Athens, Day 0 (Travel day)

Traveling to Europe always confuses me (he writes, as if traveling to Europe was a common occurrence for him. This trip makes for a total of… two times). My mind and body have no idea what time it is, though the watch and the clock on my mobile phone scream “It’s 20:13, 20/7/2011!” I’m ten hours into the future; at least, the future from the Los Angeles, CA perspective.

I’m in Athens, sitting in my hotel room (home for 15 days). I made it safely, but not without a few travel stories:

First leg, LAX>Toronto: Quite possibly the worst flight in my entire life. Why? I was sitting in 19D (aisle). There was a teenage boy seated in 19F (window). We were separated by a very nice Canadian woman (19E). Literally (and I don’t use that word unless I really mean it) the moment the plane moved from the gate, the kid filled the barf bag. Then filled 19E’s. Then filled mine. And this continued at regular intervals all through the 4.5 hour flight.

Almost immediately, the flight attendant offered to move the teenager to a seat closer to the bathroom. He declined, justifying it as “It’s just something I ate. I’m fine now”, only to hurl 5 minutes after she walked away. I later found out that his grandmother was on the same flight, in a row further back. Another fight attendant, about an hour into the flight, offered to change his seat so that he could be closer to his grandmother. Again, the kid declined with another weak justification.

At this point, the sounds and the smell and the alternating empty and full bags being passed back and forth, almost made me lose it. This was about 2 hours into the flight. I stood up, and walked to the back of the plane. Even paced back and forth a little to calm the stomach and the mind. Then asked the (first) flight attendant, “Can you please move him? He’s making me sick too”. She tried, but the teenager vehemently declined again. And at this point, I wanted to beat the hell out of him. But I didn’t, as 19E was being extremely nice to him. Comforting him, helping him out. Talking him through it. I didn’t want to be “that guy” who was mean.

But, I should have. When we pulled up to the gate at Toronto, I bolted.

Second leg, Toronto>Athens: After a 2 hour layover (and an extremely light lunch for me), a 10.5 hour flight was ahead of me. My only thought was “I better not see that f’n kid on this flight”. Instead, I was seated next to the parents from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Nah, they weren’t the actors from the movie, but they were EXACTLY LIKE THE CHARACTERS they played. In 10.5 hours, they argued, they fought, they cuddled, they tried to feed me extra food, they offered me advice for my trip and for my life, and then they did it again. And again. But, it wasn’t annoying. I found it very entertaining. Two other (elderly) Greek couples on the flight, seated near me, were just as friendly. Very enjoyable.

The flight duration did take it’s toll on me, as I could feel myself getting “punchy” near the end. That teenager should be extremely grateful that he wasn’t on my second flight.

Third leg, Taxi from airport to hotel: Taxi driver was awesome. Drives like crazy (like a lot of other drivers in this city seem to do), but very welcoming and friendly. Was at hotel in 15 minutes (when it should have taken 30).

For some reason, I got a second wind when I reached the hotel. After checking in, I roamed a few blocks. The heat, dehydration, and exhaustion caught up to me very quickly. After a little over an hour, I scrambled back to the hotel and passed out for a three hour nap. Still pretty tired, but feeling better since I’ve been drinking water non-stop. Tonight, a late dinner with my colleague (and leader of our GMS Committee), then right back to bed. The rest of the committee arrives tomorrow.

Perhaps, when I wake up tomorrow morning, my mind and body will agree with my watch and mobile phone.

 

Athens, T-minus 1 (day)

I’m sitting in a hotel room, near LAX, waiting for my early morning flight. I’m anxious. Nervous. Excited. 

From 6/25 thru 7/4, the 2011 Special Olympics World Games are taking place in Athens, Greece. This is the world stage; it’s much bigger than the Summer Games we (in Southern California) put on at Cal State Long Beach each June (which, coincidentally, occurred last weekend). There will be almost 7,000 athletes, from 181 different countries, competing in 23 different sports. 

My job begins on 6/21. I will be working on a committee as support for the Games Management System (GMS) software, which is what we use to handle games registration, credentials, scheduling, divisions, brackets, and results. As part of my job, for SOSC, I oversee the organization’s usage of GMS, so this is a natural fit for me. Though, I’m really hoping that I won’t be “stuck” in front of a computer the whole time.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting into. This will be my first time on this committee, and my first World Games experience. To add another layer of challenges, the GMS software version we are using (v6.0) is new, and has many user interface and feature updates and additions. This is the first time v6.0 will be used during a competition event. And, we’re working with a Games Organizing Committee (GOC) made up mostly of Greek citizens, so there’s the element of communication that we need to be wary of as well. 

All in all, I’m looking forward to this. This is a tremendous opportunity and a big set of new challenges for me to take on (I love facing new challenges at work). I’m nervous because, I want to perform at my absolute best until the World Games close. I’m anxious because, I want to dive right into work. And, I’m excited because… well, I get to go to Greece!

I plan to write a post at the end of each day. I want to capture each day’s highs and lows. I think that these few weeks are going to fly by very quickly. 

You can follow the Games at: http://athens2011.org/en/
​You can follow the Team USA athletes at: http://www.specialolympicsteamusa.org/2011/ 

(SOSC has eight athletes competing as part of Team USA).