5.6 From Sochi with Love

The first odd thing when we landed in Sochi was the palm trees. Last time I checked this was the Winter Olympics. I left Toronto fifteen - or was it twenty, let's go with twenty - hours ago in yet another snow storm. Many people joked with me that the freezing cold weather and snow was preparing me for Russia. Goes to show you what most people think of when they think of Russia - snow. And what do most people think of when they think of Canada? Probably the same. A bus took a bunch of us to where the media was staying. Row after row of brand new five story apartment style housing. The only problem was the buildings were not entirely finished. We didn't know this yet, but would find out soon enough. So far, from the outside, everything looked good. Went to check in and were asked to fill out a form that would need to be photocopied with our passport and visa. Finally got to the front of the line, handed over my sheet and passport. The woman behind the desk came back immediately and slipped the paper across the table, took a step backwards.

Photocopier broken, she said.

Stood there, wondered what to do. I had just travelled twenty hours, so my head was a bit foggy. I was happy to just stand and wait, although I wasn't exactly sure what I was waiting for because no one seemed to be attending the photocopier. Another young woman - the place seemed to be crawling with young woman eager to help - ran through the door out of breath with a new ink cartridge.

Finally got my key, block four. Walked around and found the place. Tried the key but it didn't work. Still foggy, returned to the front desk and was told to please wait for five minutes. A young woman from Kazakhstan grabbed about eight sets of keys and we went searching for a room. She called me Patient Paul because they were worried that I was getting upset. Wasn't their fault. The first couple were not done at all. She tried to give me a room for a person that was disabled, but I declined, thinking someone else would need this more than me. We found one! Quickly checked it out and everything seemed in order. On closer inspection, I had a missing shower head and the heat wasn't working. The twenty hours convinced me this was fine.

In the morning after an awkward shower, headed to work at the skating rink. Sure, security was tight, but that's okay. It was just kind of like going to the airport everyday. The only thing I worried about was that I'm somewhat ticklish, so when the serious looking security guards patted me down, I tended to make jerking movements. I hope they don't interpret this as me hiding something.

I've been hired by the Olympic Broadcasting Service as an ISO Director. I get to work with a team of amazing people who are the best at what they do to make decisions about what replays are shown after an athlete performs. Quite the mental challenge as we're looking at about twelve cameras at once and making split second decisions.

This is quite a different environment for me, and I'm not just talking about being in a new country. When I've worked events before, I'm a part of the production, but not necessarily on the inside with the crew. I hesitate to say it, but it really is like being a part of an army. Broadcasting an event such as the Olympics is incredibly complex. Organizing thousands of people, troubleshooting intricate technological setups - it is a huge machine comprised of many parts. Sure, our lives are not on the line, but I would imagine the approach is similar. About an hour before the event started everyday, people slowly got into their positions without anyone asking. You just knew to do it. A slight change in the air. A bit more intensity. We countdown and are off. It's live and anything can and will happen. You have to move fast.

First event down, the next day I skipped out on the opening ceremonies as I figured it would be a pain to be in the area. But after the torch was lit, it was actually kind of cool walking into the Olympic Park everyday and seeing it still going.

During a day off, I jumped on a train to visit a friend who was also working here. The train was empty except for me and an old man. Naturally, he came and sat across from me. Started talking to me in Russian and I kept waiting for something that sounded like a question so I could throw in that I don't speak the language. But there were no questions, he just kept talking and I kept nodding my head and saying, Da. I guess he said what he had to say, cause after a while, he just got up and left. For the rest of the train ride, I wondered if this guy was telling me the meaning of life or something like that. Maybe I missed my chance in knowing the capital-T truth?

After getting into a groove with the work, I was never so happy to see a shower head upon arriving home one night. It took about a week and a half, but that was one of the best damn showers I ever had.