I was born in 1988, when the Olympics were first held in South Korea. The Olympics have returned to South Korea this year. The timing was perfect. It was my final month of teaching English in Korea, and it was the month of my 30th birthday. So, naturally, I had to attend.
I went with two friends to the Switzerland vs. Korea ice hockey game on February 10th. My ticket cost 60,000 Won, and I was sat right behind the North Korean cheerleaders. It felt very surreal to be so close to people who are so isolated from the world.
I’m not a big sports fan, but it was a very exciting game to watch.
Spoiler Alert: Switzerland won 8 – 0. But they earned just as many penalties as they did points, if not more.
After the game ended, my friends and I stayed until we were the last spectators in the arena. As the North Korean cheerleaders filed how, we smiled and waved at them. Much to our surprise, they smiled and waved back at us.
I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get interviewed and featured on the news. Oh well… At least I walked away with a Unified Korea flag.
We took the free shuttle bus back to Gangneung Station. We got walking directions to a jimjjilbang, but it was full. So we got a taxi to another one, which was not full. We slept on the floor in a big crowded room.
In the morning we took a taxi back to Gangneung Station. We then went our separate ways. I bought a train ticket to Pyeongchang, but I missed my stop; so I got off at the next city and had to buy a train ticket back to Pyeongchang. I had to wait an hour for my 30 min train ride. Then when I finally arrived, nobody there had ever heard of Olympic Park. I kept hearing about how great this place was, and nobody knew what I was talking about. I’d ask for the shuttle bus to Olympic Park, and they’d respond with: “How about the shuttle to Phoenix Park?”
I gave up and asked for a ticket home to Daegu, but there are no trains to Daegu. So I had to take a train to Seoul. But it was at the last minute, so there was standing room only.
I felt like I was in the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Except it was just trains, trains, and trains.
Aside from the frustrating journey home, I had a great time, and I would highly recommend attending the Olympics if you ever get the chance.