The great Sochi packing panic

I will admit that I am the world’s worst packer. I have either brought too many or too few items on trips over the years. But this is like no trip I've ever taken.

CBC's Sonali Karnick on travelling light, learning Russian and the excitement leading up to the Olympics

Sonali Karnick (CBC)

Me: Are you wearing your winter jacket on the plane?

Doug Gelevan: I’m packing it and wearing my usual coat.

Me: But that’s a lot of space in a suitcase…

And so it begins. I will admit that I am the world’s worst packer. I have either brought too many or too few items on trips over the years.

The last big trip I took to India, I enlisted the help of an organized friend, who, essentially packed my suitcase for me all the while ignoring my requests for more underwear and socks (which I didn’t end up needing, but don’t tell her). This is an entirely different trip with entirely different weather.

The official Sochi jacket for CBC.

I have rain boots packed along with “weather-resistant pants” (whatever that means) and running shoes for those days when it’s warm enough. I have my base layers in a pile in my suitcase but not packed.

I usually do a last-minute triage anyway. I mean, how many black shirts of varying sleeve-lengths can one woman wear? The answer is six, in case you were wondering.

The Russian lessons are going well. I’m starting to read words a little better. I mean, I know how to say the important stuff, such as :

  • “Do you speak English or French?” Выговоритепо-английскиилипо-французски? (vuygevareeti pa-​ angleeski ili pa-frantsuzki)
  • “Where is the bathroom?” Где туалет (gdye tualet)
  • “I am Canadian” Я Канадская (Ya Kanadinskaya)

I’m actually really excited to apply my language skills and I think I’ll catch on quickly when I’m in Sochi.

That being said, language is probably the only thing I’m not worried about. 

Nephew: What are you doing?

Me: Studying for the Olympics.

Nephew: Why?

Me: Well, because I want to be the most prepared and know everything I can before I get there. I have to do a lot of homework. 

Nephew: But you’re a grownup. You’re not supposed to do homework anymore.

Me: Kid, let me tell you a little secret about being a grownup. . . .

Russian language workbook. My Russian handwriting isn't bad!

In reality, my 10-year-old nephew has a point: I’ve got this grownup thing all wrong. However, when you think you know everything there is to know, you’re in trouble!

I’m taking along some exhaustive notes on the sports I’m most likely covering during the games including rules, regulations and maps.

Two questions I’ve been asked about 120,895 times:

  • “Are you excited?”
  • “Are you worried?”

Of course I’m excited! I’m just buzzing around like a bee (fuelled by lattes) and trying to get so much done that I probably seem more irritated than happy. Honestly, this is the most incredible assignment.

As a sports reporter and the host of a radio and TV show that broadcasts to the province of Quebec, I have followed some of these athletes from the very start of their careers.

In some cases, I have closer contact with their parents than the athletes themselves. On a personal level, to know what they’ve had to endure to get to the world’s largest stage for their sport is a privilege.

Short track speed skater Marianne St-Gelais did her first interview in English with me. It’s something she said she remembers to this day, even though now she rarely struggles to find a word or ask me for a quick translation.

I spoke with Catherine Ward when she was being head-hunted by American Ivy league schools while playing and studying at Dawson College. This is now her second Olympic games on the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team.

I see Caroline Ouellette play at every Montreal Stars game (when it’s not an Olympic year). Her mother sells tickets at every game at Etienne-Desmarteau arena and her father sells raffle tickets wearing one of his daughter’s jerseys.

On top of it all, I’m a figure skating nerd!

I used to do it. I was terrible but I still love watching and I, too, hold my breath when a skater is going into a jump.

I want to bring you those life-changing moments from Sochi  the ones that will have us talking and tweeting and texting and arguing and laughing and even crying.

As for my safety, I’m not that worried. I’ve seen the level of security that will surround the Olympic village and that makes me feel secure. My family is a little worried but they’re also comforted that I am not going alone.

The Rainbow Loom bracelet and ring made by my niece. 

I’ll be with a huge team from CBC and I’ve taken the requisite travel safety courses and filled out the required information.

I’m also packing a couple of drawings I commissioned from my nieces and some rainbow loom jewellery (ask your kids) as little reminders of home.

Now, can someone please sit on my suitcase?

Follow Sonali Karnick's tweets from Sochi @sonalikarnick .