When I first came to teach in Korea in 2013, now four years ago, I was naive about the world. I had always been taught to put limitations on myself, and my experiences. I was taught that I can’t do things. That some things are not safe. It reminds me very much to those living in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Shire. Much like a Hobbit, I was afraid of the outside world and ignorant of what was out there. But putting my feet outside of the U.S. was the best decision I have ever made. And if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be able to achieve any of the wonderful things that I have already, and will achieve in the future. One of the things I was able to achieve and cross off my bucket list during my time abroad was attending the Winter Olympic Games in Peyongchang last weekend. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be able go to the Olympics, but thanks to some good fortune this dream became a reality.
It was Wednesday before the Olympics when I got a sudden message. My girlfriend asked me if I wanted to go to the Olympics in Pyeongchang! I was a bit confused. I had been looking for tickets online, but they were pretty much all sold out, and were now quite expensive to attain. It turned out though that her friend had been volunteering at the events and received a couple of free tickets. Fortunately for us, her friend asked if we wanted to go and of course we immediately accepted the offer,
The tickets were for Friday February 16th, which we were lucky enough to have day from teaching due to Seollal, or more commonly known as the Lunar New Year. However, since we live in Seoul and the events were in Peyongchang, we first needed to figure out a mode of transportation, which was a lot more complicated than we had anticipated. We looked at taking a bus from the East Seoul Bus Terminal near Jamsil. Luckily they had some tickets still available for the cost of 38,000 won ($38) each. We then found the bus for the way back, but in a different city, which meant we had to take the new train they built in order to get there. It was a fairly complicated mess, and I don’t think I could have arranged it by myself with my limited Korean ability. My girlfriend, who is Korean, had to download some extra apps that were all in Korean in order to find and purchase the tickets.
After everything was figured out as far as transportation is concerned, Friday came quickly. Bright and early on Friday morning we had to get all the way to Jamsil from the other side of Seoul. It took us roughly an hour, and our bus was leaving at 7am. Fortunately for us we met up, took the subway to the bus station, and made it with 20 minutes to spare. The bus was filled with foreigners, and I was quite shocked to see one of my friends from university who had come to work for Chungdahm a couple of years after I came.
Finally, we arrived at the area for our event, Men’s Alpine Skiing. Covered in trees and mountains, the area was awe-inspiring. As we ventured into the venue, it was easy to tell the amount of effort that was put in to make the area ready for visitors.
Everything was clean, and well prepped for the event. There was even a plethora of volunteers who happily greeted us, and were willing to take our pictures.
Getting up the hill to watch the event however took quite a bit of work. I’m not very in-shape by any means, unless you count round as a shape. But we got up to the top! There were so many people. I was a little underwhelmed by the amount of foods available, but it didn’t really matter much. The important thing was we were able to to see the athletes perform and to cheer on our countries.
The event seemed to fly by even though it took a total of around 5 hours to complete. Austria’s Matthias Mayer won, but it was so surprising to see the differences of time as 1/10th of a second was the difference between first and second.. At the end, we packed ourselves up on one of the free buses from the event to one of the train stations. At the station, they had a lot of things to see and enjoy. One of the cool things was this group parading around, which I provided a picture of below.
We ended our day by going to one of the beaches nearby. It was quite beautiful seeing the waves crash up and down as the sun set. Finally, after the sun had gone down we took a bus back to Anyang and our time at the Olympics was finished.
Although the Olympics in Korea maybe over, I still look forward to traveling to other fun events held across the country and experiencing other unique Korean traditions. These experiences are truly what makes teaching in Korea such an amazing opportunity, and I am forever grateful that I made the decision to come here.
Neil Frazer has been teaching with Chungdahm for a little over two years. He comes from a small town in Wisconsin, named Spooner and graduated from Olivet Nazarene University with a Bachelor's of Social Work. After traveling to Korea in college he quickly fell in love the culture, food, and quality of life that Korea has to offer and immediately knew he wanted to come back. He looks forward to sharing his experiences of living in Korea and working at the Pyeongchon branch, near Seoul.