Miami to Rio. Four thousand miles to begin the trip of a lifetime was nothing short of an adventure. The day was surreal. I was sitting in the airport, calm and collected, not even realizing the experiences and scenery I was soon to uncover. I had competed for the opportunity to join this project almost two years ago, studied the Olympic movement and multimedia production for six months, and waited all summer for this trip. It was almost unbelievable to think it was actually here.
On our layover in Miami we took the time to eat dinner and watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. As though it were possible, the songs and performances made our excitement even more obvious. Shortly after, we boarded the eight-hour flight to Rio de Janeiro. The flight was long and cold, and the plane was packed with family members of Olympic athletes, timing technology people, and coaches involved with competition events starting later in the games. The food and movies made it slightly more enjoyable. They provided distractions, at least. I tracked our flight’s progress along the way and watched out the window, and as the sun rose after flying all night, I was immediately amazed by the beautiful landscape and architecture. The mountains, the beaches, the architecture and more are unlike anything we have seen before.
On Sunday morning, after a day of suitcases, immigration control, airport buses, listening to an impromptu Rio jam session outside our lunch restaurant, seeing a roof-top view of sailboats in Botafogo Bay and Sugarloaf Mountain, exploring our neighborhood, watching cat-sized monkeys on the power lines above the street, finding the Metro stop, and lugging cases of water to our hostel, I am still not sure that I fully believe I am in Rio. But after our experiences so far, I am sure I will believe it soon.
Photo: Queens students Austin Huddy, Abby Tolar, Becca Chen (selfie stick), and Kelsey McCormick watch opening ceremonies for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games from a departure gate at Miami International Airport, 10 p.m., Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.