'Amazing Race' Gary and Will: We Let Down Our Fans
By LISA HIRSCH
In a disappointing turn of events for Amazing Race devotees, superfans Will Chiola and Gary Wojnar were eliminated on Sunday night after falling behind in a bus-spackling challenge. The substitute teachers and best friends routinely finished toward the back of the pack, but never lacked for heart right up until the end of their Amazing Race journey in Bangladesh. ET catches up with the duo to get their take on their ouster.
ETonline: As fans of the show, how did that impact how you approached the race?
Will: We wanted to represent the fans and go as far as we could in the race. We've seen almost every episode. You never know exactly what to expect, you never know what to plan for. Ultimately, we felt like we let 'em down. We let our fans down. We're still in shock over being eliminated. Until we actually see it, we can't grasp the fact that we're no longer on the show representing our fans and ourselves.
Gary: The show is so much more difficult than they show on T.V. When Phil says it's just about traveling from point A to point B, just the traveling from point A to point B is very intense. We had a great time on the show, but being cast in the show, and [watching from home and complaining about] what happened in what episode to what person, doesn't necessarily translate to actually running the show.
ETonline: In what way were you most surprised by the race?
Will: I was most surprised in the race on how to communicate with the locals. You wanna get from point A to point B, you ask the taxi-cab driver to take you to KMart, all of the sudden you're at Walmart, you're thinking "Wow. How'd we get it wrong?" And he doesn't understand that you're at the wrong place, and you have to go back and try to explain it to the taxi-cab driver. The communication with the locals is the hardest part. But they're doing the best they can, we appreciate them working with us. We are very appreciative of the taxi cab drivers and the becak drivers, they're just doing the best they can. We're just trying to represent the United States, and The Amazing Race in the best way we can.
Gary: It wasn't their job to learn our language. We were in their country. We were acting not only as ambassadors of ourselves and The Amazing Race, but also the United States. Because when those people meet us, they are meeting someone from a place. One thing we are extremely proud of, throughout the years we've seen racers just complain and berate cab drivers and local people, one thing we are extremely proud of is we treat everybody with dignity and respect. You go to a country like Bangladesh, I think the average income is something like 600 American dollars a year, giving somebody a little extra money for a cab ride, [is] not gonna kill us, but it could make their week, it could make their month. So we were really proud of that fact, how well we treated the local people. And it's funny, not funny but, there's so much poverty in Indonesia and Bangladesh it's so depressing, and yet most of the people had a smile on their face, were so eager to help us. A pat on the back, a handshake, a thumbs up, a laugh, they did so much for us, and they didn't even know it.
Will: You can see they want to be helpful, you can see their energy. We just were feeding off of it.
Gary: That's one of the things we enjoyed most about the race, being able to soak in the local culture, a couple times we said, "We'll check it out." You can feel it, hear it, smell it, we're never gonna be here again. That was just a fantastic experience, and it was just so much fun doing it.
ETonline: What was the biggest or most surprising lesson you learned about other cultures?
Gary: The most surprising thing -- when you read about a country or watch it on T.V. you don't really know; you can't experience it until you are there. Obviously, from previous races, you see India, you see Bangladesh, you see all the poverty, but until you're there, you don't know how oppressive it is. Combined with the heat, you don't really realize what people go through just to have an existence, and it makes us so appreciative of what we have here. Another thing that surprised me was how helpful people were really, just strangers in their land that were willing to do anything for us. And they probably really didn't even know what we were doing, because we couldn't communicate to them, but once again, it's that universal language, a smile, a nod, a thumbs up, that people understand and appreciate.
Will: We saw a moped with five kids on it going to school.
Gary: There was a father, three kids, and a mother in back. I mean, it's so foreign to us. But this is how they have learned to live. I mean, I don't know how people drive in some of the countries we were in. Those traffic lights are just a barrage of cars, and elephants, and bikes, and camels. It was so exciting, unlike anything we've ever experienced. I've learned to appreciate the opportunities we have here. It was so sad that in Bangladesh, [there is] so much poverty. And it's still sort of a caste system there, where if you're born into poverty, [you're] probably gonna live your life in poverty, and die in poverty, your kids are gonna be like that, like your father, and their father. So in America, we have opportunity if we don't have a good lot in life, to improve it, and it's up to us to take it upon ourselves as individuals to do that.
Will: To their lifestyle, the way they lived, how can you get mad at them? They're just doing the best they can.
ETonline: Especially with the language barrier, [it seems like] some Americans expect people to speak English everywhere they go, and that's not really realistic.
Will: It's like having a foreigner come to our country, thinking, I would expect them to speak English, and I wouldn't. They can speak their language, and I'll try the best I can.
Gary: They were as helpful as they can be and like I said, we don't expect them to speak our language, there's 192 countries and thousands and thousands of dialects. Why should we be stuck up enough to expect people to be able to speak English? No way, we know that. And we showed that on the show.
Will: Ultimately we are responsible from how we get from point A to point B. Not the taxi-cabs, not the bacak drivers.
Gary: If we got a bad cab ride, or a bad bike ride, ok, that's something we have to deal with. [In] the last show I didn't get the Bondo, even though we were there maybe an hour behind everybody, but I should've been able to do that, because I've worked with Bondo, all the cars were Bondo bonds when I was growing up. So I should've been able to do that in a more timely manner.That's why we were eliminated. Not because of cab drivers, because of my inability to do that.
Will: I've known Gary for 35 years, I know Gary can fix or make anything. I'm really happy with how he did the Bondo, it just didn't work out that day, at that time.
Gary: Everybody was there a long time. It was 101 that day in Dhaka, we were sweating rivers of sweat, everybody was having issues with it. I actually scraped it off twice, and started over, three times I did it. There's so many things you could do differently, of course hind sight is 20-20.
ETonline: Of all the different roadblocks and challenges you had to do, which one was the hardest?
Will: For me, making balloons because I'm not good at creative stuff like that. When I found out I had to make eight balloons and I had no idea how I was gonna do it, Gary was supporting me, it looked like he was yelling at me, but he was actually supporting me, giving me confidence. Because I knew I could do it, eventually finish it. It took me an awful long time to do it, but I never gave up, I never quit. But that was very, very difficult for myself.
Gary: I have never seen Will in a state like that, and it was a state of almost [having a] panic attack. He was drenched in a river of sweat, I tried to get him to stop, but he was in such a zone, that he wasn't listening to me. So finally he was able to stop, and he did some breathing exercises. That was very difficult for him. I think for me, I am terrified of heights, and I knew going on the race that there was gonna be heights, it was something I would have to overcome. When we were standing on the Colorado Street Bridge, and one of the other races said, "Oh look, there's ropes down there, looks like we're gonna have to jump off the bridge." "We couldn't wait a little while 'til we went to another country?" I thought to myself. But watching the show, you could see I was a little terrified doing it. But Will was standing there with me, and we jumped off ... and we made our way down the ropes.
Will: I've known Gary for 35 years, and we never really traveled together because of his fear of heights, and he overcame it. This show helped him overcome his fear of heights and I'm really proud of him.
ETonline: As teachers, have you incorporated the race into your lessons now?
Will: Yes. Almost every class I teach now, we look at some of the teams of The Amazing Race and show them how teamwork will get things done, [to] never quit, we've got to work together, not only in the race but in life. Being part of a team will help you accomplish any goal you need.
Gary: I try to incorporate the different cultures, and different languages and visions that our country has. But also, the most important thing I try to show the kids is in the different countries, there's not a lot of opportunity for people. There really isn't. But in the United States, even though there are times when we're down, when we might not have gotten the best lot in life, there are opportunities here. I try to tell the kids that every president, every astronaut, every scientist, every carpenter right now were [once] sitting right there where they are right now in a sixth grade classroom. We have the opportunity here to decide what we want to do, and there's people here that will constantly help us reach that goal that you have. So definitely you're trying to explain to them, that in the United States, it's true, we probably [have] the best country to live in, we have it better than 99 percent of the world.
ETonline: Which team do you think is going to win?
Will: I think every team still left has different strengths and attributes that could get them to the finish line, but I really like the rockers working alone, 'cause they're ultimately responsible for their own demise or success, so I give them credit for working alone, not making alliances, and doing the race their way.
Gary: Ryan and Abbie are so determined, they are dog-eared in how they go through, and build the machines. We also think the goat farmers and their low-key approach [is great and they] are such nice people. We enjoy the company of all the racers. All the racers have positive attributes and we plan on remaining friends with them for the rest of our lives.
The Amazing Race airs Sunday nights at 8/7c on CBS.