About the Author: Rachel Graciano serves as a Consular Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver. She is the onsite Consular Officer in Whistler, British Columbia during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Wednesday, February 3rd 2010, was a bit like going to Summer Camp. Okay, that's probably not a comparison one should make when talking about "serious and real work,” but it's true. Excitement was in the air and adventure was around the turn of the road. The “Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games Whistler Team” all met at a central location in Vancouver with suitcases and snow gear. There were introductions and hand-shaking all around. The typical introduction included name, where you came from and what your role during the Olympics was going to be. For example: “Hi, my name is Rachel Graciano, I'm posted here in Vancouver, and I'll be the onsite Consular Officer at Whistler.”
Then we piled into vehicles and headed north to Whistler. These were my new best friends, co-workers and team for the month ahead.
The drive up here was spectacular along the Sea to Sky Highway. There were islands off to our left, the possibility of soaring eagles ahead and to our right. Next thing you know we'd ascended to a high enough elevation with un-melted snow off to the side of the road.
I am thrilled to be heading to our consular satellite office at Whistler for the length of the Olympics. A large portion of the Nordic and Alpine events are all taking place here and thus the world, with all its citizens, are about to descend on this picturesque location. That inevitably includes quite a few thousand Americans.
My team and I are here to be Johnny-on-the-Spot in case a local American needs consular services. We can't do it all but we can provide information, forms, and on site consular services in the case of emergencies.
This is definitely one of those times where I'm torn between wanting to be really busy -- because that would be interesting -- and also hoping that I'm bored to tears -- because busy means that an American has lost his or her passport, or been arrested, hospitalized, or encountered another emergency. In fact, with in my first 24 hours of arriving at Whistler I participated in a Crisis Management Exercise to better prepare for just those types of potential events.
As I submit this blog my team and I are heading out to tour the local police station, clinics, the concierge desks at large hotels, U.S.A. House and other venues where Americans might congregate or seek information. We'll be letting everyone know that we are here, what services we provide and hand out flyers with the numbers where we can be reached 24/7.
I have to say -- this is one of those moments when I really enjoy my job. Now where did I put those snow boots...?
For more information about 2010 Olympic Winter Games travel and American Citizens Services, visit www.travel.state.gov