Friday, September 14, 2012

Looking Back

So somehow it is the middle of September, and I have no idea where the time has gone. So much for that detailed post going day by day through the last week of the memory is unfortunately not that good! I can't believe the in a week from today I will already have been home for a month-that is absolutely insane to me. It's already starting to feel like Uvalde was a dream, a really realistic incredibly fun and life changing dream. Saying it was one of the best months of my life would be an understatement.

It amazes me how much I learned at the worlds about such a variety of things. First off; pretty sure my knowledge about gliders doubled. And I like to think I already had a pretty big knowledge base going into this. Not only did I get to see all of the new gliders and technologies (the Concordia is stunning!) but I learned so much about contest flying and cross-country flying just by sitting through all of the meetings and conversations! And of course the end of day flight analysis. I guess I shouldn't really be surprised at this, I mean I completely immersed myself in the gliding world for a month straight but man do I ever know a lot more now. Second, I learned a lot about myself. Putting yourself in so many different situations like that from high-stress to sleep deprived and working all day every day for a month you definitely learn a lot about your limits, personality and coping mechanisms. For example, I can sleep through any alarm when it goes off at 6am and I'm already sleep deprived no matter how loud it is. From this I also learned that I can get ready and out to the door in 5 minutes if I need to. I also learned that when the engine light is orange you can drive, but when it's red you have to stop. That last one is complete sarcasm, but for all you Canadian team members who were down there you will understand why that is funny! I also learned that I am pretty good at smiling and pushing through sleepiness and exhaustion. I may not be the most coherent or be very good at putting sentences together, but I can still get things done efficiently and effectively. I have also become quite a proficient power-napper, and happily got a few minutes of sleep many times waiting for the grid to launch, waiting for the pilots to land and after a shower before dinner. I love naps. On a more serious note though, I learned that when put in a stressful situation I'm pretty good at staying calm and working through it logically. I'm also pretty decent at diffusing stressful situations, usually by cracking some terrible joke or awkward comment but hey whatever works. I also reinforced my love for adventure and travel. I live for those random excursions that end up being the best moments of a trip, but more so I live for going to new places and seeing new things. Which is why now I don't say I hope to travel the world some day, I say I will travel the world :)
Had to write in the dust on the Jeep's dashboard...

People have a way of touching your life in ways that you would never expect. There are so many people that I might in Uvalde, from there and from around the world, that have impacted my life and I will never forget. There are the countless friends I made that can make me laugh in a split second, go on midnight ice cream adventures with, drive donuts around the airport with, play intense frisbee games with, learn about guns with, take lunch breaks with, watch airplane movies with, hide in cars from the dust with, have life chats with and of course fly planes with. These are the people that I hope will always be in my life, the ones that I'll stay in touch with and visit whenever I can because they each have a place in my heart. There is the completely unexpected person who walked into my near the end of the contest and changed everything that I would fly to the other side of the world in a heartbeat to see. Somehow in a week together we managed to have an insane amount of adventures and so many laughs that my cheeks were permanently sore. There are the incredible pilots from around the world that I was fortunate enough to meet that inspire me to chase my dreams and do what I love. They made me remember why you should never do something halfway, if you're going to do it put in your everything and you will succeed. It was also such a honour to meet them, after all they are the legends that I have heard stories about since I was a little kid! And now some of them know me by name, some have even had life talks over a beer with me... it is unreal now looking back at some of the people that  got to talk to every day like it was normal. Then there is the Canadian Team, my family for the month but more importantly my support system for the month. They were there with a funny story when I needed cheering up, water when I looked like I was about to pass out, company when I was alone, knowledge when I had questions and a car when I needed a ride (another joke for them). While my relationship with each pilot and crew member is different, they are each one that I will cherish for the rest of my life because without them none of this would have happened.

I have to take a moment to say thank you to Nick and Christine. They not only let me help them everyday but they voluntarily put up with me for three weeks straight! It was an honour to be able to be crew for them and I am so thankful to have had that opportunity. I have to say, it was really awesome being able to help the people that I have grown up around at our gliding club-I still remember being a little kid and being completely is awe of the two of them! From breakfast at the Kettle every morning to hiding from the dust in the ac of the car, to the infamous retrieve it sure was a month of fun adventure and countless memories. Go ST!!

So things that stand out to me from the last week of the contest:
-The flying of course! As per typical Uvalde, the weather was amazing. They had insanely long flights, +500km and crazy speeds. They came up with a really cool statistic at the last meeting; if you add together the distances of everyones flights you could make it to the moon and back and still have some km's left over, how cool is that :D The weather held up until the closing ceremonies too which was great, it did get a little stormy looking a few days but like usual it all bypassed Uvalde. It's a little storage, it will rain 20 miles away but it never rains there...
-The international party night! More like the international booze night though... There was about 14 teams that set up table in the big tent at the airport on the Tuesday night and had food/booze from their countries set up for people to try. Everyone had a great time touring around the table and checking out what people ad brought which was a pretty big variety. You had everything from Belgian beer to Italian pasta to beer and Macdonalds (American table...stereotypes!). But I think people had the most fun trying whatever kind of alcohol was being served at each table, and boy was there a whole life of different things. What was great about that night though was how it really brought everyone together and people from different teams were all brought together to hang out and talk. Everywhere you looked countries were mixing with each other and great friendships were being made. Quite a successful night!
-The mid-air collision. When Ed called me that afternoon to ask me to go back to the field because their had been an accident I actually felt my heart stop. It had been something that everyone was afraid of happening, and was every teams worst nightmare. Thankfully though both pilots were okay (not so much the planes but that's alright) and neither of them was a Canadian. The 15m class task was cancelled for the day so they all came home and I think I can speak for all the crew that we were very happy to have them coming home and land. What really struck a chord with me was at the morning meeting the next day and the two pilots involved had a good talk and were shaking hands and hugging-there was no hard feelings and they were both just happy to be there in one piece. It was very powerful.
-The last pilots meeting. Everyone has this strange mix of sad and happy going on that you could feel the minute you walked into the room. Sad because this was it, it was all ending and everyone had been having such a good time, happy though because everyone was starting to get really tired and exhausted from so much heat, flying and constantly being on the go.
Team Canada table

-The final party, also known as the Farewell Fiesta! What a night, those pilots (and crew) sure know how to party when there's no more flying! It was a great night and a chance to have one last hoorah before everyone would be leaving the nest day. What really hit me was the difference between this party and the opening party: first, everyone has massive smiles plastered on their faces, second, everyone was mixing and talking with other teams. The opening party had been fun but everyone pretty much stuck to the crowd of people they knew (mostly their own team), whereas this time it was a jumble of countries and teams all over the place. It was great to see how everyone had branched out and made such good friends with the others! It was really like everyone just came together, bonded by this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I ended up closing out the night with some of the Australian, South African and Austrian teams who I gave up trying to keep up with after the third round of shots was brought to the table... I think it's a pilot thing to have an impressively high alcohol tolerance. It was a definitely one of the best nights though and I had a blast!
-The closing ceremonies. Most notably, it rained. Yes, it RAINED in Uvalde! Shock. The locals were ecstatic because they were in a stage 4 drought at this point and us foreigners didn't care because we didn't have to fly. It was a bit of a bummer though because everything was set up outside so we had to put up with a drizzle through the entire ceremony. Most notably was the flyover from the P-51, Waco, Pawnee and Cub right in the middle of the prayer again (you boys have impeccable timing). Prizes were awarded to pilots with Cheshire cat size grins, team photos were taken, belt buckles handed out (I wanted one SO bad-they were gorgeous!) and many hugs goodbye were given. It was actually so sad saying goodbye to everyone because the majority of the people I still have no idea when I will see again. Poland 2014 everyone? Our team was all leaving that day too so I had to say be to them swell because I wasn't headed out until the next day! Sad Sonia.
Rain, pilots&crew and the flag circle

-Driving out of Uvalde. I knew it was going to be hard to leave, but I never imagined it would be that hard. Poor Edward had to deal with me crying most of the car ride to San Antonio...what a trooper. I was leaving behind what had become my home over the past month, friends that had gotten so used to having in my everyday life and a town and airport that I had grown to love. It really felt like I was leaving home, which has never happened to me before. Normally I'm sad to leave a vacation spot but this was different. Everything we drove by I tried to memorize because I don't know when I'll see any of it next, I don't want to loose my mental picture of that special little town. Having an entire day to wait at the airport didn't help the sadness either, my flight didn't leave until 6 and we got into San Antonio at 9:30. I lost it when the plane took off too...poor guy sitting next to me didn't know what to do. It was in that instant that I really hit me that it was all over, that I was really leaving. The trip home was a bit of an adventure too, Chicago has massive thunderstorms which delayed all the flights so we left at 1:30am instead of 11:30. Oh and it was freeeeeezing cold! After being in 45 degrees for a month (which actually felt normal by the end of it), 20 is a major shock to your system. I'm not ashamed to say I wore jeans and hoodies around the first few days I was home because I couldn't handle the cold.

Looking back and writing things down it's hitting me all over again what an incredible month that was. So many memories, friendships and adventures that I will cherish for the rest of my life. And 1200 pictures just incase I forget anything...ahem. The one thing that I think is hilarious is that I only have 1 picture with myself in it, and maybe 20 that have people in them. Typical me. I really need to stop doing that though, I have no pictures of all these incredible people that came into my life! So frustrating. Oh well I guess that just means I'll have to see them again soon so we can take pictures :) I have crazy amounts of airplane and sky photos though, go figure! So here's to the 32nd Annual World Gliding Championships-soemthing I will never forget and always hold close to my heart.

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