Todos Somos Um- “We are All One.”

  Todos Somos Um. We are all one.  The famous Brazilian graffiti artist Kobra choose this mantra as the title for the masterpiece he created for the games.  His brilliant and gigantic mural depicts 6 different people groups in a stunning display of culture, color and beauty.   It portrays the unity, peace and feelings of community that perfectly sums up my feelings for my time at the Olympics.   We are all one. I have never felt that more than this week, here at the Olympic games.

You can’t understand this strange Olympic community until you experience it for yourself.    We have all watched the Olympics on TV.    We have all witnessed the athletes compete and heard their stories.  Every four years we all cheer on the American Team and yearn for Gold with lustful anticipation. The media describes and perhaps ignites feuds between athletes and countries and at home everyone focuses on the competition and rivalries.

But when you are here at the Olympics in person the rivalries seem to melt away.  It feels completely different.  What you don’t see through the TV is the community of spectators, athletes, volunteers, families of athletes, and media personnel who have all united under shared passions.  From home it is impossible to understand he bond and friendships being built in the little Utopian Bubble that is the Olympic Games. 

This past week I got to live my dream.  I got to attend several Olympic events including the Opening Ceremony.   I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see Kerri Walsh-Jennings absolutely dominate the Beach Volleyball court in person. I was also never so proud to be a Boilermaker than when watching Steele Johnson and David Bodia dive for Silver and give God all of the glory. It was also thrilling to watch US men’s basketball and Gymnastics.   I found it fascinating and enthralling to be there live with an energetic audience.


  
However, the events themselves, while thrilling and fun, were not my favorite part of being here at the Olympics.

What I loved most about being here during the Olympics was the COMMUNITY. The Olympic community is smaller than I ever imagined. Most events are all spaced out together in the Olympic park and it is fascinating to see people go around the massive park bustling off to their various events from water polo or  tennis to  handball or diving.


I kept running into the same people. I met these people on the bus going to the Olympic park, on the street, at the Boulevard or in line for different events.  It is thrilling and exciting to see people you recognize again and again.  It is fun to check in with each other to find out what they have seen and where they are going to next.  We shared stories of the games and gave each other advice.  Here in the Olympic Park, Rio suddenly felt small and familiar.



I saw athletes on their way to their events, duffle bags in hand and concentration on their face.  I met the families of the athletes with their nervous smiles and hopeful energy.   I created a group of friends from around the world and we all started sharing a common purpose.  We found ourselves suddenly rooting for each other’s teams, not just our own.

 The Host city’s intoxicating excitement compels everyone to root for every Brazilian competitor along with Rio’s  vibrant crowd.  I met many family members of athletes while roaming the Olympic Park and I found myself cheering, not just for the Americans or even the Brazilians, but also for the daughter of the Chinese woman I met in line of the diving event.   And I cheered for the son of the guy from Mexico and for the friends of that sweet couple from Argentina.  While at the Olympics in Rio, I started rooting for the world- not just America.

  

 When  I walked around the Olympic village I couldn’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie and joy. There are several tables set up in the Olympic Park and I saw  different groups mixing together sharing meals and hopping table to table to swap pins and collectible cups.   One evening I even joined a Danish Family in their game of 500 Rummy at one of these tables.

Here in this strange and magical Olympic bubble, smiles and kindness break language barriers and patience and understanding seem to be the normal mode of operation.  This utopia of peaceful cohabitation is why it is essential to visit the games in person.   It was here that my heart felt completely at peace and full of joy.  During all of the fun and love and celebration I started to fully understand Todos Somos Um. “We are all one”.  

  

      

I’m going to the Olympic Opening Ceremony!!   Today!!   

God is so good and so faithful.   He worked everything out and gets all of the glory!   My good friends drove me out of town to get the tickets from the FedEx shipping center. I am so thankful for them!  

  I am so beyond blessed and full of JOY!   How good is God?  He loves me so much even though I don’t deserve it- but that is what makes him so great!  We don’t deserve his love, but he loves us anyway!   Check out the emotional moment I had when I got my tickets.    I still can’t believe I’m going to the Olympics tonight!!! 

Will My Tickets Arrive? My Olympic Opening Ceremony Drama!

 The morning of my 29th birthday I woke up thinking about what I wanted to accomplish during my last year of my twenties. I spent my morning thinking about how amazing the decade of my twenties had been. I had the great blessing to see and experience the world. I thought about the sites I had seen, the people I had met and the humanity and love I had witnessed.

In the last 8 years alone I had visited 34 countries, 4 continents, lived abroad twice and visited numerous cities. This allowed me to meet my lifetime goal of visiting 30 countries before I turned 30, but more importantly it helped me find myself.

With a since of thankfulness and accomplishment I spent the morning of my 29th birthday reflecting on these adventures, and thinking about how much I had grown and experienced. I also wondered what the year 29 would have in store for my future.

How could I possibly put a cap to the top of such a perfect decade of exploration and travel? What could possibly make it all come together to culminate in absolute perfection? What would be my next step?

About this time, I got a message from my friend in Rio. He wished me a happy birthday and said I should come visit him for the Olympics. And that was it. That was what I needed.  Attending the Olympics, the international Mecca of global cooperation and peace, was the perfect way to punctuate a decade of travel. And I simply said to myself “Why not?” Visiting the Olympics had always been my life dream.

I had spent most of my youth obsessing about the Olympics. I watched the athletes compete with suspenseful reverence. I cheered for the Americans, but I also loved hearing about and cheering for the underdogs from Romania or Croatia or wherever. I looked forward to hearing the humanitarian pieces and human interest stories. I was enthralled with the history and culture of the host cities and how the entire world could come together to compete for two weeks. I cried whenever an athlete (especially an American, but really any athlete) won a gold medal and got the honor of hearing their national anthem ring out loud and clear for all to hear.

But most of all, I looked forward to, I obsessed over, I yearned for and I watched and re-watched the Opening Ceremony. This is what I would hungrily await to see every 4 years. The Opening Ceremony is the dream, it is the most exciting and important and essential part of the games.

So, when I was invited to visit my friend in Rio this summer for the Olympics I did not hesitate. I immediately went online and purchased two Tickets to the Opening Ceremony. And just like that I was going, when just an hour before the idea had not even been on my radar. But, suddenly I had purchased my tickets and I was on my way to fulfill a life long dream- to attend an Olympic Opening Ceremony.   This would be my Olympic moment, my Olympic Story!

However, no good Olympic Story is complete without some drama. It turns out that the tickets I purchased in October for a 29th birthday to myself where fake. I should have realized something was fishy when the credit card sale was through an office in India. The website looked like the official site, but it turns out it was one hyphen away from the official Olympic ticket office. Now looking back on this, it was so obvious. Even my 7th grade students knew the tickets were fake. In my heart I think I did too. I mean, come on-I bought them from a random guy in India named Sam and I was supposed to pick them up at his “booth” in Rio before the event.

Looking back now it is comical. A typical Kelly Story. I am such a hoosier! So trusting. So honest. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would rather see the good in the world instead of being a skeptic. Why would anyone sell fake tickets? I just didn’t want to be so distrusting of the world. I wanted so badly for them to be real, that I believed they were real.   And so I told myself, the tickets could be real.   And honestly it was worth the risk. So I planned my trip with confidence and fervor. Only secretly wondering if the tickets were real.

However, When I arrived I realized that the “booth” did not exist and I had been scammed. I realized that I would not get these tickets and I had lost my money.   I felt foolish for being so trusting and naive.

However foolish I may be, I am also determined. I decided I had to try again. I used a European resale site and bought ANOTHER two tickets to the ceremony completely draining my savings. This site promised they would mail the tickets to my location in Rio by August 1st.   Yet, on August 1st, they did not arrive.   Instead I got word, through Fedex tracking, that they were still in France and would not be here until Friday the 5th….at 6:00 pm.   The ceremony is the 5th at 5:00 pm, and it will take a few hours to get there.

So, I am still waiting to see if they arrive. As of today they are in Memphis Tennessee ready to be shipped to Rio….. who unfortunately will be on a bank Holiday for the next two days.   So, the odds are stacked against me, but I have faith that everything will work out. I will keep praying and I know that God can pull this together.   Things always work out for the best!   And all I can do is trust and pray that the tickets arrive in time!   Keep tuned in to see if they arrive by tomorrow afternoon!

They next time I write, I should be able to tell you what it is like to attend an Olympic Opening Ceremony live in the flesh! ……….OR……… I should be able to tell you what it is like to watch an Olympic Opening Ceremony on a TV next to where it is happening live. Either way, God is good and I am blessed to be in Rio! And right now I am off to find the local Fedex site and try, through broken Spanish and Portuguese to figure out where in the world my tickets are!  Wish me luck and say a prayer!

 

Find out how it turns out at Fillingmymap.com or WIBC.com

Nothing But Love! My First Impressions of Rio de Janeiro.  

Use bug spray, don’t go out at night alone, don’t drink the water, don’t use your phone in public, don’t get stabbed. These are just some of the warnings I was given before I left for my solo journey to Rio de Janeiro.   Overall my friends and family seemed to be under the impression that Rio is an extremely dangerous place to visit, especially for a solo traveler.

This collective fear has been cultivated by the media who has spent so much time telling only part of the Rio story.  Everyone has been so focused on the problems and wondering if Rio will be ready for the Olympics, that they’ve completely missed the good.    Yes, there are scary parts of Rio. Yes, there are dirty parts of the city.   Yes, there are parts of Brazil that have contaminated water. But the same is true of almost any major city in the world.   And that is not the main story. When I arrived in Rio and really looked around I did not see fear. I did not see danger. I did not see corruption.   I saw love.

I saw love in the families eating picnics in the park and along the beach. I saw it in the old men standing outside their local botecos, passionately rehashing decade old debates over cervejas. I saw it in couples holding hands as they walk along the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. I saw it in all of the helpful and friendly and welcoming Brazilians I have had the privilege to meet. I felt love with every taste of the homemade Feijodad and Pudim made especially to welcome me to the country.

I saw the overflowing love at the birthday parties I attended. Yes, plural…..I have been here three days and have already attended two birthday parties!   These parties gave me a glimpse of the real Rio. This is where families and friends get together and laugh and eat and enjoy being together celebrating life and each other.


At these birthday parties I saw love in the graciousness of the Brazilian people.   Everyone at the party made me feel welcomed and included. And Even though we couldn’t always understand each other, the language of love and kindness spoke for itself.   And through a strange combination of smiles, gestures, and a mix of broken Portuguese, Spanish and English, we were able to share stories, laughs and love.  The desire to communicate with me  even though it was difficult felt so dear and inviting.   I would have been content just being a quiet observer of their festivities, but their attention and hospitality gave me a glimpse at the heart of this city.
And the soul of this heart can be best described by the city’s cultural icon. Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue stands as a beacon and symbol of hope, peace and love for its city.   Deemed one of the new 7 wonders of the world, this massive 124 ft statue is majestically situated at the top of the mountain peaks overlooking this unique city nestled between ocean and hills.   The statue of Christ, with his outstretched arms, expresses a sense of reverence, majesty, openness and love. Just like the accepting and open people of Brazil, Jesus’ open arms extend acceptance and grace to the city below. It is awe inspiring when you look up to the mountains and you see him there standing, loving, and redeeming his city and his people.


When I first arrived the city was having an unusually foggy day. The Statue of Christ the Redeemer was hidden behind the clouds. My friends took me to a vantage point of this amazingly beautiful city. I was in awe of the beauty of the city itself. It is perfectly situated. Not only does this city have incredible beaches along its entire coast, it is also amazingly sprinkled with impressive and beautiful mountains. I was looking to the hills and suddenly the clouds moved and he was there. The statue appeared in the sky from behind the clouds and I was struck with a since of wonder and awe. As a Christian, I was brought to tears as I thought about the promise of Jesus’ return and I had chills. I know that this is just a statue and my savior is real and alive and not made of stone. But this symbol stood as a reminder to me of God’s promises and love. When you look at the statue in person you can’t help but stand in wonder and awe of God’s love for his people and his promise of redemption for those who accept his open embrace.


So, Rio is not scary. It is beautiful and warm and accepting. It really is one of the world’s hidden gems. It has its problems, but don’t we all. That is why we are in need of a Redeemer. I have really enjoyed my time here so far and I highly recommend a visit to this incredible and interesting city that is bursting with so much heart!  To sum it all up,  I have nothing but Love for Rio de Janeiro.

Check out my blog fillingmymap.com to see more.   Also check out to WIBC.com to see other Olympic updates.

Will They be Ready?

maxresdefault.jpgMy fascination with the Olympics begins with the dramatic selection of the host city. There are so many questions, so many big promises and so many people riding on the success of this anointed city that has suddenly been crowned with the mighty and terrifying honor of playing hostess to the entire world.

There is always that suspenseful question hanging in the air…Will they be ready?   Everyone always waits with baited breath to see if the city will be able to pull off the impossible and fulfill all of its lofty promises. It is part of the Olympic drama and charm. There are always many critics and skeptics, yet in the end it usually comes together.

Rio has had its fair share of critics. There are many who prophesy failure.   There are many who are waiting to point out the weak points and predict disaster. And right now those weak points seem to be stacking higher and higher for the large city in Brazil.   The Olympic Village has plumbing issues (Why is it always the Plumbing?!) and there are reports that the sewers can’t hold all of the extra waste. They are also saying that the already bulging infrastructure won’t be able to keep up with the added traffic, there isn’t enough security (Is there ever enough?), the water is dirty, and the mosquitoes will most assuredly give you Zika. Oh and don’t forget that there are dead bodies in the Beach Volleyball pits.

We have heard this all before…. (Well maybe not the corpse infested sand pits.) Yet Sochi, who had a very similar list of problems a few weeks before the Olympics, was able to pull together some spectacular and relatively flawless games two years ago. (Insert cheeky nod to the defective 5th ring at the Sochi Ceremony….oh and I am sure we all still cringe when we think about Bob Costas’s Pink eye).   Ok, nothing is ever perfect. However nothing is ever as bad as it is made out to be either.  The pictures of the polluted water are miles away from where the sailors and swimmers will be competing. And unless you’re a pregnant, the Zika virus isn’t the life threatening disease the media would have you believe.

The world likes the “Sky is Falling” reports. The truth is nothing of this magnitude will ever be flawless, but this city is going to do its best. People will be able to cope and make do with what they have.   I think Rio will rise to the occasion and exceed everyone’s expectations.

I predict the Olympic Games will have a personality very similar to its host city.   I think these games may not be perfect, they may be a little scruffy around the edges, but will be remembered for being the most fun, vibrant and laid back Olympics in the history of the games.   So, will they be ready? I don’t know. However, the people of the world, myself included, are on our way. So, “Ready or Not, here we come!”

Find out how it turns out when I arrive in Rio. Follow me at fillingmymap.com and WIBC.com

A Dream of Olympic Proportions

The Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium Beijing

The Bird’s Nest:  Visiting the Olympic Stadium in Beijing China  in 2013

Tomorrow I leave for the Olympics. The Olympics!!!   Where do I begin to convey the powerful emotions this word conjures in my heart, my soul and my imagination?   Since I was young I watched for and counted down to the Olympic Games in an anchored anticipation that borders on clinical obsession….(Really, Truly, I am obsessed. Check out this video I made for Ellen four years ago during the London Games.  It shows just a fraction of my excitement and love for the Olympics.)   And now, four years later,  I am on my way to the OLYMPICS in RIO!   While I have visited most of the Olympic stadiums and villages of the past. I have never actually been in a city during the Olympics!

Munic Olympic Complex

Munich’s Olympic Village

My fascination with the Olympics begins with my love for discovering the  world.  When I was young I loved learning about all of the elusive Olympic Host Cities.  I became enthralled with cities like Barcelona, Lillehammer, Sydney, Nagano, Athens, Torino and Beijing.  I grew up in rural Indiana and when I fell in love with the Olympic games I was actually falling in love with the world and its diverse cities.

I may have been stuck in farmland Indiana, but every two years I would get to visit these places through the eyes of the games. Bob Costas and his NBC team took me to Barcelona, Athens, Beijing and Sydney before I was able to go for myself. I got to see these elusive locations and was filled with wonder and curiosity.  I looked forward to these games with the same passion and intensity as the athletes themselves.

How could all of these fantastic cities be real? They were bursting with so much history and beauty . And  they all had their own unique zest for life. I was amazed at how different they were from the farmlands of Indiana where I grew up.

Barcelona Olympic Torch

Visiting the Olympic Village and Torch in Barcelona

I sat there looking at these places wondering about the people who lived there and those who were brave and fortunate enough to travel there. The actual sporting events themselves were always captivating, dramatic and sensational.   I loved learning about the stories of the the athletes and their teams.  These stories were always full of triumphs, heartbreaks, successes and overcoming hurdles.    Yet,  just like the athletes, each Olympic Host city always has its own story to tell.  It is suddenly thrust onto a global platform.  It is the time for the city to shine,  to showcase their strengths, and perhaps even expose some follies.

 

My favorite part of every Olympics is the dramatic, entertaining and emotional opening ceremony. This is where the host city gets to give you a taste and feel for the city, the host country and its culture. Your eyes are opened to the sounds and flavor of the Host City’s people and history and you absolutely fall in love.

However, over the course of a few weeks, you begin to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the city as the games unfurl. Each day you learn something new. You see how the city handles the stress of an international event. You see how they accommodate the world’s athletes, spectators and media crews as we all come together to celebrate this global event.

Climbing the Munich Olympic Stadium

Climbing the Tower at the Olympic Stadium in Munich

When I was young I decided to become a world traveler. And as I reflect on my life I may have the Olympics to thank for this passion. I have often talked about my goal to visit 30 countries before I turned 30. I met that goal last year. And true to form I immediately started a new goal that is going to continue to Fill My Map.

 

I decided to visit every city that has had the honor of hosting the Olympic Summer Games. So far there have been 22 different cities that have hosted the Summer Olympics. I have been to all but four of them.   (The four I have not yet visited are: Los Angeles, Montreal, Mexico City and Athens- where it all began).   I hope to write more about these trips and voyages to each Olympic city of the past, but I am also looking forward into the future.

While I have visited many Olympic stadiums and villages of the past. Next week I will be heading to Rio de Janeiro to experience the Olympics firsthand. I will be going there to fulfill my lifelong dream of actually attending an Opening Ceremony and getting to experience some of the events!

Helsinki Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium in Helsinki

I cannot fully comprehend this fact. I will be getting on a plane tomorrow, yet it still does not feel real. I am not sure what to expect. I have been a fan of the Olympics my whole life.  I have visited most of the Olympic Stadiums and venues of the past, but I am not sure what it will be like to be in the city that is hosting them. I don’t know how to process it all, but I will try.

 

I will be writing about this experience here and for a local Indianapolis radio station.   WIBC.com.   I will be connecting these posts for the Radio station to this blog, so please check in the next few weeks for updates to the games.

The next time you hear from me I will be in Rio!   Olympics or BUST!

Sydney Olymic Complex

Olympic Village in Sydney Australia

 

Breaking Through the Math Ceiling: Exploring Female Achievement in Mathematics

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Day Capstone-Breaking through the Math Ceiling.docx

While I have shared many of my thoughts and opinions on Finnish Education systems, I have not, as yet, shared my actual research. I did not think it was finished or perfect and so I kept the project to myself. My four short months in Finland were not suitable to produce the type of research I wanted, but it was enough to give me an overall picture of the problem, which you can explore by reading my report as posted above.

I went to Finland with the intent of studying female achievement in mathematics after discovering that Finland is one of the few countries where the girls outscored the boys in mathematics. Finland’s girls especially excelled in PISA’s problem-solving category. They performed much higher in this category than even Sweden their “sister” nation to the west. As a female math teacher this information intrigued me. I wanted to know what Finland was doing to promote female achievement in mathematics and problem solving.The above and adjacent link is the PDF of my research report. Day Capstone-Breaking through the Math Ceiling.docx

The purpose of this Fulbright Grant was to give girls the confidence in their abilities to think and express themselves mathematically. My objective was to study the cause of the widespread gender disparity in mathematics education, learn best teaching practices from Finland, a country internationally acclaimed for supporting female development in mathematics, and create a stateside program that empowers and supports girls and teachers within the mathematics field.

My time in Helsinki was spent studying how Finland’s school systems teach and train young girls and their teachers to be confident in mathematics. One of the main reasons girls struggle with mathematics is due to their crippling fear of being wrong. This hesitancy to take risks is a cultural issue that is fueled by certain educational practices. I elaborate on this psychological phenomenon in more detail in the report.

I also discovered that girls learn to have a negative attitude towards the subject from parents and sometimes even teachers who themselves suffer from math anxiety.   I desired to learn how to  create a positive learning environment that allows girls to feel safe, work together, take risks, and learn in a way that will empower them to think mathematically.

I believe that lack of confidence in mathematical ability is the biggest obstacle to female success in the mathematics classroom. I had several theories as to how Finland combated this fear and disdain for mathematics. My hypothesis was that it was a combination of classroom environment, cultural biases, learned math anxiety and teacher training that contributed to Finland’s success in promoting female achievement.

I discovered that one of the largest contributing factors to student attitude  towards mathematics was a teacher’s own opinions, attitude toward and ability in mathematics. Female students are more perceptive and aware of others feelings and attitudes.  Many female students have been trained to believe that math is difficult,tricky and obstinately rigid.  Female students are not taught to think of math as the beautiful, fluid and flexible science that artfully and creatively explains the world around us. 

Finland has a lot of great things going for its education system. It provides fair equitable education to all students. They also do not over stress their students and have truly mastered the concept of “less is more” which I wrote about earlier. They are able to achieve great things with fewer formal lessons and classes.   Their kids are not over worked to the point of exhaustion or surrender.   Finland has trained its students to be independent self-motivated individuals.

However, when discussing female achievement in mathematics, I am not sure that Finland has the overall answer.   While Finland’s low stress, slow paced classroom environments give girls overall less anxiety and apprehension towards the subject, I do not think they are actually out performing highly motivated U.S. Students. I suspect that the Law of averages is allowing Finnish students to stay on top of PISA scores, which I have explained in my blog post about The Three Real Reasons for Finland’s Success.   Everyone in Finland does well- a little bit above average.  Yet very few do extremely well (by American standards anyway).  On the flip side very few fail either. Finland has found a nice sweet spot where everyone can learn and achieve. However, few are being pushed to reach his or her highest potential either. Finland’s collective average is high because everyone does at least okay.

Through my observations and interviews I began to feel as if instead of discovering an unusually high level of female achievement in Finland I was actually uncovering a lack of male achievement.   Globally, the difference in gender achievement in mathematics is at the high end of the spectrum. There are the same number of girls and boys struggling with mathematics at the low end of the achievement spectrum.

Males tend to be the most gifted mathematically and that high achievement in math is not to be found in Finland. I did not find mathematically gifted and talented males or females in Finland. The Finnish students are simply not pushed to reach those extremes. And so, without the usually highly gifted few male to bring up the male average, we see the highly motivated hardworking girls take the lead for its country.   This is perhaps something Finland needs to further explore.

The below PDF was my research report submitted to the Fulbright department.  I am not oblivious to the fact that it isn’t perfect research.  I need to do so much more work  in order for it to be complete and publishable.  My vanity was perhaps why I waited so long to share it with you,  but I decided it was better to share than to keep to myself.  I hope to one day continue this research, but for now this will do.

Day Capstone-Breaking through the Math Ceiling.docx