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It’s “That” Day!!

The day when you realize the project is about done…the day when you realize you’re no longer going to see your new friends every day of the week. The day when you realize it’s time to go home!

It’s bittersweet really! I’m ready to go home but I’m not ready to leave here. The last three weeks have been something I can’t truly describe…an experience…a journey…a life changing moment in time!

We will leave each other tomorrow evening following a fun filled day in Seoul. We will depart as we came…heading our separate ways…but we will take something with us…

We have all touched each other in some way…from heartfelt embraces, to laughter beyond measure…to frustration when we were all stressed, to excitement and pride after we delivered our final presentation to the Mayor and the County today.

We came here as 6 individuals…on a mission to improve tourism for Pyeongchang County…and we are leaving as partners, comrades…beloved friends! I will miss all of them completely!

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Antonio with his “goorggeous” accent. Justin with his crazy stories. Souvik with his knowledge and serenity. Stephanie with her calm composure and camaraderie. Sunny with her sweet smile and “sunny” disposition. And our fearless leader Ji-Hyun…with her determination, her dedication and her desperation to make us successful on this project. 🙂

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I will miss all of you dearly! You have truly touched me and I will hold a special place for you in my heart forever!

Now on to our day today…we had our final presentation with the County. And it was a beautiful day for it!

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Pyeongchang welcomed us with open arms as they stated “Pyeongchang will never forget your passion.” They told us our passion for Pyeongchang and our passion for the success of this project were beyond measure. We were so touched by this.

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We shed blood, sweat and tears to come to this point. We interviewed over 60 people, we toiled for 3 weeks investigating and building recommendations, and we vetted and practiced our recommendations for days preparing for “this” day.

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We began at 9:00 AM with a warm welcome from the Mayor. Our presentation went off without a hitch (not that I’m surprised!). I struggled off and on all morning holding back tears. Every “thank you”, every warm speech, every toast held meaning and touched me…reminding me of what we have accomplished and the relationships we have built in such a short period of time.

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Our excellence was apparent when we came together as a team following our presentation and the first thing we did was hug each other. What an amazing feeling of satisfaction AND relief! We came all this way and we delivered! We put together the most amazing presentation I have ever seen (and yes I’m biased) and we presented it as one team, almost as if we were one person. Our delivery was seamless…our recommendations were delivered in one voice. We were at the top of our game! And it feels great!

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We nailed everything, from the timing – to the delivery, to the translations, to the real meaning! The satisfaction we feel as a team right now is indescribable.

I honestly can’t say how AMAZING it feels to see your charts up on a screen in front of 30+ people (who don’t speak English), and to watch your colleagues deliver with such style and grace. We were experts on that stage today. The pride I feel in what we have accomplished and what we have recommended is beyond anything I’ve felt in a very long time.

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In this day and age I’m so used to delivering and executing on my own that I seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be a part of a team of equals…a team who without one another would not have been able to accomplish what we accomplished. I am SO proud of this team…I am SO proud of my friends…Sunny, Justin, Antonio, Souvik and Stephanie! You all make me proud to be an IBMer and even prouder to call you friends!

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After our presentation we dined with the Mayor and several Directors. We took a nice long drive through southern Pyeongchang County to the restaurant. What beauty to behold!

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Sunny even enjoyed relaxing a bit!

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So many people joined us for lunch, the County had to bring a bus.

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We took over the entire restaurant.

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The relationships we have built with our customer are beyond any I have ever built in my 18 years at IBM. There’s something about the Korean culture that welcomes you with open arms. Our gracious hosts, Pyeongchang County, made us feel more welcome than I have ever felt in my life. They delighted in our presence, they went out of their way to make us feel welcome and they made a lasting impact on us that made me feel beyond ecstatic that we have truly made an impact on the lives of the people in this place.

It was Mr. Jang’s 60th birthday. What better way to celebrate than together with our new friends. His son is also expecting a baby in August. Such great things to be thankful for.

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Mr. Mayor Sim and Mr. Mayor Antonio did a final toast…to our project, to our health and to our new friends!!!

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Lunch was fantastic as usual.

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And more strawberries!!  We just can’t get enough of them!

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There is an opportunity here to help build up a community, to improve a society and to build something great! That is gratifying! I honestly can’t articulate what this experience has meant to me….and I’m not sure I will ever be able to do so.

The tears today were flowing…I seemed to have kept them mostly at bay (although the team now knows that I was an emotional basket-case today – but it’s not like that will surprise them). They seem to know we well enough now….

Following lunch we had a few more close-out meetings and we enjoyed our last meal with our new friends in Pyeongchang.   We dined together, we drank together and we laughed together. It was the perfect ending to a perfect 3 weeks!

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Then we ended up at karaoke! HAHA! And we thought we were a close team before…it’s amazing what some bad singing (not all of us…Ji-Hyun rocks!!!) and a small room will do for relationships. All singing comments aside, it was fantastic and just what we needed to end our journey.

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We thought about some snacks, then thought better of taking them into Karaoke with us.

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One more group photo for the camera…

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We have one more full day together as we venture into Seoul tomorrow and I know it will be an emotional roller coaster. But with that I say another Ahnyeonghi jumuseyo (goodnight)…until we meet again!

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D-Day

It’s Wednesday night…our final presentation with the Mayor is tomorrow. Our presentation is done…our report is submitted for review…now we just have to deliver our presentation and go through all the formalities of the day…and boy are there a lot.

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We will be up bright and early for a 7:45 AM departure. I think the group consensus is we all feel pretty good. We’re very pleased with our presentation and we feel very good about our recommendations.

It’s going to be a very packed day and more of the apprehension for me is that we’re nearing the end of our journey.

It’s amazing how fast it’s flown by. The first week actually seemed like it went on forever. We were in interviews constantly. We were stressed about getting it all done in three weeks time. We were still getting to know one another and things weren’t quite jelling just yet.

As we moved into week 2 we were getting into our stride…although we were stressing quite a bit about running out of time. Once we put a stake in the ground we started to make progress and things seemed to ease up a bit.

This past weekend was when we knew we had it under control. There was a lot of work to do and we knew we would get it done. And we did!

But that means we only have 2 more nights together as a team…and that makes me sad! I packed up my things in the teamroom tonight thinking this may be the last time I’ll be in there working. We’ll be at the County offices all day tomorrow and we leave for Seoul on Friday morning. I’m also wondering when I’m going to pack??!!

The relationships I’ve built the last three weeks will stay with me forever. We have all extended a warm welcome to each other for visits…I’m not sure if they will all happen but we will try.

I guess I’m going to have to figure out a way to do a whirlwind tour to Kolkata, Madrid, Vancouver, New Jersey and back to Korea in the future. I’m sure I can work something out…

I took a stroll with the girls yesterday…me, Stephanie and Sunny. It was so nice…just us…hiking up a forest trail, chatting and huffing and puffing along the way. Relaxing…taking a short break from the craziness of sitting in the teamroom writing, updating, re-writing, updating…again and again.

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The trees are starting to get their spring buds and the flowers are in bloom. It really is beautiful here!

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We were lucky enough to have a break to enjoy a nice massage. Whoa what a difference 90 minutes makes!!! And what better way to finish after the massage…with some yummy “kitty” tea. Don’t worry, it really had nothing to do with kitties. 🙂

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Ji-Hyun treated us to a nice dinner last night at the Kensington Flora Hotel. As we’ve done a pretty good job of not spending too much money…with several meals cooked in-house and several meals not eaten at all (as we’ve been eating SO much), Ji-Hyun spoiled us with a nice meal out. She even made us sit in these chairs. Haha! 🙂

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We had several courses as usual (but not nearly as many as the traditional Korean meals). We dined on several pickled items, some kind of creamy soup, a main of steak, chicken and shrimp, and a trio of yummy desserts. What better way to prep for our final presentation that to fill our bellies. 🙂

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We even had a visit from a local ladybug. Don’t worry…we didn’t eat him! 🙂

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The gift shop even had Happy700 and Pyeongchang merchandised items. It does exist!

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The hotel is beautiful both inside and out.

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We ended our evening meandering around the lake and the pool.

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There’s even “glamping” for the faint of heart!

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And there’s nothing like Christmas in April. Haha! Why not!

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After we got back to Phoenix Park we stopped in the teamroom for one more late night dessert of ice cream and the most amazing strawberries I’ve ever had in my life. Ji-Hyun spoiled us yet again! I am ruined forever. 🙂

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And with that, it’s time to crash as we have a BIG day tomorrow! Goodnight all…and wish us luck!!

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It’s a Happy…”Sunny” Day!

Today was Sunny’s birthday! We surprised her first thing this morning when we got to the teamroom. The plan was to have everyone in the teamroom at 8:50 AM to hide. A few of us were here on time, but several of the team ran into Sunny at breakfast and weren’t able to break away. It wouldn’t have worked out well if the team had said “Oh we have to go…uh…we have a prior commitment.”   The good news is it was still a huge surprise.

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Sunny was happily surprised. 🙂 Cake #1 and flowers gave her a big smile.

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After the birthday celebration we kicked it into high gear doing final preparations for our review meeting this afternoon with the County. We met at a different office from where we have normally been meeting. We were fortunate enough to experience yet another area of Pyeongchang County as met in the village of Daehwa. The cherry blossoms are just starting to bloom in this area and it was beautiful.

During the meeting we positioned our recommendations at a high level. The good news is…we are on the right path. 🙂

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Our gracious hosts even presented us with strawberries that were freshly picked this morning. They heard that we like them and they wanted us to enjoy yet another authentic Korean experience. We’re getting spoiled again!!

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Our afternoon meeting was graciously interrupted by a County official who wanted us to join him for tea. And what amazing tea it was! I have to say I’m truly hooked on all the tea. Although I’m sure I won’t be able to get any of the teas back home.

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This one was made from jujube, some kind of organism that grows on the branch and something else I can’t remember. Jujube is a red fruit with a crispy texture, edible skin and a sweet-tart, apple-like flavor. It has positive medical properties that help lower blood pressure, reverse liver disease, treat anemia and inhibit the growth of tumor cells that can lead to leukemia. I’m SOLD!!

The tea itself was brewed in a kettle on top of a very large metal oven that was literally placed in the middle of the room. It was explained to us that this was the only government office in the County where they are able to make this kind of tea due to the metal oven. I’m realizing now that I should have taken a photo. Shame on me. 🙂

After the conclusion of our meeting we departed for yet another amazing dinner!! Tonight’s ingredient of choice was buckwheat. Mmmm!!!!

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We started with drinks (oh boy!)…and in the Korean culture you MUST drink when your host gives you a drink. Fortunately we had buckwheat noodles which helped with the alcoholic intake. 🙂

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The end of our meal presented us with the broth that the buckwheat noodles were cooked in. Apparently this is quite a treat as this kind of buckwheat noodles are only found here and in Nepal. And it was so good! I think I’m going to be in Korean cuisine withdrawal when I get back to Denver.

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Sunny was also presented with cake #2. Lucky girl! She gets to make 2 wishes today.

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It still amazes me how the food just keeps coming and you really don’t seem to get that full. It’s all about pacing yourself. And we still haven’t had Korean BBQ. I’m told that’s on the agenda for the weekend. 🙂 It’s definitely one of my favorites, but I can’t complain about anything we’ve had thus far. We have eaten so well and I swear I’ve gained weight. Ha!

This time we even got to sit on the floor!  What fun!!  It truly makes the experience much more enjoyable and relaxed.  It was a great ending to another amazing day!

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After a wonderful dinner we bid adieu to our Korean client who are becoming our friends. Justin made a lovely toast and the emotional person I am got teary eyed.

So goes the amazing experiences in this beautiful country! We are again so fortunate to be here…the friendships we are forming among our team as well as with our new Korean colleagues will stay with us forever.

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Final Thoughts…

As I sit here in Denver, just 2 shorts weeks after having returned from Pyeongchang, I’m still in awe of my experience! It seems like forever ago that we were all together as a team…Antonio, Sunny, Souvik, Stephanie, Justin and Ji-Hyun…my new friends!

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I can’t help but remember all the amazing experiences we shared with each other and with our lifelong friends in Pyeongchang. Such an amazing and life changing journey! From day 1 when we met at a rest stop in the middle of Korea, heading east on the Yeongdong Expressway, to our final goodbyes in Seoul before we all ventured back to our homes…every moment was special…every moment will stay with me until we meet again….

Thank you to Pyeongchang for giving us this unique opportunity. Thank you to IBM for bringing us all together to make an impact. Thank you to my husband for letting me leave you alone for 3+ weeks with our two children (under 5) to let me go on this journey.

Thank you Sunny for your smiles.

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Thank you Justin for your stories.

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Thank you Antonio for your humility.

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Thank you Souvik for your knowledge.

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Thank you Stephanie for your leadership.

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Thank you Ji-Hyun for your laughter.

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It’s impossible to highlight everything from our experience, but I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos from our journey…

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