Watching the Winter Olympics in America is a little different from in the UK. For one thing, you're suddenly in a country which is likely to win medals, and lots of them - and to a Brit, that makes quite a change. You can even get excited about your adopted country winning - I was definitely rooting for Apollo Ohno in the skating, and even half-cheered, I am ashamed to say, when the two Koreans in front of him crashed out just before the finish line, nettting him the silver medal.
The TV coverage is relentlessly Team USA-biased; they'll show all the American contenders, but cut to an ad break when a non-American athlete is doing that impressive ski-jump or waiting breathlessly for their figure-skating scores. While I'm sure we'd probably be the same in Britain if we had lots of athletes who were going to 'medal' or even 'podium', it is rather amusing when you're a foreigner.
We also had a giggle at the NBC studio where the pundits sit and discuss the Games - a sort of mocked-up ski lodge, complete with roaring fireplace and comfy armchairs. I couldn't swear to it, but I think there may even be antlers on the wall. A bit different from the usual rather sterile BBC studio....
The Games have coincided with a sudden burst of winter sports activity in the Nappy Valley household. Having decided to forego a skiing holiday this year, until Littleboy 2 is old enough for a lesson or two, our ski clothes have nevertheless been put to good use by the huge blizzard which dumped over a foot of snow on Long Island last week.
Yesterday was spent sledging with friends on a local golf course. Littleboy 1, in his usual fearless fashion, put his sled at the top of a steep hill and simply set off. Unlike the more cautious Littleboy 2, who bails out at the first sign of speed, wiping out does not seem to faze him in the slightest and there seems to be nothing he likes better than to end up flat on his face in the snow. He has already announced that he wants to try ski-jumping 'when I'm big like you, Mummy'. (I think I might have to try to steer him towards a safer sport. Like golf...)
Today - a bank holiday - we braved the local outdoor ice-rink for the first time. At first it did not bode well; I felt exhausted and tetchy before we even reached the ice, by the time we had got everyone's boots off, ice skates on and laced, and gloves and mittens attached. Of course neither boy could even walk in the skates, let alone skate; meanwhile I had only skated twice before, as a teenager in Hong Kong, in a tiny rink in the middle of the swanky City Plaza shopping mall (which seemed completely normal then, but vaguely bizarre now).
The first circuit was pretty comedic and stressful, with flailing boys and lots of shouting. But the sun was shining, the air was crisp and - perhaps inspired by last night's magical figure-skating - I was soon enjoying the sensation of gliding slowly over the ice. The Littleboys even improved with a few turns, holding onto our arms and throwing wistful glances at the tiny American tots who were already bombing about (why are THEY going so fast, Mummy?).
So, just when we were beginning to seriously tire of the winter here, the snow and the Olympics have conspired to make it fun again. As I write The Doctor is dragging the boys around the garden on their sled, while I am enjoying a cup of coffee and some Nordic skiing (on TV, that is. I am not that energetic.). I don't even particularly mind that more snow is forecast for tonight. And, although I'm sure that in a few weeks I'll be dreaming once again of living in a warm, Mediterranean climate, last night's conversation even had me agreeing with The Doctor that Vancouver would be a nice place to move to next.....