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Hello from Athens!

26 Jun

Hey there all!

We’re here and loving Greece! It’s beautiful here and the food is great, the people are wonderful and our Special Olympics events are full of stress and sweat and joy. 🙂

Last night we shot the Opening Ceremonies, which was unbelievable. We were able to film the Athletes Parade, where all the teams march into the stadium. It takes about two hours for all the countries to walk in, so it was quite an event, but it was so much fun! Everyone was so excited and you could just feel the energy every time a new team came out. And we got to see our friends from Haiti, Ecuador and Korea! In fact, Shannon’s Korea subject, Dong Han, got to carry the torch on its journey around the stadium before the final torch, the Flame of Hope, was lit. And speaking of the stadium, the ceremony was held in Panathinaiko Stadium, which was built way back in 566 BC, and was the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. You can read more about it and see photos here, but basically, it’s a huge deal to have been able to even go there, much less to walk around with a camera inside the stadium!

So now that the games are kicking off, we’ll be crazy busy, filming events and medal ceremonies and everything in between. We’ll try to keep you updated, and maybe post some videos or something when we get them finished! We haven’t had time to walk around much and take photos, but here’s a few silly moments from our first few days…

Love,
Megan

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Going to Greece!

22 Jun

Longest time between updates ever, I know. Things kind of went haywire after Haiti, with finals and projects and scrambling, scrambling, scrambling. A lot happened between then and now, but basically the short version is we moved into a new place, which we love love love so much more, we worked on a lot of video projects, we passed all our classes in the spring and we just finished our last round of classes for the summer! Which means we are both officially done with college classes FOREVER! AAAAAHHHHH!!!

I feel like my family is reading that line and going “We never thought this day would come!” Whatever guys. Don’t push it, or I’ll go for a PhD!

Anyways, at some point I will get around to posting Haiti pics, because Shannon got some really great ones and we would love to share them with you. Eventually. But that’s not going to happen right now, because we are about to get on a plane to Greece!

We leave in a few hours headed to Athens to cover the Special Olympics World Games, and we are SO EXCITED. We get to see all our subjects from our previous stories and watch them compete and see people like Stevie Wonder! Then when the games are over, we are traveling to Africa to do stories on the United Nations Millenium Development Goals. The MDGs consist of 8 anti-poverty goals meant to be completed by 2015. They include:
Ending Poverty and Hunger
Universal Education
Gender Equality
Child Health
Maternal Health
Combat AIDS/HIV
Environmental Sustainability
Global partnership

The class above us already did some stories on these goals last year, which you can check out here: http://mdg.glocalstories.org/  (you have to click on the stories button in the top right corner)

We will be adding to that group of stories. We will be in South Africa most of the time, but will travel out in teams to surrounding countries to do the stories. Shannon and Brian will be working on a story about AIDS orphans in Lesotho, I will be working with Kathryn on a story about farming in the slums of Kenya and our friend Chris will be doing a followup story to the piece on the website I mentioned about the largest slum in Nigeria. It’s going to be really exciting!

I’d like to promise that we will update often and write amazing blog posts about everything going on and post lots of pictures and whatnot, but we will probably be really busy and whenever we do have spare time, I doubt we will want to spend it in front of a computer. But we’ll update as much as we can, even if it’s just a short post or a photo.

In the meantime, Shannon and I both posted some new videos on our Vimeo accounts, so you can go check them out! Mine can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/megangarner and Shannon’s can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/user5333417. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

Love,
Megan

In Haiti!

12 Apr

We’re here! We got to Port Au Prince and true to all we had heard, the airport was probably the most frightening part. After that, it was smooth sailing. We met our contact here, Evan, and he is just wonderful. We have a schedule all mapped out for our next three days and we’re excited to meet the athletes. Our hotel is lovely and basically, we are loving it so far.

We’ll try to update as we go and publish some pics as well, but the internet here is terribly spotty, so don’t let your anticipation get the best of you…

Love,
Megan and Shannon

Timeliness Isn’t My Strong Suit

7 Apr

So I’m just now getting around to blogging about Ecuador a good three weeks later. I know, I know, I’m way off. Here I should be blogging about our latest apartment woes or our upcoming trip to Haiti and instead I’m talking about what happened weeks ago. Sorry guys, you’ll just have to bear with me. We’ve been swamped, swamped, swamped!

So Ecuador was a blast. I loved it and was terribly sad to leave and would love to get on a plane going back to Quito RIGHT NOW. I can’t even begin to describe everything that we saw or did or ate, but I’ll give you a brief summary of our time there. I’m also working on our video piece from Ecuador and I cannot wait for everyone to see it. I’m really excited about it and proud of what we got while we were there!

At the Equator

At the Equator

So we arrived in Quito and basically just ate and went to bed, we were so tired. The next day we got up very early and left Quito for Esmeraldas, which is up in the North Highlands of Ecuador, on the coast. We stopped by the monument that marks the Equator, which is a big tourist spot where people like to stand with one foot on either side of the line and take pictures. But because we were there so early, we couldn’t actually get to the monument, so we just took a photo from a ways away. But I mean, close enough, right?

We then had a very windy 5 hours drive through the mountains to get to Esmeraldas. We were flying around some very tight curves at high speeds, so there are no photos at all of all the beautiful scenes we passed. These curves also made my traveling companion, Brian, quite ill. He thought we’d never get there…

Once we finally arrived, we met the 6 members of the Special Olympics Ecuador soccer team who live there. They were all so sweet and so excited about our video project, and I instantly loved them. We talked to all of them (through a translator of course) and decided to chose one of them to base our story around. His name is Carlos and he’s adorable. As seen here.

Johnny, Victor and Carlos

Johnny, Victor and Carlos

We then spent the rest of the day filming the team at the beach as they practiced and filming Carlos at his home, with his family. He has a wife and a 2 year old daughter. The next day we went to the port of Esmeraldas, where Carlos works with his brother repairing boats. The work is dangerous and sporadic, so it’s hard for Carlos to make ends meet,

athletes in silhouette

My new friends on the beach

but he also does some work in Castel

Filming Carlos at the port

Filming Carlos at the port

Nuovo, where he lives, to try and earn enough money. After work, we went with Carlos to another soccer practice and then it was time to eat some deliciously fresh seafood (coconut shrimp, mmmmm), pack up and head back to Quito. Which meant another 5 hours drive, this time in the rain. Which meant another sick Brian. Did I mention poor Brian was sick to his stomach THE ENTIRE TIME WE WERE THERE? Yep. It’s true. I was thanking my lucky stars that I don’t get carsick and don’t have too much trouble with traveling.

Excited at the stadium

Excited at the stadium

Once back in Quito, we spent our third day filming in Liga stadium in Quito with the entire team. Once a month the members from Esmeraldas come to Quito where they meet the rest of their teammates, who also travel in from other areas, to train all together. So this team only gets to practice as a whole once a month. And they are so good, I can’t wait to see what they do at the World Games in Greece! However, they don’t normally practice at Liga Stadium, which is the place where the national Ecuadorian soccer team plays. And since soccer is HUGE there, these athletes were SO. EXCITED. to be playing there! It was so sweet seeing them taking their pictures everywhere and being so visibly thrilled with playing there. We got some incredible footage and I even got to kick a penalty kick! I made them promise not to laugh at me, because clearly I wasn’t up to par. There’s video evidence of this penalty kick, thanks to Brian and our friend Nico, who was holding my camera while I kicked. Maybe I’ll post it tonight if I’m feeling generous…. Oh, we also had a delicious lunch where I was tempted to order Cuy, which is a traditional Ecuadorian dish. It’s guinea pig, folks. But I decided my stomach might not handle that very well, so I went for something still Ecuadorian, but a bit more American-friendly. We also had some of the best ice cream I’ve ever put in my mouth. All natural, made by hand in a copper pot thing. Incredible.

That night Nico took me out for drinks and Ecuadorian snacks at a bar in the old part of Quito, which was absolutely beautiful. There are narrow cobblestone streets with balconies and flowers and beautiful lights everywhere, and it was like something straight out of a movie or a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book. I fell in love with Quito that night. And I also had some delicious cornbread snacks. I mean, cornbread? Come on. I’m in.

The view from the Cathedral

The view from the Cathedral

The next morning was the only time we had a bit of time for ourselves, as we were filming pretty much 24/7, so we got to drive around the old part of Quito and see the churches, which was fantastic. There was a Gothic cathedral there with a tower you can climb all the way up, if you’re willing to brave some very narrow, very vertical, very questionable stairs. Brian made it up one set, but I had to go up the next two sets on my own. My legs were like jelly and my palms were sweaty, but I made it up. The view was totally worth it.

After our morning off, it was back to filming at the stadium, at which point it decided to rain. A lot. So Brian and I had to wrap the camera up in my scarf and hold the umbrella over everything to keep from getting the gear wet, while we ourselves were quite drenched. Such is the life of a journalist…

And after the game it was time to say our goodbyes to the athletes. I totally lost any shred of professionalism and got all weepy while telling Carlos goodbye. I honestly cannot wait to see him and all our Ecuadorian friends again in Athens. Everyone we encountered was so kind, welcoming and warm. From Nico, our guide, to Victor, the sports director for Special Olympics Ecuador, to Lucho, a Special Olympics staffer who was our driver, to all the athletes, everyone bent over backwards to make sure we had a good time and got what we needed while there.

So that’s my Ecuador summary, and if you want to see all my photos, you can check them out here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbgarner/sets/72157626205543915/. I hope you like them!

Love,
Megan

Arrival in Ecuador

16 Mar

Not much has happened yet, but I thought I would put up a quick post to let everyone know Brian and I have arrived safe and sound in Ecuador! We arrived in Quito around 6:30, got all our luggage (all 150-200 pounds of it) and found our contact here, Nico. He is super nice and just as excited about us being here as we are! Then we took off to our hotel, which is just lovely by the way, and got all settled in. Brian and I opted to have dinner at the hotel for the sake of ease, which was a good thing because as soon as we sat down, a wave of fatigue hit me like a freight train. I’m not sure how I have my eyeballs open to type this blog post actually. Oh, and after dinner we video chatted with Shannon and Chelsea all the way over in Korea! They’re doing great and are getting some good footage and funny stories from what we heard. It’s so nice that technology allows us to see them and hear their voices all the way across the ocean!

Tomorrow we get up early and drive about 4 hours to the coastal town of Esmeraldas, where we’ll meet some of the Special Olympics athletes, figure out which one we want to interview and go ahead and interview them, and also film some B-roll. We’ll also be dining on incredibly fresh and cheap seafood, Nico tells us. Apparently you can get a whole lobster out there for about $14 bucks. Um, yes please!

We’ll be spending the night there and will do some more filming on Thursday before heading back to Quito Thursday night. Then we’ll be filming in the soccer stadium on Friday and Saturday, and heading back on Sunday! Woo!

So that’s about all the news I have for now, I’ve got to get off here and get my beauty rest. It was dark as we came in, so I haven’t been able to take any real photos yet, but here’s a couple silly shots. More soon!

Love,
Megan

Cue the Charlie Brown Music

12 Mar

So, today I had a major Charlie Brown moment. Like when he tries to kick the football and that mean little girl snatches it out of the way and he TOTALLY BUSTS IT and she points and laughs. That biddy. I had considered keeping my pitiful humiliating moment to myself, but I mean, it’s this kind of crap that makes great blogging fodder. So here we go.

So, of course, since I blogged yesterday about how great everything is going getting ready for Ecuador, naturally the Universe decided to kick me in the teeth today. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling that crappy way you feel before you get sick. Headache, feverish, swollen, sore lymph nodes in my throat, you know, all that goodness. Oh, and did I mention I leave the country in 3 days? GREAT. I’m freaking out and popping echinacea and vitamin C.

To make matters worse, I had to drag my busted butt out of bed and go to shoot this photo/audio story I’m trying to make some progress on before I leave. And since I already feel bad, things naturally went REALLY REALLY WRONG. First, I get out to where I’m recording, which is this little beachside bar/historic Miami spot. It’s a strange place, but a good place for shooting. And I’m trying to record my audio, and I can’t get the audio recorder to work. Even though I spent an hour the night before testing it and making sure it works. OF COURSE.

I put the audio recorder away and decide to get some photos, so the trip won’t be a total loss. I go get the camera and have a seat on one of the picnic benches scattered around so I can gather my wits, adjust my camera settings, etc. After doing so, I get up, only to realize that my pants have some strange substance on them. Which ends up being, get this, WET. PAINT. Like, wet cream-colored paint ALL OVER THE BACK OF MY PANTS. Oh and did I mention that after it happened one of the employees started laughing and calling other employees over to look? Oh and did I also mention that only moments after this a ridiculously attractive cyclist rolled up and stopped to chat? Yep. TRUE LIFE.

So if anyone has any suggestions for getting paint out of my favorite pair of jeans, do share. I’ll just be in bed with the covers pulled over my head, popping vitamins and feeling like this: 

-M

Leaving On A Jet Plane

11 Mar

So I’m a terrible blogger, I know. I made it what, all of like, 3 weeks before breaking my new years resolution? I blame grad school, folks. It’s not my fault!

Shannon at airport

No no no that's not what we want! We just wanted to check the bag, bit somehow it got wrapped in green plastic...whoops

Anyways, this morning bright and early at 4:45, Shannon and I piled into the car with her 50 pounds of gear and dropped her off for her trip to South Korea! Hooray! She and our lovely classmate Chelsea will be filming a story there for Special Olympics! It’s going to be great.

And on Tuesday, me and Brian Schlansky, or as most of us here call him, The Big Div, will be leaving for Ecuador to film our own Special Olympics story. Naturally, I’m super excited. We’ll be staying in Quito, the capital, for most of the time, although we’ll also spend a few days in the coastal city of Esmeraldas. Fun!

And then in April, Shannon and I get to travel together to do a Special Olympics story in Haiti. So big things on the horizon! Exciting things! Things that make my mother worry! 🙂

Anywho, I’ve got to go get to packing, but I’ll try my hardest to blog from Ecuador and post some pics, as well as just being a better blogger in general.

Wish us lots of luck in our travels!

-Megan