I Finally Figured Out The Buses! And It's Almost Time To Go Home!!!

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Asia » South Korea » Gangwon-do » Gangneung
February 24th 2018
Published: February 24th 2018
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I want to start out by thanking everyone for your wonderful comments. I'm so busy right now that I barely have time to do this blog, so I can't respond to your comments. I'm glad you are enjoying this blog and an insider view of how the Olympics operate and what volunteers do. I'm sure you have seen all the volunteers at the venues and competitions in their red and gray uniforms. I have no idea how many volunteers there are, but it's alot. My position is an NOC Assistant. I was offered the position as an NOC Assistant in October 2017. They described the duties as:

"The role of an NOC/NPC Assistant you have chosen is an elite volunteer position who offers assistance in a variety of tasks during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. You'll mainly work at the Olympic/Paralympic Village(s).

The responsibilities of NOC/NPC Assistants during the Games include:- assisting their assigned NOC/NPC delegation with translation, driving, office work and other related duties from the day of their arrival to departure; this could be from as early as the Pre-Opening of Olympic/Paralympic Village(s) to no later than the Closing of Olympic/Paralympic Village(s).

- assisting the NOC/NPC Service Team to help the operation of the NOC/NPC Services Centre(s) in Olympic/Paralympic Village(s).

- assisting NOC/NPC Assistant Team with the management of the NOC/NPC Assistant Programme.

True to its name subscribed on the IOC technical manual, the NOC/NPC Assistants not only help with NOC’s arrival, transport, office work and departure but also they become an integral part of its operation. The NOC/NPC- Assistants have longer working hours compared to any other volunteers, but they will be at the heart of the action, witnessing the fruits of athletes’ sweat in person and working alongside outstanding and talented people who have international mind set, including multiple language skills."

Then in December they announced that I was assigned to Team USA (probably based on the language survey since I speak a little French and a little Spanish only).

So - I finally figured out the bus system! Yeah. I have even showed other volunteers how to take other buses when they miss the one they wanted to take. And now it's almost time to go home.

Let's do a little catching up.

Thursday, Feb. 22

Went to work and did some wrapping. The USOC has gifts coins for the other countries and we are wrapping and putting ribbon on the wrapped gift. Now, I don't wrap or do ribbon; I do gift bags. And Tammy (one of the other NOC Assistants) used double sided tape so there is no tape on the outside of the package. I failed miserably. I managed to wrap some of the gifts but I really struggled with the ribbon. The staff gave us more things to do (hauling a few boxes from the basement storage area, restocking the refrigerator with drinks, delivering some of the gifts to the mailboxes for the other countries) so I gave up on the ribbon. I watched the Woman's USA vs. Canada Hockey game on TV and they won the gold. It's about time. It's been 20 years since they won. We were celebrating in the office.

Friday, Feb. 23

Today I took a day trip to Seoul. This entailed taking a taxi at 5:30 a.m. to the Gangneung Train Station and taking the 6:20 a.m. train to Seoul. I had a miserable headache and after lots of ibuprofen it finally wore off. I almost didn't make the Demilitarized Zone tour. I took a taxi from the Seoul train station to the hotel where the tour agency was, and we got stuck in Seoul's wonderful traffic. The tour was supposed to leave at 8:50 a.m. and I walked in at 8:56. They almost thought the bus had left and unfortunately I didn't have their phone number to tell them I was on my way. I whipped out my passport and credit card, and they ran me to the bus. Whew - made it.

The tour of the DMZ was really interesting. It was a 1 1/4 hour ride to the Joint Security Area (JSA) where we had a briefing by an American military private on the history the division of Korea at the end of WWII: half under Russian control and half under USA control. An arbitrary line was drawn at the 38th parallel which split families on different sides of the line. Then in 1950 the Russians & N. Koreans invaded S. Korean and pushed all the way south and had most of the area under control. USA & other countries stepped in (can't let communism take hold) and the Korean war lasted 3 years and millions of people died. At the end the negotiations determined that the boundary would be drawn based on the last battles, with a buffer zone on either side of the boundary. That is the DMZ. The agreement was just an agreement so technically the war didn't end.

From Wikepedia: "The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ; Hangul: 한반도 비무장 지대; Hanja: 韓半島非武裝地帶) is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula. It is established by the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The demilitarized zone (DMZ) is a border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. It was created by agreement between North Korea, China and the United Nations in 1953. The DMZ is 250 kilometres (160 miles) long, and about 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) wide.

Within the DMZ is a meeting point between the two nations in the small Joint Security Area near the western end of the zone, where negotiations take place. There have been various incidents in and around the DMZ, with military and civilian casualties on both sides." See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Demilitarized_Zone for more complete information.

From the JSA they brought us to the demarcation line with strict instructions to not take pictures from the bus. When we got there we could take pictures but only facing N.Korea. They told us if any N. Koreans were on the other side they would try to get us to wave or make funny faces. We were instructed to not make eye contact and ignore all the gestures. Well, no one was there - on the N Korean side.

We went back to JSA building, took photos and then to lunch (typical Korean barbequed beef with side dishes, sitting on the floor). Lunch was delicious. Then off to Imjingak Park.

From Wikepedia: "Imjingak (임진각(臨津閣), pronounced Ihm-jin-gak), and sometimes in English called the Imjingak "resort", is a park located on the banks of the Imjin River in the city of Paju, South Korea. The park has many statues and monuments regarding the Korean War. There is also a restaurant, an observation deck, a pool in the shape of the Korean peninsula, and even a small amusement park.

The park was built to console those from both sides who are unable to return to their hometowns, friends and families because of the division of Korea."

Unfortunately they only gave us 15 minutes at this park and there was alot of cool stuff to see. I promise I'll get photos up later. There is a "Bridge of No Return". This is where a POW swap occurred. Once the POW's reached a certain part of the bridge they could not turn around & return. This meant some of them left their families. Many families were split up as a result of the war and have not been able to see each other because of the regime in N. Korea.

Back to Seoul arriving about 14:35. I had some extra time so I walked around Seoul, looked at some temples, and found a rally on the street. In my lack of speaking Korean, and some men that spoke some English I found out Ivanka Trump was going to be there and would go to the US Embassy, across the street from the rally. The people had S. Korean flags and US flags and were supporting democracy. At least that's what I got from our "conversation".

I headed back to the train station & took the 18:00 train back to Gangneung, talking to a Swiss guy that was doing filming of the Olympics, and a Japanese woman who had just arrived and was going to some events.

When I got home my roommate Stephanie & I decided to go to the Germany vs. Canada hockey game. What an exciting game. My Canadian French half was cheering & yelling so loud for Canada but they just couldn't get that 4th goal and Germany won.

Saturday, Feb. 24th

OMG - the games are almost over. And things are changing for us again. We all have to move out of the dormitory on the 26th because the students come back, and I guess they want their rooms back (just kidding). Our instructions were vague, people complained, and they finally sent out better instructions. We are being moved to the Welli Hilli hostel next to the Welli Hilli ski resort. So I have started calling it the Willi Nilli Hilli Billi resort. We don't know anything about the transportation. It's about 2 hours away from where we currently live - to the west, beyond PyeongChang area where many of us work. Basically we hand over our luggage to the truck and they take it to Willi Nilli, we go to work at PVL, then at the end of our shift we go to Willi Nilli, except they haven't given us any bus information (and I thought I had the bus thing nailed!).

Now I leave on the 28th and I already bought a train ticket from Gangneung to Seoul. Luckily there is a train station near Willi Nilli so I can catch the train there. So I've started packing (and I have way more stuff to bring home with the uniform & gifts from the USOC) and I'm pretty concerned about how this is all going to work out.

Back to work and the staff took us out to lunch, and gave us another gift - unbelievable - a USA parka, shirt, hat, & backpack. After lunch we had a staff meeting to discuss the departure procedure. There's TONS of luggage that has to get moved. In addition to all their equipment, each athlete can pack a box of their stuff that will get shipped. We had the list of the contents of the boxes and 1 copy went inside the box, then we taped it up, and the other copy went on the outside.

That wraps it up for now. The next 3 days will be really busy with Closing Ceremony, and checking all the athlete's rooms after they leave for leftover stuff, broken furniture, etc. And I have to move in the middle of all this. Oh well.

Till next time,

Sue Pease


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