I had been wishy-washy about my President's Day weekend plans - to ski in Tahoe or not to ski? My heart just wasn't in it. I think Karen and I had talked about me coming to visit Van at some point, but didn't have any definite plans. Then all of the sudden in late January we had a phone call and despite two other visitors in town for the Olympics, we decided that one more person could definitely fit in that tiny basement space that Karen and Emma shared and before I knew it I was Vancouver-bound! Flights were even cheap!
The Olympic fever embraced all the visitors in a flurry of email introductions and instructions for a flash-mob via YouTube. Karen even got to hold the torch on its way to light the Olympic Flame! Bryndee flew in from NYC, Karen's former home; Joanna, a BYU friend, drove up from Seattle; I came in from the AZ desert on Saturday, the day after the Opening Ceremonies.
Touchdown Saturday around noon. Slightly cold, rainy, but who cares? I'm at the Olympics! A car full of girls picked me up, and we were off. First stop, McDonald's. Ha. They have better McFlurry flavors in Canada, like crème brulée, by the way. Except really we were just using the McDonald's parking lot as our Metro Park and Ride stop, hoping that the car would still be there when we returned many hours later; mass transit was a much better way to get into the heart of the madness. Soon we were gazing at the Rings across the Harbor and checking out the Flame. Karen shows off her mittens below, which I was determined to get my hands into before the trip was over, even if they were only sold at one store that was insanely crowded at all hours of the day.
heavier on the mob and not so much of a flash. I don't even want to hear that song again and I really hope that I'm not in that video.
We found a restaurant for dinner down in Gaslamp, I think,that wasn't too crowded or crazy. Ate a delicious meal, got the check, and suddenly I couldn't find my debit card anywhere....yikes! After thinking about it (and making a couple expensive phone calls to my mom and my bank via my cell phone), here's what must have happened. We went straight from the airport to downtown; clearly I didn't want to carry a big purse around, with dancing and crowds and all of that going on. I took money, cards, ID and stuffed them into my coat pocket. It's a little cold in Canada in February, especially at night, and those cute red mittens were awesome! Except 1) I didn't have any yet, and 2) I had a broken hand and a cast that prevented me from warming my hands, so I had to put them in my coat pockets. Clumsy hand removal resulted in pulling out debit card and depositing it on the streets of downtown Vancouver. Thankfully I had another Visa card in my wallet in the car (they really do only take Visa at the Olympics) so I could still pay for stuff. I just couldn't get any fun Canadian cash from the ATM. In the end - all was fine. I learned my lesson: don't break your hand before going on an international trip.
Day 2 of Olympic Madness - Karen and Bryndee headed up to ski at Whistler. The road between Vancouver and the mountain was closed during the day; only Olympic travel was allowed, though the ski resorts were definitely still open and travel agencies ran official shuttles back and forth for the non-Olympian skiers. I had thought about making the trek, but with a broken hand and a shuttle that left at 6am, it was a pretty easy choice. I don't think I could've stayed on the mountain all day; the return was at 9pm or something crazy. Karen was a trooper to do it though, since she had to work the next day!
Day 3: Karen went to work! I have no idea how she had the energy to do so. Tyson, the international man of mystery (who lives in NYC and knows Bryndee, yet also sort of lives in Canada and hangs out with Karen, and then shows up in Nepal last week with some of my friends from DC...yeah...) has a buddy who runs the double decker tour bus company in Vancouver - free tour! Steamclock, pit stop at Granville Island, the awesome Stanley Park, etc.
inukshuk in the background? And I finally got my mittens! I stood in line at The Bay, the only store with the official stuff. I think I only had to wait in line to get into the store for about 20 minutes, even though it stretched 'round the block. The perfect souvenir for 10 bucks. I can't wait to wear them again this winter, even if I'm not in Canada nor at the Olympics. I also wanted a Canada hoodie, and the store only had the really small or the really large sizes available. I snagged a men's medium that was misplaced in a random aisle, intending to bring back as a gift, but I planned to hang onto it for me if I couldn't find anything in my size, which I didn't. Lucky for the recipient, the airport store had a boy's hoodie that fit me fine, so I could actually give one away.
he had won the Platinum Medal at the Olympics. Sorry, Russia. USA rules!
Doves track, not unlike like this one, though not exactly this) began to play as the lights dimmed, and suddenly I was quite emotional with watery eyes.
I love when the world comes together in an event like this. I wish I could attend every Olympic Games (maybe I will make that my goal - I was in a Chinese territory when the Beijing Games began, and maybe I'll be living in London for 2012?). And even when skaters fell, or your country's rivals took the ice, there was such an environment of support and well-wishing. I think there were a few Austrians sitting next to us (or insert other small country name, I don't remember exactly) and after their 1 skater finished, even though he wasn't amazing or had a shot at a medal, they cheered like he had just won gold. And the rest of the crowd took notice and joined in, applauding this guy's journey to the pinnacle of all competitions - the Olympic Games - a once in a lifetime for very few. These are the best of the best, and should be recognized. They trained their whole life for these three minutes, not even knowing if they'd get a shot to go to the long program to skate for a medal. Needless to say, it was quite the experience in a live setting. It won't be the last time.
loonies and toonies and people were willing to help out. The bus driver was the nicest man ever, thanked everyone for their patience and did his best to get people to where they needed to go. That, my friends, is how we should all operate. Score another one, Canada!
(If you want to read a first-hand report of what it's like to work at the Olympics and have some other awesome Olympic experiences, you can read my friend Matt's blog here).