Ok!! I am back from the Olympics, and holy buckets, this has been the craziest wildest ride. I am so excited to tell you all about it!!! First I’m going to reel in the exclamation points because I’ve officially used up my allotted amount for the year but just know that literally every sentence here is said with 12 imaginary exclamation points.
Prologue, four days before we left Grand Forks: I had just found out from the Olympic Channel that they were looking to have me do a few arts and culture segments in Korea but I had also just found out that my passport was going to be missing the expiration deadline by two weeks! It needs to be valid for six months after traveling from the United States to Korea and mine would have been valid for five months and two weeks. Oy vey! So I immediately flew down to Minneapolis to go to their passport office, crossing my fingers and toes that I’d be able to get a new passport in time, and also carrying Passport shaped cookies to hand out to the office. Duh. That all went swimmingly! Everybody at the office was so gosh darn pleasant, especially in explaining to me that they weren’t actually allowed to accept my cookies, and I was in and out of there with a new passport in an hour. It made me love Minnesota even more.
So then! We quickly figured out all of our details with the Olympic Channel which was bonkers with the 15 hours time difference between Grand Forks and PyeongChang, but we got it done and by Tuesday night we had confirmed flights. Seven hours later, we were on our way to the airport!
We saw our friend Ben on the plane and I gave him a passport cookie.
It was a 14 hour flight and my dad advised me to absolutely, under no circumstances, sleep on that plane so that when we arrived at night in Korea, we could just have a good night sleep on their local time and then ideally avoid bad jet lag. It took one movie for me to pass out for half the flight. But we still had time to watch Three Billboards (dark), Ingrid Goes West (also dark), and When Harry Met Sally (classic!), and then also eat bibimbap and a little ice cream sundae and quiche. We arrived just as the sun was setting in Seoul and then drove east across the country, through the mountains, to PyeongChang.
When we rolled into town, we saw the opening/closing ceremony stadium, the ski jump thing, and a bunch of ski slopes all lit up. Our hotel was in a cute Alps-inspired area at the bottom of a ski hill, right next to the big luge slide.
Day 1: In the morning we drove the hour or so over to Gangneung, where all of the ice rinks are (figure skating, curling, speed skating, and hockey each have their own arena there). It was the men’s short program for the team figure skating event, AKA NATHAN CHEN LIVE. From the moment he walked into the arena, I couldn’t stop omg-ing, I couldn't believe I was seeing him irl. Even just watching him warm up and skate in circles around the ice was magical and beautiful. Like, imagine Yo-Yo Ma playing scales, even the simplest things were incredible.
We spent the rest of our day seeing the huge broadcasting center where the TV stations have offices, having our first sit down meal (an amazing sweet beef stew at a little restaurant near our hotel), and then going to the Opening Ceremony.
My favorite parts about the Opening Ceremony were: the food (spicy rice cakes! chicken skewers! sweet yeasted pancakes!), the drummers, and then screaming my head off when Team USA walked in. “Gangnam Style” was perfectly timed for their entrance. Ooh and then we all lost our minds when the shirtless oily Tongan flag bearer walked in.
Day 2: I interviewed Tara and Johnny!!!!!! We talked all about food and you can see that video here. They were so sweet and I just couldn’t stop smiling the biggest smile. After that, Eggboy and I explored the Gangneung Olympic Park. We ate lunch in the spectator’s cafeteria, where I was really hankering for some bibimbap but it was sold out so I got the lasagna which was fine because it’s the year of lasagna 🤷🏻♀️. And then we traded some of our Olympic Channel pins for some gems from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics: funeral potatoes and bologna sandwiches. These pins were made for me. For dinner, we ventured outside of the Olympic park and found an adorable family owned BBQ restaurant where we communicated to the owner via a translation app that you speak into and the lady in the phone translates it and spits it back out. The owner’s mother grew all of the vegetables used in the side dishes and everything was delicious.
That night we had our very first short track speed skating experience and it was mind blowing. Have you ever seen it?! I thought we were in the future. Or in space. Or in another galaxy. Starlight Express! Their speed and smooth movements were completely superhuman. And what made it even more exciting was that speed skating is huge in Korea, so the place was packed and loud and everyone was going nuts and the South Korean president was there. So were the North Korean cheerleaders. There was so much energy in that building.
Day 3: Sunday broke down into two parts, part 1: watch figure skating, part 2: eat everything at the food market. I can’t possibly imagine a better way to spend a day, can you?? The skating included seeing Bradie’s clean Olympic debut, the Shib Sibs in the sparkliest sparkle outfits I’ve ever seen, and the Knierims’ beautiful long program. I couldn’t stop bouncing up and down, being in shouting distance of these skaters and seeing a lot of the things that you can’t see on TV, like their talks with their coaches, the reactions of their team members as they’re skating, and all of the warmups were so cool. And I got to meet Ashley Wagner, who was so sweet, and explained to me that, yes, all of her super awesome Nike warmup outfits are available to the public.
Even though we were trying to save room for the food market, we got so hungry during the skating and needed a snack, which, at the ice arena concession stand, meant our options were Pringles or bunless hot dogs. Lol. We ate so many bunless hot dogs throughout the various skating events that I'll probably associate live figure skating with bunless hot dogs for a really long time.
After the skaters crushed it, we went to the Gangneung Central Food Market and ate a bunch of tasties!! Olympic Channel posted a facebook live of their editor Marc and me eating some of the most popular things there. Check it out here.
On Sunday night, my friend from college June visited!! It’s been at least like six years since we’ve seen each other, way way too long. June is the best! <3 <3
Day 4: More skating!! And I really shouldn’t have worn mascara because between Mirai nailing her long program and Adam being his stunning self, I was so weepy. It was amazing. The Shib Sibs, of course, were totally great and clean, and then what happened at the end was that I was completely won over by Virtue and Moir, from Canada. I mean, I’ve always known they were good, but usually when they’ve been on TV in the past, I’d be busy tweeting about the Shib Sibs or, before that, Meryl and Charlie. But seeing them live, they had this globe of energy around them that radiated throughout the arena. They didn’t just compete, they performed, and I couldn’t not fall in love with them right then and there. (And like, they’re definitely in love irl, right?? right?!!!)
In the afternoon, we went to the Olympic Village to interview Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureaux who are on the Team USA hockey team and from Grand Forks!!! I’d heard their voices on the local radio station tons of times but never actually met them so I was soo excited to meet them. They were so nice and cool and they also love cheesy pickles :) Watch the full interview here.
I tried so hard to sneak into the dining hall when I was in the Village, I desperately wanted to see what the athletes were eating and show all of you but only the athletes were allowed in and I’m really awful at trying to sneak into things. But I was able to see the Village snack shop where I found coleslaw flavored popcorn, chocolate bamba-y things, Emmental cookies, and things called “mayo shower potato sticks.” Obviously I bought them all and so far I’ve only tried the mayo shower potato sticks, which were light crunchy salty sticks that tasted like mayonnaise and onion, I loved them.
That night we ate BBQ with Ben and Josh in Gangneung. We talked about all of our hot takes on the ice skating and ate spicy crab and bulgogi.
Day 5: On Tuesday we explored Yongpyong, another area in the mountains, where the alpine skiing takes place. The Swiss hospitality house is there, which is set up like a little Alpine village where you can eat Rösti and Raclette and shop for Swatches. And the Swedish hospitality house has a Swedish meatball stand set up outside, it's so cute. The Team USA house is there too but we weren’t allowed in because we weren’t athletes and finally that was our cue to start brainstorming sports that we could try to qualify for in the next Olympics in. Do you think that Pita from Tonga would want to be on a Curling team with us?
I made a new friend, Rosie, who is competing in the cross country 30k on the last day!! She told us to go to the cross country sprint that night so we put on all of our layers of clothes (it was so windy!) and made our way to the other side of the mountain that was right outside of our hotel window, which required a whole lot of schlepping against the wind. We thought, “ok, we’ll cheer on the Americans for a few events and then we’ll go warm up and get bbq in town” but then when we arrived, it was like we had found the best party in PyeongChang and we never wanted to leave. The K-pop was blasting, the Norwegian fans were decked out in Viking outfits and being rowdy, everybody was drinking, and we found pork buns at the concession stand!! It was totally insane. And I suddenly felt really short because the place was packed with really tall Scandinavians. Eggboy, who is half Norwegian, blended right in and we cheered for the American and the Norwegian skiers. It was so fun, it made me want to go to Norway and also learn how to cross country ski.
We ate late night dumplings that night, it was the best Valentine’s day eve ever.
Day 6: We visited our new friend Brett, who is a nutritionist for the ski team and their chef, Andy. We learned about how the skiers eat (lots of good fat and protein!) and what they have on their birthdays (healthier cupcakes). And Andy told me about a corn dog casserole that he made a few Olympics ago for one of the athletes. I’m going to make it.
Then we ate bulgogi pizza and booked it to the airport! I slept almost the entire way back and now we’re home. We avoided norovirus, which I attribute to excessive usage of hand sanitizer and A+ hydration, and terrible jet lag, which I attribute to limiting my coffee intake (sounds counterintuitive, but my quality of sleep and ability to fall asleep when it was night time in Korea was suddenly remarkable).
And there it is! I truly didn’t think it’d be possible for my excitement for the Olympics to grow, and yet here we are. It’s so cool watching the broadcasts now from home and being able to spot the seats that we sat in, and of course our new bffs Tara and Johnny hehe.
For more of my photos and vids, check out the Olympics highlights stories on my Instagram. And of course, I cannot thank the Olympic Channel enough for this insanely awesome opportunity!!! Check out their site for tons more Olympic vids and pics :)