Friday, February 19, 2010

I Hugged A Mountie!!!!!

Yesterday was our last day at the Olympics.  Cody-Anne had the day off and she and Kevin joined us for the day.  I really felt bad for Kevin as his arthritis was bothering him  a lot.  Walking is not a good thing for him and he has done a great deal in the past week but he was a trooper and joined us on a basically sight-seeing day.  

Our first stop was to be the Canada Pavilion and the SkyTrain dropped us within 2 blocks.  When we got there the line up seemed endless but in actuality we were within the gates and clearing security with 30 minutes.  

A flash of scarlet greeted my eyes as I walked into the secure area and I raised my head to the most amazing sight; two RCMP officers standing in front of a big sign getting their picture taken with folks.  Well,l that was all it took for Mar.  She just grabbed my camera out of my hand, took my bag and pushed me into line.

 When I walked up to the Mounties she began giving them my whole life story; how I live in the States but I'm Canadian and that I love the scarlet coats and how excited I get every time I see them etc, etc, etc!  They were kind of laughing and when she and Cody-Anne had taken several pictures I asked the tall one if I could give him a hug.  He said, "Of course" and held his arms wide.  Mar caught that on the camera, too. 

 As I walked away from  that experience I burst into tears and then felt like a ninny.  Man, do I love me some Mounties!!!

Canada Pavilion was a bit of a letdown but the Mounties would make up for its downfall. Next we headed over to Yaletown to scope out Coca-Cola.  Yaletown is a fairly newly renovated area of downtown with really cool, trendy, unique shops and restaurants.  We wandered in and out of several of them accompanied of course by hundreds of tourists just like us.   The sidewalks were decorated with circular flags of the participating countries.  Who thinks to do that?  How cool is that?  Who gets to take them off?

Mar said she'd treat us all to lunch so we took her up on it.  It turned out we ate a place which had only been open a week!  I had salmon but the others had ribs.  It was great to just be together enjoying one another's company.  

Refreshed,  we headed to Coca-Cola where we succumbed to another round of security and after about a 45 minute wait we finally got in.  I liked the Coke place.  There was display of about 8 torches from past Olympics, pictures of Canadian Olympians and even free Coke!  
This red torch is from the Atlanta Olympics.

The place was staffed mostly by enthusiastic college students so it was energetic and enthusiastic.  The Coke Polar Bear was in attendance

 and there were lots of explanations as to Coke's involvement with the Olympics over the years.  In the same area as the Coke pavilion there were others, too, as well as huge screens and a performance stage.  We took a lot of pictures yesterday hoping to capture even the insignificant memories of our journey.

By the time we got out of there it was time to head back to BC Place for our final event.  Our last Victory Ceremony.  It was Prince Edward Island night ( Each night at the Victory ceremony they celebrated a different Canadian province)   Even Anne of Green Gables was there !  Although I enjoyed that segment of it the presentation was kind of lame and a bit amateurish.  
More Mounties!

The best part of the evening was the medal ceremony - Shawn White, Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick, Marianne St-Gelais  and Christine Nesbitt were there in person. 
Shawn White
Shani Davis
Christine Nesbitt

 The rest we saw from Whistler.  That place exploded when Christine Nesbitt got her medal. (We watched the Mens Free Skate when we got home.  We didn't know who had won so it was fun to watch it without prior results knowledge.  I am soo happy Evan won!)  Although my red mittens made no noise as I clapped my enthusiasm was no less than the others in attendance.  My hands were just cold, that's all!  We stayed for a couple of Hedley songs and then headed out.
As we walked the streets of Vancouver to the SkyTrain station, we waved goodbye to everything as we passed.  

Goodbye BC Place. Goodbye Robson Square. Goodbye crazy orange people. Goodbye press of bodies. Goodbye looney, hockey-loving Canadians. Good bye amazing blue coated volunteers. Goodbye cops on bikes. Goodbye Sky Train.  Goodbye to the adventure of a lifetime.  Good bye, Vancouver.  


No Orange Here !

So Tuesday was an easy-ish day for us.  The day dawned bright and sunny but alas we didn't see it until much later in the day.  (To be fair, Cody-Anne saw the day much earlier than we did as she had to be at work at 9 a.m.) The rest of us rose about 11 a.m. and Mar's blisters were still hurting. Poor Mar. She ended up with a dime sized blister on the bottom of one foot as well as 2 blisters on her toes.  We were heading out for Men's Figure Skating Short Program.  We originally had 4 tickets to see the Victory Ceremony that evening but when we realized we wouldn't get out of our event in time to attend we asked Cody-Anne and Kevin if they had some friends they wanted to invite to go with them.  They invited Kevin's best friend and his fiance.  Mar and I were a bit disappointed as the concert was going to be Bare Naked Ladies but we knew they would have fun and we were glad to do it for them.  

Kev's friends arrived at the house about 12:45 and Cody-Anne got home from work soon after.  Cody-Anne changed her clothes and we were on our way.  This time the kids drove us to the SkyTrain and dropped us off.  They continued on themselves in another direction.
The SkyTrain took us to buses waiting to transport us to The Pacific Colesium.

This was a much easier walk and we got there in lots of time.  There were several entertainers along the way and these crazy folks getting kids to perform and giving them a score the old school way!. 

Another round of security, ticket scanning and into the revolving doors we leapt.  To keep the tradition going we took a pee break, got some hot dogs and made our way to our seats.  

To think that I was soon going to be seeing an event in real life that I had only ever dreamed of seeing suddenly overwhelmed me.  I was here! THIS IS IT!!!  The ice sparkled and the Olympic logo in the middle gleamed. 

The little girls who collect the flowers and other things thrown to the skaters filed in and I thought, "What an amazing honour for these little skaters. Definitely something they will remember all their lives."  They acted so professionally all evening.  

I had to take in the big TV cameras, 

the rows and rows of press boxes, the judges stand (although we couldn't see them very well from our seats) and the information boards that gave us information on each skater. Then there was a countdown and the TV stations joined us and the first round of skaters came onto the ice to warm up. 

Then the rest of the evening unfolded flawlessly before us.   

There were to be 30 skaters and they would skate in groups of 5 with breaks between every 10 to manicure the ice. Before we left home we had the TV on and saw that Evgeny Plushenko would be back this year.  I hadn't heard anything about that up to this point and neither had Mar so were were a bit surprised. He skated as early as the second group.  He came in at 37th in the world and then just basically blew everyone away.  He's never been my favorite skater.  Although his jumps are perfection, he seems cold and un-emotionless to me.  He doesn't have good footwork either BUT in the past few years, and certainly the last Olympics, it's been all about jumps and spins at which Plushenko is the master. He skated pretty much flawlessly setting the standard high.

Right about now you may have thought I've forgotten the title of this blog - No Orange Here! -  well here it comes.  While the Richmond Oval was crammed to the hilt with Dutch fans decked out in their ridiculous costumes, there wasn't an orange fan to be found Tuesday night in the Pacific Colesium.    Not one.  Well, I found this guy but Mar said he ws just a poser.  

The Japanese were in abundance though and they had excellent skaters in the line up.  Several young guys we will see alot of in the future I'm sure.  

Canada's young skater Vaughn did ok but fell and bobbled taking him out of contention.  Patrick Chan, Canada's only hope for a medal but not really a contender did really well and ended the short program in 7th place.  

Soon Johnnie Weir skated, pink laces and all,

then, Evan, Lysachek, my personal favorite for the gold. 

His tears of elation at the conclusion of his program said it all.  He was thrilled with his effort.  The crowd celebrated with him.  

Finally, Jeremy.

Mar was sitting next to a lady who worked in the American skating community in some capacity and knew all the skaters personally and filled Mars ears with an ongoing commentary which added more spice to our audience experience.  Behind me were 3 older ladies and a man from northern California who predicted what each skaters score was going to be before it was announced.  I had fun just listening to them.  They had a HUGE American flag they held up for Johnnie, Jeremy and Evan and I turned and got this great picture of it.  

Mar and I had the Canadian flag draped over the seats in front of us as they were empty.  

It was kind of bittersweet when we had to leave the rink that evening as we knew we would only see the long program on TV and that our Olympic adventure would soon be drawing to a close.  

Another short walk to the buses chatting with others along the way, a now familiar ride on the SkyTrain and this time the most dreaded part of the whole day.  We had to catch another bus after the SkyTrain and then walk back to Cody-Anne's from there.  She and Kev were still out with their friends and wouldn't be home until later.  Getting lost and wandering around in Surrey soon to be blathering, blubbering middle aged women crossed our minds.  We hit Tim Horton's right at the bus stop and then made our way up the dark, quiet streets.  Now, it's 11:30 at night, mind you, and the streets are deserted, but it was kind of strange to be in such quiet after having been surrounded by the "teeming hoards" as they say - in the skating rink, on the  walk to the bus, in the bus and SkyTrain and back in the bus again.  As we sipped our coffee and walked along we just talked about what fun we've been having all week and the almost surreal feeling it gave us to be here.  Here, in the The True North Strong and Free.  Here, where despite some problems with protestors, a terrible, tragic accident, a silly fence around a flaming Olympic icon and the uncooperative weather, Vancouver has made the rest of Canada proud and Canada has shown the world what a great country it is.  Here, where my heart truly sings and my youth pours back to engulf me.  Here, where I know my mom would have loved to have been with us tonight and here, where God kissed the earth and used his best bits to make it and then used the rest on the other parts of the world.  

So, no Orange here?  That's ok. I forgive them.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Go Canada Go

Yesterday Canada won their first Olympic gold on home soil!!!!!  But I can't start at the end I have to start at the beginning.   So here it is.  

Valentine's Day dawned clear-ish and sunny-ish.   Cody-Anne dropped us at the bus stop after a little detour at Starbucks and once again we took the bus and the SkyTrain downtown. 
Inside the SkyTrain Waterfront Terminal

 This time we were headed to the Richmond Oval to watch the Ladies 3000 meter final.  After about a one mile hike (some would call it a walk but it was a hike for me) along the river we arrived at the beautiful new facility.  

But a bit of back story first.  Through Facebook, I have recently gotten in contact with a some old friends from my Rawhide days.  Vic and Jayne were/are some of my favorite people and it has been great to hear about their lives from afar.  Vic is a police officer in Ontario and Jayne mentioned on Facebook that she was missing him as he is in Vancouver providing security for the Olympics.  To make a long story short she said he is stationed at the Richmond Oval and of course I said I was going to be there so she gave me his phone number and while in the security line I texted  him (texted - is that a word?  Really?  Shouldn't I say, "I sent him a text message"? Well anyhow I did whatever it is it's called)   to see if he could take a few minutes away from his duties to say hi.  I told Mar to get her camera ready cause this would be photo- op I didn't want to miss.

He met me at the security gate and when we caught sight of each other we both broke into huge grins.  He swooped me up in his big arms and it was as though the years just vanished.  We figured we hadn't seen each other since 1988 at a Rawhide reunion! His Australian accent is still discernible and his graciousness has not dimmed.  He is still a kind, humble, caring family man albeit with a profession that tends to harden one.  Both of us are older, grayer, wider and, hopefully, wiser but the days of our youth seemed like yesterday.  I told Vic seeing him was almost eclipsing the event I was about to watch and a day later I can say it was the highlight of my Valentine's Day. 

After bidding Vic a reluctant goodbye we made a pee break and found our seat.  The Oval is beautiful.  It was very bright inside and the ice shone like glass.

  Like I do, I had to look around and try and take it all in before I could even watch the race already in progress.  The first thing I noticed, and anyone in my position would, I think, was the proliferation of orange.  Orange, orange everywhere I looked.  Those Dutch sure love their speed skating.  Crazy people I tell ya.  Just barking loony! The costumes were crazy and their enthusiasm infectious.

  Canada had 3 gals in the race with Cindy Klassen being the favorite but really not in medal contention.  That left Clara Hughes and Kristina Groves and I must say there were some close close heats.  

Kristina Groves warming up for her bronze medal win.
Cindy Klassen cooling down. She brought the house down with her effort.

Clara Holmes cooling down.  Pooped!

The US gave everyone a run for their money as well but it was a skinny little Czech gal that took the gold.  The inside of my cheek was practically a bloody pulp by the time the race was over.  Kristina took the bronze and it was a proud moment.  

The lady next to me was a friendly sort and mentioned that she was a volunteer for the Opening Ceremony.  She worked back stage with the dancers and met David Adkins the director and choreographers.  Of course I was all ears at that point and picked her brain for technical details.  Very interesting.  She said she was helping with the Closing ceremony, too.  How fun.  I know I would have wanted to participate in that area had I lived closer.  

After that event we made the one mile trek back to the Sky Train and then into downtown Vancouver and followed the crowds in search of the cauldron.  Poor Mar.  Her feet were really hurting and she was limping but she was a trooper and she kept on the trail like a hound dog.  It was fun to walk along the streets and sidewalks with so many from around the world.  All seemed to be heading somewhere specific as opposed to the more random wanderings at night on Robson St.  

When we finally got to the lighted cauldron it was a bit of a let down as it is surrounded by a chain link fence and really quite difficult to see or get to.  (We did hear on the TV today that that is a common complaint of the people and Vanoc is talking about perhaps loosening the security a bit and putting up a different type of fence.) 

 The cauldron is near Canada Place and those wonderful sails stirred memories of Expo '86 in my heart. 

A long trek up Hastings and over to Robson and down Robson back to BC Place didn't help Mar's feet - nor mine for that matter- but it got us to the Victory Ceremony with 30 minutes to spare.   As we approached the entrance they said we needed to walk to East entrance as their was no waiting there.  Well little did we know the East entrance was another 20 minute walk all. the. freaking. way. around. the. stadium!!!

Along the way we made these elaborate plans about where to meet after the ceremony as we had seats in different sections of the stadium.  We tried to exchange our tickets for adjoining ones with scalpers along the way but they wanted $40 each in addition to the tickets we had and so we said "forget it."  We made sure we had our phones, knew where one another was seating and figured out exactly where to stand to wait for the other.  I found my seat and settled in quickly as the ceremony had already started. Then Mar came tripping over the others in the row and plopped herself down right next to me.  It seemed we had adjoining seats after all.  It just didn't show that on our tickets.  

Each day at the Victory Ceremony was a celebration of a particular Canadian province and yesterday was BC day.  It began with First People's dancing, then many other dancers, drummers and singers from all cultures and from all over the province performed. About this time we broke out the Advil and took a couple to ease the aching in our feet and prepare us for the walk back up Robson to meet Kev and Cody-Anne.  

Then the big announcement - Ben Mulroney interrupted himself and said he was getting information in his ear that Canada had won a gold medal!  Well let me tell you, that place erupted.  I have never heard so many people in one place all hollering and cheering at once.   Flags waving everywhere, people going bananas and Ben grinning from ear to ear.  He had no word as to who it was but said he would get back to us.

When the crowd settled they began the medal ceremony portion of the evening.  Kristina Groves, Jenn Heil and my other boyfriend Apollo Anton Ono all received their medals.  So amazing to watch the race that afternoon and see Kristina get her medal that night. 
Apollo getting his medal
Taken of the big screen
 Apollo is so cute and I love his charisma, dedication and enthusiasm.  GO USA!!!!  In addition to Apollo medaling there were 2 American girls in the Gold and Bronze position in Women's Moguls. 

We only sat through 5 Nelly Furtado songs before leaving BC Place to make our way back up Robson to meet Cody-Anne and Kevin.

  They had gone to Yaletown to a free concert and were happy to hang out with us later.  Mar and I were starved and stopped at the Pita Pit.  I love that place.  Don't have those in CA and I wish we did.  Once again we just wandered around downtown, took some pictures
Proud Canadians
Silly Canadian
Cranky Canadian (not really but I couldn't resist)
 and then headed home on the Sky Train.  

Another day to be proud to be Canadian.  Go Canada go.