Ice Hockey, Skeleton, (our would-a-been-but-missed) Luge, Long Track Speed Skating, and Slopestyle Skiing. We went to 5 different venues and got to see a fair bit of the spread. While not all of our events were the most spectator friendly (*cough*Skeleton*couch*), Shayna and I agreed that we would go again if given the chance. For the events requiring a longer track, the television really does offer you the best view, but watching the Skeleton whizz past faster than you can blink and waiting for the skier to leap above the ridge... That anticipation and hope for success sticks with you. Not to mention the camaraderie you feel with the others present. If I ever get to go again, I want to try something new, too!
The Gangneung Oval lit up at night.
Inside the ring!

4.  House Day, eh?
My sister will forever say, "I told you so," because she did mention this to me back during my Christmas Break, but I didn't really understand, nor did I really do the research ahead of time. Although she didn't really come with research either so... she shouldn't have left it all to me to plan! Country (and sponsor) houses can be a huge part of your trip. Some are free and some are not. Some only welcome athletes while others are open to the public. Some have events, some give away free things, some have cultural foods. The Canada House had a giant screen broadcasting events. Definitely cool to watch altogether even if the event was happening less than a kilometer away! 

If I did it over again, I would plan to visit more of the houses. They were scattered throughout the venues, so like events, it would be best to create a navigation plan. I would even consider going to the Olympics and visiting houses only. Potentially cheaper and yet you'd still be in the midst of that atmosphere.  
Inside Canada House
5. Talk to everyone.
There are people from all over the world--most decked out in country swag. Strike up a conversation and meet people! My sister and I met a lot of Canadians (you know, we're sort of drawn together when we have matching gloves and hats!), but also people from a number of other countries. Living on Jeju island, I mainly meet Koreans and my co-workers. I loved being in an environment where I could hear other languages. It was fun just grabbing food, maybe a drink and just hanging out.

6. Dress for the ball. All the SWAG.
We did not bring enough Canada things. I should have brought face paint. I should have worn a jump suit, a onesie and a red wig. I would feel totally outlandish being so up-in-your-face, but it was also really cool seeing others go all out for their countries. Plus, you can win prizes or at least appear on camera which would be equally cool. Ha. Still searching for our 15 minutes of fame!
At the end of our last event before heading back to Seoul (Pheonix Park).
Love and Hugs

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hallasan Musings

Halla from the Eorimok Trail
I am forever spoiled by Halla Mountain. Throughout the year, I am awe-struck and inspired again and again by this thumbtack-like mountain.

Some days, her royal Majesty refuses to deign us with her presence, rising above the low-hanging clouds that hug the ground. And on others, her magnetic force pulls in the few clouds, caching her face beneath a veil. How shy she seems.
A group of hikers resting off the trail on the top of snow. You can see the field dropping off and the clouds hanging on par beyond.
Feeling above the clouds up on Halla's Yeongshil Trail.
And yet, then come those days where she bursts forth, crown and scepter for all to see, as though her timidity was only a passing phase. A brief memory to be forgotten. On those days, that first glimpse of Halla is always like an arrow to my chest; it stops me in my tracks, my breath hitching in my throat. I wonder if my eyes grow the longer I stare. Pulling them away from her peak is hard and I guess it's not only clouds that feel her magnetic pull. And on those days, I seek constantly for that next glimpse--for that better vantage point. How can others go about their mundane tasks so calmly? How can they not stop and stare?

"Have you seen her?" I want to ask. "Have you looked at Halla today?" I want to shout.

Maybe I'm crazy for feeling such elation from the sight of a mountain, but is it so wrong to find joy in nature?
Someone else's snowman, chilling beside Halla's crown.
With that glimpse in the distance, I'm done. If there's a hiker's anonymous, sign me up now... I'm sure I'll be in good company. It's like a hum in my bones or a poem in my soul. I can hear Maria singing, "climb every mountain" and I long to be off and away. 

"The mountains are calling and I must go." You'll find me somewhere out there.

Love and Hugs
Size is relative.