Well, that was quite the experience.
Back in the groove this week (sort of) after a wonderful and memorable trip to South Korea for the Olympics. The return flight left Incheon at 5:05p local time Monday and arrived in Toronto at 3:30p local time……the same day. That was weird. I’d never been on a plane for that length of time. The 2 flights combined were over 26 hours in the air. For those having a panic attack just thinking about that, the time actually passed just fine believe it or not. 3 Movies and 3 meals and hours of the DK supershuffle on Spotify. I listened to a lot of music. It was cool to fly very near to the North Pole going there, and remaining in daylight. We were a little further south coming back. You know you are North when you fly past Ft. McMurray heading south. I had to send a note to the radio station. Look up!!!
The plane, as expected, was filled with Team Canada athletes, coaches, support staff, CBC, Sportsnet and TSN Media teams, families and a few fans. We sat beside Jocelyn Lemieux, who is a former NHL’er and now a colour commentator for RDS. He was a nice guy. Enjoyed his adult beverages. Don’t all hockey players?
When we landed in Toronto, it was a zoo. Anyone who looked like they were on Team Canada was ushered past the huge immigration line up……(we were included)…..and all the returning vacationers started to cheer and applaud……..for the athletes, not us. It was so cool.
I picked up my suitcase, said goodbye to my boys and hit the 401 back to Ottawa. I parked at Pearson when we left. I got home about 10p and it goes without saying I was somewhat fatigued. After waking up in Seoul on Monday morning at 6a, (4p Sunday in Ottawa) and travelling all day, I was awake for over 30 hours. Night, Night!!!!
So, how was it?
I’ve been asked……..
I think most of you who know me, know that I am a glass half full guy. I really try to appreciate what I have in my life. My health, my family, my friends, my earthly possessions, my career and my place in the universe.
I don’t spend much time worrying about things out of my control, and instead try to focus on the things that are, and what I can influence for the better. I’m a world supporter, not a world changer.
Every day that clicks by on the calendar, I wonder when I will reach my capacity, my quota, or even my desire to experience and learn and enjoy new things.
I’m glad to confirm that I have not yet reached that point……..far from it.
This trip, to watch my son Adam participate in the Winter Olympics in South Korea, has given me more perspective.
It truly was the time of my life.
Everything on our trip went according to plan…..which was ….no plan at all. We basically had a few “appointment” tasks daily, like going to Starbucks for Venti daily roasts, but for the most part we lived hour by hour.
That includes watching the results of Team Canada Curling….hour by hour.
The motivation for the trip was to watch them compete and hopefully win a medal….a Gold medal…..at the Olympics. Even the competitors believed that was highly likely.
Past performance indicated they’d do well.
They fell short…..and it was surprising.
Was it lack of effort? Nope…..they gave it their all.
Was it lack of skill? Nope, they have the ability.
Was it desire? Hardly, they wanted this more than anything.
Well, it’s sports….mostly.
I also think that playing for your Country at this level, with its history of winning, comes with a lot of pressure. Unlike professional sports, where player’s pay cheques are in their accounts every second Friday, win or lose, these Olympic athletes are playing, not for money, but for National bragging rights and pride….and the exceptionally high expectations.
That’s a burden.
Yes, they do know what they have gotten themselves into. It’s a highly desirable pursuit and gladly accepted by the athletes, but it’s still a huge responsibility.
I suspect they will give this experience some time to sink in, will re-group and figure out what the future holds. Who knows what the future holds? None of us.
Head’s high ladies!!!
And the same goes to the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team, the Men’s Curling team and the Men’s Hockey Team. All wanted Gold. It was not to be.
As it turned out, the curling naturally evolved from being the premise of the trip to becoming a footnote to the trip.
That’s not to be confused or misunderstood that somehow we were not heartbroken and sad and empathetic for the team and their families, our families and 100’s of thousands of Curling fans in Canada who were rooting for them to win as well.
Our disappointment was real but it was judgement free. Unlike some writers and reporters, which of course comes with the territory. Many things were written and reported with emotion, not necessarily with journalistic neutrality…..which speaks to the pressure.
I can honestly say that for me, being there for Adam was more special with them NOT winning, than it would have been if they had.
Let me go on record and say how proud I am of all of them.
The Time of my life?
It was a double blessing to travel with my other son Brady. This guy is pretty special. He’s the most laid back, stress free and enjoyable travel companion you could ask for. He loves to explore, loves enjoying himself, loves trying new things and loves meeting people. Plus he’s freaking hilarious and at a fresh 30 years of age, has accomplished much in his young life personally and professionally. I’m so proud of him.
We were joined by my brother in-law Patrick who lives in Vancouver. He’s a beauty too with the same zeal for life and the constant pursuit of fun and fellowship. The 3 of us share many loved ones which affords us the opportunity to relate on a familial level, and gives us liberties to kibitz and cajole. It’s also fair to say we all have large targets on ourselves and we understand the rules and consequences of being imperfect. There is ruthlessness in our mocking of each other. It makes for much entertainment. Needless to say Pat got his fair share of chirping by misreading his ticket and missing his flight the first day from Vancouver. In fairness, it was a nice recovery on his part to even get there. Pat is a very good man.
5 Star Accommodations?
This part of the trip was the most concern to me as the planning developed. I really didn’t feel comfortable about what we had booked and what we would get. As it turns out, it was amazing for where we were and what we needed. After we landed on February 19, we took the KTX Train to Gangneung station. (3 hours more travel) Our hotel was about 2 km from the station. We didn’t know then, but soon found out that there literally is no English spoken in Korea. I shouldn’t have been surprised but it was quite interesting after we realized it. Imagine giving a cab driver an English address of a hidden hotel in a densely populated area? Good luck. We walked to the hotel the first night from the train station and it was the right call. The weather was fine and we needed the fresh air. Brady had a mantra this trip of ‘Assume nothing” and it was a good one to live by. We used Google maps and found it quite easily…….but indeed, it was off the beaten path. When we got to the lobby, I was a bit down. I thought, yikes, what did I get us into? The proprietor couldn’t find our reservation, because she didn’t read English. So I found it on the computer screen and she got her bearings. The lobby was also their living room and it was disorganized to say the least. No matter. She asked (through sign language basically) for the remainder of the balance which was 1,750,000 won. I opened my wallet and she saw all my cards and said out loud….’oohhhh…rich’. I guess she was impressed with my Costco card and my driver’s license. I thought the hotel was a 3 that night, but it turned into a 9 the next day.
Ok, we’re here….let’s get into this bad boy……..
Canada Olympic House
This was where we did most of our schmoozing. It was definitely a safe zone.
It was nice to meet so many people there. It was like the hotel lobby we never had. I met so many parents, including the Mother of Justin Kripps. He was a Gold medal winner in the 2 Man Bob Sled competition. They tied with Germany for Gold. Imagine going 4 runs, and combining the times and having a tie? 3:16:86. The difference between 1st and 9th was less than a second….it was 100ths of a second. She was amazing and I could just see the pride written all over her face. We also met up with one of my Brother-in-law’s oldest friends, Gio from Edmonton, who was there supporting his niece, Alysia Rissling in the Women’s Bob Sled competition. What are the odds? Neither one knew the other was there. Social media….can be good.
I have gotten to know Rachel’s Mom, Cathy, over the last few months and it was nice to experience this event with her and partner Malcolm. She is a great lady and has seen many wins and few losses over Rachel’s career. That’s Emma’s Dad, Art Miskew in the back ground. Another great curling parent. This was them still smiling after the disappointing news earlier in the day.
On the plane going over, there was a young lady who, (mid-flight) took down her suitcase from the overhead bin and was digging through it in the dark looking for something. After a few minutes, I asked if she wanted some light? She said thanks but no. We met later in the line at immigration and then at train station. She said she was there for The Bay to do some interviews with athletes. Saw her again at Canada Olympic House and yet again at the Women’s Gold Medal Hockey Game. It was then that she said she was Miss Canada. That made sense. Lauren Howe is her name. She’s seated. This photo was given to us by Team Homan’s photographer……wonder why he snapped it? And I did see her a few more times before we left. She was a wanderer.
We ran into many athletes at Olympic House. They were super friendly and it was like meeting them at a house party. Brady spoke with The Arkells who were playing Olympic House to close things up. I saw them in the security line when we were leaving.
We ate a lot less than I thought we would, but when we did, it was great. And we were not as adventurous as we might have predicted. Breakfast was available every morning at the Hotel and we’d have lunch (or not) at Olympic House. The food was pretty medium there if I’m being honest, everything was prepared elsewhere, not on site, although they did stock the sitting areas with lots and lots of sponsor snacks. Granola bars, cookies, Ritz chips etc.
When we had dinner, it varied from a burger and pizza one night to 2 nights of Korean BBQ and a Central Market chicken dish. I lost 5 pounds while I was there. True. Mostly because we walked a lot, less food and I did not partake in any alcohol. People have asked me why and I’m not sure. #1 reason was I didn’t feel like it and maybe I was subconsciously concerned about the jet lag and didn’t want to be overly tired. I wasn’t. Pat and Brady made up for any of my abstinence. It was always Beer O’clock.
Facilities at Gangneung
The Olympic Park was pretty well set up and could handle a lot of people. It was vast and you had to walk everywhere. It was 2000 won to get in, unless you had an event ticket. All the indoor venues were in the coastal cluster. (The Mountain cluster was about 30k inland).
Beaches? We ain’t got no Beaches? There’s no beaches at the Winter Olympics?
Gangneung is actually a resort/tourist town. Skiing in the Winter and Oceanfront in the summer. Maybe a bit like Vancouver/Whistler. It’s on the Sea of Japan and the Pacific is blue and crystal clear. I can only imaging how nice it is in July. There were a few very nice hotels on the beach. We visited one with the premise of being interested in staying for a night. Got a nice tour but decided to pass at 950,000 won per night. We also encountered the morning reporter for NBC Boston and she did a quick hit with us on the beach. Click here to see it. Boston Beach
Seoul for 2 days
We decided to spend the last 2 days in Seoul. It was a magical city. Very bustling, very developed, very modern, very clean and very safe.
DMZ and Korean War Memorial
We were excited to take a trip to the DMZ and learn about North Korea and the Cold War with South Korea. Unfortunately the day we went was not ideal. There was a delegation from North Korea going to the closing ceremonies that night. The central party vice-chairman Kim Yong Chol, was included. He’s a former spy and is largely tied to the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010. That said, there was no interest from South Korea to have him enter the country so there was a huge protest that blocked the road and prevented us going to the tunnel.
We instead went to the Odusan Observatory and then the Korean War Memorial in Seoul. It allowed us to see North Korea which was haunting.
I was looking for insight with Canada’s involvement in the Korean War in 1953. My Dad served in Korea in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. PPCLI. It was moving to see the display set up to commemorate Canada’s participation. Particularly since they highlighted the PPCLI in the display.
The DMZ tour ended with a stop at a Amethyst Jeweler. Had to be a kick back thing. Adam was hilarious because he didn’t go in and then chirped the tour guide about getting back to things that were actually advertised in brouchure. I was very proud of him. In a DK way. Well, SP chirped him back on the microphone on the bus…….”One gentleman mentioned that the tour was not advertised and I wanted to assure him it certainly was advertised”. Adam acknowledged. It was funny…..but the tour was stupid.
I realised I could go on and on with our adventure, but time to wind it down. I have hundreds of photos that I will probably compile in a shared site. We have many memories with the people we met and I will never forget many of them.
The “sons” are much larger than the parts
So as I finish this blog off, I wanted to say thanks to you for all the positive comments I received about my Facebook posts. Truthfully, I kept them going based on the feedback after a 14 hour time zone change. I was very flattered that they were enjoyed as much as I was told they were. (Sally Field?)
I also want to thank Dawn, Mila, Jude, Abbie, August & Louise for the sacrifices they made so we could go on this adventure. They all supported us unconditionally and we felt their love the whole time. We love you guys!!!!!
And yes, you were missed…..over there.
Finally, I can’t seem to wipe the grin off my face or remove the pride in my heart when I think about how lucky I am as a Dad. Adam and Brady…….thank you for always being your authentic selves with me and for being such an inspiration.
You are good lads and I’m so grateful to be your Dad. “There’s Nothing Wrong”!!!!!!!
I had the time of my life!
Thanks for reading.
I will get back to writing more regularly. I didn’t want to jinx anything going in. Doh!!!!