Even before I left for Sochi, Lietuvos Rytas television journalist Rita Stankevičiūtė contacted me to ask if I'd mind giving an interview. Of course I never mind the chance to promote my skiers, and I quickly agreed. And then she asked me, "Do you speak Lithuanian?" Sure I said, I just can't write very well.
Off to Sochi we went, and up to Rosa Khutor on a sloppy Tuesday morning to watch the women's giant slalom. Rita found me after the race, pointed a camera in my face, and asked me if I was ready. The fruits of that interview appeared in a segment titled "Olympic Fever."
After the interview, I told Rita, still speaking Lithuanian, "I'm so embarrassed for my Lithuanian. You know, I really learned it from the kids."
It was a hot Saturday morning; I was dressed in an official Detroit Tigers polo shirt and matching baseball cap as I headed out to my boat. I had gotten the call only a week earlier to join the crew of Chico 2 for the 88th Port Huron to Mackinac Race hosted by the Bayview Yacht Club and sponsored by Bell's Beer. Yes, the race came with all the Oberon you could drink!
The boat is a 1D35, a fast boat designed especially for racing. (I sail on one in San Francisco called Alpha Puppy.) It's got a sparse cabin, but I was happy to hear that one of my crewmates had gotten the head (toilet) working just for me—I'm the first girl ever to race on Chico 2. As per tradition, the four professional sports teams in Detroit drew boats to represent them in the race and the Tigers drew us, which explained my unorthodox sailing outfit.
Just before 10:00 am, we pulled our docklines and eased our way toward St. Clair river. The mood in downtown Port Huron was light and fun with over 200 boats flying their colors, all crew on deck, waving to the massive crowds. As we paraded past the Port Huron Yacht Club, an announcer called out the names and skippers of all the boats. It was quite a sight to be in the middle of so many sailboats, all going the same way for the same purpose: to race as fast as they could up the 230 nautical miles of Lake Huron to Mackinac Island.
There are ducks in New Zealand that mate for life. I don't remember their name. The female has a white head, and the male a black one and we first saw them while kayaking in Milford Sound. In Christchurch, they stroll through the Botanic Gardens in pairs, resting in the sun on the banks of the Avon River.
Christchurch has been accused of being "too English"... but that is precisely what I like about it. A European city of turn-of-the-century stone buildings with cozy sidewalk cafes and quaint English punts taking tourists along the river, situated on the shore of the South Pacific and protected on the west by the Southern Alps.
I spent the 2009 Southern Hemisphere winter coaching young ski racers at Turoa Ski Area on the south side of Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand.
Mt. Ruapehu is famous for its crazy, nasty weather and I got a taste of it last Friday. At the base of the ski area, it was raining, but at the top of the first lift, it was snowing with visibility limited to about fifty meters. We'd already missed two days that week due to bad weather, so we had to take what we could get. At least it wasn't windy.
Six months after packing up my apartment in Colorado, I was finally on my way to my new home in Vilnius. I was moving on a hunch. I had no apartment, no job, and only a few contacts, but I had a passport and a gut feeling that told me my future was in Lithuania.
It was a question often asked. Why would a nature-loving ski racer want to move to a country with long, dark winters and no mountains? Why would an American want to move to Lithuania? I went through a whole list of responses: I always wanted to live in Europe, Lithuania will soon be part of the European Union, I don’t want to be a nature or sports photographer, I’m tired of cramming my feet into ski boots. Finally, I just answered, “Why not?” And that usually satisfied even the most curious inquisitor.