Rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies

Yesterday Gord and I both had a day shift so we left together well before dawn to get there for 645am. It was our third shift which meant that after being scanned in and reporting to Workforce Checkin, we were given an Olympic pin and another hearty thanks for our volunteer service. Lots of people are collecting and trading these pins, hanging them on their lanyards for all to see and admire.

After coffee and fruit in the Workforce tent which is always warm and cosy, and filled with blue jackets, we went off to our separate work areas.

The great weather of our first day here has not lasted and it has been cool and rainy ever since. Occasionally we get a great glimpse of blue sky, the distant mountains and the beautiful Vancouver sky scrapers but often our heads are down, hoods in place to stay dry and warm. I am so thankful for the great warm waterproof clothes they have given us.

After our shifts yesterday we were invited to the rehearsal for the opening ceremonies at BC Place across from the Village. It was tempting to go home and miss it – we are still coping with the 3 hour time change and we had to trek a ways in the pouring rain – but we persevered and it was so worth it. The organizers have done a fantastic job inviting the world to see Canada’s many faces and the Opening Ceremonies are going to be a sight to see.

Evenings at the Clinic

Last night was my first evening at the Polyclinic. It’s beginning to feel really comfortable. Lots of fantastic people many from BC, others from all over North America. I worked with 3 nurses – 2 young fellows from Edmonton and another from the Royal Columbian here in Vancouver. All have taken their vacation to volunteer here for 3 weeks. They are all computer savyy so we get things organized together.

The sports med doc was from Minneapolis, loves volunteering at the Olympics. He has 3 young kids at home so he’s only here for a week. The other doc is from Quebec. We saw a steady stream of walk-in people until about 9pm and after that dead quiet. There’s lots of chat about where people are from and why they chose to do this.

I’m beginning to better understand the concept of a Polyclinic. Wikipedia says that a polyclinic is a place where a wide range of health care services (including diagnostics) can be obtained without the need for an overnight stay. Polyclinics are sometimes co-located with a hospital or may be located in another locality entirely. A typical polyclinic houses health practitioners such as doctors and nurses and provides ambulatory care and some acute care services but lacks the major surgical and pre- and post operative care facilities commonly associated with hospitals. Apparently polyclinics have existed for 10 or more years in Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland and the former Soviet republics such as Russia and Ukraine; and in many countries across Asia and Africa.

In this Olympic Polyclinic working alongside nurses and doctors are volunteer physios, massage therapists, chiropractors, optometrists, and dentists. As well we have lab, pharmacy, Xray, MRI, and CT scanning – all staffed with volunteers. Multi professional services are provided to the athletes and their entourage, IOC and NOC members and their families and the workforce which consists of hundreds of volunteers who are stationed in the Village. There is no hierarchy. The culture is very respectful of everyone’s expertise and the tone is highly collaborative.

This is a fantastic opportunity to see inter-professional care in action. I intend to watch carefully.

First Day on the Job

Gord dropped me at the skytrain at 615am where I boarded the Waterfront line bound for the Olympic Village. It’s a great system, 2 cars per train, very clean with nice big windows to see the scenery, lots of standing room with bars to hang onto, and decent seating. Large tracts are outdoors so the views are terrific.

The Olympic Village stop is at False Creek just before the downtown core. The stations are modern, clean and busy enough to feel safe even late at night. Lots of police presence and they are friendly and helpful. I’ll be glad of this when I finish my evening shifts. A 15 minute walk gets me to the Village where I must remove my jacket, cell phone, keys and such to get through the scanners which are manned by friendly volunteers charged with protecting the Village and ensuring that the hundreds of volunteers get in and out efficiently each day. They operate 24/7 because of the number of volunteers coming and going on each of 3 shifts.

Once in the Village I check in at Workforce where I am greeted warmly, my badge is stamped , I am given a bottle of water, a lunch or dinner ticket, a newsletter and a cheery message to have a good shift. If I’m early I can go to the meal tent where there is always coffee, tea, hot chocolate, snacks and lots of other volunteers in their blue jackets and vest. I realize I will meet some very interesting people in this tent!

I’m greeted casually in the Polyclinic where a group of nurses, doctors and admins like me are invited to sit in for a report which is a scattered dialogue among a group of people getting to know each other and the work to be done. When we introduce ourselves, we realize people have come from far and wide to be here – and all volunteers – even clinic managers who have been working for months to get things ready.

I’m shown briefly how to use the computer where I will register patients for immediate appointments and schedule others in a booking system. It’s all fascinating and I get involved figuring it all out. The bad new is that its all pretty casual, seat-of-your-pants learning opportunities, the good news is that it is all pretty casual, no one takes themselves too seriously, there’s always someone to help out and we all settle into the day’s work. I’m going to enjoy this!

First day in Vancouver – We’re keen to check it all out

We arrived in Vancouver last night at dinner time. A clear and beautiful day woke us early. The time change – Vancouver is on Pacific time which is 3 hours earlier than Eastern Standard time – sent us to bed earlier than usual and up, ready to go early to see what’s happening here. It was sunny in Vancouver which is a rare and wonderful event. The temperature reached 11C. We watched the snow-capped mountains in the distance as we motored up to Vancouver in Karen’s Honda Civic. Traffic is light on a sunny Saturday – lots of locals on bikes and walking – all basking in the sunshine in their light fleece jackets and shirtsleeves! What a difference from Toronto in February.

The city is alive with anticipation. Continue reading “First day in Vancouver – We’re keen to check it all out”

Preparing to leave Toronto for Vancouver…..

Countdown to leaving Toronto is D-3 and the reality of getting away for a month is beginning to hit home. There’s lots of talk in the papers, on TV and the web about Vancouver and how they are getting ready to greet the world – beautiful shots of beautiful Vancouver. It looks very exciting out there!

And for me, some wakeful nights – its now 3am! – as we prepare to leave home for a longer period than ever before – to date our holidays have – at most – been one or occasionally two weeks away. So the questions loom large in the middle of the night. Have I remembered to do everything I need to do to prepare to be away from home for a month? Will I be finished all my contracts and projects so that I have the freedom to put myself fully into the volunteer work I have promised to do in Vancouver? Will I be able to catch onto the job of Admin Assistant in the Village Polyclinic quickly enough to feel competent? How hard will it be to get to the polyclinic in the Olympic Village from where we are staying in Ladner? How long will it take? What happens when I arrive at the Ladner Exchange on the bus at 1am – perhaps exhausted after a full shift and long commute – and need to get to the house two kilometers away?

This is all both exciting – a very new and different experience – and scary, as the unknown always is.

Volunteering at the 2010 Olympics

About a year ago my husband Gord and I applied to volunteer at the Vancouver Games in February. After a lengthy process that included several applications and telephone interviews, including an RCMP security check, we were formally accepted this past August. Gord is in Transportation and I am in Health Care – both at the False Creek Athletes’ Village in Vancouver, British Columbia.

One of the criteria for being accepted, and it’s a very important one, is that you can arrange your own accommodation, always in short supply during any Olympic Games. We’ll be housed at our eldest daughter and her husband’s home in Ladner about 20 minutes south of the Vancouver airport.

We’re excited! The countdown is now at D-14 days before we hop on a flight to Vancouver on February 5th. We have recently received our work schedules and job descriptions, Gord’s includes a list of gear he will be given in order to perform his duties – more on that later.

It will be a new adventure, as well as a sabbatical of sorts, since we’re putting our work lives largely on hold to do this – and moving mentally into a semi – retirement phase of our lives. I say semi- retirement because we don’t yet want to give up our work lives completely but we would like to carve out more time to create adventures such as this one for ourselves. Gord is already saying maybe we can fast track into a volunteer role at the London Summer Games in 2012 because of the experience we’ll be getting in Vancouver!

The run up to this time has been interesting to say the least – It started as a lark, an opportunity to begin to stretch ourselves beyond the 40 plus years of relatively ordinary work lives we’ve had until now, and to begin to think about moving into another phase of living.

So now here we are only days away from actually doing it.