Time to Say Goodbye!!

Today was our last day together as a team. I truly can’t capture in words all the things I was feeling today. To think…just 3 short weeks ago we were strangers…and now we’re friends…really good friends! It’s like we’ve known each other for years.

It truly is amazing how well you get to know each other when you spend every waking minute together. Even with all work we did, there was still time for “real” life discussions. And we had a lot of them…I equate it to those first few weeks of college, but for grown-ups. 🙂

We’re all equals on this journey…no one knows one from the other and we all have to get to know each other…asking the basic questions like “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” “How many kids do you have?” In 3 weeks we moved from the basics…to deep conversations. Conversations that you have over strolls through a mountain path, or quiet moments over dessert in the middle of the night (after you’ve been working hard all day), or chats and laughs over coffee in the woods. These are the moments I’ll remember most fondly. The closeness…the laughter…the tears…and there were many today.

I must say…the past couple of days have been a mix of excitement and anticipation…coupled with sadness. Excitement and anticipation for the final presentation of our project recommendations and for our final day in Seoul…and sadness for knowing it’s all about to end. Today was the first step towards our adventure coming to an end.

Don’t get me wrong…we had an AMAZING day!! As we met for breakfast bright and early…our journey at Phoenix Park ended where it all began…our last breakfast at the same table in Castle Pines restaurant where we had our first dinner together as a team.

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This time we dined with our new friends from Pyeongchang, Mr. Lee.

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And Mr. Jeon.

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We have all made a lasting impact on each other and it was apparent by our final interaction.

Mr. Jeon was the resident photographer during our trip. He graciously donated his photos to the creation of a photo book for all of us, documenting our journey. What a spectacular memento. Each of us signed the books…so we will always have a piece of each other and this amazing experience.

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Following breakfast we said our first round of goodbyes. I’ve become quite fond of our interpreters Juhee and Hayan. They are truly the sweetest, most hard working girls. They knew nothing of our project but dove right in, helping us interpret as well as doing research on our behalf and prepping us for our interviews and meetings. They took copious notes all along the way (of course it is part of the translation process) but we were able to leverage their work several times during our project. Saying goodbye to them was hard.

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I cried when I said goodbye to Mr. Lee. He’s an amazingly nice man, with a great sense of humor. We all enjoyed many a meal and many a drink together. He will be greatly missed.

The drive into Seoul allowed me to sit in the front seat. What a crazy experience that was. I’m so used to sitting in the back of the BatMobile with it’s tinted windows and ghetto party lights. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself up front…so I took photos.

The tunnels are unique…there are colored lights that I swear match the colors of Pyeongchang County and Happy700.

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There are of course the random trees and police vehicles. This one says “Stay awake while driving”…I’m guessing you won’t see if it you fall asleep behind the wheel.

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I must admit, once we left the comforts of Pyeongchang County it was almost like we were transported to another world. I didn’t realize how closed off we had been from the rest of the world and when we surfaced…on the highway…among the busy hustle and bustle of Seoul, reality set in. We were no longer in the quiet, calm peacefulness of Pyeongchang. I honestly didn’t realize how quiet and serene our lives have been the last three weeks…even with all of the hard work…we’ve been pretty sheltered from the rest of the world. We’ve been in our own little bubble, working hard, eating, sleeping and drinking in this entire project. I’ve barely turned on the TV and when I did it was only a handful of times and I usually ended up watching some cheesy American movie with Korean subtitles. I can honestly say I haven’t missed any of it!

Being back in the big city was a smack in the face of reality. It meant our journey was coming to an end and we have to go back to our real lives. 🙂

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We were able to make the very best of our last day however. Our first stop took us to N (Namsan) Seoul Tower. The tower is located on Namsan Mountain, at 236m and is the highest point in Seoul.

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Prior to going up into the tower we took the cable car up to the base. I had to hold on to our concierges, Mr. Park and Mr. Lee.

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The place was packed. It’s Friday and there were a ton of school groups visiting. There are so many beautiful sites and attractions.

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There are quaint little attractions like locks all over the property. The “Locks of Love”, or so it is called, is a popular location for people to hang locks that symbolize eternal love.

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We took the elevator to the 5th floor where we dined at the N Grill, a French restaurant inside the tower. The restaurant rotates around the tower giving you a 365 degree view of Seoul.

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Ji-Hyun spoiled us yet again!! Guess it was worth it to starve ourselves a few evenings so we could enjoy an amazingly yummy lunch “around” the city of Seoul.

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Following lunch we headed to Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). DDP is the newest and most iconic landmark of the Korean design industry. Located at the center of the Dongdaemun area, it is a key venue for design-related shows and conferences, exhibitions, and other events and gatherings.

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It’s a pretty spectacular building. It was designed by world renowned architect, Zaha Hadid. The DDP is compromised of five halls: Art Hall, Museum, Design Lab, Design Market, and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. What an interesting place. We visited the Kansong Art Museum, where we viewed several works of art by Jeong Seon (1667-1759), one of the most famous Korean painters.

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The landscape paintings that he produced reflect most of the geographical features of Korea. My favorite was the ‘Panoramic View of Inner Pungak’. This painting draws a scenic view of Geumgansan Mountain and depicts yin and yang. I even picked up a copy to bring home.

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He painted the most amazing images on silk with ink colored by rocks. It seems most of his paintings have some hidden figure in them. Some of the stories about the paintings were pretty interesting…like the “high class female workers” (the real term used was altered for the under 18 audience) luring the men in for supper…this one is called Jukseoru. Interesting stuff!

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The neat thing about the museum is its shape as well as the design store held inside one of the buildings. It is here where local artisans display their goods for sale. I secured some great finds! 🙂

Our next stop took us to Insadong. Insadong Street is one of the most memorable attractions in Seoul and represents the focal point of Korean traditional culture and crafts. Stores in Insadong specialize in a wide variety of goods that can only be purchased or appreciated in Korea: hanbok (traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts. I picked up a few things here as well. 🙂

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After a craze of shopping we were whisked into a back alley for dinner.

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HOLY COW…we literally had at least 17 different dishes…and I know I missed taking photos of a few of them. OYE!!

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Following dinner…and a food coma…we went to see Miso at the Jeongdong Theatre in Seoul. Miso means “beautiful smile” and is the #1 Korean traditional arts performance. It highlights Pansori (traditional Korean narrative song), Samulnori (traditional Korean percussion quartet) and the beautiful Korean Buchaechum (fan dance).

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The story of the show is of General who is quite the ladies man…fraught with infidelities. His friends (or maybe not such good friends) teach him a lesson by luring him into a trap to seduce a woman (who happens to be married). As he goes to her he is captured and put into a box where he is “tossed” into the ocean. Well he’s not really tossed in…he’s merely sprinkled with water and the box is thrown around to make it seem like he’s being tossed into the ocean. Needless to say the joke is on him as he repents and his friends eventually open the box bringing him back to reality. After the incident his friends throw him a great party…with lots of singing, dancing and big drums.   It’s a great show! The singing, the beautiful costumes, the grace with which the dancers frolic on the stage and the drums…oh my the DRUMS! It’s all a spectacle to be seen!!

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Then in typical IBM Pyeongchang team fashion we were famous yet again. After the show we were meandering about, watching everyone go crazy over the actors/dancers/singers who posed for a photo shoot, when Antonio and I were approached by a spritely gentleman asking if he could interview us. Well, it’s not like we haven’t had a ton of interviews in the past three weeks…we thought why not! This one was not quite the formal interview we were used to. The guy was dressed in quite the outfit…apparently he was putting together an advertisement for Korea for the Malaysian audience. I’d love to get my hands on that performance! Alas…it was a classic and the absolute perfect ending to our last day together as a team in Korea.

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Following the show we headed to my hotel…The Plaza…to say our goodbyes. BOO HOO! I knew this time was coming…and I’d been dreading it all day…and obviously the emotions had been on display all day…why not put them out there for the world to see. The goodbyes began…the hardest ones were the new friends I know I won’t see for a long time….Sunny…Ji-Hyun….Souvik. 😦 I at least know I have a pretty good chance to see Justin (Vancouver) at some point in the near future as work takes me up that way from time to time….Stephanie (NJ) as I always head back east…and Antonio (Spain) as we may catch up in Europe sooner rather than later. Alas….I hate goodbyes!

It truly is amazing how close we’ve all become in just three short weeks. I’m going to miss everyone so incredibly much! It was all a dream and now we’re headed back to reality very soon. Until then…I have one more day in Seoul!!!

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