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A Message from the Shore of the Black Sea in Russia


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I haven’t posted much since I’ve been in Russia, thanks to a nasty flu, so I thought I would record a bit of a wrap-up video before I leave Russia early tomorrow morning. So here’s a little message from the shores of the Black Sea in Russia:

Sochi Day 3: Mascots, Snowboarding & Canadian Fans


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Train Ride!

Day 3 had me super excited for my first day in the Mountain Cluster for snowboarding and bobsleigh events! Although the train had been advertised to take only 40 minutes to get to the mountains, I had been told to give myself at least two hours. The reasoning was that yes, the train CAN make it in 40 minutes, but there is only one track, so if there is a train coming from the other direction, your train will have to wait in certain areas to allow it to pass before continuing on. Kind of a strange way to organize and advertise your transportation services, but hey, it was what it was. I was just happy someone told me about it so that I was able to head out on time!

My snowboarding event started at 11am, so I was out the door by 8:30am to get to the Adler train station. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be warm enough in the mountains, due to my lost luggage and limited clothing availability, but it was another gorgeously sunny day, so I packed everything I had in my backpack along with my camera and hoped for the best.

The train was so packed that I ended up sitting on the floor between cars with a couple of other Canadian girls. The three of us chatted and laughed and exchanged stories of our Olympic experience so far. We got more than a few strange looks from some of the Russians around us, as we were the only ones chatting (very animatedly, I should add) and I started to wonder if maybe we were having a bit too much fun for a morning train ride…?

Snowboarding at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park

When I reached the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, I caught my first mascot as well as my first hilarious bathroom stall sign.

Sochi 2014 Olympics Mascot

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And after several requests from Russians to have my photo taken with them, I finally made it to my seat for the Ladies Snowboard Cross event. I was perfectly seated among a group of Canadian fans, including the two friends who I had been to the 2012 London Olympics with! Awesome!  And my new friend Shauna turned out to be the perfect poster child for the Olympic Spirit Project! Yay!!

20140304-121835.jpg

Canadian Olympic Spirit Can't Beat Canadian Olympic Spirit

There were also a couple of (misplaced?) Americans seated with us and we thought we would have a little fun with them (they had no idea what was going on behind them…) Haha!

American Fans

Misplaced Americans at the 2014 Olympics Ladies Snowboard Cross event

We watched Canada’s Dominique Maltais fly down the course to win silver (yay!), alongside Eva Samkova from the Czech Republic who won gold and Chloe Trespeuch from France who won bronze. It was an amazing day!

Ladies Snowboard Cross - Sochi 2014 Olympics Day3e

 

When the event was over, a bunch of us decided to head to Austria House for some food and drink before some headed back to the Coastal Cluster and others headed to the Bobsleigh event later that evening. So we all piled into the back of the bus and off we went!

Stay tuned for the next update, where I will tell you all about my experience at the Austria House…

 

Canadians taking over the back of a Russian bus!

 

Sochi Day 2: Sunshine, Short Track and Swiss House


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Sunshine!

I woke up on Day 2 to a beautiful day. It was sunny and about 18 degrees celsius. I decided to take a walk along the boardwalk along the river Mzymta before heading toward the Olympic Park and these are the views I was faced with. Adler was absolutely beautiful! It was so warm that I found myself wishing I had packed a pair of shorts and flip flops! The palm trees along the river made the idea that I was at the winter Olympics completely surreal!

Day2-2 Day2

Day2-4

Short Track

I didn’t have any events scheduled for that day so I headed to the Olympic Park with the intention of buying a park pass to explore some of the cultural venues. I connected with an American friend who I had met through one of the Sochi Facebook groups, and as I went to stand in the 90 minute ticket lineup (ugh), he went looking for a pair of inexpensive event tickets from people selling extras outside the park. I figured that if I was going to pay for a park pass anyway, I was fine with paying a few extra dollars if it meant I would take in an Olympic event that day.

The ticket office outside Sochi Olympic Park

 

I wasn’t in line more than 15 minutes and my new friend messaged me saying that he had been successful! He had found a pair of short track speed skating tickets for only $30 each from another American who had extra tickets! Yay! And just like that, we were off to our first event of the 2014 Olympic Games! HappyDance!

Day2b-3   Short Track Speed Skating - Sochi 2014 Olympics

If you have never watched speed skating live, it is an absolutely amazing sight! Short track is especially exciting because they move so quickly around such a small track. They lean in at such an angle around the corners that you think that they may just fall over! Unfortunately, one of our Canadian medal hopefuls did just that… I watched Charles Hamelin lose his balance and as he fell he also knocked the American competitor out of the race and they both hit the padded arena wall HARD!

Short Track Speed Skating - Sochi 2014 Olympics


In the end, two Russians won gold and silver, while the Netherlands brought home the bronze medal for the event Men’s 1000m event. They usually don’t actually present the medals at the events, but they do bring the athletes up onto a podium to recognize their achievement and to perform a flower ceremony. The medals were presented later that evening in the Medals Plaza.

 

Short Track Speed Skating - Sochi 2014 Olympics
When the event was over, I wandered around the park in search of Olympic Spirit and some Russians provided some excellent examples:

Russian Olympic SpiritRussian Olympic Spirit

 

Swiss House

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the park photographing Olympic venues and landmarks and ended up at the House of Switzerland.

The Swiss House was great fun! Since Canadians were not permitted to go inside the Canada Olympic House unless they were friends or family of the athletes, the House of Switzerland became our second home. This is where we (Canadians) would end up daily to celebrate the events of the day with food, drinks and great company. It was no strange occurrence for the Canadian national anthem to break out (it would happen nightly, sometimes more than once), and the house would be packed until sometime between 2am and 4am, depending when they decided to shut it all down.

What I loved the most about the day was that it was a completely unplanned day without expectations and it turned into a day filled with incredible surprises from the warm weather to the unexpected short track ticket and all the wonderful people I met along the way. Any anxiety that I may have had about traveling to Russia and the Olympics solo had completely melted away, and when I got back to the hotel at 2am I was completely exhausted and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

 

Canada Olympic House, Canadian Spirit, and President Putin


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Olympic Park Entrance

After returning from Sochi on day 1, I went straight to the Olympic Park to connect with a friend and we headed straight to the Canada Olympic House for their Valentines Day open house event.

The idea behind the Canada Olympic House is that it is a sanctuary away from the media for athletes and their friends and family to connect during the Games and is not open to the general public or other Canadians. The open house event gave all Canadians the opportunity to visit the house for a few hours to mingle with the athletes and enjoy a beer from the open bar with other Canadians.

I met so many amazing people, including one lovely lady in particular who had brought me clothes and Canada gear to use until my luggage arrived! It was even appropriately wrapped in a Canada flag. I was so excited to see the Canadian Olympic Spirit shining through right from the moment I arrived. It was truly incredible! Thank you Bailey Edwards for your generosity and your awesomeness!

My Olympic Spirit Package     Lovely Canadian Ladies

The highlight of the visit to Canada House though, was a surprise visit from President Putin! He had been next door at the USA House and made an unscheduled appearance at Canada House! He was given a pair of official Canada mittens and then he made a speech wishing our athletes luck. Well… most of them anyway… with the exception of our hockey team! (He laughed it off, but I don’t think he was joking… Not even a little bit.)

President Vladimir Putin  President Vladimir Putin

I stuck around Canada House as long as I could to chat with the athletes about their Olympic experience. I spoke with Gold Medalist Dara Howell (slopestyle skiing), and athletes Jenna Blasman (snowboarding) and Taylor Henrich (ski jumping). It was so inspiring to hear of their experiences and their excitement for the opportunity to compete and represent Canada at the 2014 Olympics!

Olympic Athletes:  Dara Howell, Jenna Blasman and Taylor Henrich

So my first day was a raging success (despite the luggage issues that morning). Experiencing true Canadian Spirit inside the Canada Olympic House and being there for President Putin’s visit were an incredible way to kick off my Sochi 2014 Olympic experience. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better day if I tried!

 

Day 1 – Sochi, SIM Cards and Media Badges


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After waking up from a much needed nap on my first day in Sochi, I ventured out to explore a bit. I had a few things I wanted to accomplish on this first day, since I didn’t have any events scheduled until Day 3:

1. Pick up my media badge at the Sochi Media Centre

2. Get a SIM card for my phone

3. Buy the postcards that I had promised to my Kickstarter backers

The city of Sochi is about an hour’s train ride from Adler and the Olympic Park. I left the hotel, hoping to find a bus to the train station, but there were no bus routes nearby. The nearest bus stop was a 20 minute walk away. So off I went to find it from the broken Russian directions I got from the hotel’s front desk. I finally found a bus that took me to the train station, where I caught my very excited first glimpse of the Olympic Park and Bolshoy Arena from the train platform!

It was a gorgeous day, which made for a beautiful train ride along the Black Sea.

The Olympic Park from Olympic Village Station

day1-8

Sochi Train Station    Sochi Train Station

My first task was to find a SIM card for my phone. From my research before arriving, I had decided to go with the Megafon Olympics package for only 400 Rubles (about $12) giving me 5GB of data. I found it and I was in business!

Sochi Media Centre Badge

From there I met up with a lovely Canadian, who I had met on the Canadians to Sochi Facebook group, for lunch and we exchanged travel stories and information. She had taken a 24 hour train from Moscow to Sochi! Wow!

My new friend knew exactly where the Sochi Media Centre was, so she led me there after lunch. I was really surprised to find that no one in the media centre spoke English. I communicated completely through my phone’s Google Translate app and after about 20 minutes, walked out with my pass.

 

Next, I walked around Sochi looking for postcards, Olympic landmarks and fun touristy stuff. I never found the postcards that day, but I did find these:

Sochi 2014

Sochi 2014

day1-5

Sochi was a beautiful city with lots to see, beautiful architecture, and the warm weather (about 17 celsius) made the experience that much better! I would have loved to spend more time there, but it wasn’t possible with my crazy Olympic event schedule.

I returned to Adler in the late afternoon/early evening and headed to the Olympic Park to try and get the lay of the land. Stay tuned for that story and my inspiring first visit to the Canada Olympic House!

Planes, the Stanley Cup and Lost Luggage


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My flight from Amsterdam to Sochi was smooth. I enjoyed some classic Dutch pub food (bitterballen & een biertje) at the Schiphol airport pre-flight and then boarded the plane for the first leg to Istanbul. The layover in Istanbul was short and the board was already flashing “last call” for my next flight, so I was once again running thought he airport. It was probably one of the more confusing airports I’ve seen with unclear signage and odd organization. But after some confusion and asking around, I found my gate. This was my first experience boarding a bus to get out to the plane on the tarmac. (I’ve never shared the road with giant airplanes before!) It was kinda cool to feel how big these machines actually are by standing with beside it on the ground and then climbing the stairs to board.

I sat down beside a man who turned out to be an agent for many of the USA hockey team’s NHL players and he told me that he had been sitting beside the Stanley Cup on display in the airport lounge for about 8 hours that day. Then he told me that the Stanley Cup was on the plane with us! How awesome is that?! Ya, pretty awesome!

We landed at the Sochi airport at 4am and it took about 30 minutes to pass through passport control and then I went to the luggage belt to I wait for my bag. I waited and waited and in the end, no bag. Arg!

No luggage

photo: Kyle Brayer

I spent the next 2+ hours filling out paperwork and trying to figure out where my bag got held. It seems this isn’t uncommon with Turkish Airlines, as I was one of four people whose luggage didn’t arrive. So after much frustration, they found that my bag had been left behind in Istanbul and it would be on the next flight out. On Monday. Today was Friday. I’m not looking forward to 3 days in the same clothes.

After activating my Spectator Pass, I went looking for a taxi to get me to my hotel. The 10 minute drive took a half hour because he had no idea where he was going, even though I had printed out a map to the hotel. After much convincing, he finally called the hotel and we were only a block away. I thanked him, paid him and he ended up giving me some money back for the inconvenience. Pretty sure THAT has never happened before!

It was now 7am, and I was finally in my hotel. Evgeny, the lovely man who runs the hotel, doesn’t speak more than about 5 words of English, so he communicates through his mobile phone’s translator app. He’s pretty awesome. Finally, everything was done and I creeped into the room where my new roommate was sleeping, apologized for waking her, brushed my teeth and flopped into bed for a much needed nap after a long night and frustrating morning of travel.

24 Hours, 4 Airports, 3 Airplanes, One Train, 2 Cars, and 3 Languages Later, I Made It!


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Victoria to SeattleMy travel day started out with very little stress, until we were about 20 minutes from the airport and the highway was closed due to a fatality accident. Traffic was inching along the little farm road detour and after
20 minutes I started stressing that I would be late for checkin for my flight. But in the end we still made it with enough time for a caesar before I went through security.

Victoria > Seattle

The flight to Seattle was fairly bumpy but quick. I had about an hour and a half before my connection to Paris and went to see if I could get a better seat for the flight. The lady said there were over 100 empty seats on the plane so I asked if it was possible to upgrade but she said, “only if you want to pay the upgrade fee,” so I ended up with a window seat with the whole row to myself. Perfect! And she also gave me my boarding pass for my connection in Paris to Amsterdam.

The sunset between Seattle and ParisVodka Training for Russia

Seattle > Paris

The plane boarded quickly, since there weren’t many passengers, but then we sat on the tarmac for an hour while the tower updated the route and the aircraft computer reloaded the changes. Finally we were on our way.

The flight was long (9.5 hours). I’m not great at sleeping on planes, so I watched a couple of movies and caught up on some vodka training in preparation for Russia, and then dozed off for a while.

Paris > Amsterdam

Quatchi Travels to ParisSo as I write this I’m sitting at Gate 33 at Paris Charles de Gaule airport. I’m not supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be on a flight to Amsterdam. Although we made good time from Seattle, by the time we landed I only had 30 minutes to get to my connection. I RAN!

The gate was on the complete other side of the airport. I had to take a train to get to another terminal. Then I had to pass through security again, where the ladies took their sweet time running the X-ray machine, sipping coffee as they worked, and then they separated out my purse for a rand check. When I finally got through, I continued running only to be stopped again for passport control. Thank goodness there was no lineup and the guy was super quick, and I was off running again!

I had to get to F35. I was at F1. You have got to be kidding me! So I ran some more, weaving in and out between people. Yup, I was “that guy.”

When I finally got to the gate, sweaty and out of breath, I handed them my boarding pass. The 3 ladies there just chattered away in French holding my boarding pass as I stood there with only 10 minutes until departure. They were talking about something completely unrelated to me getting on the plane. When I asked what was going on, they said nonchalantly, “Oh, the gate is closed. You will have to rebook with customer service over there,” pointing to a desk not far away.

So I did all that running for nothing. Blah.

So I was able to rebook on a flight two hours after my original flight with extra leg room at the emergency exit, and they gave me a voucher for a snack and a (non-alcoholic — boooh) drink. The plus side? Even airport bread in Paris is freakin delicious! I found a tasty organic raisin baguette with brie, mmm! So good!

So here I sit, at Gate 33, waiting for my flight to Amsterdam. Boarding in half an hour… Hopefully the remainder of the journey is uneventful.

UPDATE: Amsterdam > Utrecht

20140212-115943.jpgThe flight to Amsterdam was only about 45 minutes and even arrived a bit early. My next worry was whether my luggage had made it to my rebooked flight as well as whether my ride from the airport was still able to pick me up. Luggage: yes! (Phew!) Ride: no.

So with no ride, my journey wasn’t quite over and I had to hop on a train from Schiphol to Utrecht. It’s about a half hour train ride. It was rush hour, so lugging my bags onto the train was a challenge in itself, not to mention staying awake not to miss my stop. But it all worked out.

I arrived to Utrecht Centraal to my aunt’s welcoming face and was relieved that after a quick 10 minute drive, I would be “home”, and I could sleep. And the best part was that my official Paralympic media accreditation badge was waiting for me when I arrived! Yay!

So 24 hours, 4 airports, 3 airplanes, 1 train, 2 car rides, and 3 languages later, I made it! : )

… Stay tuned as the adventure continues in two days when I make the final trek to Sochi, Russia!

 

 

Go Canada GO!


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I think I more than doubled my Canadian Olympics attire in the past week and I have NO idea how I’m going to pack it all to Sochi! Not only am I bringing stuff to wear, but I’m also bringing some things to trade with other fans and photograph around the Olympic venues.

My Sochi 2014 Canada Gear

Additions to my collection this year include a reversible down jacket from the Bay, a couple of hoodies from the Sport Chek Olympics collection, and of course this year’s mittens and toque from the Bay. It’s so easy to get carried away when shopping for this stuff! Seriously, I could have bought one of everything but I was able to restrain myself. I was seriously coveting the wool sweater, but had to hold back for budget reasons.

Of course the entire Quatchi family in this photo will not be making the trip to Sochi. Only one of the small ones… Quatchi will be my “travel Sasquatch” for this adventure. He has accompanied me on a few trips now, including ThailandBali, and Costa Rica. Quatchi will be posting to his own Twitter account: @QuatchiTravels, so please follow to see what he’s up to!

Only one more sleep until I board a plane and start my journey to Russia! I can’t wait to get to Sochi to capture and share the Olympic Spirit with you all! I’m pretty sure I’m all set… Am I missing anything?

Go Canada GO!

Hudson’s Bay Unveils Official Parade Uniforms for Canadian Olympic Team at Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony


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TORONTO, February 7, 2014 – The Canadian Olympic Team will walk onto the world stage today in a look that commands attention as they proudly unveil their official parade uniforms, designed by Hudson’s Bay, at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony.

 

Team Canada - Opening Ceremonies 2014


Inspired by Hudson’s Bay’s classic scarlet blanket, the all-red coat is accented with a black stripe around the hip line.  A star piece, the coat proudly features the Hudson’s Bay and Canadian Olympic Team crests and is accented with toggle style buttons.  The coat is layered on top of a striking black mock turtleneck and wool v-neck sweater for women, and a tailored white dress shirt, wool cardigan, and red and white striped tie for men.   The look is accessorized with the official 2014 red mittens that convey a strong “we can own the podium” message and a red, white and black pom pom toque with a bold CANADA wordmark.  Black bottoms complete the look.“When our athletes walk in the Parade of Nations as the Canadian Olympic Team, we want them each to feel proud and confident and to feel the tremendous support of an entire country,” says Hilary Kelley, VP of Design, Creative Director, Hudson’s Bay. “The Opening Ceremony look was designed to reflect who we are as a nation; it is both classic and modern and reflects tradition, elegance and strength.”

 

Team Canada - Opening Ceremonies 2014

 

Canadians and fans of Canada abroad can sport the Team’s Opening Ceremony look with Hudson’s Bay’s official replica collection.  The duffle coat is available for both men and women and retails for $275.  The pompom toque and the red mittens are also available for adults and children, with $3.33 from the sale of each pair of mittens going directly to the Canadian Olympic Foundation.   The Sochi 2014 Canadian Olympic Team Collection can be purchased online at thebay.com and is available at all Hudson’s Bay stores across Canada.“Hudson’s Bay has once again delivered inspiring, stylish uniforms honouring our athletes’ commitment to Canada as they take part in the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony,” said Derek Kent, Chief Marketing Officer, Canadian Olympic Committee. “The colour blocking of red, white and black is quintessentially Canadian and the athletes will wear it with pride.” The Sochi 2014 Canadian Olympic team consists of 221 athletes and 85 coaches.   Team members will each receive 38 items as a part of their uniform including jackets, pants, leisurewear and accessories.

 

Team Canada - Opening Ceremonies 2014

About Hudson’s Bay Company

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), founded in 1670, is North America’s longest continually operated company. Today, HBC offers customers an unparalleled range of retailing categories and shopping experiences internationally. In Canada, HBC operates Hudson’s Bay, Canada’s largest department store with 90 full-line locations and one outlet store as well as thebay.com, unsurpassed in its fashion, beauty, home and accessory designers and brands. HBC also operates Home Outfitters, Canada’s largest home specialty superstore with 69 locations across the country.In the United States, HBC operates Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s pre-eminent specialty retailers, renowned for its superlative designer collections and first-rate fashion expertise.  Saks Fifth Avenue comprises 41 full-line stores in 22 states, five international licensed stores, saks.com, 72 Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH stores and saksoff5th.com. HBC also operates Lord & Taylor, a leading department store chain with 49 full-line store locations throughout the northeastern United States, in two major cities in the Midwest and in Boca Raton, Florida, four Lord & Taylor outlet locations and lordandtaylor.com. Hudson’s Bay Company banners provide stylish, quality merchandise with a dedicated focus on service excellence. Hudson’s Bay Company trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “HBC”.

About the Canadian Olympic Committee

The Canadian Olympic Committee is a national, private, not-for-profit organization committed to sport excellence. It is responsible for all aspects of Canada’s involvement in the Olympic movement, including Canada’s participation in the Olympic, Youth Olympic and Pan American Games and a wide variety of programs that promote the Olympic movement in Canada through cultural and educational means. For news and information, visit the COC website at www.olympic.ca and find the team on both Facebook (Canadian Olympic Team) and Twitter (@CDNOlympicTeam).

Digital Nomads: Goodbye commute, hello world


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Back in October, I took the leap of becoming a Digital Nomad and 2014 is the year this becomes a reality.

I watched this video made by oDesk today and it has inspired me once again to believing that it’s all possible.

Digital Nomads: Goodbye commute, hello world

My nomadic adventure began with a month-long trip to Costa Rica at the end of 2013. I had sold and donated all of my things and Costa Rica was the perfect place to unwind and leave my old life behind to be inspired by what life has to offer outside of an office.

I spent the month traveling around the country, exploring, photographing, learning Spanish, eating well and working out. It was truly an amazing five weeks that I often go back to in my mind when I start to have doubts about the path I’ve chosen and it brings renewed confidence.

After my return from Costa Rica, I began work on a new project and after MUCH hard work on the Olympic Spirit Kickstarter campaign, the adventure and travels will continue, thanks to my many generous supporters. In less than a week I fly to Europe, spend a few days with family and then 10 days from today I land in Sochi, Russia to capture the Olympic Spirit as the world celebrates their athletes! I can hardly believe it!

Through this project I will share the Olympic experience with my amazing Kickstarter backers and others through social media and this blog. Once the Games are over, the stories and images will be compiled into a book documenting the Olympic spirit and will be available for sale. I invite you to join me and share in the experience from wherever you are!

Napoleon Hill’s wrote what has become my mantra:

What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

This project is living proof!!

With gratitude,
Mariska


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