Go Yeon-hui is one of three possible Jeju Olle Trail volunteers that will greet Olle walkers arriving at Jeju International Airport.
Sitting directly across from the air-side arrival doors at her small desk with the blue and white Olle logo illuminated above, Go provides answers for any Olle questions walkers may have.
“Is this your first time walking?” she asks with a smile before waiting for the reply and reaching into her deep personal banks of Olle knowledge for the relevant information.
“We really are the first Olle faces walkers see when they arrive,” Go explains. “It is important we do well.”
Doing well also means starting at 8 a.m. in the morning – or sometimes earlier – and working through to 1 p.m. all alone. From 1 p.m. she is joined by a colleague who then continues on from her shift at 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. The third team member has a rest day.
Go has been here for over a year now and enjoys the experience.
“I’m never bored… yes some of the questions are often the same, but there are a variety of situations that happen throughout the day,” she says.
There is no entirely typical day as such, but in the morning many walkers flying in from the mainland are heading straight out onto the routes. They need to know which buses to take or which transport is the best. Other walkers want routes recommended to them.
Sometimes Go is dealing with three queries at a time expertly maneuvering back-and-forth between each.
“Would you like a map?” she asks as one of hundreds she gives out during any one shift appears in front of the walker.
“When I first started Friday’s were the busiest, but now every day is busy,” she adds.
However it is not always all go for Go. A lull in aircraft arrivals gives her a chance to rest her voice and sip on a drink. Or even nip away when nature calls.
There is a noticeable lull in sound levels too. A sense of calmness surrounds the area for a short time.
Yet soon the arrivals board is flashing again and beyond the sliding doors which lead to the luggage carousel more walkers are getting ready to make their way out towards the Olle desk in search of answers.
Sometimes those making their way out towards the desk are foreign visitors.
“I speak a little English,” Go says. “However if I really need help I grab someone from the tourist information desk next door and everything is okay.”
Go can provide English language maps and also a free detailed English language guidebook upon request.
“We don’t sell the Olle passports here… I have to direct those requests to the third floor and the Eastar Jet desk,” she explains.
From time-to-time very special walkers appear with completely stamped passports– an orange colored one for the north-side of the island and a blue colored one for the south-side.
These are walkers that have completed all 422 km Jeju Olle Trail has to offer.
“I check their passports and can generally tell if they’ve really done them all if some route mid-point stamps are missing,” Go says. “I then have to fill out their certificate, offer a special badge and take a photo which is later posted on the web site.”
From Jan. 1, 2013 until the time of writing on May 18, 2013 some 101 walkers have appeared at the airport to receive their certificate. The Jeju Olle Trail routes were completed last November.
Go remembers being particularly impressed with a father and his elementary-school-aged son from the mainland who together completed the routes over the course of a year.
Go has two children and as they are old enough, walks the Olle routes with them. She believes it is precious family bonding time and a good chance to relax.
As 1 p.m. nears a colleague arrives at the airport allowing her to skip off for a bite to eat.
However it won’t be long before Go returns to answer the continuous stream questions from the almost continuous stream of walkers arriving on the island.
“Is this your first time walking?” she’ll ask with a smile.
– Jim Saunders | Jeju Olle Trail SNS Volunteer