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~ FEBRUARY, 2004 ~

Week of 15Feb - Being fairly self-reliant, I'm slow to ask for the help I need and feel a little awkward about it. I hadn't expected much more than rides to the airport, pet care and maybe a few bucks. To my delight, I've had donations of freeze-dried food, pet care, rides to and from the airport, euros for my arrival in Athens, funds for my Youth Hostel pass and hiking boots...and things "on the way in the mail." I can hardly wait! I'm a little overwhelmed and most appreciative of the generosity shown to me by friends.

Week of 22Feb - My last day before departure for Greece had been getting last minute things done, buying some new dance clothes (thanks to the donation of a friend in Alaska). I figured if I wanted to perform like a winner, it would help to look the part. A major attack of performance anxiety had set in. I wrote to a friend asking for some words of encouragement. Some helpful words she gave me were "We'll all be there in spirit dancing along with you! I just hope I don't step on your feet!!! You have a whole cheering section wishing/willing you the best." Thanks, I needed that!

I departed Mardi Gras Day from Lafayette, LA hearing sights and sounds of Mardi Gras parades as my friend, Amy, drove me to the airport. Reaching Athens, 17 hours and an 8-hour time zone shift later, I was seriously jet lagged. By bus and metro I headed for the International Youth Hostel in central Athens. The maps at the metro entrances/exits were, unfortunately, only in Greek script and finding the correct street for the Youth Hostel in my already dazed state became a surreal experience. I crashed for 11 hours and spent the next day recovering. By Friday I felt more or less normal.

I took that day to get out and see some of the city, hiking to the highest spot, Lycabettus Hill. I was delighted to find an open-air produce market on my walk up. There had been a freak snowstorm in Athens a couple of weeks before my arrival and I saw evidence of this in damaged plants during my walk on Lycabettus Hill. It was a rainy, overcast day so my view was limited from the top, but the Acropolis was evident. Athens is a big sprawling city, of course old, and much of it paved over, with dusty, narrow streets. I returned going down a pleasant switch back trail, through the National Garden and Zoo and finally meandered around the Plaka, before catching the metro at Syntagma Square to head back to the Youth Hostel. (By now I'd figured out the metro and understood the Greek script a little better.) I was happy to discover in the pedestrian-only Plaka market area that the ever-present traffic noise was gone, replaced by the pleasant murmur of people talking. Here I put away my map and just wandered freely. Syntagma Square metro stop was worth exploring too. It has a Plexiglas-enclosed wall showing the ancient ruins uncovered when the stop was excavated.

By Friday evening, no longer distracted by jet lag, some of my performance anxiety returned. I awoke the morning of the audition at 5:30 am, tossed and turned, finally relented and got up at 7:15 am. With not enough sleep, I became more laid back about the audition and decided to just go, have fun and not worry about it. It was a long ride on the metro green line and by bus to the Dais Cultural Center. The almond trees were in bloom in Athens, but especially so around the Dias Cultural Center. They reminded me of cherry blossoms in the Washington, DC area and were lovely to see. The green line goes past the Olympic Stadium. When I commented to a friendly Greek woman that the Stadium was not completed (nor was some of the associated housing, nor even the Stadium metro stop) she just shrugged, smiled, said "we're Greek" and it will be done "just in time." Everywhere I saw a significant amount of construction, which I assumed was for the Olympics.

I arrived an hour early, and the warm greeting I received from Dimitris Fotopoulos dissolved the last of my anxiety. He said they were honored that I had come so far to audition. Written information I'd received said over 125,000 volunteer applications had been received, and "several thousand" people would be auditioned to perform in the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies. There was an audition of 100 people going on when I arrived, 100 in my group, and 100 after us. The well-organized, three-hour long audition involved taking measurement for costumes, photos, a discussion of the Olympic performance theme, warm up exercises, general movement skills, and finally learning a simple, slow movement combination that we then performed in small groups. Only 10% of the 100 people in my group were non-Greek speaking, so much of what we heard was in Greek. Two very pleasant people helped our small group of non-Greek speakers understand and guided us in our movements. Of course, beautiful people with beautiful bodies showed up to audition, but a variety of people of ages and shapes were there. I loved the slow mo vement combination, and had fun, more than I expected. And then, it was over, and we were heading home all wishing each other good luck, and "hope to see you in the summer." Already we'd bonded from the shared experience. I can just imagine what it will be like in the summer.

Week of 29Feb - Relieved that the audition was over, my last day in Athens was spent wandering around the market areas, shopping for thank you gifts, seeing some sights (amused by the laid back cats and dogs of Athens), and feeling good because I had done it! Back at the hostel packing up I discovered an American had moved into the room, previously shared by an Italian woman, French, Austrian, and myself. While most people speak English, still there is nothing like someone who shares your own culture to be able to really open up. We both talked, and talked, and talked as if we'd not spoken to anyone in months...and laughed about that. A long journey back to the United States, jet lag again. Now the waiting. The results and the rehearsal schedule for performing won't be available until late March.


~ MARCH, 2004 ~

Week of 7Mar - Waiting to hear audition results. Considering other options for getting back to Athens other than flying directly there, thanks to the input from an Australian friend.

Week of 14Mar - Still waiting. Have been informed by Delta that donated miles must be all from one account vs. combined. One plan is that those wishing to make donations could pay (with miles) for a segment of the trip, e.g. the trip over as one ticket, the trip back as another ticket. A recent vehicle accident in which my vehicle was totaled (thankfully I had only minor injuries) has made even more challenging pulling together the finances for this trip.

Week of 21Mar - I've gotten the word that the results of the audition are being mailed out this week. I'm becoming increasingly aware of how important it feels to me to do this. You know how you sometimes feel like you just have to do something, and it sounds like a crazy idea to everybody...including yourself! I've even toyed with the idea of selling my house to fund this venture.

Today 25 March 2004 at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia, the lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame took place, following the ancient ritual of using the power of the sun's rays concentrated within a concave mirror. This signaled the start of the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Torch Relay, the first global Torch Relay.


~ APRIL, 2004 ~

Week of 11Apr - Friends have been inquiring, "Did you get in??" I wondered too, since I'd expected to hear something by now. So, I called Greece. "End of April" was the response I got. There's still hope.

~ MAY, 2004 ~

Week of 2May - I think my application must have gotten lost in the shuffle of the 160,000 applications. Two calls this week to Greece and I was told "end of this first week of May."

Week of 9May - Finally some news! An email response. With less than 90 days to go, it has been very crazy, big changes have been made, and casting is just about done, I was told. "...we will inform you soon about your role and when you need to be in Athens for your rehearsals and in which show you'll be in."


~ JUNE, 2004 ~

Week of 13Jun - I'm in! I'm in! I'm in! With time getting so short to make plans and raise funds, I was getting more and more despondent over the lack of news. Just last week I had an email that asked me to "be patient," which left me feeling discouraged. But this week I got the news:

"Pack your bags and make sure that you are in Athens for the 27th of July rehearsal!!! You have been cast in the Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games."

I have finally stopped bouncing off the walls with excitement. Many of my friends know of my extreme financial difficulty, especially this past year. This month it was touch and go if I'd have enough money to pay my small mortgage, so it seems ludicrous to even think about going to Athens for six weeks. But I keep considering someone I've known most of my life who died recently. Time slips by so quickly. I don't want to come to the end of my life and not do what I felt I had a burning desire to do...I don't want a life of regret. So how can I not go for it...even when I can barely pay my mortgage. The most immediate goal now is to raise airfare. If you're even thinking about donating, please don't delay. I hope to leave July 20th or thereabouts, so a 21-day advanced ticket is coming up pretty quick. I'm investigating having a ticket in segments to make it more affordable for people wanting to donate.

Week of 20Jun - Spent this week revamping my website and sending off emails about fund raising, including to Oprah, Radio Delilah, my state senators, The NY Times (hey, I can be a foreign correspondent), my college alumni service, the local public access TV station, local public access radio station, some local newspapers, and others.

Week of 27Jun - My hard drive crashed this week. Could it happen at a more inconvenient time? Once again, I am very grateful for our public library system. The big new this week (so far) is that I took the plunge (with the help of a friend plus donations) and purchased my ticket for Athens. With no definite accommodation arrangements, I may have just committed myself to six-weeks of hard life on the streets of Athens...or the greatest adventure of my life.


~ JULY, 2004 ~

Week of 4Jul - The past two weeks have been spent running around sharing my story and doing fund raising (okay, now I know what's involved and I don't envy those on the campaign trail), recovering from my hard drive crash (unfortunately, I lost some important contacts in Athens; I hope they write), looking for work in Athens, looking for work in Lafayette, investigating accommodations in Athens, getting my visa. I had ten-minute radio spots on KTDY 99.9 FM, and KRVS 88.7, and one of the local newspapers interviewed me. Thank you, thank you, thank you to those who have sent donations and helped in other ways. As of 10Jul, I'm just 11 days away from departure and getting nervous about accommodations, about performing, about this big step in my life. One youth hostel in Athens has emailed me about a position that sounds like it would include accommodations. Wouldn't that be a relief!

Week of 11Jul -
I did a little research recently to update my statistic a bout the Olympics. Over 160,000 people volunteered to participate in the Olympics. The execution of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will call for the combined efforts of more than eight thousand volunteer performers. My cast coordinator said in an email "It's going to be sooooooo amazing!"

As this week is drawing to a close, I reflect on the ups and downs. The youth hostel job fell through, I haven't made any positive connections with "hospitality club" members in Athens or other long-term accommodations, the a/c compressor in my vehicle went out (at $700 for repairs, I'll have to sweat it out), and anxiety continues over food and housing arrangements. But I'm trying to stay strong and keep my focus and positive energy looking forward towards my dream.

On the positive side, I had a five minute radio spot on KQIS 102.1 FM, an article about me should appear in two, maybe three newspapers in the next few days, my pets and plants are being cared for, I've booked five nights at youth hostels for my arrival, all the paperwork for my visa has finally come together, I was contacted by my former home town newspaper, wanting to do an article about me, (I'd emailed everyone I could think of about what I'm doing!), and the mayor of my current home town gave me pins to pass out at the Olympics.

My attention in these five remaining days before departure is turning to accommodations searches, jobs searches, last minute shopping, and packing. I will post one more time before I leave.

Week of 18Jul - Wrapping up before departure. Contact with some creditors requesting a "payment holiday" met with favorable results, others took a "no exceptions" approach. Some coverage of my story was what I'd hoped for, some not. Tentative leads on accommodations, tentative leads on work. Nothing definite. Got the loan of a digital camera, good friends and neighbors helping me out. So it goes, up and down. I've about done all that I can do and spent about as much emotional energy being worried as I can. It will probably be a relief to get on the plane, immerse myself in a good book, leave so much effort behind and get under way. I'll deal with the rest when I get to Greece.

Thanks to all of you who have supported me and for continuing to support me while I'm in Athens. Anyone who wants to can still send donations to me through PayPal and I'll probably be able to pick them up in Greece. I'll still check my voice mail and email, but it might take a few days to get back to you. Anything sent to me via USPS mail will be there at the post office when I get back in early September.

Meanwhile, don't forget to follow your dreams. Your own life is much more fascinating than anything you'll ever find on reality TV. Signing off from Louisiana. See you in Greece.


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What's this all about? Click here to read about the dream. Click here if you would like to make a donation or help in some other way. Click here to see where the money is going. Contact me by email. I will continue to add updates to this journal during the six weeks I'm in Athens, usually the end of each week.

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