I made it to South Korea last Wednesday, nineteen hours and three flights after leaving Christchurch, New Zealand. As this is my second winter season here as an instructor, one of my colleagues rightfully pointed out I could not title this post “first impressions”. I still did though, which is my way of giving him the finger so as for us to start the season on good terms.
Thanks for your non requested advice, looking forward to what else my awesome crew will inspire me to this winter. We’ve hit some mini features today, boxes. It felt good, better than I expected. Winter season 2017-2018 has begun.
Seoul, the city that is a country within a country that is actually the south part of a country split in two.
Coming into Seoul is always a tricky thing for me after living in countryside towns of New Zealand. Suddenly there’s wifi everywhere and people use bridges to cross the street. I love cities and the convenience they bring. Wearing skirts without getting eaten by sandflies. Delicious food everywhere and mountains of stuff you can buy with the confusion of not being to able choose.
I only spend two nights in Seoul, hanging out in my friend Lisa’s apartment. The perfect amount of time to get over jetlag. Seoul is a beautiful city, once you find your way around. It helps if you know locals who can speak and read Korean, because the best stuff never gets advertised in English.
I am yet to find a breakdance battle as Korean B-boys and girls excite me as much as having a date with a bottle of Tabasco on a spaghetti night. Apparently there is a big urban culture in Seoul.
Snow School ’17-’18
I am here in Phoenix Park to instruct. To create many new snowboard and ski enthusiasts in countries where it never snows. My clients come from exotic places like Vietnam and Singapore where snowboarding is as common as armpit smell in a perfume store. That excites me very much since I can imagine what they must be thinking. My mom is Filipina and my dad is Belgian, which is probably the worst combination regarding snow sports.
Doesn’t mean that flatland, desert and tropical people can’t learn though and I will high five anyone who happily trades their flipflops for some hard boots so we can go and shred together.
Our crew got bigger this year with a whole delegation of Australian and UK instructors from Thredbo. It’s a big difference from last year, when I was surrounded by mostly Korean and Chinese instructors. Our little office is now filled with noise whenever we gather for coffee and I have asked the necessary kangaroo questions.
My colleagues are highly qualified, most of them level two and more. It was a bit intimidating sometimes but once I got over that feeling, I realized I could learn a lot from them and that inspires me.
I have to get used to the bowing again as is custom in Korea when you see other people in uniforms. My current reaction to this very Korean way of expression is to smile awkwardly and bow into a half moon position, which is probably as absurd to them as me greeting them with a downward facing dog.
I think they appreciate the effort though. But I am sure they make fun of us, especially about the fact we wear hats while having such amazing hair. That’s a lesson learned from last season. No more hats for me. My hair is now visible and for the whole resort to be admired.
Winter Olympics 2018
Most of the resort has been taken over by Winter Olympics construction sites. We have only three slopes open at the moment. Our learning area has been reduced to a five meter wide lane and looking from the gondola on Saturday afternoon, it’s like the mountain just spewed out an army of goblins, wearing red helmets, ready to tackle on Middle Earth on skis.
It wasn’t any different from last year though. Weekends are crazy here, so are the Christmas and Chinese New Year holidays.
They’ve build the roads that were still under construction last year up to a standard that you can expect tourists coming in just to take pictures from the asphalt. I am expecting some detailed news reports on this topic some time soon.
The concrete skeletons of ten year old unfinished buildings are still here though. We can only hope that they will stay many years more as they inspire many discussions.
On North Korean Athletes competing for the Olympics
Nobody really knows but the talk of the town is that North Korea is sending athletes to compete here. South Korea is very willing to accept them participating. But because of tensions nobody is really sure if that’s going to happen.
General mood in Seoul from the people I talked to is “Meh,” which is quite the opposite of the general mood of people actually not living in South Korea. It’s always the case whenever I decide to go somewhere close to a place that’s been overly described in the news as being dangerous. In this case, North Korea.
South Koreans are still the best source of information on this topic and as long as they still refer to the conflict as “Meh,” I think I’m still pretty safe here.