This is the Schneider-Farris Family's Blog. Keep up with what we are doing by logging into this site regularly! (The reason this site is called "Tragedy and Triumph" is that when I first founded this site, my husband, Dan, had been in a horrible accident, and he recovered. His recovery was a miracle! Go back to the 2005 archives to read our story.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Summary of Jo Ann's and Annabelle's Olympic Vancouver Adventure

The two weeks that Annabelle and Jo Ann spent away from Colorado now seem like a dream. Of course, going to Vancouver for the Olympics was an incredible experience!

Here's our story:

One week before the Olympics, Friday, February 5, 2010

Annabelle and Jo Ann took a very quick trip to Denver to get Annabelle's passport. You see, we waited to the last minute, and so we couldn't go to the Post Office to send away for her Passport. It was very exciting going to the Passport office in Denver since we saw so many people there who were about the travel all over the world. I think our "Olympic excitement" began on that day!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Annabelle and Jo Ann boarded a flight from Denver to Seattle on Thursday, February 11. The flight took off at 9:00 AM and arrived in Seattle at 11:15 AM. There, we connected with Larisa and Alex Gendernalik. Jo Ann's cousin, Cherie, picked us up at the airport, and took all of us to her home in Auburn, Washington.

We rested until Cherie got home from work. Then, all of us went to downtown Tacoma to see the work of a local artist and eat dinner out at The Old Spaghetti Factory. The photos below show Larisa, Jo Ann, and Annabelle at the Old Spaghetti Factory and Annabelle smiling in downtown Tacoma.

Friday, February 12, 2010

We slept in on Friday, and prepared to travel to Vancouver. We visited with Cherie's son, Josh all morning long. I've also included a photo of Josh smiling with Alex, Jo Ann, and Annabelle just before we left Cherie's house.

Cherie took us back to the airport in the afternoon, where we boarded a QuickCoach bus (a special line that goes from Seattle to Vancouver) at 3:30 in the afternoon. The bus ride to Vancouver took about four hours.

Crossing the border into Canada went smoothly. At the border crossing, we had to get off of the bus and take all of our luggage into a small building. There, we were asked questions about our reasons for entering Canada. We got back on the bus and loaded our luggage back on it. Shortly after crossing the border, we reached our destination.

Larisa's cousin, Tania, and her boyfriend, Bob, met us at a hotel somewhere in Vancouver and drove us to where we were going to stay in Burnaby.

I've included photos of Larisa with Tania, and Tania with her boyfriend.

The place we stayed at was in a high rise building. Our hostess was someone Larisa's relatives knew from her days as a child in the Soviet Union. Her name is Jelena. Her son's name is Tal. Their apartment was on the 16th floor, but the Guest Suite she'd reserved for us was on the 21st floor.

The Guest Suite was kind of a funny place. The suite was huge, but we had to take the elevator downstairs to a different area to use a shower and and kitchen! All four of us slept in one huge room. At first, there was only one key for all four of us to share, so we had to stay together! Sheets were provided, but we had to buy some towels at Walmart!

There was a mall and within walking distance. The Sky Train was also right next to the high rise building.
Saturday, February 13, 2010

On our first Saturday in Vancouver, our host Jelena and Tal Juks, showed us all around Vancouver. The first thing we did was walk to the Walmart at Lougheed Town Centre and bought pay-as-you go Canadian phones. Our U.S. phones worked in Canada, but were very expensive to use. To keep in contact, it was necessary for us to have a Canadian phone to use locally.

After buying the phones, we walked to the Sky Train station which was AT the mall really, and took the round-about (scenic) route on the Sky Train to downtown Vancouver.

I've included photos of Tal and Alex on the Sky Train and also of Larisa and Alex smiling with the Juks when we were in Walmart.

We went to an area called Canada Place which was where the Olympic Main Media Press Centre and accreditation center was. Jo Ann got her Olympic Accreditation validated and then she and Annabelle went into the Main Media Centre. There, Jo Ann found out how to get special tickets for the high demand figure skating events through the USOC and also she got her media kit (which was a backpack full of goodies like pens, paper, USB memory drives, brochures, CD roms full of information, and even a pedometer!).

I've included a photo of Jo Ann and Annabelle inside the Main Media Centre on that day. Wow, were we excited! I've also included a photo of Annabelle smiling in the Canada Place area.

After we left the Main Media Centre, we linked up with Larisa, Alex, and Jelena and Tal and began walking through the downtown area to a money exchange place. We exchanged our U.S. money for Canadian money.

We then went to a wonderful Greek restaurant for dinner. Dinner was great! We all had huge plates of food full of chicken or lamb, potatoes, rice, and salad.

It was good that we ate well that night, since little did I know that I would have little time to really sit down for a good meal again during most of the Olympics!

After dinner, Jelena wanted us to go to a show in Robson Square, but Annabelle insisted she was too tired, so Annabelle and I, and Alex and Tal headed back to Burnaby, and Larisa and Jelena went to the show.

It turned out the show was an ice show and Robson Square was full of activity. The Olympic mascots were honored in an ice show. Later on our trip, Annabelle and I got to experience Robson Square and that show...

Tal showed us a quicker way to go home from the downtown (we switched trains at a station called Commercial-Broadway). Once I got back to the Guest Suite after all that walking, I was truly exhausted!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

We slept in. We then went to the mall and ate lunch. Then, it was off to Walmart to buy towels, soap, dry goods, and other necessities for the apartment. Larisa and Alex went to Safeway after that and bought some fruit and milk. Annabelle and I headed to the Guest Suite and unpacked the things we bought at Walmart.

An hour or so later, we then boarded the Sky Train for the Main Media Centre in order for me to pick up my specially issued ticket for the pairs short program. We had no idea yet that it would be very difficult for Larisa, Alex,and Annabelle to get tickets. We really believed tickets would be available at the door.

Shortly after I picked up my ticket for the pairs short (I was very happy to also pick up tickets for the pairs freeskate, men's short and men's freeskate which were ready for me), I realized I had lost track of time and that I needed to be AT the Pacific Coliseum ASAP since the event had already started! I called Larisa and Alex (who were waiting for me outside) and told them to meet me at the competition since I decided to take the media bus which would get me there the fastest, I thought.

I did just that and ended up at the Pacific Coliseum after the first two groups of pairs had competed. I still had a marvelous time and was in absolute awe that I was really at the Olympics watching figure skating live! I got to see most of the pairs competed. It was enough for my first night at the Olympics.

I've included a photo of my first look inside the Olympic arena and also of me on that night.

In the middle of the event, Caydee Denney and her family sat down just one row above me. The ushers in charge were about to make them move, since they were sitting in an area reserved for media, but once the usher realize that me, a media person, wanted to talk to them, they were allowed to stay. I had a great time visiting with them and got some photos. I did write about our encounter on

Included are photos of the Denney family and of me smiling with Caydee.

When the event ended, I explored the media area and decided to go to the press conference. I was able to pick up all sorts of press materials including statements for the athletes, results, and lists of elements.

When I sat down inside the press conference room I tried to sit right in the middle of the athletes and talked to Mark Ladwig a bit.

I realized it was very late and that I had to figure out how to get back to Burnaby by myself. I called Larisa and we decided that I would meet them in the hotel near the Main Media Centre that was downtown. I left the press conference, found my way to the media bus (it was quite deserted outside) and caught the media bus just as it was pulling away.

Just before the media bus left, I was able to get my photo taken with Mark Ladwig and quickly met his family. I've included the photo of me with Mark. I would have liked to have taken a photo of his whole family, but I would have missed the media bus!

It took a long time before the media bus reached Canada Place. I went through the media center and then went outside to a very quiet Vancouver, found the hotel, and found Larisa, Alex, and Annabelle. We enjoyed the night Vancouver scenery from the hotel.

Just as we were about to leave, Larisa noticed that Scott Hamilton was sitting in the bar area enjoying dinner. Larisa suggested I say hello to him since he was good friends with my brother, Billy. I did just that. Annabelle and I, and Larisa all had photos taken and Scott signed a book Annabelle had brought to the Olympics for signatures. I've included some of the photos we took with Scott.

We headed home. It took us awhile to figure out which trains to take. I remember at one stop, we almost all got separated (Annabelle had not made it inside the SkyTrain and Larisa, Alex, and I were inside!). My backpack got stuck in the train's automatic door as we tried to get Annabelle inside with us! (People were staring at us.) We are very thankful we did not lose Annabelle!

Anyway, we finally figured out how to get home and ended up walking back to our Guest Suite apartment at about 11:00 PM!

What a day!
Monday, February 15, 2010

It was a holiday in the United States, but in Canada it was just a regular workday with more Olympics.

Annabelle also was excited since she was spending the day with a skating family that lived in Vancouver. The family picked her up at around 11:00 AM and took her to their rink and also she went swimming.

The mother called me in the afternoon and asked if Annabelle could spend the night. I was relieved since that meant I could go to the Pairs Freeskate without worrying about what to do with Annabelle. Getting tickets at the door for her did not seem like an option at the time and there were no tickets available online or by phone. I didn't want to risk missing the pairs freeskate event, so knowing my daughter was in good hands and having fun made me feel that things had worked out.

I got lost in Vancouver on that day. I took the wrong train, in the wrong direction, to the wrong bus stop, but when I heard that there was a transfer at 29th Avenue to a bus that would take me to the Pacific Coliseum I got off the Sky Train and waited for the bus.

I had to ask around a bit to find the bus, but then met others who were on the way to the Coliseum and knew I'd eventually get there. A couple I met on that bus was from Texas had been to other Olympics and were excited about seeing the skating that night. We talked all the way until we reached the Pacific Coliseum.

We parted as we reached the venue and I tried to find the media entrance. I remember doing tons of walking, but eventually found it, and made it in time to see some practice ice. Larisa and Alex had obtained practice ice tickets and were in the building, but I didn't find them until the very end. We finally connected, but were disappointed to find out that all spectators (not me since I was credentialed), had to leave the building. I remember walking outside and trying to find the box office so we could find out about buying tickets for Larisa, Alex, and Annabelle. It took awhile, but finally I did find Larisa and Alex in line for tickets out front. I had walked a great distance around the Pacific Coliseum before I found them. They had just exited through the main doors....but I had gone on a "wild goose" chase. There were no signs making it easy to find the Olympic ticket box office.

We waited in line for quite awhile. We never made it to the front, since a roaming clerk let us know, while we were in line, that nothing (except $450 per event tickets) were really available to buy for most events through the entire Olympics, but were told that each morning, some reasonably priced tickets were released and to come back the next day to find out.

At that point, Larisa and Alex decided to do something else that evening and I went back inside the rink and watched the very best of the Olympic pair teams practice. It was really something to be that close to them and their coaches! I could practically "say hi" to Tamara Moskvina. I took a photo of the special Olympic Kleenex that was on the rail during the practices!

After that practice ended, I explored the Media Mixed Zone area. By mistake, an attendant told me I wasn't allowed there, so I went to the Media Help Desk to inquire. They were quite embarrassed and told me of course I was allowed there and would let that attendant know that she should have not shunned me away. I put my feet up in the snack area of the media center and watched some of the events on all the large televisions surrounding the room. The help desk attendants (and the supervisor) sought me out there and apologized again! Wow! I guess media is very important at the Olympics!

Finally, it was time for the Pairs Freeskate to begin. I watched the whole thing on my own with a great seat in the media area. My feet hurt so much that I took off my shoes! I was there to see the Olympic Champions crowned! During a break, I got to say hi to the French pair skater and take his photo.

I decided not to stay for the press conference since it was getting so late. I boarded the media bus and ended up having a wonderful talk on the way back to the Main Media Centre, with Nicki, the wife of Bill, a USOC official from Kansas. Once I got to the Main Media Centre, it was really very late, but I found the Sky Train station, and headed home alone.

I don't remember which way I went, but I think I took the long route, which involved only one train. When I got to Lougheed Town Centre, Larisa met me there and showed me how to walk back to our apartment. I was very, very tired, but also it really helped to reunite with Larisa and not get lost!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jessica Tjew called me the next morning and asked if Annabelle could spend another night. That seemed like a good idea since I wondered what I'd do if Larisa and Alex were at the event and who would watch Annabelle. Since I was so exhausted, I told Larisa and Alex that I'd see them at the event. I had planned to go downtown, but finally decided just to go to the men's short program as my day's activity.

I decided, too, that the length of time using the luxury of the media bus was not worth a trip to the Main Media Centre. This time, I did not get lost! I took the Sky Train to the Renfrew stop and changed to a bus that went directly to the event. In that bus, I met a family with two kids that were ice dancers. One of the children had been very sick and through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, had won a trip to the Olympics! The Boston Globe was with them and was following their Olympic adventure. I chatted with them and got their photo when we got off the bus.

I walked with the general public towards the competition. It was a long walk! I had to be searched and scanned at a special entrance for accredited media, and entered the event through a different door than the general public. I ended up sitting with the same people who I had sat with in the media area the night before, and the night before that: one was a Russian television storyteller and the other was a Japanese writer. We had a nice time talking and enjoying the event.

Larisa and Alex did get into the Men's short program by buying tickets from scalpers. Larisa spent $120 and Alex spent $90. I was relieved since that meant that I thought I'd travel home to Burnaby with them, but after the event, they told me they were going to visit Russian relatives in Vancouver. I decided then to leave the event with the public. Wow, were there a lot of people piling on buses! I sort of squeezed myself onto one and headed for the Renfrew Skytrain station and got myself back to Lougheed station without getting lost and took a very brisk walk alone towards the apartment and got safely home.

I wondered if I could really keep up this pace, but didn't want to leave the Olympics yet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jessica Tjew brought Annabelle back the next morning, but it was only to pick me up and take me to see the skating world in Vancouver. We first visited her daughter's school. I was fascinated that the school was decorated for the Olympics and the school's principal took me on a tour of the school and allowed me to take photos of all the artwork the children had done for the Olympics.

After Karina left the school at around noon, we headed to McDonald's for lunch and then the girls skated on a two hour training session (which is the same as a U.S. freestyle).

I was very impressed with Karina's skating! Annabelle seemed to be stimulated by the session too. The session was from 12:30 to 2:30. Then, we headed to Karina's school, picked up her homework and her sister, Karen, and went to their house. Jessica left her children at home and took me and Annabelle back to Burnaby.

I took Annabelle to the mall that night for dinner and we did a bit of shopping. Both of us were glad to be back together again and to be away from Olympic crowds.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I woke up the next morning and decided to "be brave" and get Annabelle into the Men's Freeskate event by buying a ticket from a scalper. (It was clear that absolutely no tickets were available at the door or at Olympic ticket offices. It was a scary idea, but what choice did I have? I had to give my little girl some Olympic experiences. She didn't come all the way to Vancouver just to hang out with a family or go shopping at a mall.)

The only way I could keep in contact with my friends and family in the U.S. was with Skype. I spent the morning making some calls from my computer. Just as we were about to leave, I checked my email, and Dan wrote that there was a family emergency. He had to get to Long Beach, California right away. His dad was dying. His mom had called and told him that his father would only last a couple more days.

I spent the next hour trying to make arrangements on what to do with Joel and Rebekah. I made some calls on Skype. It was decided they would stay in Colorado and we'd work out adults to take care of them. Details were still up in the air.

Finally, we left the apartment and went downtown. I had reserved Annabelle a guest pass for the Main Media Centre. We picked that up at the Accreditation Centre Guest pass office and then headed inside the Main Media Centre.

First, we went to pick up my special media tickets, but were told they were no longer needed until the Free Dance event. We then ate lunch in the media restaurant, bought some souvenirs, and went to the ATM to cash money. We ended up with two Canadian $100 bills that we immediately took to the media center's bank and exchanged for smaller bills.

After that, we got on the Sky Train and found our way to the event. We transferred at Commercial-Broadway without getting lost!

We got off at Renfrew, and took a bus that was headed in the direction of the Pacific Coliseum.

We were let off at a corner filled with scalpers. I decided I didn't want to pay more than $100 for Annabelle's ticket. I approached the first scalper, who said, "Forget it. I will only sell these tickets for $400 each." The next scalper said, "$250." I said, "$100." He said, "OK." I bought the ticket for $100 and hoped it was an authentic and good ticket.

We walked quite awhile, entered through the accredited entrance and explained that Annabelle had to enter with me, were searched, etc. Then we kept walking and Annabelle entered the rink through an entrance right next to the accredited door, her ticket was scanned, and "Whew!" it was a real ticket and we entered the arena.

We then went to the media area and I inquired about Annabelle sitting with me in the media area. It took awhile to get all cleared, but eventually, someone with authority walked us through the accredited area and got us seated in media seats. I was told to not have Annabelle move at all since there was no guarantee she'd get back.

It was a glorious evening! Annabelle loved every second. So did I. One highlight was when Sasha Cohen sat right down next to Annabelle! We saw Evan Lysacek win gold and we watched the medal ceremony in awe.

I could not walk Annabelle through the accredited area when we left, so it took us awhile to get to the exit of the arena. On our way out, I saw a childhood skating friend, Cynthia Van Valkenberg. We talked awhile.

Just as we were about to say good-bye, someone shouted, "Cynthia!" Her name was Alexandra Dunne-Bryant. She was a competitive skater, but she also knew my husband's nephew, David Farris from college! David is not a skater...what a small world it is! I've included of Alexandra smiling with us.

After chatting with Alexandra, we saw a group of of people lined up to get Scott Hamilton's autograph. Debi Thomas was hanging out in that area. I approached Debi and asked if she remembered me from Worlds. She did! She also gave me a hug. She told me thank you for writing an blog post about a funny Facebook fan page she started called "Facebook Fans In Favor of Downgrading Grabbing Your Skate."

We visited with Debi and her friends for awhile. Actually, we visited for so long that the ushers told us that if we didn't leave the arena soon, we'd get locked in! So, Annabelle and I made a mad dash for the washrooms and then got out of the rink quickly. We walked to the buses with a small crowd.

All of a sudden, Diana Ronayne tapped me on the shoulder! She had watched the event with a family from Japan that was interested Shattuck-St. Mary's School, where she is the director of skating. Her school is a boarding school for figure skaters in Minnesota. It was great talking to Diana as we walked towards the buses. There were just so many people at the Olympics, to see anyone we knew, was a blessing!

We parted since we were going in different directions. We just followed people in Olympic uniforms to the buses. It turned out we were on the bus with volunteers and Olympic workers! There was a feeling of happiness and festivity on that bus. I think everyone was on an "Olympic high!" Even though most of the people on the bus were Olympic volunteers and employees, one lady was a competitive adult synchronized skater who was in Vancouver just enjoying the Olympics. She sort of acted like an MC and began asking each person on the bus where they were from. People from all over the world were on board. It was amazing.

We left the bus at the Renfrew Sky Train station with one of the Olympic volunteers. She was heading for Burnaby, and guided us to the right train. Just as we boarded the train, my friend, Larisa was on board already. She had taken the train the wrong way home after the event. To her luck, we ended up in the same train car as us. We enjoyed the ride home together and stopped at Safeway before going home to pick up some snacks.

It turned out Larisa's son, Alex, didn't get tickets for the event. Larisa and Alex had trouble talking any of the scalpers into what they wanted to pay. Larisa ended up paying $200 and Alex went out on the town instead of going to the event. After hearing their story, I wasn't sure I should try getting Annabelle into an event again, but changed my mind a few days later...

Wow, what an unbelievable adventure the day of the Men's freeskate was!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Annabelle was picked up on Friday morning by Jessica Tjew at about 10:30 AM so that I could go to the Compulsory Dance Event without worrying about what to do with her. I knew I would miss her greatly, but that was my only option since Larisa and Alex were going to visit with Russian relatives that day.

Larisa and Alex went to a hockey game. I decided to catch up on my writing. I went straight to the Pacific Coliseum on my own, arrived a bit early, and watched the compulsory dance portion of the competition from the comfort of a tabled media seat. I put my feet up and enjoyed my own private television from a center seat. I didn't really talk to anyone. I was exhausted. I enjoyed the event very much since I actually know the steps to the Tango Romantica. I wondered what the general public thought of seeing the same steps over and over again.

I made the mistake of leaving the event on a media bus because I was so tired. I didn't want to battle the crowds. It was so nice and comfortable inside, but taking that media bus to the Waterfront got me to the SkyTrain very late. When I walked alone from the SkyTrain to the apartment, I walked very fast and wondered if I really wanted to bother doing that again. Was the Olympics worth it? My feet and exhausted body had me wondering!

Larisa and Alex returned late and began packing. They were going to be returning home early Saturday morning. Larisa and I stayed up very late and talked and talked. We both agreed that we were having a great time!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Larisa and Alex left at about 6:00 AM on Saturday morning. I hugged them good-bye and went back to bed.

Jessica Tjew brought Annabelle back that morning. I looked forward to the two of us having a day together without Olympic event commitments. I talked about us just going to the mall and eating lunch, but we ended up going downtown to find the Olympic Village. We never got there. We ended up instead walking across a bridge from the Olympic Village area to downtown. The bridge had an unbelievable view of the water and city, and of course, we took lots of pictures!

When we reached the end of the bridge, we were in BC Place (the place that the Opening and Closing Ceremonies took place ) and near Canada Hockey Place and right in the middle of a huge crowd that was preparing to go to a victory and medal ceremony event.

I asked some of the Olympic volunteers what was going on and I was told that the crowds were heading to those events. I asked if any tickets were left and I was told to try to buy a ticket from a scalper on the street for Annabelle. I walked up to a scalper and asked how much. "$50," he said. I said, "Too much." He said, "$40." I was about to say, "OK," but Annabelle was not enthusiastic. She said, "I don't want to go! I'm hungry!" The guy reduced the ticket to $30. I bought it.

We then looked for some food. We ate in a nice quiet sandwich place and then headed to the ceremony. Once we were inside, (more scanning and searching), we entered the arena. It took a while since we entered through the accredited door and no one seemed to guide us to the entry door; we had to find that on our own. Once we were inside, I inquired about making sure Annabelle and I got to sit together. We were directed to an area right next to the stage. Again, we were given special treatment because of my media badge.

The medal ceremony was glorious. We saw huge smiles on the faces of the medalists. Before the ceremony, we learned about one of Canada's most northern provinces. The cheers from the crowd were infectious.

After the medal ceremonies and cheering, a concert began. It looked like a real rock concert I'd only seen in the movies. People began to leave. We decided to leave early too. We walked towards the SkyTrain and passed where a hockey game was about to begin. More scalpers were selling tickets. The crowds were getting thick.

When we boarded the Sky Train, it was fairly full, but not as full as it would have been if we had left the event at the end. Police and guards were monitoring how many people could board the train at one time. I don't really remember when the crowd thinned down, but by the time we got to the Lougheed station, things were calm.

We enjoyed our walk home since the weather was mild and warm. We had a very nice day together.
Sunday, February 21, 2010

I decided to talk Annabelle with me to the Original Dance event. I was getting good at buying the tickets from the scalpers now, and knew I'd get her a ticket for the evening's event. I think we ate at the mall, cashed money at the ATM, and headed out on the SkyTrain to the Renfrew exit in plenty of time. We took the express shuttle to the rink, exited the bus, and I found a scalper, and bought a ticket for $100, as easy as pie. Off we went into the rink. I was now experienced. I went to the media center, got it cleared for Annabelle to sit with me, and we were this time, seated in tabled seats. Each of us had our own television and we put our feet up. It was a wonderful evening.

When we left, we walked with the crowds, and pushed to the front and boarded and express shuttle to the Renfrew Sky Train Station. It wasn't long until we were at the Lougheed station and walking home. Annabelle told me as we walked home that she wanted to go with me to the Free Dance the next day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I called Jessica Tjew in the morning and told her that I decided to take Annabelle with me to the Free Dance. That made things nice since it really was lonely without Annabelle.

We left the apartment early in the day, but we stopped at the mall, cashed more money to pay for Annabelle's ticket, and headed to the Main Media Centre to get my special press ticket that was required for that evening. We ate a good meal at the Main Media Centre and bought a few more souvenirs. We also had plenty of time to get a complimentary massage that was available to all media. I was delighted that Annabelle was able to get a massage at the same time as me! Everyone in the massage waiting area was so nice. I think the massage really helped since my feet and back felt better during the night of the free dance.

(I felt very experienced that day. I almost felt that I was living the movie "Groundhog Day" since each Olympic day was slightly different, but somewhat the same. Each day, I had grown more experienced with getting around Vancouver. I knew what to expect, where to board the trains and buses, where to enter, where to buy tickets from scalpers, where to ask about getting Annabelle and I seated together, where to buy food quickly, etc. It was almost amusing!)

We headed towards the event from the downtown area, switched trains at Commercial-Broadway, exited at Renfrew. Took the shuttle towards the Pacific Coliseum, bought a ticket from a scalper, entered the event as usual through the accredited entry, got Annabelle's ticket scanned, cleared it for Annabelle to sit with me, were escorted to the tabled media section, and watched the event in comfort with a private TV in front of us and the ice below us.

We were sitting very close to Canadian figure skating legend Elvis Stojko! Of course we got his autograph and took photos with him. He was writing for Yahoo Sports during the Olympics.

Annabelle cheered for the Americans and waved the flag she had bought during the night we'd been at BC Place. She looked adorable!

Again, it was a glorious night. Seeing the Canadians win and the Americans do so well was great. The medal ceremony was marvelous. We soaked every bit of it in.

Finally, we made our way out and walked out with the crowds, squeezed on to another public express bus to the Renfrew Skytrain station, got on the Skytrain, got off at the Renfrew exit, and walked home. We rejoiced in the fact that we only had a few more days of battling crowds. Soon we would be traveling by car again and would be home.

When we got back to the Guest Suite apartment, I called Dan. I noticed he had called during the event. Sad news came. My father-in-law died during the event. Dan and I talked a bit. It felt so strange to be so far away from Dan. It was like the two of us were living in two different realities...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jessica Tjew came in the morning and brought by the money for me to buy her family tickets for the Ladies Short Program. By this time, I felt very experienced. It was raining outside. Annabelle and I did our usual thing: we cashed money, and ate at the mall, and headed to the event. Things were different this time around though. It was raining and not as many scalpers were out selling tickets. The first guy wouldn't sell me anything since I wanted four tickets for $400 (he said he was selling tickets for $450 each), so I walked in the rain with Annabelle and found someone who agreed to sell me two tickets for $200. I needed four. He said he'd find me two more for the price I wanted to pay. Jessica called and I told her that we had two tickets and to head for the arena. It took awhile, but eventually, we ended up with two more tickets. The other two were not together, but at least we had tickets for the Tjews and Annabelle. We found some shelter from the rain and waited for them. We missed the first group of ladies, but saw the rest of the event. Jessica went to the office with the kids and worked it out for the girls to sit together. It turned out everyone was seated just above me since I was sitting in the highest seats in the media section. It was much more crowded than for any of the other events.

We all had a great evening. I was lonely without Anabelle, but sat next to a Japanese media person who was very nice. I was just so glad that I could help the Tjews see the Olympics since they'd done so much for me and Annabelle during our trip. Mr. Tjew picked us up and we had the luxury of driving back to Burnaby in a car.

(I want to comment here about how disappointed I am that Canada sold out all Olympic tickets and made those who came all the way to Vancouver have to stoop to buying tickets from scalpers on the street. That practice is legal in Canada, I guess. The police seemed to have no problem with all the scalpers selling tickets. The scalpers operated together like a business, had supervisors, and seemed to be required to make a certain amount of sales. If there had been tickets available for reasonable prices at the door, they would have sold, but Canada seemed to want to support the scalping businesses instead. There were empty seats in many events since the prices of the tickets that were sold at the Olympic ticket offices were so high that no one could afford the seats. I am very grateful to Larisa for giving me the courage to buy the tickets for the Tjews and Annabelle, but that should not have to have been. We should have been able to call a ticket office or order tickets online using regular methods. We should have been able to pay reasonable prices for those tickets. This memory of the Olympics is not a good memory. I've been told that when the Olympics was in the US in 2002, people could, at the last minute, call a ticket office and buy tickets. The U.S. did something right in 2002. In 2010, Canadians, like the Tjew family and Larisa's relatives, that LIVED IN VANCOUVER gave up and thought that they could not attend even one Olympic event! What a shame.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I decided to take Annabelle downtown again so we could skate in Robson Square. We first went downtown (got her guest pass) planning to go to the Main Media Centre first, but instead began walking there. I'm glad we did that because we arrived in Robson Square in time to see a special Olympic ice show that celebrated the Olympic mascots, got a hot dog, and also got to skate.

The rink was very, very crowded, but I am glad we took the time to experience part of the Olympic fever together without going to an event. We met a little girl named Livvy at the rink. Her mother watched our things as we skated. (There were no lockers and leaving our things unattended was not a safe option.) I took tons of photos. I met a girl from Japan and her parents. She had skates autographed by some of the Canadian greats. I took a photo of her precious skates!

When we left Robson Square, I asked how to get to Canada Place, but the policeman thought I meant Canada Hockey Place and gave me the wrong directions. We walked way out of our way in the rain. We finally found the Skytrain, and headed back to Burnaby.

We made it back just in time for Jessica Tjew to pick us up. She and her family wanted to take us out to dinner. We had a great time visiting with Jessica and her daughter Karen. We picked up Karina at the Richmond Ice Centre, linked up with their dad, and headed to a mall in Richmond for dinner. It was wonderful. They treated me and Annabelle to a real Chinese meal in a real Chinese restaurant! What a great way to end our time in Canada! Before the meal, I took some photos of the Tjew family.

When we got back to the Burnaby apartment, I began to pack up what I could. We stayed up quite late, but were excited too, about the entire adventure and returning to the U.S.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

We woke up early on Thursday morning, got the sheets in the wash, showered, and finished packing. My cousin Cherie, was scheduled to arrive between 8 and 9 am, but surprised us when she arrived at 8:00 AM. It took awhile to make sure the sheets were dried and folded, the trash was out, and that the place was as neat as when we arrived.

We loaded up the car, I did my last double check, turned in the keys, took some good-bye memory photos of the building and the apartment, and then we drove over to the mall to eat breakfast.

I knew I was going to buy some suitcases for the plane trip home since I'd accumulated so much, so after we ate we went in the mall and bought two large pieces of luggage with the last of my Canadian cash.

The trip to Seattle went smoothly. Cherie borrowed a GPS that led us to the U.S. with no problem. At the border crossing, we showed our passports, there were no problems, and we headed into Seattle. I loved being in a car!

Before going to Cherie's house, we stopped for lunch. Then we were off to Cherie's house. Her husband, Tim was home and so was Josh and his girlfriend Sarah. We relaxed and watched TV until is was time to go out to dinner with my cousin Loren and his family. It was so fun to all be together again after so many years. I've included a photo of Loren and his family, and also a photo of Tim and Josh.

When we got back, we watched the Olympics. I enjoyed the luxury of falling asleep on the couch! We watched the Ladies final as if we were there and went to bed late.
Friday, February 26, 2010

I woke up fairly early and wrote more about the Olympics. We had a relaxed morning. I enjoyed sipping coffee! In the afternoon, Cherie took us to a Wild Animal Park. I've included a photo of the three of us at the park. We got to take a tour on a bus through the park and got to see the animals up close. It was really special!

We went out to dinner in the evening to a Mexican restaurant. Tim had to go to bed early, so we took a photo of Tim and Josh and me and Annabelle to add to all the wonderful memories we made.

After dinner, Cherie and I looked at photos of our families from way back. I've included a photo that was taken about 40 years ago of our family celebrating Thanksgiving together. The other photo is of my mom, then Edith Kadison, with her parents, Joseph and Esther Kadison, at my Uncle Norman's and Auntie Miriam's wedding in 1945.

Just before bed, I began packing our bags. Our fairytale trip was about to end.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Our plane left Seattle at a comfortable time: 11:30 AM. Cherie got us to the airport at about 9:30 AM. The flight went smoothly and arrived in Denver at around 3:00 PM. We had to wait a bit to get our luggage, and my brother Billy, picked us up around 4:30 PM. We headed towards Castle Rock to get Rebekah, Joel, and our dog, Porcher. Dan's plane from Long Beach had already arrived in Colorado Springs. Billy got us home between 6:30 and 7:00 PM and our family was together again.

We celebrated being together by going out to dinner! We went to Black Bear diner. I've included a photo of Dan and the kids standing in front of the restaurant and smiling!

To sum things up, the two weeks away was a life-changing experience that I will always cherish!

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Jo Ann Schneider Farris has participated in skating for most of her life as a competitor, coach, and author.