Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vancouver Day 5: Leaving the West Coast

Our last night out started modestly and escalated quickly. Casual beers with Jack turned into heavier indulgence with Jack, Becca, Derek, Jess, and her Uncle. It was great. I am still kicking myself that we didn't get a picture of the group. But it was a fantastic night, and a great way to end my trip. Specifically the car ride after the bar that took us on a tour through the lower east side of Vancouver. My first time seeing a real, live, "lady of the night"... if you know what I mean ;)

Alas, the night ended and I found myself back at the apartment, packing and cleaning at 2:30am.

The alarm went off at 5:45am, as scheduled, I caught a cab, and was off to the airport to fly home.

In my three weeks in BC, I met so many new people, did so many more things, and got so much more exhausted than I had at any point in the first half of the year. Such a whirlwind adventure... all packed in to only three weeks.  Hard to believe it's over.

To my host in Whistler, as well as my hosts in Vancouver. You guys ROCK. I know I am messy and probably smell bad and/or get annoying sometimes... but without you, I wouldn't be alive right now. Literally.

And to all the people I met, ran in to, caught up with, chatted with, partied with, or worked with... THANKS for helping me have such a fantastic, epic, supercalafrejulisticexbialidocious, once-in-a-lifetime experience! I will never forget you.

Peace Out, BC!

Vancouver Day 4

I decided to head in the other direction than yesterday. I know I only posted a photo, but vancouver Day 3 was a big adventure in North Vancouver, with me heading to see both the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge (Pictured below). It was a great day.

Today would be an adventure to the South, plus a little stop off at Stanley Park.

To begin, I had coffee with a Queen's friend, who suggested that I rent a bike, rather than walk through Stanley Park. Great idea. She took me to a cheap bike rental place and I was off! Stanley park was pretty cool; I have a thing with going fast on bikes, so I kind of motored through. (Pictured: Me with the Lions Gate Bridge)

After that I managed to get on city busses that went in the general direction I wanted to be in. I walked over to Kitsalano Beach, where I ate my sandwich and watched an old guy with a big belly squeeze into a wetsuit and go for a swim.

Finished my afternoon walking along 4th Ave looking in some of the shops.

Then I got lost, wandered through a parking lot and under a bridge, eventually finding my way back on to a bus.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vancouver Day 2

Woke up early this morning to another sunny day in Vancouver! One of the two that I am staying with had to go to work, so it was just Jack and I for the day! We head out at 10am to try to get a ride on the free zipline across Robson Square.

When we arrived, the lineup went all the way back to a sign that said "8 hours estimate from here"... that was out of the question, so we moved on.

First stop was the Northern Canada House, located at Hastings and Seymour. It had birch bark canoes, a little history of the North, and some Inuit dolls and carvings.

Second destination was through Gastown. I got to see the steam clock blow on the half-hour! As the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver, it was great to see the neat buildings and cool atmosphere.

Third stop on our walking tour was through Main and Hastings (Downtown East Side).
"Main and Hastings Streets continues to be a problem as drug sellers and users frequently occupy the corner, establishing a plein air drug market. The area is noted for a high incidence of poverty, drug use, sex trade, crime, as well as a history of community activism." (from Wikikipedia :)
It was certainly interesting to walk through, as the problems are right out in the open. A little scary too.

Fourth on our stop was the Public Library at Georgia and Homer. We went to try to see the Royal Canadian Mint exhibit (that lets you see the olympic medals that were given out!) but the line was too long. Moved on.

Finally walked down Robson to Davie, and then Davie to Beach... like along a real beach!! so nice.. here is a picture of us on the waterfront. 

From there we headed back to the apartment to put up our feet from a long day of walking!

Vancouver Day 1

My first day in Vancouver was quite eventful! The night I arrived, one of my fellow volunteers texted me to say she had an extra ticket to the curling semi-finals. Sounded like a great opportunity, so I met up with her for the 10:30am event.

No offense, but it wasn't the most interesting thing in the world. But we won, and that's all that matters!!!!

Following the game, we went out to a caribbean restaurant, The Reef, for lunch. Got yogurt, honey, and fruit. Yum.

Later that afternoon, back at my host apartment, we decided to take off for Granville Island. We walked in the warm sun across Granville St. Bridge, and onto the island. Well, Saturday afternoon + warm sun = crazy busy, so we were elbows out at the market. Highlights of trip include street performer juggling fire, and free samples :)

I also found out that the girl I am staying with has never eaten a mango before. So I bought one that we will eat tomorrow.

Not sure why, but I was TOTALLY exhausted by the end of the day. My day ended falling asleep on the couch by 10:30pm.

So long Whistler... Hello Vancouver!!!!!

Friday I left Whistler. Sad day.

I got dropped off at the spot my printed map had told me. It was in a weird spot- by itself on a long stretch of road. When I got there, no one else was waiting. There was one wheelchair accessible mini-bus waiting empty (no driver). So I hunkered down on the side of the road and sat. And sat. And sat.

At about 3 minutes until the time the bus was supposed to leave, I was getting worried. No one else had shown up with luggage like me, and no driver had come. I was starting to think I was in the wrong place.

Finally, a guy walks out from some path through the trees and asks, "are you going to Vancouver?"

I was waiting in the wrong spot. And was about one minute away from not making the bus.

But it all worked out in the End!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

I am celebrating with a shift in the Athletes Village from 2:30pm-11:30pm


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Second Event Attended: Slalom

On Sunday I went with another friend to watch the slalom. There were two categories here: Visually impaired and sit-ski (no standing for this one). This event was a ton of fun. It was a sunny morning, and a super popular event. All the athletes seemed to have a big team of people in the stands cheering for them.

My friend and I dressed up like champs. Canada flag cape, headbands, mittens, pins, and tiny flags were carried and worn. We also decided not to sit in the stands, but to stand near the finish line, right up against the gate. It was pretty fun being in the background of TV cameras doing interviews!

There were tons of teams there supporting their athletes. One of the funniest ones were the Mexican supporters, who all wore sombrero's. They were super friendly, and had two athletes compete in this event. The Americans blew airhorns, the Japanese waved big flags, and the British spun noisemakers. The Canadians were plentiful and loud!!! Lots of support out that day.

One of the more interesting things I noticed about the actual event was how often people would miss a gate, or fall, and then hike back up the mountain to make the gate (found out later that it was to avoid being disqualified). Also, the visually impaired athletes went slower than I thought they would. Not that I blame them. Skiing down an icy steep hill with no vision is probably one of the LAST things I would want to do. It certainly requires trusting your guide with your life, steeling yourself to smacking into gates, and a lot of courage!!!!!! These guys and gals were amazing.

The sit-ski was also cool to watch. Though there were several DNF's for athletes who fell or missed a gate. I'm not sure if it's always the way it is with paralympic slalom, or just that course. I felt awful when I saw them fall or get disqualified. In one case, in the visually impaired event, the GUIDE was the one to lose a ski (and get the paralympian disqualified).

Not to say that there was a lot of excitement and happiness. One of our Canadian skiiers, Josh Dueck, won SILVER! wooohooo!

We got the chance to meet team members from Chile, Mexico, USA, and Canada. We also met John Furlong!

Overall it was a great day!

First Event Attended: Biathlon

Many things happening. Much less blogging. My bad.

Friday were the opening ceremonies.

Saturday I went and met up with an old skating friend, and then went to the biathlon. It was VERY cool. When we got there, a station was set up to let you try the sit-ski's and the laser rifles. So we got in line- behind all the children and patiently waited our turn.

The laser rifle was interesting. The participant puts on headphones, and when the rifle aims at the bullseye, the whiny pitch gets higher. My first three shots were misses, but I got the hang of it by the last two. I think I may have taken away from the experience by looking as I shot.

In the standing event, there was one notable athlete. he had NO arms. To shoot his rifle he propped it up with his shoulder and had a device added to his rifle that let him shoot using his teeth!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Second Time's a Charm

Went skiing again yesterday in the fresh powder.

Destroyed legs...Again.

More Interesting People on the Bus

Last night, I met another interesting person on the bus. I had walked past this girl on the way to catch my shuttle, asking a security guard how to get in to Whistler Village. I happily jumped in and offered to help take her there with me.

Turns out she works for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), based out of Germany. There, has done marketing and communications for the IPC for the past 2 ½ years. For these games, as well as the Summer Games in Beijing, her role involves doing uniform and logo compliance, and well as media requests and scheduling.

Her jobs include:
-       -checking each country for uniform standards; making sure no sponsor logos are on it, graphic ratios are correct- then making recommendations. She has told me that any team uniforms I see that have duct tape over parts (I have) have been required to because of her. (The other day in the laundry centre, a whole team came in to iron duct tape over the Adidas stripes down the side of their pants.. Now I know why!)
-       -Doing checks of ALL Whistler and Vancouver venues to ensure that no Olympic rings remain, and have been replaced by the Paralympic ‘swoosh’. She said she has not had much trouble with this. I agree. For about two days last week, all maintenance trucks were out replacing EVERYTHING Olympic in the village.
-       -Telling photographers and TV crews where they and where they cannot be for coverage. She also does their schedules and helps them get to events
-       -Sends out press releases

It sounds like a really neat job, even though it seems like she is (technically) the party pooper of the Paralympics.

She completed an undergraduate degree in sports marketing in Germany.  To all those health studies/kinesiology/Phys. Ed Majors out there… Work for the IPC!!!

Mysterious Sounds

Like I mentioned, we finally got our big snow fall in Whistler!  Probably only about 20cm, It snowed big fluffy flakes all day and into the night. When I woke up the next morning, I was lying in bed half asleep when I heard a dull thunder from, seemingly, the ground.

Snowplows, I figured.

Then, a couple of minutes later, it happened again. This time the roof rattled a bit.  And again. And again.

I was starting to sweat, thinking of outrageous senarios in my half-dreaming head. So I decided to wake up, get some breakfast, and hope the rumbling BOOM would stop soon.

Finally, my host for the games woke up and came out to get breakfast. I quickly told him what I had heard, and asked him if that was the sound of snow plows going crazy.

He told me that it is the sound of the Whistler-Blackcomb team doing controlled explosions to help clear out potential avalanches. Awesomeee.  After snowfall, there is a team that will either plant explosives, or will actually chuck them at the mountain in places that are hard to access by foot. I feel like this job is every 9 year old boys dream!

And mine. How cool would it be to blow up a mountain?!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Games are Coming...

This afternoon all of the volunteers were invited to go the the Welcome Ceremony for Team Canada. Its a fairly small ceremony in the athlete's village that includes a flag raising, short speeches, the exchange of country gifts, photo ops with Sumi, and a big dance party in the end!

For most of the welcome ceremonies, like from photos I posted below, there has been a small group of volunteers there to cheer on the athletes of various countries. They usually have the ceremony for 2 or 3 countries at a time. But today it was all for Team Canada and the crowd was huge!

The cheers carried over the barriers, and the dancing continued after the ceremony was over. Everyone there was celebrating our Canadian Paralympic Athletes, and having a great time to boot! It definitely started the tingling in my stomach, the same feeling I got when I watched the opening ceremonies for the Olympics. There is new spirit in the air, and it is definitely building.

Go Canada Go!!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Comes with the Biz

Yesterday, while I was working in the biathlon equipment room, I called after one of the athletes wishing her a good day. When she didn't respond, I got a little ticked off that she had ignored me.

Then I was informed she was hearing impaired. Oops.


The Lunchtime Dilemma

It's almost 1:00 and my shift starts at 2:30. I have a choice for lunch. Do I buy something of quality in the village, or do I get a free lunch at the Athlete's village. The free choice is either McDonalds or Sodexo. McDonalds has a limited menu for volunteers, which is beef hamburgers. University people know what I'm talking about when I say Sodexo.. standard quality cafeteria food that has been pre bagged, cooked, packed, frozen, and mixed with some nasty sauce--then distributed everywhere in the country. University students, Inmates, and now, Olympians/Volunteers forced to eat it daily.

I'm a sucker for free stuff. But this might sinking to a new low. I thought I escaped Sodexo after first year at university, but it has clawed back into my life to induce more stomach pain and sugar spikes post-meals.

I am still undecided. We'll see how this turns out.


It's snowing in Whistler!!!

Expanding my Knowledge of the Biathlon

So, recently, I have been spending a chunk of my shifts in the tent that holds biathlon equipment. AKA RIFLES! And in this time I have learned a bit about the sport.

In the paralympics, this means there are different variations. Standing biathlon, sitting biathlon, and visually-impaired biathlon.

The first thought I had (in my head of course, didn't want to look stupid haha) was how dangerous it must be for people with limited or no sight to shoot a gun. duh. Realizing how stupid my thought was, I discretely looked into it and figured it out. Laser rifles. No ammunition, and based on sound. COOL.

Here is a link I found that kind of explains it a bit more.

Team China - From welcome ceremony today

Team Mongolia - From welcome ceremony today

Team Belarus - From welcome ceremony today

Team Sweden - From welcome ceremony today

Team Australia - From welcome ceremony today

Who Remembers the Opening Ceremonies?

On the bus the back from my shift the other night, I sat with a representative from Musqueam, one of the Four Host First Nations. She was a dancer and a singer, and was asked to perform in the opening ceremonies for the Paralympic Games.

I also found out that she was one of the hundreds of dancers in the opening ceremonies for the Olympics.

So I cut to the chase.

I asked her why the heck they had to dance for, like, 3 hours while the athletes came out. Why would they make them do that?! It looked torturous... Like a dance marathon (In the worst way possible). I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. C'mon, it was rediculous!

She told me some interesting things.
1) Each one of them volunteered; VANOC people came to all the reserves and asked  if anyone would like to perform
2) All outfits worn by the First Nations dancers were their own. They were only offered help with hair and makeup by MAC artists.
3) They all lived together up in Squamish, BC for a bit before the opening ceremonies where they trained; after the opening ceremonies, they had a few days of free tours and travelling arranged through VANOC
4) They did so many practices, run-through's, and dress rehearsals before the actual night that the endless dancing we saw on TV was no big deal.

Mystery solved.

Pictured: Girl I took the bus with, second from right at a welcoming ceremony for the athletes

Friday, March 5, 2010

Skiing: Day 1

First day on the mountain. Beautiful sunny skies. I wish I could capture what I saw on camera, but it wouldn't do it justice.

My ski partner has been living in Whistler for over a month, today acting as my personal GPS, tour guide, and target to keep up with. After about three hours skiing through beautiful mountain landscapes, I found that the shooting pain tearing through my quads, and weird soreness under my knee caps were forcing me to call it a day. It was also a fresh reminder of what a pipsqueak I am.
I'll be feeling the burn tomorrow, that's for sure.

Here is a picture of me on top of the mountain yelling:


Getting Better..

Woke up at 7:06am this morning. Not bad!!

Decided to use my early morning start as a reason to be productive.

First: BIG breakfast.

Yogurt, orange, more yogurt, raisin bran cereal, toast with peanut butter and banana mash on top, and more yogurt.

Second: Clear my camera of all old photos to make room for new

Goodbye Cuba trip photos, graduation photos, Ottawa trip photos, Christmas photos, Cottage photos and pictures of my sister dressed as our high school mascot, the Havergator (weird)

Third: Clean my room

In 48 hours i've managed to make a mess. My volunteer uniform is scattered, sweaters and scarves litter the floor, and pieces of paper with my itinerary are out of their folder and all over the place. Closets aren't my thing and there are no drawers in my room; I'm a little lost. I just put everything in piles and call it a day.

Friends are Never Far Away

A lovely thing happened last night, which kind of confirms my suspicions that when someone disappears from the real world, chances are, they are in Whistler, BC.

During training I met some girls- together we had lunch (at Earls : thumbs down for no veggie options) and decided that we would meet up for drinks later that night. Come 8:30pm, one of the girls and I were walking through the village looking for a good bar and ran into one of my old ultimate teammates! After introductions, and finding out that he was flying home the next morning, he told us that he was actually on his way over to see another player from my ultimate team. Together we all went out to an Irish pub and ended up having a great night chatting,  drinking, and catching up.

In the almost 48 hours since I have arrived in Whistler, I have had so many unexpected run ins with old friends:
-Queen's friend #1 (Walking through the village)
-Camp friend #1(Bus stop on the way to volunteer training)
-High School friend #1(Vancouver airport)
-Queen's friend #2 (Creekside)
-High School friend #2 (Starbucks)
-Toronto friend #1 (Walking through the village)

Not to mention how many mutual friends I have in common with people I have just met. It's a small world after all!

Not kidding

I was walking along the path tonight..
it was so dark I fell into a ditch! No big Deal.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Streetlights are for Suckers

I'm about to head off, out of my comfortable spot on the bed with my computer, to the cold, pitch-black streets of Whistler.

My mind will continue to play tricks, and it will continue to scare the pants off me.

I need a beating stick, or pepper spray, or a hammer, or brass knuckles, or rocks, or a paintball gun, or lasers, or an iron pan, or a bat, or crowbar with me.

Or a flashlight.

Second Impressions

At about 8pm I decided to ignore what my sleepy head was telling me and go out to visit a friend. I noticed something strange on the way to the bus stop.

Whistler has no streetlights.

Walking through the darkened roads, with only old Christmas lights and the yellow glow of light streaming out of family rooms of each cabin, a number of thoughts went through my head. Here are my proposed points of attack, and my proposed solutions at the time:

1. Robber/rapist: punch to the face with my new boxing skills
2. Coyote: punch to the face with my new boxing skills
3. Bear: punch to the face with my new boxing skills... and then jump on top of a car so he can't get me (I don't know why)
4. Monster from the forest: succumb to a Blair Witch-like death because you can't punch ghosts

Keep in mind I just finished up a beginner fitness class in boxing in which I missed almost a third of the classes. I am seriously delusional.

Made it to Vancouver!!!!!

Arrived 30 minutes early,
a girl from Whistler Connection was already waiting for me!

With an hour to kill I decided to go grab some Timmy Ho's and roll up the rim.  I was in a great mood.. then I WON A FREE COFFEE. My day got even better.

Left at about 10am in this beautiful vehicle

It contained me, a girl from kitchener, a woman from Milton, couple of guys from Ajax/Whitby, a couple from Australia, and two older guys from BC- one drove the bus, hated the olypmics, and definitely let us know about it!