JOSHUA KIRSHNER
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SUMMER OLYMPICS - RIO 2016

Heading into the Summer Olympics, there was a good amount of controversy surrounding the host city, Rio de Janeiro, and the event itself; Political corruption, disorganization, incomplete venues, the Zika virus, polluted water and beaches. Calls were made by several organizations to move, postpone and even cancel the Olympics altogether. However, having been to Rio before during last October, I felt like I had an idea of what awaited me there for the Olympics. 

As I was walking down the jet bridge boarding my plane in Jacksonville to embark on this journey, a loud crack of thunder clapped, what sounded, incredibly close to the airport and my plane. Perhaps it was a warning from God for what awaited me on this trip.

After a late arrival in Rio, someone managed to "accidentally" walk off with my brand new, first time being used luggage. American Airlines was of little help, so I was without anything other than my backpack containing my work laptop and a book. When my luggage miraculously showed up one night at my hotel 3 days later, I discovered that a few things were missing from it. Once again, American Airlines was of no help. I'm sure someone from the airport or even the driver who delivered my luggage to the hotel is enjoying wearing my sunglasses and listening to music on my Bluetooth speaker somewhere on Copacabana Beach. 

Our hotel was incomplete and some people had to wait half a day before being able to check in because their rooms did not even have doors installed yet. The room itself was about as close to actual camping as you can get, while still actually being in a hotel room; ice cold showers, rock hard beds and no room service for several days. By no means am I the type of person that can't "rough it", but it has to be a trip where you plan to rough it like camping in the woods, not in an Olympic hotel room without any clean clothes for 3 days. 

The Olympic tennis venue was the last of the sport venues in Olympic Park to be completed, and it showed when we arrived. No need to get into too many details, some of my pictures show enough. Random power outages, equipment failures, and a lack of urgency from the locals "working" in preparation for the Olympics led to 12 - 15 hour work days while setting up before matches even started. 

When matches did finally start, every day presented a new challenge. Power outages to Olympic Park overnight and random volunteers or event workers messing around disrupting our equipment made every morning arriving at work like opening a Pandora's box of surprises.

Now, with all that said, this was the Summer Olympics, and I am damn proud that I was given the opportunity to attend and work this event. The many issues we experienced definitely took its toll on myself and all of my coworkers there. But the fact that I can tell my children and grandchildren one day that I was at the 31st Olympiad is something to not be taken for granted.

I ended my time in Rio with a trip to the famous Christ the Redeemer. Another coworker and I made the hour and a half climb up Corcovado Mountain. The long, steep hike through the lush rain forest up the mountain was like everything else in Rio had been, challenging. It was a challenge worth it all. It was a hot, sunny day and as we approached the summit, the rain forest opened and revealed Christ, arms opened wide, in all His glory. It was as if Christ was welcoming me to the top of the mountain to join Him. A mountain that He had already climbed and conquered. In that moment, I felt Christ touching my spirit and reminding me that no matter how hard or challenging life gets, whether at home or on the road, He has already fought the battles and conquered it all. I just have to lean on His strength in faith to make it to the top of the mountain with Him. A more perfect script could not have been written, and that's how I know my faith in Christ is real. 

"In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the peaks of the mountains belong to Him also."
- Psalm 95:4

Joshua Kirshner