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Day 8 – Ziptrekking Robson Square

March 19, 2010

I slept in a bit… I dawdled a bit… I stopped for coffee (and to look at shoes) on the way… I didn’t arrive at Robson Square until 10:20am today, with the goal of ziptrekking over Robson Street.  I shouldn’t have slept in, dawdled or stopped for coffee, and I should have believed them when they said it was a 5 hour wait.  But I did all of the above (except believe them) and I am so happy that I did!  I was convinced it wouldn’t take that long.  But minutes turned to hours and we were still all in line.  But really, it was a fun line.  We all chatted about the lineup, the Olympics, the Paralympics, the lineup, Vancouver, ziptrekking, the lineup and more.  I went by myself but managed to run off and get food as people happily held my spot for me.

Getting clipped in and ready to go. It was worth it just for the view from the take-off tower!

Five hours of lineup seems insane for 30 seconds of guide-wired flying but it was well worth it, the flight was bliss!  I even managed to sort of video it, though it is a bit swirly and bumpy.  The woman also in the video with me is Elfie (I’m so happy we got to ziptrek together!).  Elfie had convinced her two neighbours to go ziptrekking with her as none of their friends would go.  Interestingly, she’s German from the Munich area – near where my brother lives!  Small world some days.  And yes, it was 5 hours of lineup (sunny, happy, fun lineup) for about 30 seconds of ziptrekking but I’m so glad I went!  I’d happily go again if I could make the time!  I’m certainly going to try it up at Whistler now… possibly even on Sunday (when you’re done you get a 10% discount coupon!).  Yay! Yay!  I love flying!

Well, I really hadn’t anticipated such a long lineup, so I didn’t bring my volunteer clothes with me, which turns out to have been very silly of me.  I luckily was wearing a lot of Vancouver 2010 clothing though, so I went straight to my volunteer shift without changing into my smurf blues.  I felt a bit bad, but I was already late (I didn’t want to leave the line after 4.5 hours of waiting!).  Turns out it wasn’t so terrible.  My level of Vancouver 2010 clothing was sufficient and I did have my accreditation so no problems getting into the Village.

It was beautiful in the Village today.  In all of Vancouver really.  It was sunny and quite warm.  Heck, the Salt Building was toasty when I got there!  It gave me the perfect opportunity to open the large, wall-width sliding doors along the front of the building to get some air inside.  It’s the first time that the doors had been open while I was there and it was a real treat!  We only managed to keep them open for about an hour or so, before it got too cold, but I really think that they’re an amazing feature of the renovated building.  I can’t wait until it is open to the public!

Evening in Vancouver.

The sunset was gorgeous.  The Salt building was reasonably busy.  And there was a sledge hockey game on between Canada and Norway for the Bronze medal.

Now, I know that if you’re Canadian, you’ve probably already heard the outcome (Norway won, and it was a pretty darned good game).  But I’m going to tell you about my experience tonight, because it was unlike anything I’ve ever been exposed to before.  People like Canadians.  We’re likeable people.  We’re friendly and welcoming.  We like to help out where we can.  Really, people from around the world do like Canadians.  However, I’ve learned that there are quite a few in the Paralympic Village that are not particularly fond of our sledge hockey team.  It was the first time I’ve been somewhere where the majority of people weren’t cheering for the same team as me.  And it was very odd.

Watching the Canada-Norway game in the Salt Building.

We had team members from Japan, Norway, Great Britain and the USA in.  They were all cheering for Norway.  Only us blue-coats were cheering for Canada, and technically, while volunteering, we are meant to be impartial, so we couldn’t even really cheer Canada on all that much anyway.  Now, as I mentioned yesterday, I am not particularly competitive.  This is especially true once I’ve met people.  I’ve met much of the Norwegian team and they’re lovely.  However, I think our Canadian boys are lovely too.  I did want Canada to win, but I did not feel as if I couldn’t cheer and be happy for Norway at the same time.  But being surrounded by people that wanted Canada to lose so badly was just odd.  I can’t imagine that I’ll be in that situation again anytime soon, and I think I’m glad for that.  It was a growing and learning experience and not just for me.  I really believe that Japan’s great showing (possibly even Gold medal showing) will help to spark new interest in sledge hockey around the world and that is a great thing for the sport.  It is an amazing game to watch, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to play.  I look forward to seeing a lot more of it in the future!

Right, I need to get to sleep.  I’m off shopping for some of the Vancouver 2010 gear (like couches and stacking chairs) with my uncle in the morning (eek! it’s already morning!).  So goodnight, bonsoir, thank you and merci!

Days 6 and 7 – Biathlon, curling and generally a quick note…

March 18, 2010

Gosh, it gets late so fast!  How does that happen?  (Yes, that is a rhetorical question… 🙂 ).

So yesterday I went up to the Whistler Paralympic Park to see some biathlon, and it was pretty darned exciting!  I even got something resembling good weather (sun, blowing snow, then more sun).  I have come to the simple conclusion that there is nothing that humans cannot do.  We have this amazing ability to be creative that defies what nature sometimes hands us and it is beyond inspirational.  I had been committed to making the best of things before, but there is no way to compare my general zeal to the ability of athletes either without arms or without vision to aim, shoot and be perfectly on target with biathlon (a 2cm wide target – 20 times!).  I hope that everyone remembers, when faced with an obstacle, that there is always a way around, over, under or through it… you just have to look hard enough.

The forerunners on the biathlon course - the do a lap to make sure all is clear and perfect for the competing athletes.

On the right is Josef Giesen from Germany - the Bronze Medal winner in Men's 12.5km standing biathlon.

Though it was cold sometimes, it really was beautiful!

Hmmm… that sounds very serious, and I don’t entirely mean this post to be, other than the seriousness of my admiration for our athletes from around the world.  So yes, biathlon was pretty wonderful yesterday, and certainly well worth the journey.  Today I volunteered in the morning and was spoiled by being asked to speak to athletes and have them sign the Truce Register.  It is a book that the athletes sign in support of the Olympic and Paralympic Truce.  This is an ancient tradition of the laying down of arms during a Games.  And while it unfortunately does not happen world-wide during the Games nowadays, it is symbolic of how sport supports peace.  Of how a game of kick-ball or stick hockey can bring people together in the name of sport.  The athletes sign in recognition and support of how sport promotes peace.  The sign a maple leaf cut-out in how they use sport to support peace in their own lives and communities, and they sign the Truce installation at the Village, an art piece that will stand to represent both Vancouver 2010 and all of our hopes for peace worldwide.  It was an amazing thing to be asked to participate in.

The day however was a wacky one… Canada lost in sledge hockey to Japan in a hard battled game.  And with the results this evening we will be playing against Norway for the Bronze medal (USA vs. Japan for the Gold).  I have been reminded that I am not a competitive person.  I have met many of the men on the Canadian sledge hockey team and really quite adore them.  But I have also met many of the men on the Norwegian team and am quite fond of them as well.  I would have preferred if we were playing Japan or the USA in the final game as I have not had the opportunity to meet any of them so I find it easier to cheer patriotically and enthusiastically for Canada.  Not that I won’t be in the Bronze medal game but I would have thought much less of the other team’s feelings.  Sigh… this (and a million other reasons) is why I am not a Paralympic or Olympic athlete… I have no competitive instinct.  But in the end… Go Canada Go!!

This evening I got to attend another round of wheelchair curling and it was fascinating.  It is such a tough and precise sport.  It’s wonderful to watch.  I admit I had preferred teams (teams that I have met members of… see not nearly competitive enough 🙂 ) but to some extent I was cheering for all of the teams.  Canada had already clinched a spot in the Gold medal game so there wasn’t much pressure on them this evening.  I went with Christina, a very good friend from the Olympic Superstore, and we met all sorts of nice people while we were at the Games.  Heck, after the Games we even got to speak with some of the athletes (I even got my photo take with the Great Britain team, along with Mo and her friend Kat).  It was a wonderful night!

Swiss snacks at the half-way mark.

We tried to get some guys into the shot to sit with the ladies but they weren't very brave. So it is three Canadians and the whole Great Britain curling team! (Funny, I just noticed now that the Canadians are in red and the curlers in white!).

Tomorrow I’m hoping for an early ziptrek across Robson Street (anyone want to meet me around 9am?) and I have volunteering in the afternoon.  Oh, and if you’re free at 2:30pm on Friday, March 19 then you’ll want to stop by Hillside Stadium to watch the tie-breaking game between Sweden and Italy.  It is FREE!!  First come first served for seats though, so be quick.  It should be a good game!

Until the next post… thank you merci!

Day 5 – Wheelchair curling and sledge hockey!

March 16, 2010

It was a busy day for me!  But a darn good one.  I managed to get some chores done this morning before heading to the Yaletown Canada Line station to meet my friend David for our journey out to the Vancouver Paralympic Centre to watch some wheelchair curling.  I did not have the opportunity to see any of the curling during the Olympics but I had heard that it was noisy in the venue.  I had heard that the crowds for curling baffled (and muffled!) the players.  They had never seen or played anywhere like it and often had to resort to hand signals as it was too noisy to be heard, even when they were screaming “hurry hard!”.  And I have to tell you, it can’t be much quieter now!

Wheelchair curling is fascinating.  I was amazed at the accuracy of the shots during the Olympics but these are no less impressive.  There is no sweeping in wheelchair curling, which means throws must be very accurate.  But the trick?  The athletes don’t really ‘throw’ the rocks, they push them with a specially designed stick, from their wheelchair.  This requires a good amount of strength as each stone is 19.1kg of Scottish granite and must be thrown from a total standstill.  A teammate acts as an anchor for the person throwing so that they don’t just push themselves backwards from the rock.  They can get a fierce amount of curl into the stone and their throw weights are amazing.  I can’t imagine how many hours of practice it takes!  I’m so glad I went and got to experience this sport.

The Canadian wheelchair curling team entering the rink.

David and I in the stands cheering for Canada!

We couldn’t stay for the entirety of the matches but Canada was leading Switzerland 9-1 when we left so we were confident we would do well (final score 15-1, final two ends not played).  The other sheets playing were Norway vs Japan and Germany versus Italy (11-3 and 7-6 respectively).  From there I popped home for a few minutes before heading out to see some sledge hockey with Katie.

Katie and I went to the Canada-Sweden game on Sunday.  It was the first time either of us had seen sledge hockey live before and it was super exciting!  Canada was definitely the stronger team though and beat Sweden 10-1.  Volunteering in the Salt Building in the Athlete’s Village does mean I occasionally get to speak to the athletes which is really wonderful.  On my Monday shift I was able to congratulate a few of our Team Canada guys on Sunday’s game and ask about today’s game.  They were excited for tonight, promising it would be faster and rougher.  I also got to speak to one of the Norwegian sledge hockey players and he seemed to be looking forward to the competition as well.  I was ready to see a very competitive game tonight!  And did we ever!

It was faster.  It was rougher.  And both teams played strong defensive games.  Shots on net – Canada: 12, Norway: 8.  Compare this to Sunday – Canada: more than 30 (can’t find the exact number), Sweden: 3.  So even though Canada did win 5-0 it was a much tighter game.  And a heckuva lot of fun to watch.  It is so exciting to see hockey where I know some of the players!  I love cheering for the guys I played Jenga and RockBand with, it is way too much fun.  What a wonderful event we are hosting here in Vancouver with the Paralympic Games.  I hope you have a chance to see some of the events, ’cause they are spectacular!

Some of Team Canada, prepping for the start of the third period.

Alright – in a very few hours I need to be up to go to Whistler to watch some biathlon.  The men’s 12.5km sitting and women’s 10km sitting competitions.  It also means that I’ll be visiting the Whistler Paralympic Park.  I’m really excited about this as it is the second to last of the competition venues that I’m going to.  Once I go to Whistler Creekside for alpine skiing on Sunday I will have made it to all of the competition venues as some point during the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic and Olympic Winter Games, and that is pretty cool.  So now I’m off for some sleep.

Thank you merci and Go Canada Go!

Writing update

March 14, 2010

Hi folks.  Thanks so much for your patience.  I have been trying to write everyday but I’m finding that often my writing is lacking much enthusiasm.  I assure you it is not a lack of excitement about the Paralympics, more that I am still a bit tired.  I exceeded my target of writing everyday for 210 days and made it to 228 I believe!  Since then I’ve found it more difficult to sit and write everyday, so instead of posting sub-par writing I am going to write when I feel the need to write (like the night before the Opening Ceremonies of the Paralympic Games).  I will enjoy the writing more and I hope that you will enjoy reading it more as well.

Another note – I know that some people will still be waiting for pins that you’ve won from my contests.  I’m sorry about that!  I do have them and will be posting them soon.  They got lost in time during the Olympics so I’m just starting to get back on track with those sorts of things now.  Sorry about that!

I will send out notes when a new post is up here on 2010vanfan.  If you’re interested I am working on setting up my next writing project for when the Paralympics are over too and I’m out of Vancouver 2010 things to write about (I am going to continue to do some writing on the Olympics and Paralympics though! I just love them too much to stop cold turkey!).  I will send out messages on that as well as it progresses.

Thank you so much to everyone that has been on this journey with me – everyone from day one right through to just perusing a post or two.  You’ve made this an amazing journey for me and I really appreciate it!

Thank you merci!

PS – I did have a wonderful time at the Paralympic Opening Ceremonies and hope to post about it soon.  I hope you had a chance to watch it.  It was a heckuva lot of fun!

16.5 hours to the Paralympics – A day in the life of the Salt Building

March 12, 2010

Well, I had left my last post ridiculously short, but it was with good reason.  It was quite the day.  I had originally been scheduled to volunteer in the Village from 3-11pm today, but a fellow volunteer couldn’t make her shift from 8:30am to 3pm today so I offered to take it as well.  Now, I know that it sounds a bit crazy but I was curious to see what a whole day working on the Plaza & Events team would be like.  Plus, I was sure that because it is generally quite quiet in these days leading up to the Opening Ceremonies that I would be able to leave early if I was tired.

The day started very quietly.  We have video game machines that have a trivia game on them.  These are the devil.  There is continuous competition amongst a few of us to have our name at the top of the leader board, and just as we think we’ve mastered it somehow someone gets a higher score.  Matt is our current reigning champion, but I’m not far behind… I’ll have to work on it some more.  I got myself to the second highest score this morning and will have to try some more soon.

We had some visitors from Team USA just before noon – Candace and John.  They have both competed in previous Paralympic Games as far as I know though both are here in more of administrative/mentor role this time around.  Candace has competed in 10 different Paralympic Games, both summer and winter!  They were both wonderful to talk to.  It was fascinating to hear Candace speak on the differences from all of her years in competition.  Her first Paralympic ‘village’ was in 1980 in Arnhem, Netherlands (the Games were not held in conjunction with the Olympics in Russia) where the athletes were housed in army barracks.  Today, the USA lounge faces north over False Creek towards the mountains, in one of the greenest building complexes in the world.  I hope to hear more of her stories.

A photo of Candace skiing in 2006 in the Torino Paralympic Winter Games.

After we had been talking awhile, my supervisor Matt (yes, the one with the high score) showed up with a bunch of plants for the Living Wall.  The Living Wall is a hanging of over 600 plants that act sort of as a screen between some of the video games and the rest of the space in the Salt Building.  When I first started volunteering it was lush and full of healthy green plants.  Most of them did not make it though the Olympics, though not for lack of trying on all of the volunteers part.  Anyhow, today we replaced the dead plants with new ones and it is gorgeous again!  Luckily, we did have help from some volunteers from the Welcoming Centre, and they were more than welcome!  It took us about two hours to remove all of the old plants and dirt, replant the new plants and clean up!  It was great!

The Living Wall in the Salt Building - refreshed and looking fabulous!

My next few hours were a bit quieter.  I was in the DVD lounge.  I watched some movies.  I cleaned the popcorn machine (we have the big cart style machine and someone had either added the butter/oil at the wrong time or didn’t put the lid on and it was a mess!).  After three hours by myself in the DVD lounge I moved back to the Salt Building and I’m sure glad I did!  I got to 1) play some pool with two of the members of the Great Britain Wheelchair Curling team, 2) compete in a Jenga tournament with several members of the Team Canada Ice Sledge Hockey Team, and 3) play bass drum on Beatles RockBand with some of the guys from the sledge hockey team too! (They did try to have me play other instruments but I’m barely coordinated enough for the bass pedal, let alone more buttons!).

This is Darren, one of the audio/visual guys for the Salt Building. Sorry, I'm not allowed to post photos of athletes, or even take them really. But Darren was having a good game here!

Did I leave early?  No.  Did I have an absolutely fantastic time today?  You betcha!  Do I want to go back and do it again?   Heck ya!  I am hoping to pick up a volunteer shift or two in the next few days, but with tickets and things like that, I guess I’ll have to wait and see.  But I’m going to keep my fingers and toes crossed.  I love being in the Paralympic Village and hope I can go back soon!

Oh, and the Paralympics start in just a few short hours!  Can you believe it’s here?!  I did manage to get myself one ticket, through a very kind fellow blogger that has access as media.  I can’t quite believe I’m getting to go, given how badly I botched up getting tickets.  But I am and I have to thank Vincent from Vancoulympics so much for the opportunity!  I really, really appreciate it!  Plus I’m looking forward to meeting him for the first time.  It still amazes me that I have so many people that I consider friends because of Vancouver 2010, and some of them I still haven’t met in person.  What a powerful force worldwide sport can be!

And speaking of tickets… I did buy wheelchair curling tickets today (I wasn’t too late for that)… but there were still no Closing Ceremony tickets… until I spoke with another blogger friend, Rachael, from Tinkerblue, who happened to have two available and was willing to have me take one.  Wow!!  I am pretty much the luckiest person in the world.  And I know it.  Thank you merci to everyone.  I feel grateful that you are all in my life, whether as a reader, a new friend, an old friend or family.  I don’t think life gets much better than this and it is all because of you.

1 day 5.5 hours to the Paralympics – Winter, excitement and the Paralympics!

March 11, 2010

It’s raining downtown, but snowing in the mountains today… Heck, it’s been snowing in spots all over town!  What a great welcome for our Winter Paralympic athletes!  The Paralympic Torch is traveling throughout Vancouver, people are rallying to the Flame and tickets for the Opening Ceremonies are nearly impossible to get!  I’d say we’re ready for the Paralympics to begin!

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Aack!  I was going to write a bit today but we just had plants delivered for the ‘Living Wall’ in the Salt Building.  I will take a photo and post it later today but it is a 20′ long hanging full of around 600 small plants.  It’s really cool but we managed to kill about 2/3rds of the plants already so we’re fixing it up today.  And 400 small plants will take a while to plant.  So I’m going to run and chat at you all later.  Until then, if you haven’t got tickets to a Paralympic Event yet, you can get them here!

 

Thank you merci for reading!!

2 days 6 hours to the Paralympics – Uhh… I lost a day?

March 10, 2010

And I’m not sure where I put it.  But somehow my countdown was off by one full day.  Drat!  Sorry about that folks.  Anyway, I’m properly reporting the countdown now.  It’s really only 2 days until the Opening Ceremonies of the Paralympics (the 6 hours is until the actual start of the Ceremonies at 6pm).  And now I’m going to admit to messing something else up as well… I want to go to the Opening Ceremonies of the Paralympics, I’ve said this before.  Well, I was waiting to buy tickets until I knew who wanted to go with me.  I waited long enough that I missed the discount tickets for volunteers… and now I’ve just discovered that I’ve missed tickets for every section but the most expensive!  I’m so thrilled that they’re selling so well but I’m annoyed as heck at myself that I was so lackadaisical about buying the silly tickets!  Well, I hope I can still get some… I’ll keep trying… sigh.

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Working in the Village I’m learning more about mobility impairments and techniques and equipment used to make accessibility easier for all.  I have learned a lot about some times of accessibility from spending time with my aunt Melinda who has MS, but there are a lot of different sorts of impairments and a lot of different things that can be done to improve accessibility for everyone.  Christine, one of my fellow volunteers in the Salt Building, has a visual impairment and has a background in educating and planning accessibility for everyone.  It has been really educational to be exposed to so many options, to accessibility improvements that are well done to ones that need improvement.  For example – there are ramps all over the village.  Into buildings and to the streets.  However, Christine noted that little knobs or lumps on the ends of railings would make it easier for visually impaired people to tell when a railing starts and ends.  I am constantly amazed at what sorts of things help and what sorts of things hinder.  There are so many things to think of.

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Eeek!  I need to run out the door!  Thank you merci for reading!!