What can I possibly say about the last week? Each day has been an adventure, a challenge, a few giggles and awkward moments. As I’m typing this, I’m crying of happiness – but thinking about the last 72 hours, it’s been more than a few tears.
I had such a good trip home to the Bay. I didn’t get to see everyone as I would have wanted, but spent precious time with my family, my puppy, decompressing from a whirlwind end of a school year, getting necessary medical things done. (could still use prayer for my teeth – four root canals and two crowns later and I’m still in a lot of pain.)
I got a new sight prescription for the first time in five years and like, there are some really REALLY cool leaves on trees, and words on signs, and I’m excited about seeing all of them. My mom blessed me with a few great trips to Target and Walmart to stock up for the next year on the essentials. People always ask what I bring back, and this time highlights included tampons, spaghetti and ranch dressing mix, workout clothes, alka seltzer, Benadryl, plastic wine cups, new sheets for my big girl bed, candles, LOTS of patriotic gear for the Olympics, new tennis shoes, and clothes for my Patagonia trip.
I watched “Stranger Things” with sister and mom, went wine tasting in Napa, had Mexican food, pool parties, snuggled with besties, walked the trail, floated on ridiculous floaties, laid back in the beautiful backyard and watched the night fall on the tall trees and swatted at Zika-free mozzies, and browsed Trader Joes, and ate and drank too much, gained 10 lbs. Whatever.
And then I tried to go home to Rio. My packing was going well – I am notorious for leaving it to the last minute and making a mess of it, but I started early, got ‘er done. My first flight was even delayed a bit, so I had breathing room. Then we got to the airport, and I held it together pretty well saying goodbye to mom, sister, and puppy. Checked in with three something hours to kill, so I walked around the terminal. Made friends with a Canadian whose brother was a caddie for an Olympic golfer, had one last gloriously pretentious California sandwich and a Lagunitas, then headed to my gate.
I was standing at a counter, charging my phone with backpack, purse, lunch bag, carryon, phone, charger all in the balance, and then went to throw away trash when I was called to the airline desk. I foolishly left my carryon at said counter, chatted with the agent for a while, put my headphones in, I think I even went to the bathroom, before I came back and realized I didn’t have my carryon. Had a full on panic attack, ran throughout the terminal to all the stores, bathrooms, counters.
Openly sobbing, I finally asked the desk to call about. It was at TSA, but by then they were about to shut doors on the plane, so I had to either miss my flights to collect my bag, or get on. I decided to fly, but needless to say I was a proper WRECK that flight, but the crew was super nice to me.
We were so late landing that I had to run to my next plane, barely able to get a message to TSA or my family about the carryon. I continued being a wreck on the next flight, unable to sleep as my mouthguard (and mouth is especially sensitive post all kinds of dental work), all chargers for electronics, arm brace, meds, makeup, tennis shoes, expensive camera, etc. are in this carryon left in San Francisco. I was distraught and SO MAD at myself and felt so foolish.
But in the end, my sister Jenna was able to go to the lost and found and through some magic claim the bag back, and it will be delivered to me via a friend named Jack, nephew of a lifelong friend from church. Jack is coming to watch his girlfriend Mariya compete in synchronized swimming, and she is supposed to medal for USA! So we will all get to hang out in a week or so. Small world.
After accepting there was nothing I could do about the carryon situation, I landed in Rio in the wee hours and taxied in a barely-conscious state to my apartment. I’m in the same apartment as the last two years, but with new roomies, and I FINALLY get to live in a room with air conditioning, natural light, sometimes internet, a decent closet, my own bathroom, and a “big girl bed.”
I felt half-dead from lack of sleep, and without my mouth guard, but terrified to grind on my new crowns still swollen from procedure, I resorted to balling up paper towels to stuff in between my teeth while I slept a delirious sleep, waking every 45 minutes or so. I woke up to meet new roomies and coworkers, half-heartedly unpack, attempt conversation, and illegally stream some Olympics. And that was my first day back.
Then came Sunday. We had tickets for the men’s and then women’s beach volleyball pool play. Because USA women are such a big tv draw, they play the latest time slot, which is midnight Rio time (8pm California time). We left the house at 12:30pm and took a bus and two metros to the stadium and watched a total of eight matches. We saw teams from Spain, Holland, Germany, Costa Rica, Venezuela, USA, Canada, Australia, Canada, Sweden and more play. It was epic. We managed to sneak down to awesome seats for both ticket sessions, and apparently were pretty present on tv! We were directly behind the ref stand, which was a genius move.
After the final match, America dominating China and winning in a quick 40 minutes, we lingered for a bit and I asked my friends if we could just cruise by the front, where we happened to see Kerri and April coming out of press! They were behind a fence, but still heard me call out to them, and we got to exchange a few words! I had met them previously in March and Kerri had remembered me from the year before in Rio, and I’ve tweeted my excitement at them many times, and it was so cool to be remembered again!! April told me she liked my outfit, which was very generous, considering what I was wearing. Later I tweeted her a pic of my USA socks tucked inside of bright pink Birkenstocks, asking if she’d noticed, and she said yes and she liked the ensemble! Lol.
I’ve tickets for fencing, archery, water polo, the final round of men’s golf, gymnastics, wrestling, and today stood 3.5 hours in line to get more beach volleyball, and spent a small fortune for the quarterfinals…praying the ladies are playing in that time slot and not a different one!
I can’t say enough about how cool this experience has been . . . I feel different responses and responsibilities simultaneously as an American working on being a Carioca living in Rio. And this is so once in a lifetime – I could have never imagined this for myself in my wildest dreams to see personal heroes, the best athletes in the world, just a few feet away from me, playing my most favorite sport, in the freaking Olympics.
And to see so many people from countries around the world proudly display their patriotic gear and cheer for their athletes in the place I love and call home, to walk up to anyone in USA gear and feel an unspoken kinship; to walk up to people from other countries and chat about their experience here, and take pictures together, and cheers together; to see athletes I truly love and admire fighting for a gold medal and then an hour later wave at me and blow kisses and thank me for coming to their game; to chant “U-S-A!” and wave the flag and get a million messages about being seen on TV; to feel the incredible energy of the Games!
I’m crying at every win, at every cool photo, at every race-ending injury, at every shot of parents cheering in the stands for the kid they’ve carted to practice and meets for the last twenty years finally on a medal stand . . . gosh, guys . . . this is a beautiful world we live in and I feel so inspired to take care of it and love everyone so much more, and encourage everyone to pursue their dreams, and especially to get girls into sports. I know how much it changed my life.
If you haven’t heard it yet today and you need to, you just won the olympics of reading my blog posts!
This one was long.
Way to see it through.
Proud of you!