***Disclaimer: This is entirely my own personal experience. I am not reporting on any events at the games and I am writing under no influence or authority of anyone else. I have only been asked that I obtain permission for any photos of people I post pictures of, to not report on events, and to not give away any information that could compromise security.***
In defence of my parents, at least they raised a non-violent psychopath. I admit to being a "psychopath" since that's seemingly the only way I can justify volunteering at the Olympics in Russia during "terrorist" threats. After chatting with all of my "parents," the general consensus was that they were terribly worried that I was going but knew there was nothing they could do or say that would keep me in the states. They were right. There have been 2 near-by bombings and there is a known suicide bomber somewhere in the Sochi region with up to 2 more persons of interest here as well. Yet, here am I relaxing 300 meters from Georgia and chatting with friends on Facebook. For the mental security of my parents, I did purchase "terrorist insurance coverage" incase I survive through an attack; I'm covered for immediate return to the states.
I partake in a sport where there is an incredibly high risk factor. I knowingly go into areas that have avalanches. I knowingly go too fast. All I can do is trust that those around me are competent enough to not assault me with their ski pole and rely on my own abilities and knowledge to keep me safe. What is the difference in taking risks in skiing or with traveling? There are known risks with everything and to not take risks is to turn down opportunities for enjoyment and happiness.
So here I sit in a 9' by 15' room laughing with my Russian roommate about the "I heart Pussy" sticker on my other Russian roommate's notebook. The other roommate doesn't speak a word of English and I can only hope that the sticker is in promotion of Pussy Riot. There are 8 of us total: 1 Canadian from Ontario, 3 from Moscow, 1 from just north of Sochi, 2 that know less English words than I know Russian, and myself. We have 2 rooms and 1 bathroom. It feels like a hostel, but an unusually nice hostel where the bathroom is something I'd expect to see in a Hilton. Our balcony looks out onto the Black Sea. I was hoping for cool sea air and some San Diego nostalgia, but I have yet to see the sun and my only deja vu sensations are trigger by my recent Dracula download to my Kindle.
The most popular question here seems to be, "why are you volunteering?" Most answers range from people wanting to be part of a global event to boosting their resume. My answer seems to keep surprising people. One of my amazingly fabulous friends Em Lonsdale is competing in Women's half pipe skiing. I told her I'd find a way to be here. Volunteering seemed the most feasible. So here I am and she will be here in 2 weeks. And of course, it's the first time halfpipe/slopestyle ski are in the Olympics. If I can be here, why the fuck not be? That was enough reasoning for me.
Three hours into arriving I wondered how I could return home. Thankfully I'm on the border of poverty and the price of a one-way flight kept me here long enough to realize that things are pretty damn good. My bed is comfortable, my roommates are great, I was able to watch two stray dogs procreate in a heard of babushkas, and I'm in Russia. My only complaint thus far is the lack of laundry facilities. Fortunately, while I lived in Switzerland 2 years ago, my fear of social interaction left me learning to wash clothing in the bathtub until I was prepared enough to ask a neighbour how to operate the computer/washing machine. Now I'm a master of hand washing and have 9 pairs of clean underwear. Wunderbar!
(Sunrise on the bus to work)
For work, I am stationed at the Mountain Press Center. My role is to ensure press conferences go smoothly. I get to make announcements over the announcement service, book conferences, answer questions, and pass around the microphone to journalists during conferences. The work is pretty mellow and my schedule allows for me to do and see a lot. It is a 1.5 hour commute to the mountains, but it's quite beautiful and gives me 3 hours of sleep/reading/writing time so that I feel less inclined to sit around while off work.
(Testing out the Mountain Press Conference room)
I'm still trying to figure out how I'll be able to ski. It will happen.