New Year, New Van

Wow, so 2010 came with a bang and it's March already. How is that even possible?!

I blame the one big thing that has been occupying the Canadian psyche for the last few months. Why the Winter Olympics of course!

February was one crazy month alright with all the hype and the games on every day (I work from home so I often had the Nordic Combined on in the background - my new favourite winter sport!) and of course that now iconic Olympic song I Believe by the simply stunning teen Nikki Yanofsky which, to this day, brings a tear to my eye! Honestly, that song gets me every time, it just brings back so many happy memories of this special time!

I'm so grateful for having witnessed something so momentous in Canadian history, but especially Vancouver's history. This city is so young it's like a young foal finding its feet, and this victory was well deserved.

The Canadians as a race -- and this is no big secret, in fact it's been mocked the world over as sometimes grace is seen as weakness, especially in the shadow of our loud and in-your-face US cousin -- are such modest people that they tend not to boast about their homegrown talents or this beautiful country that is so unique in the world, but this Olympics finally gave them a reason to stand up and say, "We're out and we're proud and, boy, do we rock!!" No more of this polite, wallflower nation playing down their greatness - the eyes of the world were locked firmly on this spectacular city (Eye of Saruman style!) and it was time for us to stand up and be counted.

We didn't disappoint.

The Games may have ended but the flags are still flying, the Canadian merchandise is still being worn in every way, shape and form from jerseys to gloves to cosy cardies, and people just can't stop smiling. The sense of camraderie during the Olympics was something else. Everyone was in the party spirit and the more medals our Canadian athletes took home the prouder we beamed.

From Quebec's Alexandre Bilodeau becoming the first Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal at home, to the ultra brave Joannie Rochette who won the hearts of Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum with a gutsy performance that earned her the bronze just days after her mother's sudden passing, to Ontario's über über cute ice-skating couple Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who also made history by taking home Canada's first-ever Olympic ice dance gold medal.

And, of course, who could forget Canada's A-MAZ-ING win over the US in the hockey, in OT no less. Honestly, I've never seen such madness on the streets! Thousands upon thousands of fans cheering on Granville Street and everyone just totally elated about this, Canada's ultimate dream.

First, to host the Olympics? Check. To bring home 26 medals? (coming in third overall with the US first at 37 and Germany second with 30, but we took home the most golds which I guess is the number that counts!) Check. Then, to win the hockey final which is ournational sport really as, in reality, the other result just wouldn't bear thinking about for the sense of shame it would invoke east to west.

We really couldn't ask for more. And to think we, little old Irish immigrants, got to be a part of that? Well, it was very special indeed. We'd only been here six months when the Olymics arrived -- which was coincidentally good timing by the way as we hadn't planned it -- and we already loved the city for what it was but the sense of excitement and 'oneness' that vibrated through the city like some sort of universal positive aura sucked us in entirely - hook, line and sinker. The city had been cool before but now? Well, she was like my winning new best friend, I wanted to go everywhere with her and be around her all the time!

(Hm, I hear you ask, why is the city a 'she'...are you trying to tell us something, Rachel?)

No, no, I can't control my literary my head Vancouver and I are frolicking in the sand down at English Bay in the warm afterglow of t'Olympics, all loved up and feeling a sense of "community"...whatever that means.

Funny I should come to a huggggge country (which is like GIANT in my little Irish terms!) with a population in this province alone of over four and a half million, while the population of the entire Republic of Ireland is under four million.)

Myself and the city are now one.

Still, there is a strange sense of calm amongst the people now. We're not sure what to do with ourselves. The last six months, or years really, have all been in preparation for the Olympics and now...well...they're over. What do we do now? Where do we go in the evenings after work? What do you mean 'no going to the pub midweek just to support whatever sport happens to be on that night'? I want to have a beer or two three with my dinner every night and not feel guilty!!


If only Ireland was big enough to host something of this magnitude. God knows they could do with the lift.

But, across these waters so far from my home, who knows what will be the "next big thing" in my social calendar. I must say, I thoroughly relish the thought!

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