Why yes, it's going to be titled in caps lock every time. Because a) it totally deserves to be, and b) that's actually how the document is titled on my computer.

I was going to post this next part ages ago, but as I was reading through it I realized that I had some Paralympics ceremony spoilers in there, so I had to wait. The Paralympics opening ceremony aired today and I'm now in the clear!

Entry 2

2/27/12 – Update time!

Since we last spoke, I picked up an extra shift and also helped out in the office. So, just to bring everyone (and myself) up to speed, I’ve now worked four validation shifts, one morning in the office, and have one shift remaining. Le sadface.

My third shift was pretty similar to the previous two, but busier. There were apparently a couple hundred more people coming through that day than there had been previously, so it was a pretty long shift. I was in booth 1 again, and the girl in booth 2 was Elle, who I bonded with during orientation! She had a Gryffindor scarf in her bag, so, ya know. This was her first shift, so it was cool to help her with first-day problems and watch her fangirl like I had been on Tuesday!

Seriously, I love that everyone is so excited. It makes me feel like my level of squee is normal!

We only stayed for a little bit of auditions after we finished. Elle had to leave to catch a train, and there were no other volunteers that stayed behind, so I didn’t want to be that one awkward person in the audience. I know, I know, I really could’ve stayed. But did I really need another day of getting “Love on Top” by Beyonce drilled into my brain?

My next shift was on Tuesday the 21st, which was my 21st birthday! I was so excited when Penny sent the email asking someone to pick it up – working at LOCOG was EXACTLY what I wanted to be doing on my birthday! When I told people there that it was my birthday, they all asked me what I was doing there. Um, the Olympics is the happiest place on earth. Didn’t you know? :P

That was a slightly different shift. We were into callbacks for the Olympics ceremonies, so everyone that was there had already been validated. All we had to do was scan their letter and bib, and then put in any information that was missing or incorrect, and sometimes retake a photo. That was it. And there were much less people, for obvious reasons, so it went REALLY quickly. Elle was there again, and we stuck around until the end of auditions.

It was different this time! Secret: there are going to be drummers in at least one of the ceremonies, so these auditions had people banging drumsticks on buckets. Some of them were obviously experienced and auditioned because of their drumming skills, but some had never touched a drum before in their lives. It was really cool, though a little less fun than the dancing, but there was the added benefit of not having a song stuck in my head when I left!

Oh wait, what other secret things have I know about that are going to be in the ceremonies? Rollerblading, rollerskating, skateboarding, ballet (pointe!), drums… and I think that’s it.

On Thursday, I was the volunteer casting department’s office monkey for a few hours. I did all the stereotypical “boring” work; photocopying, alphabetizing, filing, and Google mapping (though I’m not sure if that one’s all that stereotypical). I’m really glad I’m getting a taste of this now, because it’s really proving to me that if you love what you’re involved in, the boring jobs aren’t so boring. If I was photocopying for an organization I didn’t care about, I probably would’ve been bored out of my mind. But as long as something has the Olympic rings on it, I’m interested and happy. Not even kidding.

I was photocopying for a while; I had to make copies of the judging sheets for auditions for the Paralympic ceremonies. Funnily enough, the more boring jobs made me more privy to sensitive information than validating did. The judging sheets listed the roles they’re casting for, which included wheelchair dancers, ribbon dancers, something about Masque (I have absolutely no idea what that is), and something about the sea. Sea choreography, maybe? Not sure. Not much of it stuck with me, but I’ll be able to watch those ceremonies and recognize some stuff!

Then I got to file some paperwork. Woo! :P I was given some agreement forms that were signed by people that’ve been cast already, and sorted them into groups and filed them alphabetically. I also learned that whoever’s been doing this clearly doesn’t know their alphabet very well – I’m pretty sure Monica comes AFTER Matthew, but maybe that’s just me.

My final job was Google mapping routes from the studio to various schools in the area, but I’ve already talked about this part! Yay! Recapping is exhausting!

I only have one shift left, and I’m a little bit depressed. I really want to help out in the office more, but I actually have schoolwork to do now. I’m so tempted to say “forget it!” and volunteer, but there’s a responsible part of my brain that refuses to shut down and ignore things that will actually be graded.

To be continued!


That's right, folks! The time has come! Now that the Olympic ceremonies have come and gone, the vast majority of my secrets are ready to be released into the world!

If you can recall, I'd been documenting my experience more or less as it happened, which makes this task super easy for me. The next few entries are exactly what I wrote as I was going through it.

Warning: it wasn't all pomp and circumstance in the beginning, so I won't be revealing much at all for a good while. It's actually kind of an anticlimax. Unless you're stoked to hear about me working, in which case WOOOOO PARTAYYY!

Also, for your reading convenience, here and here are the posts I wrote in February about orientation and my first shift without being able to say anything. Just for some bizarre past/present juxtaposition!

Here we go!

Entry 1
Note: I’m writing this on February 15th (technically 16th, as it’s 1:30 in the morning [and I have to get up for a 10 am class. Shoot]). I don’t know what day in the future I’m going to be posting it, but I already know that I’m going to hate the fact that I couldn’t talk about it until now.

So hello, readers of the future! Thanks for sticking with me! Or just joining me. Ya know, whatever.

All volunteers for the casting department (auditions and costume) had training/orientation on Sunday the 12th. It started with a tour at around 10 am, where they took us around 3 Mills Studios. It’s an actual functioning studio, where they film Million Pound Drop and other assorted shows. But what sucks about not knowing British celebrities is that I could be walking past the most famous person in the country and have no idea who he or she is. Alas. :P

We had some people speak to us after the tour, just various people from the different departments. They kept stressing how important we are, which was AWESOME, because I hate being a volunteer and then just standing around and doing absolutely nothing. But no, here it’s all, “we can’t do this without you!” and “YOU are why we love our job!” …It was awesome. They also showed us a montage of past ceremonies, as if I needed anything else to get me more excited!

There was a quick tea/coffee/”biscuit” break after that, during which I tried a hot cross bun (that wasn’t hot) for the first time, and then we broke up by bib number. My half of us went to learn what our job would actually be! And here’s the big secret:

Before auditions, each performer has to be validated. There are 12 booths, each booth with one casting volunteer and one costume volunteer. The casting job would be to check them in, input them into the database, check their ID, etc. Then the costume person would take their measurements, and they then get sent into their audition.

The exact process? Scan the barcode on the letter that was emailed to them. Make sure the name that comes up is theirs. Scan the barcode on their bib. Check that their name is in the computer correctly. Check their ID with the information that’s in the database. Read off what needs to be measured, and input the numbers the costume person tells you. Take their photo. Send them to the exceptions desk if there’s any kind of discrepancy with their ID.

And that’s it! After far too many volunteering jobs that involved stocking Gatorade and loitering, I couldn’t have been happier that I’d be busy! 
We each got to practice the procedure by validating each other, and then we switched with the other group. We were led into one of the sound stages, where we got to sort of experience an audition. They led us through some basic mass choreography – we made the Olympic rings! – and I basically fell in love with this guy from the creative team. He went around and asked us where we’re all from, and we basically had people from each continent, which was awesome. And then he went through the Summer Olympics year by year and asked us about our memories. So much fun!
After that, we just had a little wrap up session, and that was it. I was so unbelievably excited for my first shift! 
My first shift was THE first shift for this batch of volunteers – Tuesday, February 14th from 12-4. We got some snazzy highlighter yellow vests to wear in our booths, and then we were all set to go. I was in booth #1, because I’m awesome. There’s no wall between each booth and the one next to it, and booths 1 and 2 were seriously amazing. I was working with such nice people! Booth 2 was Tanya taking measurements and Deepti on the computer, and my costume guy was Zac. We spent the whole time chatting with each other and the performers, and the casting department gave us Valentine’s hearts! The day legitimately flew by. We got through the queue of auditionees super fast – we were working for maybe two hours, tops, and not once did I ever get bored. Cold, yes, but not bored. Everyone was so happy and friendly and wonderful and excited to be there! It was basically a solid two hours of fangirling on my part.
When we were done, we had the option of either leaving or sticking around and watching what was left of the audition. Take a guess on which I picked.

If you think I left, we clearly don’t know each other very well! Zac (who I totally bonded with) and I stayed for about an hour, until it was completely finished. We walked in to a giant conga line dancing around the room, and some of the people we processed waved at us! Not sure why that was so exciting, but it was! Then they did some dance routines and an acting-type thing. It looked like so much fun! By the end I had the choreography memorized and the song stuck in my head. It was so excellent, I can’t even put it into words. Knowing that some of these people are going to be performing in front of four billion people in a few months… man. No words.

Zac and I also took some time to point out the cute boys together. It WAS Valentine’s Day, after all! :P

My shift today (Wednesday) was pretty much exactly the same, just 4:30-8:30. I was in the same booth and everything! Melissa was my costumer, and she was super sweet. We had a good time. It felt a little longer today, and I definitely felt the monotony a little bit, but what’s great is that meeting all these different people keeps it fresh. It’s not just sticking papers in a filing cabinet. I met people from Chicago, Malta, Finland, Kazakhstan, and even a legendary rugby player from New Zealand. Yeah, for real. I had no idea when he was in the booth; I just knew he was absolutely massive. But Melissa was absolutely freaking out when she realized who he was!

We got to watch the auditions when we finished again. The routines were exactly the same, so I’m sure they’ll be burned into my brain by the time my last shift rolls around! The guy I love, from orientation, was wearing a shirt from the Mexico City Olympics, which I complimented him on. During orientation he also said that one of the Games from his childhood (can’t remember which) made him decide that he wanted to get involved with them one day. I love that he’s a fan and loves what he’s doing!

Basically, I just love everything.

I have two shifts left. I’m going to be so sad when it’s over!
To be continued!

[Note: The awesome guy from the creative team with the Mexico City shirt is Steve Boyd.]

London 2012, Photo Edition

Here are a fraction of my photos from London 2012! I'm sticking 'em under a "read more," because, holy cow, there are a lot of them.

The view of Olympic Park from Westfield Mall.

From Russia With Love

While London 2012 is obviously amazing, the winter Olympics are totally my thing. And because there was nothing doing on my last morning in London, I decided to take the opportunity to get myself excited about Sochi 2014 by visiting Sochi.Park, a fun little set-up in Kensington Gardens. It had to be a quick visit, though, since my travel time is so long and I had to get myself there and back and then to Heathrow to catch my flight. The website said it didn't open until 10 am, so my plan was to be the first one through the door and get out of there by 11.

It took me a little while to find it -- I should've gone to a different tube stop than I did, but all that mistake did was give me a walk through a really beautiful section of Hyde Park I'd never seen before. I spent a few minutes looking at the pretty pictures of Russian scenery that were displayed outside (and sounding out words in the descriptions written in Russian!) before walking up to security... only to find out that they weren't open yet. LAME. They told me it'd be another 10-15 minutes before they'd be letting people in. By the time they did open it was almost 10:30 and I was stressing out a little, but then I got inside and... time no longer mattered. Oh man, it was glorious.

It started off with a short video about "the new Russia" and the Olympics, which was more than enough to get me excited for 2014, and then we were led into a room about the Krasnodar region of Russia where we could play some Wii-like games and get free stuff. That led us into a room built to look like the interior of a train station and exterior of a train going to Sochi's Olympic Park -- then you walk into the train, where there's info about transportation in the area; apparently the Sochi City airport is brand new, and there are lots of new railroad lines, and the train journey from Olympic Park to the ski village is going to be free during Games time. After exiting through the back of the "train," there's a room dedicated to Sochi's sponsors, primarily a technology company. I thought it'd be awful and corporate, but there was actually REALLY cool stuff in there! There were all these interactive Olympics-related games along the walls, and I played one that's a Russian/English translator quiz. It was four questions and I completely guessed on all of them, but I got two right and it told me I'm almost fluent in Russian! Haha, what a liar! :P But I'll take the praise, I guess! There was also a luge simulator and the opportunity to put on some Sochi athletic gear and take pictures in it. So I posed with a snowboard and in a bobsled, because why not? My willingness to look ridiculous earned me a friend in the Russian girl who was in charge of decking me out in the equipment.

Then there was a "4-D movie experience," which was pretty neat, followed by a room about Russia and sponsored by a beer company. Hah. I think there were some technical difficulties going on in there when I arrived, and the working part of it was pretty crowded, and by now I really needed to get myself out of there, so I pretty much went straight through and found myself in the gift shop. It's a good thing everything was too expensive for me (including the keychains), because everything was SO PRETTY! I'm as blown away by the Sochi graphics and color scheme as I am iffy about those of London. They're so beautiful, and so appropriately Russian. I can't wait to start stocking up on Sochi 2014 souvenirs!

In case you haven't realized, my experience at Sochi.Park switched my thinking from "it'd be pretty cool to go to the Olympics in Sochi" to "...yeah, okay, this has to happen." So the Darci Needs To Go To Sochi 2014 Fund is now officially accepting donations. I wonder when the ticket lottery starts...

But anyway, the gift shop led me back outside. There's also an ice arena as part of the park (seriously), but obviously that wasn't really in the cards for me. Alas. I was running way behind schedule at this point and booked it back to the flat, where I tried to finish up the food I had left before booking it back onto public transit to get to Heathrow. The tube made this extremely interesting, as the train I got on because its destination was Terminal 4 changed destinations halfway through the journey. Doncha love when it does that? So I had to get off and wait for another train, which didn't come for ten freaking minutes. I ended up being plenty early though, so no harm, no foul. I did see some athletes from Peru on the tube on my way to the airport! They were talking to this little British boy that was with his dad, and they gave him a keychain -- he was SO happy! Ahhhh it was adorable. I wish I knew who they are, because they're my favorites! I also saw some Bulgarians in the airport, and apparently the family of one of the American rowers was on my flight home.

Actually, I kept a list of all the countries I saw accredited people from, so here it is!
-Czech Republic
-Great Britain
-El Salvador
-Chinese Taipei
-Sochi's National Organizing Committee

Not bad, right? ;)

It's kind of crazy to think that it's all over, and even crazier to think that it happened at all. It made all those hours roaming the wellness center and all those awful newspaper deadlines more than worth it! It's kind of funny, though, that there are so many things that I didn't get to do; I didn't see Big Ben, I didn't visit Queen Mary, I didn't drink tea at the Tate Modern, I didn't get chips at Golden Fryer. But I spent every moment doing Olympics things and I don't regret a single second.

Expect some massive photo updates within the next couple of days! :)

The Best Laid Plans

Just when I thought I had everything about London 2012 figured out, the curveballs started coming. I knew my charmed life was too good to be true! :P

When I went to the women's triathlon an hour early, I got a nice spot along the cycling route but couldn't see the swimming and running. When I went to the marathon two hours early, I got a great spot in Trafalgar Square. So, being the logical mastermind that I am, I figured, "hey, why not get to the men's triathlon two hours early! I'll definitely get a better spot!" Well, due to a happy mistake, I thought it started at 11 when it really started at 11:30 so I was two and a half hours early... and was LITERALLY directly across the road from where I was last time.

I did the same walk from Green Park station, and I felt like I was in a legitimate competition. I mean, everyone going in that direction was going to the same place, so I don't know why nobody else seemed to be in a hurry. But I was doing some Olympic level race walking, and actually imagining the commentary in my head. "Oh, an untied shoe! That's unfortunate." "Ouch, getting stuck behind old people on the stairs is gonna cost her." The milk in my cereal this morning must've been drugged, because I swear these are not normal thoughts. Or maybe it's just delirium brought on by sleep deprivation.

But anyway, I reached the road in the park and as I began walking along it, I started to realize that it was fuller than it had been at the women's triathlon when I'd gotten there. Uh oh. I decided to walk further down and see if I could squeeze in somewhere, but I quickly abandoned ship at the next crossing point in the street and went to the other side; there was just no way I was going to get anywhere. So I walked back up the road looking for space on this side, and found it right in front of where I stood for the last triathlon. The best laid plans, man.

So now I had two hours before the race even started, and by this point my body is completely giving up. I don't think I've ever stood/walked so much in this many consecutive days and my back, feet and shoulders are pretty much screaming in agony all the time. So the standing wasn't fun, but I'd somehow managed to place myself in between a lovely English couple (that lives in Portugal now) and a group of three English ladies who were all chatty and friendly. They were a good time! When I pulled out my American flag (I bought a big one at a souvenir shop the other day because of reasons), the man on my left and the woman on my right said, "Well, I don't think we can let you put that one out!" Hah. We come with a reputation! ;) The flag also attracted the attention of an American journalist who was reporting for a news station in Orlando, and I let him interview me for his story.

The race itself seemed much quicker than the women's; it was definitely fewer laps, which I didn't realize, so suddenly people were leaving and I was like "...wait, what?" But there was some drama with one of the British riders who got a penalty, and two riders apparently crashed on the transition out of the water. We found all of this out because the guy behind me had his phone out and was watching the live feed of the race -- LOL I love technology!

When it ended, I went to a nearby stand and got a jacket potato for lunch, and then just sat for a little while because everything hurt. I did some people-watching, and then it was back up to wait in the massive queue for the bathroom and then to Tower Bridge to see the giant rings! Both of those took longer than expected, so I had to hurry to make it to 3 Mills to pick up the stuff Laura left for me at reception and meet up with Jo by 4. The first part of that went smoothly; I got two certificates of appreciation from LOCOG, another Games Maker pin, and a thank you pin. But 4:30 rolled around and there was still no sign of Jo. Conveniently, Lesley was on her way to out Tesco, saw me sitting outside and came to my rescue! :P It turned out that Jo had more work to do, so I walked over to Stratford and did some browsing (and sat on the floor for awhile, because I was developing a limp due to sheer overuse of my feet) while I waited for her. It took a little while, but I really like keeping an eagle eye out for members of different delegations so I was easily able to busy myself. Slight side note: how many Russians were sent to the Olympics? Because, oh my god, I saw them EVERYWHERE. And I also seem to notice a very disproportionate number of Kazakhstani athletes walking around. Hmm.

Jo ended up getting there at around 7, and she'd thought of a plan to try and get me into Olympic Park. It worked on the first attendant we had to get past! And then it failed. The giant LOCOG accreditation badges you see everyone official wearing is basically an all-access pass into the park, and I am without. :( They were also simultaneously making announcements that you're only allowed into the park if you have a ticket valid for today, so that shot my backup plan in the foot. All park tickets are sold out, the box office on site only does ticket collection (no sales), and that was kind of that. Definitely a bummer, but all I can muster is mild disappointment. The crowds there are so extreme that I feel like I'd just get annoyed if I had to walk around in it. And I also realized that my London 2012 goals were to, a) get event tickets, b) watch an event, and c) see Olympic Park. I have tickets, I watched FOUR events (three from the front row, no less!), and Olympic Park will be there for the duration of my lifetime. So I'll get to come back to London and frolic in an empty stadium and have photo shoots (Amanda, you in?) and it will be glorious. Besides, seeing the dress rehearsal was so worth it. (Nobody working at ceremonies understands my decision, though. They all think I'm crazy. I'm like ".....................................................YOU ALL TAKE SO MUCH FOR GRANTED WORKING HERE, OKAY? THIS IS THE COOLEST EVER.")

It was great seeing Jo one last time before I leave, though, and she said she's going to visit the park on Saturday and take tons of pictures (and more at the closing ceremony) for me, so I can at least live vicariously through her! She headed home after our failed efforts, and I did some souvenir and omg-thank-you-for-giving-me-your-house-for-a-week gift shopping, all of which was extremely successful. The London 2012 Shop was so gross, though. There are so many bodies in there and it was warm and humid and smelled like people. Grosssssssss. It's also kind of hilarious that the viewing gallery of the park, which was free when I went on Thursday, now costs £2 to get into.

I decided to call it a day after that, as it was getting late and I was getting hungry. It's so weird to think that my trip is basically finished. But I have tomorrow morning to do things, and I think I'll close things out with a trip to Sochi.Park in Kensington Gardens. Because I ALWAYS need some Winter Olympics in my life!

Dagenham, A Reprisal


And I can't even talk about the things I saw! But I WILL tell you that I was in the vicinity of four major musical talents, and today's rehearsal was only for the first half of the ceremony. So there's that little nugget of awesome.

Dagenham is a hike even from Mile End, which is a hike from where I currently am. So to get there at 9:30, I left at 7:30... but I woke up before my alarm went off today. I think that means I got an appropriate amount of sleep, but judging by the way I have to stop myself from nodding off every time I'm on the tube, I highly doubt that's correct information. But anyway, things at Dagenham have really changed since I left! There are tons of huge new props that I hadn't seen yet, and the costume department has taken over the old workforce volunteer break area -- I walked in there and was confused out of my mind. But the check-in tent is still the same ol' check-in tent, and that's where I found (and surprised) a handful of volunteers and found Sara B., the lovely organizer of this little rendezvous. Then I got to put on my vest and get down to NOT work, because that would be illegal. :P

I had such a good time! There were some great reactions to my return, from Glenda staring at me suspiciously for a few seconds before deciding it was okay to give me a hug, to Solomon's "wha- oh my god!" to Jo's stressed out glare turned shriek. :) It was really fantastic, especially because it was all happy surprise! And they were all perfectly okay with me... not working. Because working would be illegal. Hah.

I love everyone there so much, and it's really weird to think that this all ends when the Paralympics are over. Usually when you leave a job, the most of the same people are still around in a few months' time. But with London 2012, once the final closing ceremony is finished, the office gets dismantled, everyone disperses, and London 2012 Ceremonies Ltd. is no more. It won't even exist. So this amazing team won't just be changing over time, it'll suddenly blip out of reality. I can't even plan on visiting again in the future because by then the 3 Mills Studios offices will either be a barren wasteland or filled with the people of an entirely different production. It's really kind of depressing to think about.

But what's not depressing was all the stuff I got today! Laura -- the lovely, lovely, LOVELY Laura -- gave me an opening ceremony program from her stash, another ceremonies t-shirt (teal green this time!), a Games Maker pin, and my 25 volunteer sessions pin. So now I'm all swagged out, and get to stop by 3 Mills tomorrow to pick up my certificate!

That's probably all I can really say about today without spoiling the surprise and ruining a future blog post, so let's suffice it to say that I was at Dagenham for a full 12 hours, and after my half-day shifts of yore I'd nap the second I got back to my flat. So right now, sleep is far overdue.

Tomorrow I'm going to go to the men's triathlon and try to get into Olympic Park with Jo. I'm actually really optimistic. There are reasons for this that I won't talk about in fear of jinxing it, but the Olympics gods have been on my side for every single second of this trip and I see no reason for that to change tomorrow. So let's go. LET'S. GO.

(Also, the photo at the top is the actual Dagenham site. Allow me to introduce you to the circus tent, rain clouds of doom, and concrete as far as the eye can see. Isn't it glorious? :P I found it on this blog, Life Begins @ 40, written by one of the Pandemonium drummers from the opening ceremony. He wrote a fantastic three-part recap of his time working on the ceremony, including banging on buckets and "bang the drum so your mum can see you on TV." It's a great read, and I highly recommend checking it out if you want to hear about things from a performer's perspective!)

Of Public Transit and Olympics Feels

So, today. What can I say about today?

Well, I got to sleep for slightly longer than I had the night before, which was cool. But now I knew how early people start arriving at these road events, so I decided to make into central by 9 to stake out my territory for the women's marathon that started at 11. The course started at the Mall and wove through the city, and I got a suh-WEET spot on a barrier in Trafalgar Square, right across the street from Nelson's Column. It was seriously the coolest setting for a race ever. I wish I could've been at all the other landmarks simultaneously!

The crowd was really sparse when I got there which meant that I could sit down during the first hour or so of the wait. There were about seven people in a row that decided to follow my lead and sit down too, which kind of kept other people from lining up behind us for a while. But then a lady decided to encroach on my territory, so I stood up to stake out my space and she tried to elbow her way in between me. Just as I was grumbling to myself about her, it started drizzling and she went away. Woo! The rain, however, did not go away. With about half an hour before start time, it started pouring and it was on and off from there. It ended up being fine, though. I hate rain SO much, but I had my umbrella and the people around me were all talking and laughing and made it very bearable. And then the sun came out! And went away again. But then it came back! Sort of.

Then the race started, and... that was it for a while. The runners did four (I think?) loops of the course, so they came back, it just took a bit. There was a LOT of waiting around, but again, the crowd was really great and even the cycle of less than stellar people shoving in next to me didn't dampen things because they each left after a lap. Psh, amateurs.

I'd told myself that I'd only stay for the beginning and maybe a lap or two, but who was I kidding? Once I get on a barrier I do not let go, come hell or high water. So I hung around until the runners made their last pass by us, and then I walked to Leicester Square and had a late lunch in Chinatown, basically because I wanted bubble tea. My next stop from there was the CoSport will call office to see if I could pick up the tickets that had been bought on Chandini's credit card. It's up at Edgware Road, which is a complete hike and close to nothing significant. But I've been using public transit SO much and I didn't want to spend the money on a tube fare, so I decided to walk it. I went from Leicester to Piccadilly to Oxford, walked Oxford Street all the way down to Marble Arch, and then north to Edgware Road. It was kind of a lot, but I wanted to see all the flags on Regent Street anyway!

When I got there, I told the man at the door what my problem was, and he said I could pick up the tickets with 1) a letter from Chandini requesting I pick up the tickets for her, 2) a copy of her passport, and 3) the order number. I, of course, had none of those, so I decided to head to Victoria Park's London Live screen and use the wi-fi at Mile End station to let her know what I needed. At that point, I still wasn't sure if I'd be visiting Dagenham or not, so I figured I'd get everything from Chandini at some point tonight and go pick up the tickets in the morning. However, I checked my email and found out that a) I AM going to visit Dagenham tomorrow, and that b) it's an all-day thing. So I won't even get to go to the event the tickets are for, but hell if I was gonna give up getting my hands on them now that I knew I could! In the fastest get-something-important-done-via-Facebook conversation ever, I got a hold of Chandini while crouched against a wall in Mile End, got the necessary documents, and immediately swiped back into the tube to literally retrace my steps. They were really, really long steps, too.

The office closes at 7 and I started my return journey at 5:45. By the time I got there it was nearing 6:30, and I had to restrain myself from running flat out to the office. But I made it there in plenty of time, and voila! The tickets are now in my possession! My hands were literally shaking when the girl handed them to me. Maybe it was the excitement, or the relief from the intense anxiety of the previous hour, or the fact that I was getting really hungry. Maybe it was all three. But I was legitimately flipping out! I can't even go, but the fact that I have tickets to an Olympic event is beyond words. And now, of course, there's the possibility of getting into Olympic Park. I've been told to arrive at Dagenham at 9:30 am, and the rehearsal itself doesn't even start until 4 pm. Depending what time I get out of there I MIGHT try and go at night, but I'm not holding my breath. My plan right now is to try and sneak into the park with my ticket on Tuesday afternoon; if someone stops me, I'll flash my ceremonies volunteer badge and tell him/her that I missed the event because of a dress rehearsal (which isn't even a lie! YAY!) and just want to walk around the park and spend money. Hopefully this doesn't have to happen, but if it does, let's hope they take pity on me. Because legitimately all I want to do is see things, buy some international food, and watch live coverage on the screens. And probably cry a lot.

After becoming the proud owner of two tickets to synchronized swimming at London 2012, I decided I really did need food, so I came back to the flat to eat dinner. This was when I found out that the men's 100m final would be taking place tonight and I decided that I wanted to watch it at Victoria Park's London Live. Because dammit, I was determined to get there eventually! I ate super fast and ran out again because by now it was 8 pm and my travel time to Mile End is kind of ridiculous. Victoria Park is also not really close to the station, and they stuck the screens back in the middle of freaking nowhere, so after all was said and done I was there for about 20 minutes, tops. I got there just as the runners were warming up on the track, and then saw the race, the thousands of replays in varying speeds, and the medal ceremony for the women's 400m. And then I turned around and did the whole long commute over again. Sigh. Probably not the most worthwhile thing I've ever done, but watching this race with a crowd was really memorable and definitely a cool experience. There were also no wood chips at this location, so that was a plus. But I think I spent more time traveling today than I did actually doing anything; I'm pretty sure my entire trip out to Victoria Park (the second one) was free because I'd hit the daily fare limit. OH, and we get travel cards with our event tickets that are good for the entire day of the event, so tomorrow I travel for free! God, my bank account is so happy.

Hah, I won't even get to say anything about what I do tomorrow. I'm going to thoroughly enjoy my last week or so of keeping ceremony secrets! :)

In Which I See My First Olympic Events In Person!

Guess what has sore shoulders, wood chips in her clothes, and saw some Olympians today.

Oh, right. Me!

After going to bed around 2 am last night (er, morning), I dragged myself up at 6:40 so I could go see the women's triathlon in Hyde Park. Woo! I still hadn't gotten food for myself, so on the way to the bus I got fruit for breakfast (super filling... or not) and a triangle sandwich to have for lunch later. Oh, how I missed triangle sandwiches!

I got off at Green Park because it's right on the Jubilee line (which I was already on) and I didn't want to transfer just to go one stop. So by the time I took the bus and the tube and walked, it was probably after 8. The race didn't start until 9, but the Serpentine (where the swim and the run were going to take place) was already full. I decided to just pick a spot along the cycling route so I could have a front row seat. There was a decent amount of waiting time before anything happened, since not only did we have to wait for the start time, we had to wait for them to finish swimming. But it was really, really cool! They did seven loops of the course so we got some pretty good action. Everyone was so excited and cheering and waving their flags the whole time! :)

When the cycling was finished, I allowed myself to get shunted along with the crowd to try and catch a glimpse of the run. The best I could do was from really far away, but I heard them announce the finish -- did I hear correctly that it was a photo finish?? -- and made my way over to the BT London Live screen. That's where they're airing live coverage and, since I had some time to kill before the next event in the next park over, I figured I'd lounge around and watch a bit. It turned out that we weren't allowed to bring food inside (it's more like a festival than a park atmosphere), so I sat under a tree nearby and ate and people-watched until I was ready to go in.

Security at this place was like an airport -- they actually went through people's bags, not just poked them. But once you're in, it's pretty much a free-for-all. There were four screens airing Olympics coverage, plus tons of food vendors, a Cadbury House (not sure what that even is, since I didn't go in), little sporting activities, etc. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. You could just pop a squat on the ground wherever and watch what was on. The ground was covered in wood chips, though, and I was seriously missing grass. But I braved splinters and dirt to watch some athletics; the javelin for the women's heptathlon and a couple of heats for the men's 100m. I got to see Jessica Ennis do her thing, and Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay. It also rained for a few minutes while it was sunny, so I used my umbrella and sunglasses at the same time, so there's that.

After track ended, I moved to a different screen to watch trampoline gymnastics. I don't know if I've ever really watched it before, so that was kind of cool. I was super tired by then, though, so I fought really hard against dozing off while I was lying down. I think I succeeded, and stayed until the event was finished before filling up my water bottle and walking over to Constitution Hill to see the men's 20 km race walk! It's one of the more bizarre sports I've ever seen, but the commentator said these guys walk a mile in 7 minutes and I can't even RUN a mile in 7 minutes... so they have my respect! I was actually shocked by how many people there were to watch a bunch of dudes in short shorts walk, but I was happy for the racers. The crowd was actually awesome, just like it was at the triathlon; even the person in last place got huge cheers. One of the later-finishing walkers appreciated it so much that he smiled and waved. It was such a feel-good thing! Is it British? Or a byproduct of the Olympics? Or do people actually do this?

Well, whatever. I'd gotten there pretty close to the start time of 5 pm so my spot wasn't great, but I saw enough to be satisfied. One guy actually collapsed, I'm pretty sure before he got to finish the race. It was rather sad, but we cheered for him as he was being put into the ambulance. :P There are no heats for races like this, though, so on my first real Olympics day I got two see TWO event finals for free!

By the time the race was over, it was after 6 and my back and shoulders were in incredible amounts of pain, so I decided to head home and BUY FOOD! Finally. I made myself dinner, wrote a story for a deadline, watched the BBC stream of Team GB dominating athletics today, and now I'm showered and ready to pass out on the keyboard!

Tomorrow I'm going to try to pick up my and Chandini's tickets at the CoSport will call center -- wish me luck!

Hello From London!

This is ridiculous. I'm actually blogging from the Olympics. Well, not REALLY, but I'm in the city for the sole purpose to do Olympic things, so let's pretend!

It's already after midnight here, and there's a ticketless event I want to go to tomorrow morning at 9, which means I should probably leave here by 7, so I should really go to sleep now. However, I didn't bring a journal, and I'm determined to remember every solitary second of this trip. So. Fast-blogging time! (Photo-less, unfortunately. I'm on David's computer as I don't have Internet on mine, so my photos will be uploaded en masse when I get back home.)

I had an overnight flight here, and we landed at around 7:30 am. I don't think I slept at all (as per usual), but I started fangirling as soon as I got off the plane -- there are Olympics signs EVERYWHERE! "Games families" have their own fast track lane through customs, and when you enter the terminal area there are barriers with "Fan Zone" or "Media Zone" on them for when athletes arrive. It was so exciting!

Customs was really speedy, and then it was onto the tube! It's funny, I thought I'd be more excited for that than I was. And while I was excited, it was more of a relief than an excitement. Like, "Alright, sweet, this again." It was that "I'm home" sort of feeling. Comfortable. Normal.

The journey to David's place was sort of on the long side, but really easy. He wrote me really detailed directions so even I, with my complete lack of a sense of direction, didn't get even the tiniest bit lost. His place is really cool! It has tons of character and is super quirky -- I'd love to live somewhere like this one day. As soon as I got here, I decided it was nap time. I was expecting the customs ordeal and journey to take longer than it did, so I figured I had time to spare to sleep. And I did. For far too long. I also had a deadline I had to meet today, so when I got up I had to write. By the time I was finished with everything, it was 6:30 and all I'd eaten all day was a muffin and I was exhausted. But there was no way I was going to have spent an entire day in the Olympic city without doing anything, so I slapped myself awake and went to Westfield Mall to see Olympic Park, buy souvenirs, and eat.

I have to say, the color scheme of London 2012 is certainly growing on me. Having hot pink signs at each venue station is brilliant; they're impossible to miss. Stratford Station is completely plastered with them! Also, my first impression is that London is doing a fabulous job handling all the visitors. They have Games Makers literally everywhere, talking into megaphones and directing traffic. I was directed into the mall and suddenly realized something extremely important: LOCOG accreditation passes are extremely large and conspicuous, especially hung around the neck of someone decked out in official team gear. By the time I left the mall, I'd seen members of the following delegations: Argentina, Russia, Korea, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Brazil, Canada, Qatar, Mongolia, and Ireland. HOW AWESOME IS THIS?

My intended stop was John Lewis, for their official London 2012 shop and panoramic view of the park. I got myself two t-shirts (for like £40 total... Oops) and spent a while just ogling the stadium. I want to be in there SO badly! I played around with the settings on my camera a little bit, so hopefully one of those panoramic shots turned out okay.

By this time I was STARVING, so I had dinner in the food court. As I was leaving, I was stopped by a guy selling beauty products at a stand. I'm not sure why I stopped, but he was friendly and demonstrated his products on me. He buffed one of my thumbnails, and now it's conspicuously shiny. Actually, this is sort of a different train of thought, but everyone I've come across has been really friendly. There was an attendant at the Heathrow tube station who started talking to me about where I'm from and what I think of the tube; the guy who was at the cash register when I bought dinner had a conversation with me about America and how I like London; nail buffer guy; a friendly cop at the Stratford bus station; and some friendly volunteers at Victoria Park. I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I'm overwhelmed by the niceness of everybody. It's great!

But anyway, I spent too long getting my hands exfoliated and my nail buffed. I wanted to try to make it to Victoria Park's Live Screen -- where they air the Olympics for free for people to just come and watch -- to see Usain Bolt race, but I missed it. Kind of a bummer. I'm definitely going to go back, though, or to the one in Hyde Park. By the time I got there and then got back on the tube, it was pretty late so I started the trek back home. It was so weird being at Mile End and... leaving. But it meant I got to be at West Ham station as the crowds were leaving Olympic Park, so THAT was an experience!

Tomorrow I think there are two road events I'm going to try and go to. Operation Meet Apolo Ohno is also in full effect, so I'll also probably just creep around important places. :P Apparently the London 2012 "megastore" in Hyde Park is a place most Olympians go, so I might just hang out there for a while. Worth a shot, right? Hah.

Well, my shiny nail and I have to go to sleep. Hopefully I'll return tomorrow with some fun stories!