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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NYC Marathon

After being away for a few days I'm back to work and thought I would take some time to update the blog since it has been awhile. While working on behind the scenes business items there is not usually much to report that would be both interesting to read about or write about!

On Thursday, October 30th I left for the Big Apple to prepare to capture some footage during the weekend of the ING New York City Marathon. Catherine's husband, Anthony, was to arrive on Friday morning in order to be there to support Catherine. He is now in school 5 nights a week working towards a masters degree, working full time and made the 19+ hour trek here. I wanted to get there the day before and hit the video store for some supplies before filming his arrival. His support of his wife is so great that he arrived on Friday morning and had to leave on Monday afternoon so he wouldn't miss too much school but could also be in New York for the marathon. To me that shows a total commitment and I wanted to capture that on film!

Anthony arrived on Friday around 2pm with his ever present smile beaming across his face! Despite his jet lag he was upbeat and genuinely glad to be there to support his wife! Their reunion was sweet and you could tell how happy Catherine was to have him there with her!

We had lunch in the hospitality suite along with Lisa, Mostafa and Hosea Roetich (who was also scheduled to run on Sunday)and I was amazed by all of the amazing athletes that would come in and out of the area. The field of elite runners signed on for this prestigious race was the strongest in the race's history and there were many others present who were not even running. I am always inspired by being in Catherine's presence and add to that some of the other biggest names in distance running. Almost all of these amazing athletes were very approachable; Lornah Kiplagat, (World Half Marathon record holder among many other titles) graciously allowed me to interview her and was very friendly, Tegla Laroupe (one of Catherine's role models), Deena Kastor (2004 Olympic Bronze medalist), freshly recovered from her unfortunate 2008 Olympic injury and just bubbly and adorable but not yet able to do a marathon; Contantina Dita (reigning Olympic gold medalist) who was so friendly and warm! I did not recognizer her when we first ran into her in the lobby; she was about to go out for a morning run the day of the marathon (she was not running because she had run the Chicago Marathon 2 weeks prior). Her hair was back and I told her that I did not recognize her without her hair down!

Mostafa, Constantina Dita, Lisa
Later when I saw her with her makeup on and her beautiful curly hair she was easily recognizable! Rita Jeptoo, another Kenyan distance runner, Martin Lel (winner of the NYC Marathon the previous two years who had to pull out this year two weeks ago due to a foot injury) was there as well as Paula Radcliffe. There were always warm greetings between Catherine and all of these athletes (except for Paula Radcliffe who kept to herself).

After lunch, Catherine went for a massage and I took Anthony for a Starbucks coffee that I had promised him before his arrival! He was completely jet-lagged but put was very valiant in his efforts to stay awake as long as possible! After the coffee I let him go back to the room and get some much needed rest! :) Lisa, Catherine and I went to get manicures and pedicures (I asked Anthony if he wanted to join us but he said he doesn't do "manicures" he would do a "womancure"!) Anyway, we had our nails done and then met Mostafa at a local Italian restaurant for dinner. Anthony slept through dinner and said he would catch up in the morning!

I was very fortunate that my younger sister, Michele, lives in NY and allowed me to stay at her Manhattan apartment right in Union Square. It was my first year ever missing Halloween at home so I was very disappointed not to see all of the little kids all dressed up. However, I will say that when I got off of the subway at the stop near Michele's apartment, what I saw more than made up for what I missed at home! I had just missed a big parade but there were hundreds of people dressed up going to local clubs and just hanging around. It was fun filming all of this and having some of the people coming up right in front of the camera and act all crazy!

On Saturday I went to Tavern on the Green to do a location check and be sure that I had what I needed for the race on Sunday and to stop into the media center to get my location release signed. After scouting the site and doing some b-roll shooting, both inside and out, I met at the Hotel where Catherine and everone else was staying and Catherine's best friend Helen arrived. She is the woman who is blind and has received medals at the para-Olymics. It was very cute to watch her and Catherine together like little schoolgirls!

Catherine and Helen (disregard date on photo, camera not set properly)
We hung out in Catherine's room and I was able to film her and Hosea getting their bottles ready to submit for the race on Sunday. When Lisa, Catherine, Hosea and Mostafa went to the technical meeting, Anthony, Helen and I took at walk to Times Square where I had to run an errand. We had a nice time and then all had dinner back at the hotel sponsored by NYRR (New York Road Runners, the organization responsible for the race). After dinner, Helen came with me and stayed at my sister's apartment. We tried to make it an early night because we knew we had to be up very early for the race on Sunday.

We woke up at 4am on Sunday and were at the hotel by 5:30. Helen wanted to see Catherine before the buses left for the starting line so she and Catherine could pray together first. Praying is a huge part of both of their lives and is something that would never be left out. The athletes all had to be outside of the Hilton for the buses to leave at 6:30am sharp! We walked Catherine and Hosea to their bus; the elite runners were in a separate bus but all of the buses left together on time. Lisa, Anthony, Mostafa, Helen and I all went back to the hotel and had breakfast until it was time to take our walk to Tavern on the Green to watch the race. It was EXTREMELY cold at 38 degrees with and a slight wind which made it feel even colder! We got to Tavern and I did some more pre- race filming.

When the race started, Catherine was in her usual position at the back of the pack. Paula Radcliffe started off very strong and never looked back. Catherine placed 5th in the race and she was very happy with the way she ran given the weather; she does not like the cold very much and prefers the heat and humidity. We stayed in the Park Room to watch the race. The room was really nice and there were two flat screen televisions with seating available to watch the race. There was also a lovely brunch served. I filmed Anthony while he watched the race; I wanted to capture his nervousness before Catherine races and just the general mood of him, Lisa and Mostafa during a big race. When Catherine finished the race, the three of them went to the finish line to meet her. She had to go to drug testing and then they waited for Hosea who came in 9th for the men. When drug testing was over, everyone came back to the Park room for lunch. Catherine did not even look like she had run as you will see from this photo taken less than 30 minutes after the marathon!

After lunch we all walked back to the hotel. The streets were mayhem with thousands and thousands of people all trying to get somewhere! It took much longer to get back to the hotel than it did to get there in the morning! Once back at the hotel everyone rested until dinner. There was a beautiful invitation-only affair held at a place called The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers.

Rita Jeptoo, Helen Cherono, Catherine, Lisa Buster
It was a beautiful setting overlooking the Hudson River and the affair was lovely.

Catherine and Anthony at dinner (disregard date on photo; date on camera not set properly)

There was a short presentation hosted by Mary Wittenberg (President and CEO of New York Road Runners) where highlights of the race were shown and the top ten places in the men's, women's and wheelchair divisions were honored. We were bused back to the hotel where I said my goodbye's to Anthony and Catherine and Helen and I returned to the apartment exhausted from the long day. I know how tired I was and I didn't even run a marathon! I give so much credit to the thousands of people who finished those 26.2 miles!

The weekend was long and exhausting but I got some really nice footage. Aside from that, I was amazed at how much work goes into the planning and execution of this large, prestigious event and how many elite athletes were present! It was a great experience and one that neither I (or my feet) are likely to forget! I took the train back home and returned to reality and a lot of work to catch up on. I am looking forward to getting the trailer put together and getting out to raise the money so I can return to Kenya and complete filming! (any suggestions on where to find money in this lovely economy are greatly welcome!)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

ING Philadelphia Distance Run

Catherine came back to town last Tuesday to prepare to run in the ING Philadelphia Distance Run; a half marathon race set right in the heart of Philadelphia. She has won the race 6 times in the past so what better place to capture her running than in her adopted US home town. On Friday there was a press conference as well as a question & answer session. On Saturday there was another q&a. Afterwards, Catherine signed autographs and customized each one.

It was wonderful to listen to her encourage the children she would meet. I met some children who were so inspired by Catherine's words that they actually signed up right then and there to run in the kids race! It was awesome to see their reaction to meeting a running star! On Sunday morning we woke up at 5am and Lisa called all of the runners to wake them up so they could have their tea and get ready for the race. For the women, it was Catherine, Irene, Caroline and Neriah scheduled to race and for the men, Nephat. We boarded a bus along with all of the elite athletes and headed to the starting area which was at Eagan Square in front of the art museum. It was a beautiful morning for running! We made our way to the elite runners hospitality tent and there is where the runners prepared for the race.

Everywhere I looked I saw athletes stretching, warming up, having tea and mentally getting ready. At 7:30 Lisa and I made our way to the starting line and got in the back of the women's press truck which was a pick up truck. We had canvas camping type chairs to sit on and I set up my camera and waited for the air horn to signal the start of the race. There were almost 15,000 runners, all of various ages so it took quite some time for everyone to get started but the elite runners were at the front of the pack. The race course was absolutely beautiful!

The starting point is right on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway which is lined with all of the flags from countries around the world, from there the course goes through a few city streets, then back up the Ben Franklin Parkway and up the West River Drive which borders one side of the Schulkyll River and then across a bridge to the other side of the river and down Kelly Drive (named after Grace Kelly who was from Philadelphia) and ends up back at Eagan Square on the Parkway. It was a little cool and bright and sunny and it was fun to be able to film the race from directly in front of the runners. At about the 11th mile we had to pull away from the lead pack in order to be able to make it back to the finish line in time to watch the winner cross.

Catherine, her body still recovering from the Olympic marathon, came in second
with Irene behind her in third and Neriah in fourth! After the race Catherine was scheduled to start one of the kids races so we made our way to that starting line and she gave a little speech and blew the air horn to start the race for the oldest group of kids. It was a one mile race and both Catherine and the winner of the half marathon, a woman from Russia, held the tape for the winner to cross! After that we were directed to an area in front of the art museum for the awards ceremony. I was disappointed because I wanted to film the kids race for the 10 year olds as I had interviewed a set of twins the day before at the expo and wanted to film their race. However, I did not want to miss the awards. It turned out that they did not present the awards for almost 45 more minutes and I would have had time to film the kids race but it was too late. At the awards, each of the top 5 male and female places received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a statue of the liberty bell and the winners also got a wreath placed upon their heads.

Catherine spoke about how it was being back in Philadelphia and that hopefully she would run again and try for her seventh win! After the awards she stayed for a bit and signed more autographs, mostly for people who wanted her to sign their bib. As we walked back to the bus a few people stopped her to take a photo with her and just before getting onto the bus, a young girl who was probably around 12 years old approached and asked for a photo with her. She posed with the young girl while the parents took the picture and when they were finished, Catherine handed the girl the bouquet of flowers she had just received and told her that she too will win races one day. The girl was so touched and was visibly blushing! Overall, it was a fun weekend, I got some nice footage and I even got a bouquet of flowers as Irene presented me with hers when we got on the bus! It was her first half marathon and she was very pleased to have come in third! I am extremely appreciative of Lisa for allowing me to share her room and keep me from having to make my way into the city and find parking at such an early hour, to Matt Turnbull from Elite Racing who is the elite athlete coordinator and Dan Cruz the media coordinator for providing me with a press pass and access to all of the areas including the press truck; and to Zeke Zucker for his aid as well!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Well, its been awhile since I have posted because I have been working feverishly behind the lines to get the business end of everything up and running. I'm happy to announce that my company name is now official: Sparklinblue Productions. My website will be up and running as soon as I find a web designer, but you can always just log back in here!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Post Olympics

Today Catherine arrived from Beijing after a long day of traveling, however, her journey was not even close to being over. I picked her up at the airport just after 7am and she left for Kenya just after 8pm. She will arrive in Nairobi Thursday evening and leave Friday morning for Mombasa. She made a comment earlier that was very cute: "I'll be in the air so much I'm like a bird!"

When she arrived she look well rested and she told me of the wonderful time she had in China both at the Olympics and sightseeing in and around Beijing. When we got back to the athletes house I asked to see her silver medal. It was absolutely beautiful! It is in an oriental looking silver box with a pattern on it similar to small paisleys and it is fastened by a small toggle. Inside is a red lining with a gorgeous shiny red box. On top of the box it says Beijing 2008 with the Olympic rings. When you open that box you see the silver medal fitted into a little recessed circular area and the neck ribbon gets tucked underneath in a separate little compartment. I wanted to take some photos of Catherine with her medal but her phone kept ringing! Everyone knew she was back! While I waited for her to get off of the phone, each of the other athletes tried on the silver medal while I took their photographs. They were all so inspired and each of them mentioned how much they would like an Olympic medal!

When Catherine was off the phone I took several photos of her with her medal. She was wearing a red shirt and blended right in with the beautifully packaged medal!

After a short visit that included some Kenyan tea, I left because Catherine had a very hectic day running around taking care of various errands as well as fitting in a visit to the Chiropractor! She gave me the camcorder that she and Anthony used to take videos while in China and I have watched several; they had great fun with it!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

SILVER IS GOLD!!! August 17, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS TO CATHERINE on her SILVER MEDAL in the WOMEN'S MARATHON at the BEIJING OLYMPICS today!!! She ran well and looked great and brought Kenya her first medal of these Olympics! We are all SO proud of her!

There was definitely excitement and nerves in the air tonight as 5 of the Kenyan athletes arrived with Lisa at 5:15 for a BBQ and to prepare to watch the marathon. We had burgers and hotdogs and chicken and corn and "crisps" (potato chips). At 7:10 the camera man arrived and got set to film the athletes and Lisa as they watched the race. Among the Kenyan athletes was Catherine's brother, Samuel Ndereba who is also a runner. I wanted to capture the expressions and reactions to each person as they watched Catherine race. It was interesting to see the difference in the reactions between the different people. Lisa was very nervous and tense at times and Samuel did not seem as nervous on the outside, but he also did not eat dinner stating he was not hungry yet but I wondered if that had more to do with nerves.

Catherine ran her usual strategy of staying to the rear of the lead pack and she looked very strong and good. Lisa followed all her split times on the laptop and was on the phone from time to time with Anthony and/or Mostafa. It was very exciting as the top runners entered the "Birdsnest" to run the final lap around the the track. Everyone was yelling and cheering "Go Catherine" as if she could hear us! Catherine turned and saw one of the Chinese runners at her side and then she sprinted forward and edged her out! We were ALL very excited, relieved and drained! It was such an awesome experience watching the race with all of these excellent athletes! It was very funny though because I had Lisa warn the athletes that I keep my house on the cool side so they may want to bring a sweater. I'm not sure how cold Lisa said it was but Jane was so cute! She arrived with a winter coat on and did not take it off until almost 11:30pm! She wanted ice cream but said she was too cold as well! lol She sat bundled up in a blanket with her jacket on and it was just adorable.

After Catherine won the Silver medal there was a definite change in the air; relaxation! Everyone started moving about again, some checking their email, some getting more food and Irene polished my toenails and painted flowers on each! Catherine finally called and each of us got a chance to talk to her and congratulate her. She sounded great and was relieved that it was over and very happy with the result! She will now have a week to relax with her husband and be a tourist in China which I'm sure will be fun. I think I got some very nice footage tonight so I am pleased with that as well as the result of the race. Hopefully this will help in my quest to raise the funds needed to complete this film!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Training at the Track-August 7, 2008

On Tuesdays and Thursdays the athletes train at a beautiful track at Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA. It is here that they do their speed work. It's a perfect location as there are bathrooms if needed, water fountain and everyone can warm up along the Perkiomen trail. Once warmed up, they to repetitive laps for speed as opposed to the days that are run for endurance. Mostafa calls out split times and the girls take turns leading/pacing. We filmed the training session today and it was perfect weather. We were also extremely lucky in that we met a young girl (Ali) who runs cross country. She heard from her father that Catherine trained at this track and she came to watch. It was awesome watching her! She was SO excited to see Catherine and she was completely star-struck. After training was over Catherine came over to Ali and gave her tips and they exchanged stories and Catherine even gave Ali her daughter's address so she could write to her! Also at the track today was a woman doing her own jogging. I stopped her and learned that she had come to run there last week and saw what she said "were the most beautiful runners". She approached Mostafa and learned who they were and she said she went home and Googled Catherine. She was so excited and so motivated to get back out and train again that she showed up today. She said at first she was disappointed because she didn't see the Kenyans but that was because they were doing their warm up along the trail. When they got back to the track Elizabeth said she was very excited to see them again. I asked if she would let me interview her. She was so nice and also excited and I told her I would take a photo of her with Catherine and send it to her! It turns out she is a teacher (she also has a son in college who used to run track.) Catherine always wanted to be a teacher and she was in her element talking to both a teacher and a student this morning! It was perfect!
(Elizabeth with Jane Murage while waiting for Catherine)
After Catherine left we interviewed Mostafa because he would be heading to Beijing on Monday with Catherine. We then stopped for lunch (have to have a crew with full bellies!) and headed back to Advanced Health and Performance to get the interview with Johnny King-Marino that we weren't able to get last week!

It was a good day and I think we got some great footage!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A day in the life.....Wed. July 30, 2008

Wednesdays are both hectic and relief for Catherine and the other athletes that live in Norristown and train in Valley Forge. They train in the mornings but instead of being able to relax and rest up for their evening training session, they go for a session of a different type. They go to Advanced Health and Performance Center which is a Sports Medicine and Chiropractic center that specializes in the care of athletes. It is a 45 minute ride from where the athletes live so Lisa picked everyone up and drove everyone there. Right now there are 5 Kenyan athletes in town:
from right to left) Catherine, Hosea Kiprop Rotich, Irene Limika, Caroline Chepkorir and Jane Murage,
then there was El-Mostafa Nechchadi, Catherine's coach and our crew! We filmed in the van as well as at Advanced Health. It is there that the athletes get adjustments and also work on preventative exercises to keep their bodies and muscles in top shape!

(Dr. Dan-Advanced Health and Performance Center)
Catherine also gets a deep tissue massage which is extremely important in helping her muscles in between training runs. Now when I say deep tissue, she gets a deep tissue massage that not many others would even consider a massage! Some would even call it torture! According to the founder of the practice, Dr. Johnny King-Marino, Catherine's pain tolerance is like that of no one he has ever seen! While observing Catherine's massage, I noticed the therapist putting all of his might into her muscles and she did not even flinch! You could actually see this man manipulating the muscles in her legs. I found it quite fascinating however, the sound guy didn't exactly feel the same way! He got a bit queasy watching this! (We got to film some of the massage).

After the visit to Advanced Health, the next stop on Wednesdays is to Costco. A few of the girls got very excited when we talked about Costco because they love the food samples! (And here I thought it was just me and my kids that loved that!) We had permission to film there so we followed on their weekly shopping trip as they stocked up on eggs and milk and other items. It was a very long day and everyone was very patient as it did take more time than their usual trip because we had to set up for the interviews. I am very grateful to all of the athletes and Mostafa and Lisa as well for bearing with us while we captured this "day in the life". We got back to Norristown a bit after 6pm and everyone was exhausted.

Back at their house, the athletes had some tea and a short time to relax before heading out for their evening runs!

It is getting very close to Olympic time so there is not much time left for filming here! We have two shooting days next week and then it will be time to put the business plan together and start raising the money for this project!

Friday, July 25, 2008

NYC-Friday July 25th, 2008

Friday July 25th.
This was a last minute shoot that I decided to throw in when Lisa mentioned to me while filming at the Park on Monday that Catherine was scheduled for a Q&A/autograph session at Niketown on Friday as part of the race weekend leading up to the NYC Half Marathon presented by NIKE. I immediately started making calls and sending emails when I got back to the office on Monday. By Wednesday I had permissions to film at the event, as well as to follow Catherine while she did her shopping at Niketown. I should mention that Catherine LOVES to shop.

The weather on Friday was amazingly beautiful! I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to trek around NYC! I got to Niketown and met the crew there. When I walked in to the store I was amazed! It is absolutely huge and gorgeous! It was 5 floors of retail with the center open and you can see all the way up. Each floor wraps around the center so you can also see down to the first floor from every other floor. There is also a basketball player suspended in mid-air as if making a jump shot. Each floor has it's specialty whether it be running, basketball, etc. We went directly to the third floor which was the running gear floor. The place was absolutely packed which was a bit surprising given that it was 11am, but then again, it was a race weekend so there were people in town from many places and a lot of tourists as well. Among the many people I obtained releases from (because they appeared on camera) were a woman from Tennessee, a woman from Georgia and a couple from Israel.

Catherine and Lisa arrived around 11:20 and we began filming as they shopped like two schoolgirls! They conferred on almost everything and I even had to ask Lisa to back away a little and be mindful of the camera because they are so used to shopping together and stayed so close that it was difficult sometimes to see Catherine! It didn't take long for people to get curious about the camera and audio and Catherine did not have her peace for very long. People we coming up and putting their arms around her shoulder and taking photos and making a commotion. Catherine was so gracious and let everyone take a photo with her. Some of the people knew who she was and some only knew after asking but all seemed excited to see her! She continued to shop moving from floor to floor, stopping on some and not on others. She shopped for herself, for her daughter, her husband, and even for one of the other runners who had arrived the day before. She is under contract to NIKE and therefore is given a certain amount of Nike credit to spend in the store and she is such a generous person that she gave both Lisa (her manager) and Mostafa (her coach) a portion of her credit for them to purchase something for themselves!

Filming in Niketown was a bit trying. As nice as the store is, it is a producer's nightmare because there is music constantly playing. Not only was it very loud, but it is also all very recognizable music and if I want to use any of the sound from there I would need to clear the music licenses and that is not only a pain but can be extremely expensive! Catherine ran in to Benita Johnson, an Olympic contender from Australia and they chatted for a bit. I asked Benita if she would say a few words on camera which she did with pleasure. My fear is, however, that I will not be able to use that footage because of the music in the background.

Anyway, it was almost 1:30 and we all had to be somewhere by 3 so it was time to wrap up and feed Mike (camera) and Juan (audio) and myself so we walked over near our next destination and grabbed lunch. At 3pm we reconvened with Catherine and Lisa and met up with Mostafa and Hosea (who is another Kenyan runner who had just arrived the day before so he could race on Sunday). We also met up with members of the NYRR (New York Road Runners club) and some of the other elite competitors (namely Benita Johnson and Hendrick Ramaala from South Africa) and we walked down to NASDAQ. These elite runners and members of NYRR were going to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ! It was very exciting as I have been to the floor of the NYSE but had never been to NASDAQ. I was not sure if I would be allowed to bring my film crew in but once we arrived we got the permission! After going through security and scanning our bags we were ushered in to the room where the bell is. There was a very small gallery for an audience and the Sr VP of NASDAQ gave an opening speech. Then the guests were called up and the President of NYRR, Mary Wittenberg, said a few words. Benita Johnson followed and then Catherine. Then, the organizer of the closing event asked everyone to start clapping. So we clapped...and we clapped...and we clapped....and she was hooting and hollering and making a lot of noise to cheer everything along....mind you this is all being broadcast live on the big screen in Times Square! Finally, with ten seconds to go before closing, giant numbers appeared on the background screen just like it was New Year's Eve and we all counted down....10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1.... and then Catherine "rang the bell" and everyone was cheering and whooping it up. I have to say it was all very exciting! And, we got it all on camera! After the closing, we were all ushered out to Times Square and a photo was taken of the athletes. Then we were ushered back in and we each got our photos taken individually and the pictures were printed out instantly superimposing each of us on the big screen in Times Square. So we each left with a photo of ourself in a little NASDAQ photo frame. That just topped off the experience! (you can see more photos here:

By this time it was almost 4:30 and we needed to set up for the next location which would be back near Niketown but out in the atrium attached. We decided to take a taxi so the guys wouldn't have to lug their equipment again. Catherine and Lisa joined us because Catherine was very tired; she had trained in the morning and it was non-stop ever since!

We got back to Niketown and the guys set up for the Q&A/autograph session scheduled to begin at 5pm. The session featured Catherine and Dathan Ritzenheim who is a cross country champion who will be competing in the men's marathon at the Olympics this year for the US. The emcee for the event was from NYRR, Sam, and he fielded questions from a nice little crowd that had gathered for the event. After half an hour the floor was opened up and the spectators were allowed to come up and take photos with the athletes and get autographed cards. There were two other athletes whose photos were on the cards, Colleen DeReuck (US) and Felix Limo (Ken) and those two would be hosting the same type of session on Saturday afternoon.

We finished shooting around 6:15pm and we were all exhausted. Lisa and Catherine headed back to their hotel and had arranged an invite for me to stay for the NYRR dinner. I waited for the crew to pack up and walked them to their parking lot and then I went to the hotel to meet up with Lisa and Catherine. They were relaxing in the room and I quickly joined in although cautiously because I was afraid if I got too comfy that I would not want to move again and I was traveling back to Philly that night! (They offered me to stay on the floor but I turned them down)

We had dinner across the street at the Hilton and it was nice to relax and just get to know Catherine a bit more in a different setting. She was sharing childhood stories with me and someone else and I saw a different side of her that I can't wait to explore on camera in the future! It was fun but it got late and I had to head back to the station to catch the train home. I got back home a little after 11 so it was an exhausting day but was a blast! I can't wait to see the footage; it should be great! I really would have liked to have stayed until the race on Sunday but was not prepared for it. It sounds like a lot of fun with everything they have planned during the race including showing it live on two huge screens in Times Square as well as having some of the Broadway show casts sing as they go past 42nd street.

I did however wake up early on Sunday to watch the race live on WABC=TV and was able to watch Catherine win by a nice margin (the inaugural year she won by less than one second, last year she lost by one second). You can see video of the finish here:
(For the record, Lisa's other runner, Hosea Rotich, came in 7th!)

Our next shoot will be on Wed. July 30th so be sure to check back! :-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shooting begins!

Well, today was the day and we finally started shooting! (Mind you I have not even started the fund raising part, but due to the upcoming Olympics, there are just certain things that have to be done because of time!) We shot one of Catherine's training runs today at Valley Forge National Historical Park. I put a lot of preparation into this day, complete with shot list, story board, even down to camera angles and where I wanted the camera to be facing for each shot. Ha! Best laid plans! One of the other runners (John Itati) had taken me through the course that Catherine and some of the other distance runners run when they do their long run, or endurance run. I had excellent notes, videos, photos, everything to be sure I had the route down to the letter in order to be able to capture the shots needed. This was a live run, nothing staged, no "do overs" as she is in her Olympic training and extremely focused and there is no room for any additional running of any kind; she must stick to her regiment religiously. I promised that we would not get in her way, would not interrupt in any way or cause her to lose focus or concentration so I had to plan very carefully. Fortunately, on Thursday after Catherine did her track work, I drove her through the park to be sure I had the correct route so as not to miss her. It is a good thing I did! It turns out, she was not scheduled to do an endurance run today, she was scheduled for a "short run". HA! Short? Well, I guess for a marathoner it was short but believe me, it was far from short! I took notes and revised the second part of the shot schedule to the revised route. It was great for me that it was a "short run" because that meant that for the last leg of her run, she would be running along the road on a bike path and we would be able to film her and track her easily. Or so I thought!

It was a beautiful, sunny day, there was still fog over the low-lying grassy areas from the overnight storms but the sky was clear and we were on our way to another 90+ degree day. But at this time of the morning it was still not too hot yet. The crew met me in the park at 6am: My DP, an additional cameraman and my sister, Lisa who is Catherine's manager and was the perfect person to help and drive the second camera operator from shot to shot.
Catherine called me when she was leaving the house for her run at 6:30am. From the time she left the house, she estimated it would be approximately 40 minutes until she hit the first "shot" location. I drove Mark (DP) with Lisa following to show them the revised route. We had 2 way radios to keep in contact with each other and after we drove the course we went to our first shot locations. I left Mark to set up his first shot and took Mike (B cam) to his location. This location was a bit into the route, past the RR tracks and up a hill. It was a beautiful place to shoot and I changed my mind on where i wanted the camera positioned after Mike pointed out a lovely shot through the trees with the light shining through and still a hint of fog behind it. Before he could even get his sticks in the ground i heard the 2 way crackle and Lisa voice "she just passed us"! It was not even 40 minutes yet! Mike got his camera set up extra quickly and was just able to hit "record" when we saw Catherine fly past us with Jane (another runner) in tow. It was a split second and fortunately he got a really nice shot! Now the race was on! I knew we were going to be pressed to get to our next location and since I was riding with Mark but Lisa was back with him at their first location, I sent the two of them to set up at Mark's next location and Mike and I made our way back to the truck. We caught up to them at shot #2 and sent Lisa and Mike on their way to their next shot. Within a few seconds we saw Catherine emerge from the treeline. We could not believe how quickly she had gotten to that point and when we saw the angle she came out and knew where her path would be, Mark scrambled and was just able to get into position to get his shot! We hopped in the van and Mark got in the passenger seat and with the van door opened we followed Catherine down the road alongside of the bicycle path where she was running. It was now rush hour and the traffic was extremely heavy and I needed to make a left turn for our next shot but Catherine was about to cross the street. If I turned I risked blocking the shot Mike was set up for so I opted to go straight and we missed turning to our next shot. I was worried that we would miss the next shot (which is one of my favorites) because there was a steady stream of oncoming traffic so I took a bold step, put my hand up and made a U-turn right there amid the traffic and we headed to our next shot which was along a major, heavily traveled, winding rush hour road but it runs along a creek and on the other side of that creek is the path where Catherine would next be seen. It is a gorgeous location and very quickly I let Mark know that she was approaching. I radioed to Lisa and Mike to get ready; she was almost there once again! This leap frogging went on at a furious pace for the next hour! When we lost Catherine again in to the trees we had to make it to the other side of the park before she did or we would lose her for the remainder of the run. We made it to the other side just in time to see her coming towards us.

Now at this point we pulled in to a parking lot. We knew the next part would be tricky as we would attempt to track her by driving along side her as long as possible while she ran on the bicycle path next to the road. The problem was, I had my hazard lights flashing to alert cars behind me that we were going slowly. Next thing I know it I see flashing lights behind me! The park ranger, who was sitting in the parking lot we had just left, had pulled me over. He requested to see my permit and in my flustered state I had to fumble for it. At that point Catherine was slipping farther and farther away. I pleaded with the ranger to let me finish the shot first or we would miss it forever but he would not let me leave until I produced that permit. Fortunately, I remembered I had taken it out of my briefcase and put it on the dashboard. I handed the permit to him and he told us we could drive on while he checked it out. I was warned that we were not allowed to be holding up traffic and could not pull on to the grass at any time (I had pulled over as far as possible to allow cars to go past me). Needless to say, I was more than flustered at this point and just grateful that he let us move on and finish the shot! As Catherine approached the end of the park part of her run, we followed and passed by Lisa and I had to call and warn her that the ranger would not be happy with where she was stopped. Sure enough, he pulled up to her and told her she couldn't stay where she was. Fortunately, byh that point we were finished. We all met back at the Welcome Center but there was still work to be done. Lisa took Mark (DP) with her and drove out to Norristown to catch the end of Catherine's routine where she cools down and stretches out! I took Mike and he got some B-roll footage (even the over populated deer!) When we all reconvened back at the Welcome Center again I was able to view some of the footage and it looks like the two camera men got some good, usable footage! I am excited to see all the footage but will have to wait for it to be converted into Quicktime format for me to view on my PC.

It was quite the adventure and I learned a lot. The main lesson was that no matter how much you plan, you're always going to end up just rolling with the punches! The next shoot was supposed to be on the 30th but I learned today that I may be going to Manhattan to shoot a Q&A/Autograph session that Catherine is scheduled to be at before the NYC Half Marathon this weekend!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Update on the Beijing Olympics and Filming There

Well, I've been back for a month now and have been working tirelessly on making phone calls, reading, researching, making contacts, learning, learning and more learning! I finally have my answer regarding obtaining accreditation to go to Beijing to film Catherine during the marathon. I will not be going. I'm very disappointed because I really wanted to be there to capture footage myself and know that what I want and need is filmed but the reality is that even if I had received accreditation to go and access the events and Village, I still would not have been allowed to film anything. There are very stringent regulations and permissions for filming at any Olympics and even then the footage shot belongs to the International Olympic Committee and it would have to be licensed/purchased anyway. So, at least I have my answer, I was able to get to the right people in the highest of all places, the head of all media operations for the IOC in Switzerland so I know I have the answer from the right person and I feel good about that. I was also put in touch with the proper person who heads all Olympic Broadcasting and the organization and people there have been very nice. Hopefully I will be able to get some good footage from their archives after the games are over. Since Catherine is a favorite to win her event I was assured that there will be footage of her!
As disappointed as I am about not going, it also frees me up to concentrate on getting the budget worked out now and to concentrate on beginning filming which may happen as early as next week! I was not expecting that but I recently learned that a part of Catherine's training changes after a certain date and I want to be able to capture this part before it changes I'll go! It's been very challenging trying to figure out what I can and can not afford not having a budget worked out yet and also not knowing what I will definitely be able to raise. But, I am also learning that this is the dilemma of many documentary filmmakers so at least I am not alone! I have found a wonderful community online called doculink and the people there are amazing and so helpful and patient! In fact, I have found everyone in the documentary world so far to be amazingly accommodating and patient! You can't even imagine (well, some of you may be able to) how many questions I ask! The poor DP's that I have interviewed must be going crazy answering all of my questions! What format, what camera, do I want to shoot SD, HDV, HD, what camera manufacturer, if I use this one here and that one in Kenya, how will it all work, etc., etc., etc! Mind boggling to say the least and information overload! I am sure once I start working in the field that all of these things will become more evident to me. Right now it is just words on a page but once I see the differences between the cameras and the equipment in use, it will sink in (one can only hope!)

Well, Catherine arrives in PA today so hopefully I will see her soon and things will get under way. She is coming down to the nitty gritty now with her Olympic training so it will definitely be a balancing act getting the footage I need without interrupting her schedule and training!

I will post again after I start shooting!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lions No Tigers and Bears

Sunday June 1, 2008

Today is the day! I got up at 7 and got the rest of my things packed and all my treated clothing packed in my overnight bag for Masai Mara! I got downstairs on time and went to check out. Unfortunately there were some discrepancies with the bill that took longer than expected to sort out but we did. It turns out that the EXCHANGE rate I had been given during my stay was 58.05-59. On my bill however the rate was calculated at 62.35. It turns out they have a rate for exchange and a rate they use to bill. I don’t get it! For comparison just to jump ahead a few hours, the hotel in Masai Mara uses 56.40! If you figure it out please let ME know!

Anyway it was time to head to Wilson airport to catch my Air Kenya flight. At almost 10am we boarded. There were around 30 people on the flight. When the pilot turned the propellers on we didn’t go anywhere. The pilot came over the intercom and told us that the ground crew spotted a hydraulic leak! We had to disembark and waited for another hour before they were able to board us onto another craft.

Finally we were airborne! I found out that the plane was like a bus and that I would be stop number 3. It was nice to watch out of the window for awhile but next thing I knew it 40 minutes had passed and we were making our first stop. When we arrived at the Mara Serena airstrip, those of us staying at Mara Serena Lodge got off the plane. We headed towards the parking lot and were told to choose a vehicle. I got into one with a nice young couple. There was a man outside with a video camera narrating his film: we are now at the landing strip for Mara Serena, here is our vehicle….” Blah blah blah! He made the entire jeep wait for him to finish. Thankfully, he chose the other van!

Our driver/guide’s name is Dickson. He is from Samburu and has been her for over two years. He is very knowledgeable and we found out that he would be our guide from here on in.

There was NOTHING along the road coming to the hotel/lodge. As we approached the Mara Serena Lodge however, it seemed like paradise! The hotel consists of small cottages built into the side of a mountain. One side overlooks the plains and the other side overlooks the pool and plains. We had lunch and then we were shown to our rooms. My room is SO lovely! It is a hundred times nicer that Panafric and I only wish I had more time here! There is a king size bed, very nice dresser, a beautiful bathroom with a shower and real flushing toilet! The bed has a mosquito net that you pull around when you got to sleep. Then there is a sitting area with two chairs and a table that overlooks a huge window that you can open to reveal the Mara. I saw a herd of elephants and a buffalo just with the naked eye! If you remember earlier in the post meant for yesterday I mentioned that the man who showed me to my room warned me never to leave the window open when not in the room because the baboons are known to come in and snatch things!

We had the afternoon free so I decided to sit by the pool for a bit and see if I could get any color that would show I had been in Africa! It was a lovely view out over the plains and I saw what is known as a Gamma Lizard. He was beautiful and the funniest little guy I hope I can figure out how to post videos on here because you have to see this creature’s mating ritual it is hysterical He bobs his head up and down a bunch of times trying to court the female. Just as in every living creature except man, the female is never as pretty as the male. (looks like superman!)

I relaxed until it was time for our game drive. I was SO excited! This is something I have always wanted to do and here I am! As I entered the lobby I saw Adam and Jennifer who I had shared the ride from the airport with. I asked Dickson, our guide, if it would just be the three of us that if the Indian man with the camcorder was on our vehicle I would not be happy! He said he is not because he had the manifest and we were only waiting for one more man and someone said the video guy was already in his car. We couldn’t find our last person so we headed out to the car, the while thinking “please don’t let him be in our car”. Well, sure enough he was in OUR car! The three of us just looked at each other; we had no choice. We get into the vehicle and the guide starts talking to us and all we can hear is the guy in the back self-narrating another video! We begin our journey to find big game!!!! We stop to see some impalas and Dickson is talking and all of a sudden mr videoman starts narrating: “here we have some impalas, they are….” We couldn’t hear the guide so both Adam and myself tell him we are trying to hear the guide!

We went on to see impalas, different varieties of antelope, hippo, cheetahs. Zebras, buffalo, and LIONS!!!!! We first saw a male who had just gotten his fill from a kill, possibly an Impala. He was gorgeous!!! After a few minutes he just rolled over and plopped down and was sound asleep as evidenced by his rib cage moving up and down rhythmically.

We moved on in search of more animals and all of us hoped for more lions. We finally saw some other vehicles congregated around an area and knew lions had been spotted! When we got there it was an amazing sight! There was a pride of lions that included lionesses and cubs. There were 14 total! They were magnificent!

They were lounging around, sometimes shifting positions, sometimes moving from the rocks to the grass. Again, hopefully I will be able to figure out why I can’t upload videos and be able to because the video is amazing. I even caught one of the lionesses bathing a cub! The game drive was from 4-6:30 and then we headed back and had some tea/cocoa with Dickson.

I went back to my room and changed into long pants and got a jacket to be as safe as possible from the mosquitoes.

Dinner was excellent! The hotel is first class all the way. It is buffet but everything is always cooked perfectly and hot with great selection of fish, meat and salad and deli items. There is a full dessert buffet as well as a coffee/tea bar. The service is also excellent. There are over 100 employees here and capacity of guests is only 120 so there is plenty of service. It’s also cool to see little gecko’s just running up and down the walls and ceiling!

When we were having tea before dinner there was a guitar player who sang with a lovely voice. After dinner there was another singer/guitarist and he had a beautiful voice as well. I went and sat by the fire which overlooked the pool and that is where I am typing my blog. It is so peaceful, the breeze is refreshing and there are stars everywhere. I wish I could stay here for a week!

Game drive starts at 6:30 am and I can’t wait!

Prison Finals-5/31/08

It is Sunday June 1st, 2:15pm Kenya time and I am sitting with my back to the swimming pool, looking out over the Masai Mara! The sky is bright blue with some wispy clouds scattered about the horizon and big puffy clouds that look like clusters of cotton balls scattered about. The clouds just above the horizon take on many distinct shapes: an Indian chief with headdress and hook nose, the head and neck of a sheep, a full front head view of a buffalo. They are the type of clouds that you don’t have to look at very hard or long, the image just jumps out at you.

I will now write about my amazing day yesterday and only hope I can do it justice because as I sit here I find I only want to tell you about the elephants I can see from my window in my room, or how beautiful the room is, or how I was instructed I must close my window before leaving the room because of the thieving baboons that lurk about! But that will wait until I share yesterday’s adventure!

I arrive at Nyono stadium at 9:15 and as I expected, the events did not get underway until after 10. Today was very different from yesterday in that the VIP area was very carefully constructed for the dignitaries that were expected for the day. A large, high back royal-looking chair was placed front and center, almost in the exact position where I sat yesterday. There were 3 rows of carefully lined up chairs with the red velvet cushions and then another 3 rows of black office-type side chairs.. I learned that the Vice President of Kenya was expected.

The first dignitary to arrive was the Chief Commissioner of the Prisons, Gilbert M. Omondi, CBS. He is the big boss of the prisons and it was his branch that was competing. Then came Isaiah Kiplagat, the Chairman of Athletics Kenya, the organization that is head of all the athletics in Kenya and sets standards and regulations; they have coaches for their international teams, etc. There were many more people who trickled in throughout the morning. The athletic events were almost secondary to the who’s who of people but everyone did cheer on their own province. It was a lot of fun watching the pride each team had. All of these athletes work for the prison systems but they are divided into team depending on which region they work in and they then compete against the other regions. When a team wins an event, someone comes running out with their provincial flag and runs around with it!;

Then there is the chairman of Kenya Prisons Sports Council, Mr. Mutua, who is also the Chairman of Athletics Kenya Prisons Executive Committee. He is a very nice man who always made sure I was taken care of! When it was tea time we were ushered into a very nice lounge with leather seats all around and we had our choice of tea or hot cocoa along with little cakes or cookies. When we came back in Catherine was already in the middle of her 10000 meter race. She won! Earlier, one of the prison officials asked me if I would please present one of the prizes! You have to understand how the whole operation works. It is similar to a three ring circus with maybe another ring or two thrown in just to keep you on your toes! There was javelin throwing far right, discus far left, hurdles or sprints all around. Then almost directly in front of our section was where they had three blocks for the winners of 1st, 2nd and 3rd place to receive their prizes. All of a sudden, without warning, I heard my name over the loud speaker to come present the awards to a group of winners. I sill have NO idea who I handed prizes to or what they won! All I knew was there were 3 envelopes and each had a different place written on the front so I would know who to give it to!

Finally the vice president came and the band went down to the field, and all events stopped. He was an extremely young man and very nice and polite; however, he sat down, watched the band, presented the prizes to Catherine’s event and then he was gone as quickly as he arrived.

When the vice president left someone told me it was ok to sit in the front row again. Since I was taking a lot of photos I did. However, all of a sudden the events ended and the Permanent Secretary got up to speak. Here I was in the front row, 3 seats away from these dignitaries, with cameras all around; I was wishing I could slink back to the third row! Unfortunately that was not meant to happen until later.

When the events were over and all the speeches were over, we were ushered back into the lounge for lunch. It was fairly good with chapati, beef and chicken and choice of any soda. The Kenyans seem to drink a lot of soda and rarely can offer diet!

When I finished lunch I went outside to meet with a cameraman/DP that I had been referred to. He was very nice and it was also nice that he met me there! When we were finished our talk, I caught up with Anthony and Catherine. I had been wanting to go to a certain restaurant before I left and I asked them if they would go with me.; Anthony was really very tired but Catherine was able to persuade him!

I had not had a lot of time with Catherine because of her busy schedule so I rode back to her house with her. When we arrived she prepared arrowroot and tea. Her brother, Samuel and his wife Lidia were there with their adorable (yep another one!) baby boy Steve. Of course I had to play with him and take photos! After tea Catherine gave me a tour of the property before it got too dark. She took me into her vegetable garden which was huge! It would qualify as a small farm! Not quite as big as her mother’s but she had spinach and beans and corn and mango trees and tomatoes and peppers and so many other things growing! We had stopped so she could explain something to me and all of a sudden I felt something bite me! I looked down and there was a swarm of big, black ants! I never knew they could be so viscious! They were all over my heel and under my heel in my sandals and one had gotten up my pant leg and bitten me on the calf! OUCH! They can bite! So we quickly scurried away from that area and headed down to the cows. She has a mama and a baby calf and they are adorable! She has two cousins that work for her and they tend to the vegetables and animals including the cows and chickens and 4 dogs. There is an electric machine that grinds food for the cows and both of her cousins live on the property.

It was almost dark so we went back inside and I waited with Samuel and his family while Catherine took a shower. We then drove them home and went to dinner at the place I had heard so much about.

The restaurant is called Carnivore and I’m sure you guessed, it was heart-attack city. You sit down and it’s a price fix so after they serve soup, they just start bringing you meat. Everything from lamb and pork to alligator and ostrich! They come to your table with a skewer containing the meat and carve it right onto your plate. I found it to be okay but don’t really think we got our money’s worth because none of us ate very much but I’m glad I went; the place was definitely like no other I’ve been to anywhere. There was a giant bbq pit right when we walked in that held all the skewered meats!

Back to the hotel it was time to pack and get ready for safari tomorrow!!!!!! I was up way too late but needed to be sure my hair was washed and that I treated my clothes for the safari with premythrin to protect against mosquitoes!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tuesday June 3rd

Last night I went to the front desk to ask about the internet service and they told me it had been down since that afternoon. I asked if they had a phone number for British Airways and they found a few and tried them so I wouldn’t waste my airtime. I needed to get more minutes on my cell phone and the gift shop where the cards are sold had just closed down. The man was nice enough to open for me to purchase some phone minutes so I could at least call and check in and get seats. It’s a very good thing I did not wait until check in time at 11:45pm to find out about the internet because it turns out they closed at 11! Fortunately they got me a phone number to call!

I went back to my room at 10:50 and got ready for bed thinking I would wait until check in time. I was SO tired that I set my phone alarm for 11:45 just in case I fell asleep and laid my head down. Sure enough the alarm startled me! I called British Airways and got no answer. At this point I wasn’t worried about getting an aisle seat on the leg from Nairobi to London but I was worried about London to Philadelphia because it is prime travel season there, however, sleep won out and I decided to call in the morning.

I woke up at 5:30, five minutes before my alarm. I think I was worried I would oversleep and miss my last game drive. I got to the front desk at 6am only to find out that the internet was still down. I tried to call my sister, Lisa to check me in online because she knows this routine from booking her athletes on British Airways but here home phone went right to voicemail. There aren’t too many people I would call at 11:15pm USA time so I reluctantly called mom. Not only did I not want to bother her, but I didn’t want to worry her about my finger but I wanted someone to call my neighbor who uses the same doctor as me and ask her to make an appointment for me for when I get back.

I reached mom and dad and let them know I only had about 2 minutes worth of overseas calling left in my Kenyan cell. I gave them my confirmation info and asked them to check me in and get me seats. At 6:30 we left for my last game drive. This trip out we were specifically looking for Rhino since that and the Leopard were the only animals we had not spotted yet. It’s amazing how spoiled we’ve become; we see Zebras now and it’s old stuff so we don’t spend much time on it! We didn’t see a whole lot this morning and never did find any Rhino. We did go down to a part of the Masai River where there were a LOT of Hippos and Baboons though. We saw the usual Topi, Buffalo, Thompson Gizelles, Impalas, etc. but no Rhino.

It got very late so we headed back and almost when we were at the lodge we spotted two Lions; a male and a female. It made up a little for the sparse morning but we had nothing to complain about, we were VERY lucky with our game drives and even got to see the beginning of the big migration-theZebras who go before the Wildebeest!

I was very glad that I did not plan on leaving with the 11am flight; it was well worth staying until the 4pm. I was able to spend about an hour at the pool, take my time showering and packing, have lunch and have the dressing on my finger changed as well. I went to the front and checked out at 2:45. The flight was supposed to leave at 4pm but knowing what happened on our flight there I knew anything could happen. I was waiting to leave when Dickson came in so he asked me to have a drink with him. He had his usual tea and I opted for hot chocolate. He wanted to give me his contact info and get mine; he has a friend in Samburu where he is from who he claims is an amazing runner and he wanted to know how this guy could pursue it. I told him I would try to find some info from him from Catherine and Anthony.

The pilot finally called the hotel to confirm their ETA to our airstrip so Dickson drive me to the airstrip. We approached the departure area and he kept on going so I was a bit curious as to why. He kept telling me that he wanted me to miss my flight! Trust me, if I were not traveling home tonight I would have loved it! He drove right down the middle of the airstrip and finally told me he was “clearing it”. I thought he was just being funny until he proved it! My mother called on my cell to ask me a few questions about the booking and all of a sudden, three Warthogs ran out on the airstrip. Dickson threw the car in park and next thing I knew it he was out on the airstrip chasing three Warthogs away! It was priceless, however, I could not get off the phone with Mom and miss he entire photo op!

The plane came an hour late and it was a much smaller one than on the way here. We saw in the distance tremendous rains! We flew right into them but the flight was amazingly smooth. We arrived at Wilson Airport at little after 6 which was 45 min late. Anthony met me there and since he works there now (flies helicopters for the Police) he was able to meet me on the runway! He took me to the Panafric to pick up my large suitcase and then we went back to his house. Just before we turned down their street we saw Catherine finishing her training run in the dark. We drove slowly behind her to light her way. We came in and had tea and Samuel arrived. He was not with Lidia and Steven but Esther was there. We chatted a bit and then Anthony set me up online to print my boarding pass. I rearranged the stuff in my suitcases so my toiletries would be checked in and then we had dinner. It was called Githeri and was comprised of potatoe, meat, and lots of veges especially a particular corn that Catherine says she can not find in the US. It doesn’t cook and get soft like our corn at home; rather it is very hard and crunchy. It was very good but it got late very fast so we had to leave for the airport. We arrived at 10:30, I was able to drop my bag at the fast drop and go right through security. I stopped at a duty free shop to buy some Amarulu (yummy!), a liquor that comes from the amarulu fruit and tastes amazingly like khalua and cream all mixed in the bottle! This fruit grows in Africa and I have never seen it sold in the US. I purchased a bottle on a cruise ship once and loved it!

I arrived at my gate just as they started boarding so it was very nice!