After going to bed at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, I woke up at 10 for a full day of traveling to the mountains and exploring. The mountain venue is smaller than the coastal cluster and the more-than-giant Olympic Park. Although it was a foggier day than most of the others had been, we could still glimpse the mountains every once in a while, and boy were they breathtaking.
But back to that 6:30 a.m. comment. I pulled my latest night ever (in the entirety of my life) just a few days ago, working on editing a video about pin trading. This is the video that dogged us for days; we began it on Thursday, continued on Friday, and finally got the last footage on Sunday. Then, Sarah Owens and I spent six and a half hours editing it into a 70-second video, fingers crossed the whole time that it would air on LEX18 and make our time even more worthwhile.
While I don't know yet whether it has aired, I do know it made it on the website. For your viewing pleasure (should you please).
So after a day in the mountains, we came back and spent our last night in our hotel complex. When morning came, the group split up: Madison and I headed back into the actual city of Sochi, which we hadn't been to since our very first day, while the rest of the group went to Olympic Park to shop at the USA store some more.
After we returned, the real adventure began. We left our hotel at 7 p.m. (that would be 10 a.m. America time) and drove to the airport. Our Russian drivers deposited us and our bags out front and vanished, so we were left to run around outside the door for a solid 5 minutes, trying to find the entrance.
When that mission was accomplished, we were surprised to discover that we had to go through security before even getting into the airport. So I guess that's one more reason why everyone's concerns about our safety were perhaps less than founded.
After racing through security and making our way to the check-in counter, I turned to Meredith and joked that that was the most traumatizing thing that had happened on our trip--even worse than the 10-mile walks every day and the getting lost and the pin trading story that last five days.
What a joke.
About two seconds later, the check-in agent gasps and informs us that our visas are expiring before we actually leave the country. We all shrug; so what? We're leaving the country anyway. No, no, he explains, this is bad: we need to get visa extensions. Oh, if this had been found in Moscow, why, we could have been deported.
Never throw the deportation word around a group of aspiring journalists with 9 16-hour days behind them and a 30-hour trip ahead. Bad things will happen to their heads.
In Moscow we were escorted from the plane to check-in, where we rechecked our bags and were carted around the airport to various exchange offices, where we paid our fine and were given a visa extension.
And then began the next seven hours of our 10-hour layover. These mostly consisted of trying to catch a few minutes of sleep while wrapped around the armrests of the chairs and my frustration that the internet wouldn't work on my computer.
After that, it was a breezy 10-hour flight, a half hour of insanity at bag check-in at JFK, a two-hour flight to Cincinnati, and two-hour drive (which most of us spent passed out in the car) back to school.
So now we're back. And while I'm glad to be back in a place of comfort and to see my friends again...I'm still not ready to have left. I would have stayed another week at least, working more 16-hour days, walking 10 miles every day lugging heavy equipment, because my first real journalistic experience left me hungering for more.
There were so many stories we never got a chance to tell; so many words still rolling inside my head that never got to be shared; so many FinalCut shortcuts I have yet to learn; and so many more days I want to spend with my team. I'm in love both with the spirit of the Olympics and with the work we did and how am I going to go from that back to day in-day out school?
How do you translate the excitement of the Olympics and rush of real-world work back into daily school routine and classes? You remember Russia and swear that someday, you will return to the Olympics to finish what you began last week.