Note: WTHR's crew is heading home after a marathon 25-day assignment covering the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
I have to admit, I was not looking forward to coming to Russia. This was my sixth Olympic assignment. I know the drill: work long hours, eat, sleep and repeat.
I understood it was a chance of a lifetime to cover the Olympics on the other side of the world. But, all the pre-Olympic talk about security issues had my family and me feeling very uneasy.
I had several sleepless nights, asking God, "Do you really want me to go to Russia??"
Here's the deal. I am all about my wife and kids. We are very tight crew. I live a public life 'on TV' but I am a very private guy. I cherish my time with Mrs C and our two young men. I'd rather have a night at home making pizza with them over sitting courtside at another sporting event. The family takes priority, so the idea of being away for 25 days wasn't ideal! But after much prayer and family chats, we all stepped out in faith.
And guess what: it turned out to be a great experience!
My wife got precious one-on-one time with her boys who are about to leave the nest. I learned a great deal about trusting God and the endurance He provides!
The security in Russia was intense from the moment we stepped off the plane. I got used to seeing guards with machine guns on the street and hiding in the woods.
We went through intense security checkpoints several times a day, but it was greatly appreciated as we covered stories in various locations.
The 'Ring of steel' worked. We lived in the bubble most of the time. The bus system took us from the secured hotel area to the media village. But even out of the 'secured areas,' I never felt threatened. The Russians were accepting, despite a massive language barrier.
I found that simple 'Hoosier hospitality' went a long way. A smile and a 'hi' broke the ice in most of the difficult situations. I am sure I gave them a few laughs while trying to communicate.
The food here is interesting. Its more about fueling the body than actually enjoying the taste! (That's a nice way of saying the food wasn't that great...)
Sochi is a beautiful region. The Black Sea is enjoyable with its beaches covered with polished rocks. The snow-capped mountains are just 30 minutes away. They remind me of the Colorado Rockies as they jet over the valley below.
Remember that old saying, "you can't judge a book by its cover?" All my pre-conceived ideas about Russia were wrong. Except for the food!
I would even consider bringing my family to this region someday!
And by the way, sorry, boss, for the massive phone bill. I had to keep in touch with the Calabro Crew!
Rio in two years? Let's worry about that later!
Reporting from Russia,
P.S. Pass me a cheeseburger!