Sunday, March 21, 2010

leaving on a jet plane. don't know when I'll be back again.

Our last full day in Vancouver was today. Weeeeeird. Even though I am ready to sleep in my own bed and see all my wonderful friends and family, I am really going to miss this place. Granted, I don’t know how long I would last living in a big city like this one, but it is definitely somewhere that I could visit on a frequent basis. Especially now that I’ve made so many AWESOME friends up here! That’s what makes leaving tomorrow so hard. Chances are that I probably will never see most of the faces, if any, that I saw every day over the last two weeks ever again in my life. Now, I absolutely HATE to be a Debby Downer, but that makes me so sad! One thing is for sure though: I will remember the people that I met on this trip for my whole life. Each person that I met and formed a bond with while I have been here has made SO much more of an impact on the rest of my life than any of them could possibly imagine. Vancouver 2010, you were AWESOME!

To go out with a bang, most of us from the group took the ferry over the Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. It was ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! I honestly wasn’t even able to take a lot of pictures while I was there, because I was too busy trying to savor every last second of it. The ferry over was proooobably the best part, because we passed several islands before reaching Victoria, and all of them were distinct and just indescribably gorgeous.

It was a 30-minute drive to the ferry, about an hour and a half ride on the ferry, and another 30-minute drive into Victoria. I even got to drive one of the vans because Teresa already had plans for the night. Not gonna lie, I felt pretty sweet driving that cute little Dodge minivan all around town. Kerri, Christine, Julia, and Sarah rode with me and my nickname quickly became “Mom.” How fitting, right? They kept telling me that I would make the cutest minivan mom ever, but I assured them that I would NOT be an owner of a minivan. Range Rovers only. That being the case, I guess I’ll start reproducing when I’m around 70. Why? Because that’ll be about the time I’ll be able to afford something like that. Life savings, don’t fail me before then!

While we were riding the ferry, we constantly looked for whales to pop out of the water, but unfortunately that never happened. Nevertheless, it was still an incredible view! Once we got there, we split up and went our separate ways. Six of us stuck together and our first stop was FOOD! Duh! : ) We ate a little fish shack, and it was yuuuuummy! The best part of the meal? Getting to see three SEALS playing in the water beside the restaurant! It was so exciting! I have never in my life seen a REAL seal, and I can assure you that I will be talking about that for a WHILE!

After eating dinner, we just walked around and tried to see as much of the city as we could. We took a few (or maybe a lot of) pictures, went into a few stores, and made it halfway to an old castle before deciding that we wouldn’t make it there and back before it was time to leave. There was so much culture and history in the city, and that was definitely one of my faaaavorite parts!

When we got boarded back onto the ferry, we were able to watch the last few minutes of the Paralympic closing ceremony. Andddd I cried. See, I told ya I was sad about leaving! I was able to pull it together, and we went roaming around the ship to pass the time. A few of the girls wanted to do a little last-minute shopping, so we dropped them off a few blocks away from the hostel.

Packing this time was a LOT harder than before, which makes sense because I’ve gotten a tonnnnn of new stuff since I first packed. Our volunteer uniforms take up a good bit of room in my bag, not to mention all the other little knickknacks I’ve picked up along the way. I wish you could have seen Kerri and me trying to zip up my big suitcase. The perfect sentence to describe our fiasco is this: “I pulled a muscle.” Haha, it was intense! We got it zipped though (praise the Lord!), and all my stuff is ready to go bright and early in the morning. We have to be downstairs in the lobby at 8 o’clock in the morning so we can get loaded up and head to the airport. And then it’s goodbye Canada, hello again America. It will be bittersweet, fo sho!
And now, I am about to crawl into bed for one last night’s sleep in the beautiful city of Vancouver. I think I’m going to fall asleep listening to some good slow songs tonight, starting with “They’ll Never Know” by Ross Copperman. Ross always knows how to make me feel better, so it’s all on him tonight!

Sweet dreams for the last time from Vancouver. I can’t believe the time has finally come to leave. It’s been absolutely amazing!

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” –Anais Nin

Saturday, March 20, 2010

oh, she's on her way.

I woke up sad today, and for a split second I wondered why. And then it hit me: today is our last day of work. BOO! Through my sadness, I put on my blue and met downstairs in the lobby just like every other day. I was extra happy today (imagine that, if you can) so I wouldn’t cry! I was pretty proud of myself for holding it together. Not gonna lie!

Since it was my 8th and final shift, I got two goodies: an Olympic/Paralympic 2010 keychain and an Olympic/Paralympic 2010 watch! What a sweet way to begin the work day! After that, we were split up into our groups, and I was SO pumped when I found out that I was in the seating bowl for the day. Why, you ask? Well, it’s no big deal…but Team USA was playing in the GOLD medal game against Team Japan! And guess what? THEY WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAHOO! I am always super proud to be an America, and today only heightened that pride! The coolest part about the whole tournament was that USA didn’t let a single team score on them. NONE. How exciting! Big props to Steve Cash, our super stellar goalie who did the job RIGHT!

The medal ceremony was super sweet, too! Thanks to Patrick (also known as “crazy drummer guy,” as nicknamed by myself), I was able to get a good look at everything going on! Norway got the bronze, Japan got the silver, and (drum roll please) USA is bringing home the goooooods! Fact: I love the Olympics. As if that wasn’t already clear enough.

We had a volunteer appreciation party after our shift ended, and it was SO much fun! And sad. Well, not till the end, when you knew you had to say goodbye. But before all the sorrow started to seep in, we were able to hang out with everyone and take pictures galore! I even made it into the slideshow of the week, which I was pretty pumped about. Who knew I’d be famous by the time I left? Oh wait, that’s because I’m not. I was, however, a top pick for receiving goodbye kisses on the cheek. Who knew that Canadians kiss you on the cheek when they tell you bye? I sure didn’t. My only question is this: why was it only the guys that kissed my cheek? I think I already know that answer. Here’s an idea: boys will be boys. Yeah, I think that about covers it!

The best part of the whole day (and maybe even week)? Well, that’s an easy one! Doing the CADENCE CALL as we left the party, that’s what! C-L-E-M-S-O-N-T-I-G-E-R-S! We had to make sure that they weren’t going to forget about us, of course. If the southern accents and hospitality didn’t work all week, we had to make sure we went out with a bang…just in case! My biggest hope is that we represented Clemson in the best possible way that we could and that at least one life was changed by our presence here these past two weeks. I know I was definitely changed for the better because of the INCREDIBLE people I met.

We had a group meeting when we first got back to the hostel, and then I headed upstairs to put on my comfy pjs! Kerri, Christine, and I then decided to go get KFC for dinner. At 9 o’clock at night. And thennnnnn, we discovered that they were closed, leaving our only available option to be…Denny’s. Pancakes? YES PLEASE! Mmmm, that was some good stuff! Well, except the grits (hello, instant pack) and the eggs (hello, pour and cook eggs). The bacon was off the chain, which is the most important part anyway!

I crawled into bed with my full tummy, and I cannot waitttttt to close my eyes for a good night’s sleep! We’re going to Victoria, BC tomorrow, so I’m going to need every ounce of energy I have to take everything in that I can! I can’t wait to wake up, get ready, and then travel to the island on a FERRY! I’m going to pray SUPER hard tonight that we’ll see WHALES! Please, please, please! Feel free to pitch in, as well. : )

Song of the day: "On Her Way" by Shelly Fraley. Sweet dreams, 'eh!

Friday, March 19, 2010

just call me Michelle Kwan.

Since I didn’t sleep very well last night, 7 a.m. was a slightly inconvenient time to wake up. Nevertheless, up I got and off we went! I worked in the back of the arena this shift, so I sadly didn’t get to see even a second of the game. If USA had been playing, I probably would have been upset…but considering it was Sweden and Italy and I had already seen both of those teams play, I wasn’t too sad. I actually enjoyed the down time! I had to stand up at my post for about the first two hours of the shift, but the rest of the day I was sitting in a comfy chair where only a few people were allowed. I was lonely and bored, though, so every person who passed by me (all 12 of them) got a huge smile and a super excited, “HELLO!” because I had to take advantage human contact while I had the chance. I got a lot of weird looks and one guy even asked me if he could have some of what I was on. Too bad I’d heard that line about a million times before. I don’t understand why people get all crazy when they meet a happy person—are there really that many sad people in the world? I sure hope not!

Overall, this workday was great. I even got visited by Amir and James on a fairly regular basis. They made sure I had plenty of coffee and hot chocolate to drink. At all times. James even gave me two pins (a new obsession that I have recently picked up) and promised me that he would bring me one tomorrow. He also handed me one of his business cards that had his cell number strategically written on the back of it. Smooth. Honestly, James isn’t a big flirt—he’s super nice! He’s totally unlike Amir, who is constantly asking me what I’m doing later in the evenings and suggesting things that we could do after our shifts. Today’s suggestion: bike riding. How clever.

One of my friends who has been in several of the same groups as me, Nathan, brought me a present today! I had told him about my new infatuation with hockey and how I was going to the Canucks game last night, and he brought me an official Canucks hockey puck! He absolutely made my day! We weren’t on the same shift today, and today was actually his last day working, so it was kind of like a going away gift. I thought that was the sweetest thing ever!

Fact: I am already dreading saying all my goodbyes tomorrow. I feel the tears slowly creeping in.
Anyways, now that that’s out of the way, our shift ended at 4:30. Right before we left, I ran into James one last time, and he told me that PRINCE EDWARD was at the game! I was freaking out until I got sad because I realized that I was leaving and wouldn’t be able to see him. Thanks for making my day and ruining it all at the same time, James!

We got back to the hostel around 5ish, made some spaghetti for dinner, then headed down to Robson Square for…ICE SKATING! I was so pumped, especially since I hadn’t ice skated in like two whole years! It was so much fun, and I didn't even fall! SWEET! Not even five minutes after I got on the ice, one of the workers skated up next to me and pretty much stayed right beside me for the rest of the night. His name was Steve, and he was an Environmental Health major at BCIT in Vancouver. During our hour and a half conversation, I also learned that he played hockey AND was a huge fan of….the CAROLINA PANTHERS! Umm, really? He was even wearing a Panthers hat. Pretty sure he’s my favorite out of all my friend boys so far on this trip. Mostly because he didn’t act a fool and was a gentleman the entire time we skated. No need to worry, Teesh…you’re still (and always) my #1! I just think it is SO weird how everywhere I go there’s always someone. In all my 20 (almost 21 yay!) years, this have NEVER happened before. I’ve said it before…Canadians must just flock to curly blonde hair. Maybe I’ll try straightening it tomorrow…time for an experiment!

After ice skating, we went to get gelato! YUMMY!!!! I had one scoop of strawberry daiquiri on top of one scoop of sherbert! It was off the chain! Good thing we didn’t go to this place sooner because if we had, we would be there every single night. No joke. They had over 200 flavors and most of them enticed me like WHOA! I’m voting we go back tomorrow night, but maybe that’s just the fatty inside me trying desperately to get out. Either way, I’m down!

I can’t believe that tomorrow is our last shift. I mean, seriously, where has the time gone? I will admit that I am ready to see everyone back home and get back into the swing of things (a.k.a. make-up homework), but I really am going to miss this place! I’ve met some of the most incredible people up here, and I already know that they’re going to make it SO hard to tell them goodbye. Even in just two weeks, we’ve all become like family. And now, we all have to go our separate ways. I feel like I’m at summer camp all over again. The last day was always the worst!

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” I have always loved this quote because it is so true—people can survive this life without companions or friends, but that would be terrible! I am SO grateful for all the new friends I have made, as well as the old friends that I have gotten even closer to during this trip. I definitely don’t deserve all of the WONDERFUL people in my life!

Ciao! Until we meet again. : )

p.s. USA plays Japan for the GOLD MEDAL tomorrow at noon (3 p.m. Eastern time)! Be sure to cheer our boys to the win!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

gooooo Canucks!

This morning was no different from any other morning: we woke up, put on our smurf outfits, and headed to UBC. Canada played Japan today…and they lost. I was even heartbroken for them, because I feel like I’ve been temporarily adopted into their family! That loss means that USA will play Japan for the GOLD medal. YAYUHHHH!!!!!!! Gooooo USA!

With their only being one game per shift now, things really aren’t bad at all at the arena. Of course there are always those few things that don’t go exactly as planned, but I’ve had a lot more time to actually watch games rather than manage them. It’s been niceeee!

The Royal Canadian Mint was at the game today passing out the newest Canadian quarter: SLEDGE HOCKEY! It was so cool! All you had to do was take an old quarter and swap it out for the new one. It was super neat…and I’m never going to spend it! It’ll be one of my favorite reminders of the trip when I get back to good ole’ South Carolina!

Right after I got my quarter exchanged (p.s. thank you Skye for spotting me the quarter since I didn’t have one), four guys ran out into the concourse wearing nothing but boxers and beads around their necks. To say I was freaked out is an extreme understatement. I have one phrase to you concerning this occurrence: crack kills. But boys will be boys I suppose!

At the end of the work day, Vanoc gave all the volunteers the opportunity to skate in REAL sleds with REAL sticks and REAL pucks on REAL ice. SO EXCITING!!!! It really was SO much fun! Everyone got to spend five minutes on the ice in one, and our group was first in line! I only fell once and that was only because I reached out to get a puck and toppled over. I was pretty darn proud of myself! Julia, Nicole, and I raced from one end of the rink to the other and…I won! All I have to say about that is, “Have you seen my beach ball? It’s about this big and it rolled over that way.”

After that, we all made our way back to the hostel. Then it was time for me to get changed and ready for the CANUCKS game! Since the game was at 7 o’clock, John, Nicole, Bry, Chris, and I left the hostel around 5ish, grabbed some dinner from The Pita Pit to eat on the way, and made it to the arena around 6:30. Our first stop: merchandise! It was the touristiest thing to do, so of course we had to take advantage of it! We all got shirts to wear and I got…A VANCOUVER CANUCKS PUCK HAT!!!!!!! Hands down the BEST purchase of the ENTIRE trip! And the best part about it was that I had been talking about buying one for DAYS now, and when I went into the store to look for them, guess how many they had left. ONE! Yep, that’s right…it was most definitely made just for me!

The Canucks WON (YAY!!!!!) and we made a pit stop at the casino right next to it before walking back to the hostel. Kerri, Christine, and Skye met us there too! This was my first time in a real casino (I say real because the one on the cruise ship for my senior trip was NOTHING like this) and it was so neato! I didn’t spend a single penny while I was there, but it was so interesting to watch people. One man dropped $600 in about five minutes and lost ALL of it within that time frame. Outrageous. There was a sign posted several times throughout the building that he obviously didn’t read: “Know your limit. Stay within it.” Better luck next time, bucko!

We all hung out at the bar area and made a few friends there after everyone was done spending a little cash. I will forever remember our bartender, JP, as the guy who took my shot virginity. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I had my very first shot! It was super tasty, and the best part about it was that it was on the house! YAY! Kerri and Christine about had a conniption when I said that I would take one. It was hilarious! Oh, how I love my friends and their ability to get excited over the silliest things! : )

I can’t remember the last time I stayed out late, especially not on this trip, but tonight we didn’t get in until right around 1 o’clock. The funniest part about it was that we were all about to go to sleep while we were sitting at the bar. Around midnight Kerri said, “I’m about to put my head down on the table and look like ya’lls alcoholic friend,” but then they played “Carolina Girls” just for us so we got our second wind! We finally left about 30 minutes later, and trekked our exhausted bodies back to the hostel.

Now here I lay in my led, thinking about how I have to get up in five hours. I don’t see how people go out every night. Heck, I couldn’t even last and I wasn’t even drinking! Fact: I am not a party all-nighter from South Carolina, regardless of what the song says. Actually, I’m the opposite. And proud of it, too!
Goodnight YAAAAAA’LL! That’s how everyone says it here when they’re trying to mock us. Cracks me up!

p.s. Quote of the day from the lovely Nicole Barber: “Everyone should take chances in life, not on life.” Genius. Pure Genius.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

oh, what a beautiful moooorning.

Sleeping in this morning was UH-MAY-ZING! But you know what’s sad? I now refer waking up at 7:15 a.m. as “sleeping in.” Whew, never thought that day would ever come. Nevertheless, I hopped up and got in a quick shower. Then we were off to UBC by 8 a.m. The official motto for this trip: the early bird gets the worm! :)

It was such a beautiful day outside today! I was really excited when my team was assigned to be outside greeting the spectators, because it was just one of those perfect days where you don’t want to be cooped up inside. Being outside also meant that I was one of the first faces that people saw as they were arriving at the game, meaning that my cheeks were hurting from smiling so much! But honestly…what’s new? I’ve gotten to the point where I smile so much that it hurts more NOT to smile. Strange, but I kind of like it! I was also super excited because Alex and I were in the same group today. I love that girl so much, especially her uncontrollable SNORTS every time she laughs. CLASSIC!

Wanna know what else being stationed outside meant for me? I didn’t get hassled by all my boyfriends. And THAT right there was enough to make any day a good one! I saw James for like 20 seconds when he was first arriving to the venue, and I ate lunch with Cal. Not so bad. I’ll definitely take it! Maybe I’m just yesterday’s news now-especially since I heard from several sources that Amir has been flirting with all the ladies. Man, what a keeper. Also, while I was at lunch, Kerri and Julia came to join in on my date. Big props go out to Julia for deliberately asking me about TJ while we were sitting there! That should make you feel MUCH better, Teeesh! :)

Our shift ended early today, which is ALWAYS refreshing! When we got back to the hostel, Kerri, Christine, and I decided to take a walk to (and through) Stanley Park. Lucky for us, Julia and Skye came, too! We walked to the totem poles and took pictures of virtually everything we passed. Déjà vu? Why yes, yes indeed. It was the PERFECT afternoon for a stroll through the park. The sun was shining and the company was the bomb! Skye even showed us his romantic side when I was asking 20 questions about him and his wife. They are precious! And he’s a sucker for romance…don’t let him fool you! ; )

When we stumbled across a playground, we saw it as a necessity to jump in and PLAY! We were behaving (of course) while we slid down slides, played on the fire truck, and swung on the swings. And then, all of a sudden, all of us heard a huge thud. Julia was lying on the ground on her back laughing harder than I’ve ever heard her laugh before, with Christine laughing (to the point of tears) along right beside her. What happened? Oh, Julia just flipped the entire swing upside down and nearly killed herself. No big deal, right? Only because Julia is a BEAST and can take it!

We stopped in a restaurant called Checkers once we made it back to Davie Street and grabbed a bite to eat, walked back toward the hostel, and then got CUPCAKES! Mmmmm! I had a caramel one (just like Skye, because our taste buds are the best) and it was so yummy! We decided that all that walking needed to be rewarded…so we added all those calories back into our systems as quickly as possible. Fact: instead of toasting beer for St. Patty’s Day, we toasted our cupcakes!

Side note: one of the FUNNIEST parts of the day was when we were just leaving dinner and we passed a homeless man on the sidewalk. When he noticed that Skye was walking around with four girls, he said,”Sweet man, you’re way better off than I am.” We waited a few seconds before we started CRACKING UP, but it was so hard to do! You never know what’s going to be shouted at you while you’re walking the streets of a big city.

I can’t believe we only have three more work days left and four days overall left to be here! Time is FLYING by, and I feel like we just got here yesterday. I will be SO excited to be home and see my family and friends, but I’m really going to miss this place and the new friends I have made. I feel like I’m getting ready to leave summer camp, and that was always so sad! Everyone here is SO nice, and I have been SO blessed to have met so many incredible people in such a small amount of time. Saturday will be so bittersweet, and I’m already dreading all the goodbyes!

Welp, that’s all for now, folks. Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

the days keep flying by.

I was actually excited to get out of bed this morning, because today was monumental: the last time I have to wake up at 5 a.m. during my spring break (or possibly EVER)! Okay, well maybe not ever…but for a LONG time, I promise you that! Skye was on morning shift starting today so we were all able to ride in the van instead of catching the bus! That, my friends, was nice. Not that I hate riding the bus, but you just never know who is going to strike up a conversation with you. Especially at 5:30 in the morning. Like I’ve said before, city buses are interesting.

Lucky for us, we were all inside again today!!! YAY! I was particularly excited because it basically poured down rain all day. That would have been fun. I was an usher again, only this time for sections 114 & 115. I’ve become quite skilled at knowing where almost every landmark in the building is. And what was the BEST part about volunteering today, you ask? Well, that’s easy…I got to have my OWN radio today!!! Fact: I felt SO official. And important. And cooooooler than ever before!

Did I mention that there were 7,000 kids in attendance today? Yep, 7,000. And honestly, it wasn’t so bad. They were so excited to be at the game! They all had little posters and knickknacks to hold up for their favorite teams. PRECIOUS! One little boy walked in and his eyes lit up and his mouth dropped to the ground and then he said, “IT’S REAL!” So cute!

Also, I guess I should mention that two more fellas were added to my boyfriend list. Cal (one of the Coke employees on staff) and Andrew (one of the security guards). Another fact: this is getting out of hand. What is it with Canadians and blondes with curly hair? Chris stopped by to chat for a few minutes, James did the same several times and also brought me a cookie, and Amir…well, this one was the persistent one today. Not only did he ask me what I was doing for St. Patty’s Day ten times, but he also talked to some of my classmates and suggested that we all do something together. Yep, that’s my life. A huge shout out to SKYE for saving me several times, and even offering to let me wear his wedding band to keep them away. See what I mean…Skye is ALWAYS coming to my rescue! Lord knows I need it!

We all piled back into the vans at 3 o’clock when it was quittin’ time and headed back to the hostel. When we got here, I got in the shower and did a load of laundry. Thennnnn Kerri, Christine, and I watched Time Traveler’s Wife. Why did I do that to myself? I was already bawling in the first five minutes of the darn thing. But I was in need of a gooooood cry, and it is an excellent movie, so I was okay with it. Until I started thinking about how much it made me want to hug Teesh…and then how it was impossible for that to happen. So what did I do? I cried some more, of course!

Mommy told me that I was only allowed to use my phone during emergencies while I’m up here, so I hadn’t talked to TJ since LAST Monday morning right before we boarded the plane in Chicago. One word: AWFUL! Today, however, I broke down and honestly couldn’t go any longer without talking to him and hearing his voice. And it was the BEST 3 minute and 49 second conversation of my LIFE. Make no mistake about that one! I was crying when he answered (because I seriously called him like 0.1 second after the movie ended and I was still all choked up) and he laughed when I told him it was because I missed him. Who’s lame? Oh, that would be me. But I’m not ashamed one bit. EIGHT whole days without so much as a WORD from the person you’re used to talking to at least twenty times a day is HARD!

After I regained composure, I got ready to go out to dinner with the gang. I had fish and chips, and it was the bomb! I also had a Pina Colada, making that my second beverage of the week. It was a MUCH better experience than that of spring break 2006, that’s for sure! HA! We stayed and hung out for a few hours, then a few of us headed back to the hostel to turn in for the night.

Tomorrow morning my shift doesn’t start until 9 o’clock and I am PUMPED about that. I never would have thought that I would consider sleeping til 7 a.m. as “sleeping in,” but I do now!

Tata for now! Sweeeeeet dreams from Vancouver!! : )

Monday, March 15, 2010

Psalm 57:5 :)

Today marks the 4th and 5th birthdays that I have missed since being out of the country, and that makes me super sad!!!! The beautiful Amber (also known as B. Davis) celebrated her birthday in Memphis today! SWEET!! Mrs. Angie (TJ’s mom) also started a new year of her life tooooo! Words cannot describe how much both of these ladies mean to me! I wish I could have been there with them both!!!

Before this morning, I had nearly forgotten how wonderful sleeping past 5 a.m. felt! Not waking up until 9:30 was exactly what I needed to give me the last bit of energy to get through this last full week of working. Tomorrow morning is the last time we have a 7 o’clock shift, so I am already looking forward to that!
Thirteen of us took a ride up to Whistler this morning to watch the Alpine skiing event. That ride up the mountain is one of the most breath-taking views I’ve ever seen in my life…mountain tops covered in snow with the Pacific Ocean at their feet. Only one phrase describes it: the whole earth is FILLED with HIS GLORY. Even when I tried to take pictures of them as we were passing by, the pictures didn’t even begin to do them justice. That’s when you know something is truly beautiful.

We got up to Creekside Village just in time to watch both the women and the men ski for the bronze, silver, and gold medals in slalom. It was AWESOME! Watching these men and women is so inspirational and humbling and really just incredible. Paralympic athletes have overcome and chosen to SEE good out of their circumstances and DO good so others may be inspired to do the same. At the beginning of one of our work sessions, the volunteer managers said this: “The Olympics change cities. The Paralympics change people.” Real talk. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

During the intermission between the women and men’s runs, John, Nicole, Bry, and I decided to go play on some of the equipment that was out! I sat in a sled (used for sledge hockey), the equipment used during cross-country races, and the tool used for downhill skiing. As if I didn’t already have SO much respect for these athletes, I now had the chance to experience what they experience (a very mild version, of course), and let me tell you…that was HARD! My arms were burning after just a few seconds. I even toppled out of the piece used for downhill skiing. Graceful, I know.

When we walked back up to the stands, one of the athletes wasn’t too far behind us. When we realized he was AMERICAN, we all jumped at the opportunity to meet him! Hello, Monte Meier, a four-time Paralympian who is also one of the best one-legged skiers in the whole world! He was super nice and was so excited that we were from the US!

After the event, we went into Whistler Village to eat a late lunch/early dinner. One of Skye’s friends from college, Muffy Davis, who was a Paralympian in previous games and now served as a Paralympic Ambassador, met us for dinner with her husband and son! She was SO nice and knew SO much about adapted sports. As a soon-to-be Recreation Therapist, I was eating up everything she said! Her husband (who could easily be mistaken as Will Ferrell) is a Recreation Therapist up in Utah, and he knew what he was talking about too! Talking to them made me wish I was already graduated and practicing TR somewhere! Who’s got two thumbs up and can’t wait to go to California this summer and work for three CTRSs for three months?! THIS GIRL!

After dinner, we headed back down the mountain and two hours later, we made it back to the hostel safe and sound. Wanna know how much Kerri, Christine, and I LOVE Skye? A LOT!!!! Wanna know why? Because he rescued our blankets and now we can actually stay warm while we sleep! YAY!! Well, of course that’s not the only reason…just the most recent reason we’ve come across. You know, there are just so many to count. I mean, he is Skye Arthur-Banning, for goodness sakes. What’s not to love?

” To all, to each, a fair goodnight, and pleasing dreams, and slumbers light.” -Walter Scott : )

p.s. I haven’t heard Teesh’s voice in more than 180 hours. Countdown to the most ULTIMATE tackle hug ever in the history of tackle hugs: approximately 168 hours. Halfway there and I can’t wait!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

happy birthday ALEX!

So remember that time I said I was going to sleep early last night? Fail. I was woken up at 11 o’clock by the sound of someone trying to get into our room. But that’s not even the best part…then I raised my head to see what was going on, and someone’s head was peeping in our room. Nervous breakdown? Almost. Christine jumped out of bed and opened the door but no one was in the hallway and there was a note stuck to our door that said “Please see front desk.” Kerri went with Christine to see what all the fuss was about and they came back up five minutes later to report that the hostel’s night supervisor was on her way up to dispose of our personal sheets and blankets we were using on our beds. And did I mention that she was rude? Because she totally was! She also claimed that we signed forms that told us we weren’t allowed to bring our own bedding. That would have been fine and dandy, except for the fact that we had no idea we weren’t allowed to have them and we sure as heck didn’t sign a consent form. Because I couldn’t fall back asleep until around 3ish, I had approximately two hours of sleep. Perfect for an 8-hour shift where you’re on your feet the whole time? Umm, not so much. Fortunately, she said we could have our confiscated items back when we checked out of the hostel. Unfortunately, we have to sleep on sheets that are less than presentable. Aside from that little fiasco, however, today ended up being awesome!

Our shift began at 7 o’clock this morning, and I got to be an usher today! Along with that job, I was able to watch the Italy vs. Norway sledge hockey game and the sold-out Canada vs. Sweden game! USA played at 5, so we weren’t able to stay for that…but we will soon enough! We beat Czech Republic 3-0, so there will definitely be other opportunities. YAY AMERICA!!!!

I don’t know what it was about today, but for some reason, the fellas were very persistent. Amir, one of the camera guys who was from India, kept bringing me coffee and hot tea throughout the day. He even taped me on the big screen, which (not gonna lie) was pretty sweet! That was my debut, ladies and gentlemen…Hollywood, you better watch out! Then there was Chris, from Germany, who not-so-gracefully came to stand beside me during the Canada game. We had a solid conversation for a good twenty minutes, and he offered to show me around town too many times to count. Also note: when Justin Timberlake played during the first intermission, he broke it down and exclaimed “I love J-Tim!” Yeah, that was all I needed to hear.

And thennnnn there was James, my Aussie man from yesterday. He walked all the way from the opposite side of the arena to see me—after he scoped me out among the crowd, of course. He even printed out a character synopsis of Kevin O’Donnell from Coyote Ugly, which was who I told him I thought he looked like. Wanna know what the best part of my day was? THAT RIGHT THERE! When he handed it to me, he said, “I was thinking about you and how you said I looked like this guy, so I did a little research. I guess if I’m Kevin, that makes you Violet, right?” Remember how I suggested that Teesh become more like that? Welp, it got even worse…I also found out that his name is JAMES! Pretty sure I nearly fainted when he told me.

Okay, aside from all that boy talk…my shift ended at 3 o’clock, we all hopped on the bus to Davie Street, and I laid on my bed for a couple of hours. And it was AWESOME! What encouraged me to get back up, you ask? Well, you see, I had to go buy my ticket to the CANUCKS vs. SHARKS game for Thursday night!!!!! YIPPEEEEE! (I told you…..I’m obsessed now.) So, Melissa, you know what that means…you will be there in spirit and I will yell EXTRA loud just for you!

After John, Bry, Nicole, Chris, and I got our tickets (YAY!), I jumped in the shower round 7 o’clock to start getting ready for a night out to celebrate Alex’s 21st!!!!!!!!! YAYUHHHH!

Where did we go first? Fountain Heads: one of the many gay bars along Davie Street. One thing’s for sure: I never thought my first time EVER in a bar would be experienced like this. Awkward? Other than the naked pictures on the walls, not really. Thank you, culture shock, for dropping by again tonight. I was able to try Canadian poutine, which is French fries, cheese, and gravy, and it was pretty daggum yummy! I would definitely eat it again!

After that, Kerri, Christine, and I had pretty much seen all we could handle for one night, so we made a pit stop at Tim Horton’s and headed back to the hostel. Nalani, Julia, and Sarah hung out in our room for a little while, and we just had a little girl talk about random things that girls talk about. Fact: I love those girls!
Now I’m all bundled up in my onesie, ready to get some sleep before we head to Whistler again tomorrow for our day off-especially since I didn't get any last night! So on that note, it’s time for my eyes to shut for a while! Gooooooodnight!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

big city buses.

5 a.m. came QUICK this morning. An 8-hour shift following only four hours of sleep=a recipe for disaster. All I’ve got to say is it’s a gooooood thing that the Lord blessed me with the gift of optimism, because I used that baby a TON today!

We left the hostel at 5:30, caught the 5:50 bus (where I made friends with a homeless man who called himself “Papa Smurf” and got sat on by a man who I’m pretty positive had schizophrenia), and arrived at UBC Thunderbird Arena around 6:30. Briefing lasted about 20 minutes, then we were split into our groups and sent on our way! Kerri and I were in the same group again, which was the bomb diggity! And our group had the lovely task of checking access passes into “The Mixed Zone,” which was the area where the media could interview the athletes after their games. It was actually a pretty great job to have, and we even got to watch the games and meet a few athletes—and they were SO nice and appreciative of all the volunteers!

One of the guys that was on the production crew in the media area looked JUST like Kevin O’Donnell, Violet’s boyfriend in the movie Coyote Ugly. I’m talkin’ identical! He was even Australian, which made it ever better! Confession: sometimes I would strike up a conversation just so I could listen to him talk. Teesh, you may want to consider changing your accent before I get back home. Just a thought. : )

Canada and Italy played in the first game, and then Norway and Sweden played right after them. Canada won (surprise, surprise), and Norway was down by one goal. I was rootin’ for Norway while I was there. “Salmon. I want SALMON!! It costs a fortune to ship that stuff in from Norwegia!” Thank you, Fiona, for saying that line and thus making it one of my favorite nations. That’s just another example of how Disney has changed my life.

Melissa Mascaro, you are going to be WAY PROUD of me when you read these next few sentences…I love hockey. And if I were a boy, I would be a hockey player. This is a new-found obsession, and I’m still learning the rules (or lack thereof) and all that good stuff. But, nevertheless, I love it!!!!!! If I had a TV and VCR right now, I would be watching every Mighty Ducks movie ever made. And then I would go around beating people up with all my pent-up adrenaline. SWEET!

We got done with our shift 10 minutes early, picked up a few pins to add to my collection (which is another new hobby of mine), and tried to figure out the bus schedule to get back to the hostel. Trolly 17 was our best bet, so we hopped on and saw more interesting people. One man just yelled the whole time saying, “Good grief guys, come on! TODAY PLEASE!” Like I said…very interesting.

I laid in my bed for about an hour when we got back to the hostel, and then Kerri, Ashley, and I went on a mad-hunt for some food. We were craving McDonald’s (having American fast-food withdrawals), so that’s what we had for dinner. They even had (drum roll please…) SMORES PIES! Did I get one? Ch’yeah! But you know what they didn’t have? Mickey D’s sweet tea. Fact: when I get back to South Carolina, I am going to CHUG a gallon of the sweetest tea I’ve ever tasted.

Once again, walking to and from Granville Street, we saw more interesting people. As bad as it sounds to say this, it’s true: people are on some crazy stuff here in the big city. That’s probably true for every big city, but I’m still getting used to it—and for my first time ever in a city bigger than Greenville, I feel like I’m making pretty decent progress. But as the brilliant Dave Barnes says, “there’s still miles to go!”

We stopped at a little store on the way back to the hostel to do some souvenir shopping. Kerri picked up some little contraption that the bottom twisted. We were really confused and couldn’t figure the thing out, so she asked what it was for. “It’s a grinder,” the owner said. My response was, “Like a pepper grinder?” And he said, “No. Like a weed grinder.” Ladies and gentlemen, those conversations don’t happen with such ease in the US. Two words: culture shock.

Because I have another 7 o’clock shift in the morning AND I lose an hour of sleep (thank you, day light saving’s time), I’m going to bed early tonight. Like 8:30 p.m. early. And I’m stoked about it!

Se parle plus tard. : )

Friday, March 12, 2010

want to come home with me? I'm the designated driver.

Today was our first day volunteering! YAY!!! I slept amazing last night, but I started waking up every hour at about 7 o’clock this morning because I was so excited! I hopped out of bed at 9:30, took a shower, got ready for the day in all my super cool Paralympic gear, and off we went! Christine and I left a little earlier than the rest of the group because we wanted to grab a bite to eat at Subway before our loooong day. Italian BMT on honey oat bread. Mmmm, makes my mouth water every time!

While we were paying for our food, the cashier (a 60ish year-old cute little Asian man) told me that he “liked my face” and that I was “beautiful, just absolutely beautiful.” He sure knew how to make a girl feel good…in a creepy sort of way. He proceeded to ask me what my name was and when I told him, he said, “Ahh, Anna. My new favorite name,” and gave me rather seductive look. Boys will be boys, I suppose.

We met up with the group and began our 25-minute walk through downtown to BC Place, where we were scheduled for the day. We checked in, got our assignments for the day, and Julia, Christine, Kerri, and I were all in the same group. SAWEET! Our team leader, Nikki, was super cool and really fun to work with! Our duties for the day included: directing people into security lines, eating way too many cookies, watching about 20 minutes of the ceremonies, freezing our bums off, and giving people directions from the arena. Honestly, most of us felt pretty useless for the majority of the day but sometimes that’s just part of the job.

I met and got to know a girl named Monica who was from Switzerland, and she was so much fun to hand out with! I learned a lot about her culture and how she ended up in Canada. Not to mention she was a total sweet heart! She doesn’t have a facebook, but she said that she was going to make one just for me so we could keep in touch. Friggin’ sweet! I was so pumped when she said that! Gotta love facebook. I really hope I see her again before both of us leave Vancouver.

The security group I worked with was awesome! They said I was the most southern person they had ever talked to and thought my name was “Ayna” for the first half of the day. They obviously didn’t speak redneck quite as well as I did. And would you believe that my security supervisor looked JUST LIKE Meryl Streep? Because she totally did and I couldn’t stop staring at her. I mean, who doesn’t love Meryl?

Christine’s security group was made up of a bunch of young boys who constantly acted a fool. Seriously. Out of all the people in the whole world that people have said I sound like, they came up with the most random person ever: the reporter girl from Mr. Deeds. That’s a first. And I still don’t see it, but it’s whatev. Like I said, they were crazy!

For dinner we had tortellini, broccoli soup, a roll, and our choice of Coke products. I was yummy AND free, which made it all the better! After dinner, we got to watch a few minutes of the actual ceremony, but then it was back to work in the chilly winter weather outside. All the other outside volunteers bailed so it was just us. All six of us directing 30,000 people out of the building. Chaos? Well, you’d think it would be, but it really wasn’t so terrible. Thanks to that task, I now know how to direct anyone to anywhere from BC Place. Pretty impressive, I know. Julia, Monica, and I beasted the instructions.

A man walked up to me and he was drinking from a coffee mug. He asked me how to get to the casino, and then proceeded to tell me that he was drunk and that it wasn’t coffee in his mug. Another man asked me if I liked poetry and when I said I did, he handed me two pages of poems he had written. They were titled: “Hockey for Global Peace,” “Canadian Food Guide (A Hip-Hop Song)” and “Canadian Food Guide (Nursery Rhyme).” Thank you, Shiraz Ramji, for making my night. He also told me to look him up online at If you want a good giggle, you should too.

Our shift ended at 10 o’clock, and we made it back to the hostel about half an hour later. Let it be known that I raced John Barwise back to the hostel, and beat him. WITH a bum knee. I only have one thing to say about that: Girls rule & boys drool!

In five hours, I have to wake up again for another day in the life of a Paralympic volunteer. So for now, au revoir!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

the big 2-3!

I woke up around 7:30 this morning so we could shower and get ready for….VENUE TRAINING! But the first thing that ran through my mind was “HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANNIE REE!!!!!!!!!!!” My girl turned 23 today, which is most definitely the best age. Ever. I was also super sad that I couldn’t be with her on her big day! Booooo! Nevertheless, I proudly put on a Clemson t-shirt, grabbed a French vanilla cappuccino at Tim Horton’s (also known as Horton Hears a Who, a nickname given by yours truly), and caught the 44 bus to UBC! That bus was the JAM!! It looked like a humongous accordion, and I was obsessed. Who knew that would happen?

We got off the bus around 9 o’clock, and searched for where we were supposed to go for about 30 minutes. Gotta love an adventure, especially when it’s freezing and there’s snow on the ground. We finally made it to our destination, got our accreditation badges checked, and took a seat in the training room to wait for it to begin. Our tour guides (also the managers of Vanoc-Vancouver Olympic Committee) heard our story of how we came from Clemson, and they told us we would be featured in a newsletter at some point during the week. Sweet!

Training lasted from 10 to 1, and then they fed us a yummy lunch! I had rice and chicken, pita bread and chili, and a banana with a bottle of Dasani to drink. Random combination, I know…but it was the bomb! The break room overlooks the practice rink, as well, and we were able to watch both the Canada and USA sledge hockey teams practice! That was probably the coolest part of the whole day!

After we got back to the hostel, Kerri, Christine, and I sat down to write our treacherous literature review for 409. Nothing like a stupid paper to kill a good mood. Christine and I took about an hour break to go eat with everyone at a Greek restaurant called Stepho’s. I had a chicken pita with fries, and it was SO GOOD! I felt like a fatty, because John, a guy in our class, ordered the same meal as I did and I ate like twice as much as he did. That is another example of how much I miss Teeesh…I always know that whenever I eat with him, I’ll never feel fat because no matter how hard I try, I can NEVER eat as much as him! :-P

We stopped by the grocery store after dinner to pick up a candle for the room and a Diet Coke for Kerri, and then it was back to the books. I was slightly distracted by basketball, I must admit. Three hours later though, around midnight, I put the finishing touches on my paper and submitted that bad boy. I honestly can’t remember a time when I felt more relieved in my whole life! I have a feeling I’m going to sleep WONDERFUL tonight. At least I hope so because…tomorrow is our first day of work!!!! I’ll be decked out in all blue, and I. Can’t. WAIT!

That’s all for now, ladies and gentlemen. My eyes are currently closing as I type this. Goooooodnight!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

snow snow snow!

It is currently 9:17 p.m. on the west coast, and I am struggling to keep my eyes open to write this. But since today was such an INCREDIBLE day, I’m going to push through it and do some documentation. Here we go!

We woke up this morning at 5:30 a.m. to through on our clothes, pack our bags, and meet downstairs in the lobby by 6 o’clock to leave out. We had a couple of stragglers, so our departure time was closer to 6:45 a.m. Girls, girls, girls…that’s all I have to say about that. While we were making our way up the mountain, we pulled over to look at the killer view and take a few pictures. The only thing that was going through my head the entire time was, “God, you are so big and I am so small.” This was the first of many humbling experiences throughout the day.

We got to Whistler around 8:45 a.m., rented our ski equipment, and then went to wait in line to buy lift tickets. I was waiting in line to buy mine and a lady touched my arm and asked me if I was in line to buy a ticket, and then proceeded to offer me an extra one she had previously bought for only $40. HOLY SMOKES! I just about died. Lift tickets are $93 for adults, so I saved a pretty penny on that purchase. I spent an entire day at Whistler Ski Resort for less than $100. That. Is. Unreal. And once again, I was humbled beyond belief.

Kerri, Christine, and I hit the slopes right after getting our tickets, and hit them hard core for about two hours. My knees were about to give out, so the three of us decided to take a break and grab a bite to eat. We each got slices of pizza at this little pizza place that was so yummy! Christine and I shared a chocolate éclair, which was the perfect ending to a great lunch!

We went back out on the trails for a couple more hours, but I had to take another break because my knees were seriously about to quit functioning all together. I asked a bartender at a pub for two bags of ice, and Christine kept me company while I froze the soreness out of my patellas. Kerri met us at the pub after skiing a little longer and informed us that she was going to try snowboarding. We immediately jumped up and followed her up the mountain, because we COULDN’T miss that!

About 3934593860389723 falls, a near-death experience, and an hour and a half later, we made it back down the mountain. After returning our equipment, we went to a restaurant and…..I had my first legal, intentional beverage! It was called a Blue Hawaiian, and it had pineapple juice, coconut rum, and some other drink that made it turn green! YUMMMMMMY!! Christine and Kerri picked it out for me, and I was very happy with their decision-making skills. Now they can’t knock me out, as previously stated (lets out sigh of relief). And just as my wonderful friend P. Sawyer predicted, I did something crazy today. Who knew she was a prophet? Saweeet!

We met up with the rest of the group at 4:30, ate dinner, and then headed back down to Vancouver. My knees are killing me, my face is wind burned, I probably won’t be able to move tomorrow morning (or all day, for that matter), but I am so pumped to say these words: I have skied down one of the most BEAUTIFUL and PRESTIGOUS mountains in the whole WORLD! It was SO much fun, and I am SO pumped that I had the opportunity to experience that!

Due to the inadequate amount of energy in my body and the early morning we have again tomorrow, I think it’s time to call this one quits. Nighy night!

p.s. Remember that time I have an 8-page paper to write tomorrow in a three hour span? Not. Cool.
And one more thing…I really miss my boyfriend. More than 60 hours without even hearing his voice=terrible! No doubt.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

waking up in Vancouver.

My first thought this morning: HAPPY BIRTHDAY FREEBIRD!!!!!!!!!!! My little brother is 17 today! Holy moly, where has the time gone!?!? My second thought this morning: today was my first time waking up in a big city! Even though it didn’t really feel any different, it’s really cool to say it like that!! YAY! : ) We woke up at 9:30 (after setting a 9 o’clock alarm, of course) and were downstairs at 10:30 to meet with the group. Before the meeting, however, I realized that I had locked BOTH of the keys to the lock on my locker inside of it. How swell. Luckily I wasn’t the first knucklehead to do that and the front desk had a pair of metal cutters downstairs. Teresa Tucker flaunted her massive muscles and showed that lock who was boss. Not so bad for day two, right?

And then…..we left to go pick up our UNIFORMS!!!! This was my personal favorite part of the day, because I have been excited about getting all those goodies since I signed up! We got a pair of pants, two long sleeve shirts, a toque, a fleece vest, and a windbreaker jacket! We also got a little goodie bag with all of our stuff. VANOC hooked us up reeeeeal good. Wahoo!

We had to drive down Hastings Street to get to and from uniform pick up, and I witnessed my very first drug deal. Awesome, I know. To be honest, I saw a LOT of firsts today, all on that one street. Good times…or something like that!
We ate lunch at this little sandwich shop that was off the chain! I had a chicken caesar sandwich with a garden salad—YUMMY! My salad came with the best salad dressing I have ever had. I think we’ll be spending a lot more time there.

When we finished our lunch, Skye took Christine and Nicole to the doctor because they weren’t feeling very well. Kerri and I decided that this would be a great time to go gallivanting throughout the city, so we did. We saw a lot of neat-o things, all of which were too expensive for us. Canada is beautiful, but their prices are like DOUBLE what we pay in the states. That is one thing that I am most definitely not a fan of up here. For example, I had to buy batteries for my camera because I forgot to pick some up before we left. A 12-pack of the OFF-BRAND batteries was $16. I nearly had a heart attack. No lie. Basically I would love to live in a big city…if I was rich and could afford the costs…which will be never, so I will continue to complain. : )

When Christine got back from the doctor, we went walking around some more—this time in our new jackets and toques! We looked like triplets, and everyone looked at us like we were something else. People asked us for directions, and one lady from Crete even asked us to take a picture with her. She said, “Oooo! Canada girls!” We got a kick out of that, for sure! Who knew that wearing Olympic gear made you famous?

We stopped by Tim Horton’s for some coffee on our way back to the hostel and it was super yummy! I even ordered a cruller in honor of my smokin’ hot boyfriend because I miss him so much! I paid $5.73 for a latte, a doughnut, and 10 munchkin-equivalent doughnuts. Take that, Starbucks!

I am currently lying in bed, preparing to work on some homework while the rest of the gang (minus Kerri, Christine, and myself) are pubbin’ it up. This is just another example of how PRTM 409 is ruining our lives. At least for the next two months it will be…and then, bye bye school work! SAWEET!

That’s all for now, folks. Goodnight from the west coast!
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