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Fun and (winter) games

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Kristin Bishop is a self-described “wanderer.”

Oh, did she ever find the perfect place and the perfect time to roam.

The 2003 graduate of Sequim High School was an integral part of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, transporting athletes here and there by shuttle bus.

For weeks, Bishop rubbed elbows with some of the top winter sports athletes plus dozens of Olympic Games hosts from across the world.

“I love meeting people,” Bishop says, describing her affinity for conversation that works well with her gig as bus driver.

After graduating from Sequim, Bishop attended Whatcom Community College and Western Washington University, getting a degree in human services.

With job opportunities in the social work field drying up thanks to a slumping economy, Bishop was looking for seasonal work while she decides what to do next.

‘We’re at the Olympics’
Which explains — sort of — why she found herself watching the best luge athletes in the world race at upwards of 85 miles per hour in Vancouver this February.

“It was so surreal being at an actual Olympic event,” Bishop writes in an e-mail just before the games ended.

“One of my co-workers kept on repeating, ‘We’re at the Olympics!’ I’ve been repeating that in my head since I’ve got here. This whole thing has just been a grand adventure.”

Bishop, 25, drove tour buses in Alaska each summer for the past three years. In 2009, a friend spotted an BellAir Charters advertisement on Craigslist, calling for bus drivers for the upcoming Winter Games.

“At first I thought it was a hoax,” Bishop says. “Then I did some research and found out that it was legitimate.

“I applied and got the job. It sounded as though everything would be incredibly organized.”

No-love-lost boat
Not so much, Bishop found. Instead of the posh rooms with big screen televisions and luxurious beds they were promised at a nearby university, she and fellow bus drivers were put up in a cruise ship moored in the Howe Sound.

“The cruise ship is an older-than-dirt boat that is going to be dismantled,” Bishop writes in an e-mail.

“Supposedly it was the original Love Boat, but I doubt it. We have an incredibly steep, two-story gangway that we have to clamber up and down. My bed is 2 feet wide and slants so that when I’m sleeping I have to cling to the wall to keep from falling off.”

And then there were the hours. Bishop and company woke at 3 a.m. each day and worked 12- to 13-hour shifts.

“Despite the lack of glamour, this job is pretty great,” she writes.

Knee-slapping bobsledders
It seems the poor sleeping conditions were worth it. Bishop and co-workers shuttled athletes to and from the Whistler Sliding Centre, hosting the bobsled, luge and skeleton events.

“The skeleton and luge athletes were very focused (as they should be) and a little uptight,” Bishop writes from the scene.

“The bobsledders are hilarious. They joke around with me and each other and play games. They seem a lot more laid-back.”

Bishop says she got to meet bobsledder Pierre Lueders, hardly a household name in the states but the most decorated slider in Canadian history, with four World Cup titles and a gold medal winner at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano. She also met gold medalists Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, the two-man bobsled gold medalists from Canada.

Slovakian sledder
But Bishop’s highlight was meeting Petr Narovec, a bobsledder from Slovakia.

“He’s probably one of the most entertaining personalities I’ve ever encountered,” Bishop recalls.
“The first day that I met him, he hopped on the bus and promptly told me that I was seven minutes late. Instead of going and sitting back down with the rest of the athletes, he sat down in the passenger seat and proceeded to ask me a million questions. Even though he was 40, he acted as though he was a 5-year-old. He gave me an ab workout because I was laughing so hard.”

Bishop says that most of the athletes knew enough English to communicate with her, but for those who didn’t, they still found a way to converse.

“For some of them, it was a lot of hand motions on both (sides),” she says.

Twice as nice
Bishop and her coworkers got enough time off to do a little hiking and some sightseeing in the villages, too, but many of her highlights were watching the athletes at the events — such as the German bobsledders.

“We were right at the starting line,” Bishop says. “I thought it was World War III (starting) but it was the two-man German team.”

She also enjoyed meeting volunteers from across the globe.

“I feel very honored to be a part of all this,” Bishop says. “This will be something I tell the grandkids about for sure.”

Ah, but the adventure is far from over. Bishop’s job calls for her to work the corresponding 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, starting this week and ending March 21.

And yes, she’ll be resting her head at the dilapidated cruise ship.

Yet another adventure for a Sequim wanderer.

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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