I wasn't sure what to expect when I began my travels to Singapore. I had done a bit of research prior, but not to the extent that I knew what to expect. When I stepped off the plane I saw the purple Youth Olympic Games sign and was comforted to know that I wouldn't struggle to find my way. I arrived at 12:00am on Friday evening, so my drive from the airport to where I was staying was a dark one. I did not get to see much of the city, though the many signs and billboards that we passed were all in English. I was told that I wouldn't have any trouble getting around since English was widely spoken and understood.
I checked in with some of the YOG officials and made my way to my room. I was the second ambassador to arrive, afterShannon from Papua New Guinea (who I hadn't met yet). Most of the other ambassadors would be arriving throughout the day on Saturday and all I wanted to do was sleep. The humidity at this point was thicker than anything I had ever experienced. My straight hair was no more and when I looked in the mirror I recognized a familiar Shirley Temple hairstyle due to the moisture. I was comforted to see the bed where I would get a full night's rest after an exhausting 22 hours of traveling from plane to plane. Sleep just became my best friend, in the morning Singapore and I would become acquainted.
I woke up to the pitter patter sound of rain outside my room. It was about 8:00am and I had free time all day before our welcome dinner. Although probably not the brightest idea, I went for a run in the rain. Why is this not the brightest idea? Well, I'm in a foreign country, I don't know where I am going, no one knows where I am, and I didn't take any identification with me. I live in Colorado where I go running at all hours and feel safe - I am a trusting person.
So I go for a run, mainly because I'm in training for my first marathon and I do not want to slack on my training completely while I am gone. I get to see some more of the city in the light and true to what I saw in the evening, it was incredibly Westernized. From the little that I saw on my run I felt as if it could have been a city in the United States. I was interested to see more, though I couldn't do that on foot. I made my way back in hopes of meeting some of the other ambassadors.
After cleaning up I made my way down to the Learning Lounge where most were checking in. I ran into Alina from Russia, Primrose from Zimbabwe, and Fabrizia from Italy. They were about to head into to town to go shopping and asked me to join. We were on our way to Vivo City, one of the bigger shopping complexes in Singapore. I recognized many of the different shops and restaurants, as again they were ones that we also have here in the United States. The mall was pretty impressive and I managed to not buy a single thing while we were there. Shocking - I know! My focus was more on taking everything in as opposed to shopping - besides, as I mentioned, a lot of the stores were similar to ones in the U.S. I made sure to call my mother and let her know I arrived safely.
We continued to walk around a bit and then made our way back. I took some time to rest and to get some work done (I couldn't completely neglect my role at USA Rugby). Dinner time was here and I was still alone in my room. There were supposed to be three ambassadors to a room and I was flying solo. I made my way down to our welcome dinner and the minute I walked in the door I had a smiling face greeting me and wanting to know who I was. This pattern continued throughout the evening as I met ambassadors and CEP Champions. The CEP Champs are local Singaporeans who will help to facilitate the Cultural Education Program during the games. We had dinner, we socialized, we danced, we laughed, we bonded.
There haven't been many moments in my life where I can say that I walked into a situation and instantly had over 50 friends. This was definitely one of those moments. The passion and energy coming from this group was impressive. To know that almost 100 people were all motivated for the same cause and coming together on this very evening was incredibly powerful. I was glad to be a part of it. I knew that the days to come would be productive, exciting, and full of learning opportunities. I went to bed that night ready to partake on this new adventure with my new friends and colleagues.