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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Moving on, Moving Home

The past week has been quite a whirlwind!  We moved out of our house, and into a hotel while we wrapped up all the loose ends of our life in England.  We found time to say goodbye to friends and schedule final  playdates and sleepovers.
And then we boarded an Air New Zealand flight (which was so nice I might devote an entire post to it) and found ourselves back in Los Angeles.
After 3.5 years of living overseas, our time is up.  As they say, all good things must come to an end.  I've had a lot of mixed feelings about moving back, and I think that's why I haven't mentioned it here before.
I loved being an expat.  I loved the travel and the cultural experiences.  I loved meeting new people and trying new things.  And I feel so fortunate to have had these opportunities.
I love California too, and it feels like home to be back in America.  We're living in our own house and my big kids started school today.  And everything seems normal.
But I know that I have changed.  I made more of an effort to introduce myself to the other parents standing outside the kindergarten classroom today.  And when I heard a mom with a French accent I felt and instant kinship with her- this stranger in a strange land raising third culture kids.  I know what that's like. I've done it, too.
And so begins the journey of settling back in and making a home in our homeland.  I'm sure there will be some adjustments, but so far, it is good to be home.

Monday, August 13, 2012

An Olympic Finale

Persistence sure pays off!  After weeks of fretting about how I was unable to get tickets to any event inside the Olympic Park I hit the jackpot last week when I scored 2 tickets to the Closing Ceremony!

I still can't believe I was there to see it all.  A once in a lifetime experience for sure. 
I am so impressed with how London has prepared for these games.  Hot pink signage is all over the city and thousands of very friendly and helpful volunteers are available at every turn to offer their assistance.

We set off early expecting crowds and delays but  found just the opposite.  We easily made it to the park and collected our tickets with nary a queue.

Into the Olympic Park we go! 
London Calling!
The show was simply amazing.  The sets, music, lights, fireworks, vehicles and special effects were phenomenal.
The musical acts featured old favorites (Spice Girls!  George Michael!  The Who!) and some new stars, too (One Direction!).  There were also a few acts I had never heard of before but the (mostly British) crowd was singing along so they must have been big name stars.

A real highlight was the Parade of Flags and the entrance of the athletes.  I thought the Americans looked dashing in their Ralph Lauren ensembles (while most other countries wore track suits).

The production was over the top.  A giant octopus rising from a psychedelic bus, the Spice Girls atop lighted taxi cabs, and even a human cannonball.  And the fireworks showering over the stadium were truly incredible.

We saw the men's marathon winners receive their medals, and then the handover of the Olympic Flag to the next host city- Rio de Janeiro. 

And finally, after all that celebrating, the Olympic Flame was extinguished and the games declared closed.

I was sad to see the festivities come to an end.  I have enjoyed every moment of these Olympic Games and I feel so lucky to have been able to take part as a fan and a spectator.  It was an amazing two weeks.  Well done, London.  It was, in a word, brilliant!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympic Gold

Oh what a night!
Thursday, 9 August 2012.
Wembley Stadium
Women's Gold Medal Football Match
USA v Japan
We were there!  And it was amazing!
We arrived early and found our seats. We watched the teams warm up and gathered up our signs and pom poms and giant flag.  I tried to ignore the sideways glances from the less than enthusiastic British couple seated next to us.  There were plenty of Americans with so much pride and team spirit.  It was definitely a great night to be an American.  I was shamelessly patriotic.
There was some pre-game fun with giant soccer balls and a huge banner that went right over our heads!  
In come the teams.  How wonderful to see the American flag and proudly sing along as our anthem was played.
The game begins and next thing we know- GOAL!  Right in front of us.  So exciting! 
It was pretty intense.  I have a whole new level of respect for soccer after watching it at the Olympics.  It is a really aggressive, physical sport.  And so much fun to watch.  
 McDonald's has a clever series of ads displayed around London called "We all make the games."  I was a "nervy peeker" and a "come on, come on, come on er" throughout the game!
There were heaps of Americans in the 80,000+ crowd.  Many showing their spirit with flair.
We cheered and clapped and gasped and yelled and when the time ran out it was USA on top!  Gold medal!  The crowd erupted.  They played "We are the Champions" and it was really a thrill to see how much this win meant to the players and the fans.  
The players were so gracious- walking around and waving to the crowds.  What wonderful role models for all our young girls.  They really will "inspire a generation" (as this Olympics hopes to).
And then out comes the podium and in come the medalists.  Unfortunately we were seated behind the podium but the players did turn around and flash us their medals.
I still can't believe I got to stand and watch out flag being raised above our gold medal team while the national anthem was playing.  What a once in a lifetime experience.
Way to go Team USA!  Thanks for making me and our whole country proud.  A truly great Olympic night for all.

But we're not finished yet!  More Olympic moments to come!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympics at Eton Dorney

I'm still coming up empty handed in my quest for tickets to any event that will get me into the Olympic Park.  I'm not giving up hope just yet, I mean there are still four days left!

With the somewhat creepy one eyed mascot

In the mean time, we enjoyed attending an event in our own neck of the woods,  the canoe sprint.  The rowing and still water paddling events are taking place at Eton Dorney, near Windsor.  The kids and I headed over earlier this week to watch some of the heats.
Walking into the venue

Even though there was only one American racing, we all cheered loudly for her!
There she is!

Our tickets were "general admission" which means we had no assigned seat.  Kate perched atop a rubbish bin to catch a glimpse of the action while I held Reid on my shoulders.  The littlest one was stuck in the stroller, but at least he can say he went to the Olympics!

The venue was really nice, very organised with so many helpful volunteers.  I am so impressed with the way the London 2012 committee has put this event together.  Well done!

Now we're gearing up for our big Olympic moment Thursday when we will watch Team USA play for gold in women's soccer.  Stay tuned for more on that . . .

Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympic Football

Saturday we finally made it to an Olympic event!  Men's football (soccer)- Mexico vs Senegal at Wembley Stadium.
Gray clouds couldn't dampen our excitement
We had been warned that getting to the event would be very difficult.  But after researching our options we decided to go against the grain and drive to the stadium.   This is definitely discouraged.  In fact, there is no official car parking at the stadium.  We were shocked that there was virtually no traffic, only minor road closures and minimal frustrations involved with driving.  We made it there in about half the time it would have taken on public transport.  So I'd say getting there was a success!

Security was a quick pat down and a bag check and then we were in.  We were notified in advance that no liquids could be brought into the stadium.  Next time I will definitely be bringing empty water bottles to fill up inside.  (When you purchase bottled drinks inside they remove the cap- which is pretty annoying).  There was also some confusion about which types of cameras would be allowed inside.  Rather than risk it, I didn't bring a camera (just my iPhone).  I did see plenty of people with dslr type cameras so apparently they are allowed inside.

Crowds still pouring in as the match begins
Our seats were up in the rafters.  I purchased one of the cheaper categories because in those seating areas kids tickets are priced according to age.  So a ticket for a five year old is only £5.  What a bargain!

We could see the whole pitch and thought the seats offered a great view.  We were in the shade and covered by the partial roof which was a real bonus when it started pouring rain. (A "proper English summer" according to the gentleman seated next to me).
You can actually see the rain coming down in sheets!
The game was pretty exciting and even went into overtime.  In the end, Mexico came out on top. (And since we're from California it was practically like our home team winning).

And even though the stadium was packed with over 80,000 fans in attendance, everything went very smoothly and we were out of the stadium, back in our car and home surprisingly quickly.

We'll be back at Wembley next Thursday to watch the women's final.  Crossing our fingers that defending champions Team USA will be there to bring home the gold.  We can't wait to cheer them on!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympics Fever

We've all got it around here- Olympics Fever.  It's all Olympics, all the time!
There are over 20 different BBC channels covering all the Olympic events.  While I do miss some the the US television coverage highlighting the American athletes, I am amazed by all the events that are aired here in the UK.  Yesterday my 5 year old and I were captivated by table tennis, and today I watched the Queen's granddaughter, Zara Phillips, win her first Olympic medal in the equestrian events.  And even though we are enjoying all this TV coverage, I can't wait to see some of the action live and in person.
I'm sure you've heard about the frustrations, disappointments, and confusion surrounding the ticketing process.  I tried to get tickets through the public ballot last year with no success.  I was lucky enough to score football (soccer) tickets when they became available in January, and have managed to grab a couple other events in the last few weeks.   Never mind that I had to google "canoe sprint" to figure out exactly what I would be attending, or that I will be spending next Saturday morning watching race-walkers (the very sport I remember ridiculing as a pre-teen).  This is the Olympics, taking place in my adopted city and I'm going to be part of it!
So far I have come up empty-handed in my quest to get tickets to an event in the Olympic Park.
I'm not giving up yet.  Apparently, more tickets will be released each night as the organizers attempt to get as many fans in the seats as possible.  So I plan to spend the evenings on my computer, repeatedly hitting "request tickets" until I get lucky.
And until then, I'll be watching on TV and hoping the US women's soccer team ends up in the final so we can be there to cheer them on to another gold medal.  It's going to be a fun couple of weeks!

Anyone else planning to attend the games?
What's your favorite event?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Punting on the River Cam

Took advantage of a rare sunny day to visit the lovely town of Cambridge.

Toured the chapel at Kings College.  Awesome (in the truest sense of the word).

Enjoyed a guided punt on the river Cam.  The river was crowded with boats; it was all quite festive.  There was a bit of bumping and banging, and a few close calls.

I was very glad we had a guide to navigate and share some interesting stories about Cambridge as well. 

One of my favourite tales of the day was about Prince Charles, who was a student at Cambridge in the 1960s.  Apparently, he had the same bodyguard with him through all 3 years at the college.  The bodyguard had to attend all classes and lectures with the Prince.  At the end of the 3 years, the guard felt he should be allowed to sit the final exam.  The royal family wasn't too keen on that idea, but the college decided it was only fair.  The bodyguard took the exam and, as it turns out, got a higher score than Prince Charles!

I especially enjoyed the stories about all the pranks carried out by Cambridge University students over the years.  From Santa hats and traffic cones being placed upon the spires of the chapel, to unsuspecting first year students being ushered through a phony "fire exit" door and ending up right in the river- these young people have come up with some pretty creative tricks.  We even bought a book on the subject at the campus bookshop!

The whole family enjoyed the beautiful views of the colleges from the river.  Such a fun thing to do on a sunny summer day.

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