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Canada Olympic House, Canadian Spirit, and President Putin

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

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

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!

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!

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

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

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

People Are Awesome!

Throughout the Olympic Spirit Project I’ve seen generosity that I never knew existed. People are AWESOME! People I never expected to take an interest in what I’m doing have come out of nowhere and contributed to the project. People I haven’t seen or spoken to in years are supporting me beyond what I would have ever expected. And people I don’t even know are inspired by what I’m doing and have pledged their support and it has blown me away!

Whichever group you fall into, I say to you:

Thank You for being awesome!

 Some Examples of Awesomeness:

A corporate sponsor pledged a completely unexpected contribution to the project. Thank you Brandy’s Whistler!

A reporter from my local paper featured the project in the weekend newspaper.

An associate producer from CBC heard about my story and set up an interview with CBC Toronto’s Heather Hiscox for their CBC’s Road to the Olympics segment.

A group of Canadian volunteers offered me accommodations with their group in Adler, Russia at a cost that was far more reasonable than I was finding on my own.

A friend recommended an amazing travel agent who found me the perfect flights! Coincidentally, she booked all the flights for the Canadian Alpine and Snowboard teams, so I totally lucked out with someone who knows her stuff! (Contact me for her contact info, if you are looking for great service!)

I posted a message in a Facebook photography group this week that I was looking to borrow or rent some gear for the project and within 10 minutes I had a response from someone and had a lens in my hands within an hour!

And what has and continues to be the most amazing, are the people who are sharing the project on their Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and in their conversations with words of encouragement. Thank you all for sharing in this ambitious dream which is allowing me to live a life that inspires me! And THANK YOU for sharing the Olympic Spirit and making it a reality for me!

To everyone who has joined me on this adventure:
You are amazing and I am so grateful to have every one of you in my life!

With gratitude,
Mariska

CBC’s Road to the Olympics with the Olympic Spirit Project!

This morning I had my first ever television interview!

It was with Heather Hiscox of Toronto’s CBC News Now morning show, featured on CBC’s Road to the Olympics segment. Because of the 3-hour time difference, my alarm went off at 4:30am to be awake and ready for the 5:20am call. Here’s how it went:

The whole thing went so fast! I’ve been both excited and nervous about this interview for over a week, and waiting for my 5 minutes of fame felt like forever.  I called in via Skype and was on hold and listening to the show (I had no video on my end) for the longest 10 minutes of my life, and then Heather started talking to me and the next thing I knew, it was over.

Overall, I’m happy with how it went, despite a couple of verbal stumbles. After seeing the replay however, there are a few points I’d like to add.

The plan is to spark the Olympic Spirit back home while in Sochi. Those who will be in Sochi are driven to be there by their Olympic Spirit, which I will be there to document. But what I am really aiming to spark is the spirit back  in Canada and beyond! It’s challenging sometimes to get excited about a world event when all you hear about are the controversial issues and security threats. So I hope to spark the spirit in YOU from Sochi through the stories of my experiences and my images.

It’s time to put the focus back where it belongs: on the sports, the athletes and the fans.

I’m not saying that these other issues are not of concern to me, because they are. I am definitely aware of what’s happening and concerned but I’m also prepared to be cautious and safe. It’s not going to stop me from going and supporting our athletes and capturing the true Olympic spirit of the 2014 Winter Games.

I invite YOU to be a part of the excitement as well, through social media where I will be posting the images and stories throughout the experience. I’ll be posting to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as often as connectivity allows, so please be sure to follow along so you don’t miss any of the excitement. And of course, please share the excitement to grow that Olympic Spirit even more! (I will post the final edited images to Flickr as well.)

         

As of today, there are 10 days and 40% remaining to be raised on the Kickstarter.  Please pledge what you can to bring the Spirit to life.

For more information and to check out the great pledge rewards, please visit the The Olympic Spirit Project on Kickstarter.

Pledge your support on Kickstarter

 

Thank you all for the support, and I’d love to hear what you thought of the interview in the comments below!

8 Things I’ve Learned in the Last 8 Days

Last Tuesday I launched my Olympic Spirit Project Kickstarter campaign, and the past week has been a wild ride! I launched the campaign on January 14th and now 8 days later, thanks to so many incredible people, I have raised 37% of the funding goal, got one corporate sponsor on board (so far), have a local newspaper article coming out this week, and have an interview booked with CBC Toronto for next week!

Throughout this crazy journey, I’ve learned a LOT, and I wanted to share some of those things with you.

8 Things I’ve Learned in the Last 8 Days:

1. I have incredible friends and family.

I’m so grateful to all of you, who have stepped up to support me and this project. (I already knew you were all amazing, but just had to tell you again!) You have all been so generous with your pledges and sharing the project around and your support has me feeling confident that I will reach my goal of publishing an inspiring book!

2. How to craft a Kickstarter campaign.

Crowdfunding is a new experience for me. There is definitely an art to crafting a good crowdfunding campaign. I’ve done a lot of research and have learned and applied so much, and am continuing to learn as this experience continues.

3. How to promote a Kickstarter campaign.

I’m pretty good with social media, but things change dramatically when you are asking people to put their money into something. I’ve learned a lot about how to craft my emails, tweets, blogs and other social media posts to have the most impact on the reader and inspire them to get involved. This is an ongoing learning process, and I have by no means mastered it, but I’m a lot farther along than I was a week ago.

4. How to create a crowdfunding video.

My video is still in progress, but I’ve learned that it’s harder than it looks. As a photographer, I tend to be more comfortable behind the camera, so talking on camera will be new for me and will I’m sure require many takes before I get it right. Writing a good script and planning your message is key. I’ve had a lot of help  and feedback from the people around me and I am so grateful for your honest feedback and comments to help make my first ever video!

5. How to reach out to the media.

This week I secured two media outlets to tell my story. The Olympic Spirit Project will be featured in my hometown’s local newspaper this Friday, and then next week I will be doing a live interview with CBC Toronto’s Heather Hiscox. This has been the first time I’ve ever approached media on anything and will be my first television appearance. I’m pretty proud of the results so far, and I’ll admit that I’m a bit nervous about the live interview…

 6. It’s all about ACTION!

I tend to get in my own way, and make excuses for why things are not progressing. Because this project has such a short timeline, the past week has been all about ACTION! And I’m seeing incredible results! I’ve realized that “done is better than perfect,” and it has made me so much more productive. You can always tweak things later, but if you don’t get it out there, no one will ever know what you’re up to and you will never move forward.

7. I really CAN work from anywhere.

It’s been a challenge to get my message out to people primarily over the web. I’m currently living in my small hometown of Duncan, BC, and it is a very different experience after the hustle and bustle of life in Vancouver. I don’t know many people here, so the in-person conversations have been mostly with the Safeway cashier and the barista. But, I’m managing to do it! The online impact of this project has brought me one step closer to location independence and have made me so much more confidence that I will soon be location independent and living a life that I love.

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

This is my new favourite quote and words to live by from Napoleon Hill’s, Think and Grow Rich. I’ve been using the mantra, “Thoughts become things,” for a while now, but this one from Napoleon Hill is so much more inspiring to me. I thought it, I believed it, and now it is becoming a reality. I’ve just proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to! It’s an incredible feeling!

 

So there it is! It’s been a huge learning curve for me this past week and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon! I’m so excited to see what the next month brings to both me and this project! I’m on a roll and don’t intend on stopping!

What are some of the things you’ve learned and accomplished in the past week? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

And remember…

Napoleon Hill Quote

© 2013 Mariska Richters – Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica