Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Here come the Tigers!!

No sooner had the Alice in Wonderland furore died down, than the Fobisia hoopla started up - never a dull moment here in Suzhou!! Trials were in January, and after a week of anxiety - for once, I was sure Manasi would make the team, but she was surprisingly uncertain - until we got The Letter!! The Tigers would be off again - Beijing, here we come!! Have to be honest - the location was a bit off a letdown - I was hoping to go to Seoul, or even somewhere in Thailand - but Beijing - really?? Oh, well!! 

Training started full swing - three days after school, and Saturday mornings!! The girls were being worked hard - but they were clearly determined to do their best - after last year, they had a better idea of the competition they were about to face. Like last year, the girls would be competing in athletics, swimming, football and T-ball. Since 4 girls from the team, including Manasi, live in GL - we saw a lot of impromptu football training sessions here! Having so many Fobisians here also made the Saturday morning sessions really easy - car-pooling meant that I had to drive only once in a while!!

The training session I really enjoyed was the T-ball clinic. Last year, our kids were completely clueless on the T-ball field - no, not exaggerating even a tiny bit - they simply had no idea!! This year, they had T-ball training once a week, and when the idea of a T-ball clinic was brought up, it was enthusiastically supported by all parents. A good friend and neighbor, JW - her daughter is Manasi's team-mate - well, JW played softball in college, and she graciously agreed to coach our clinic. And what a fun morning it was!! Not only did the kids pick up basics - the correct stance, the right way to hold the ball, 'flyball' (no clue what that is!), running between the bases - beating the mom's team in the end-of-morning game was a huge, huge morale booster!!

Finally, ready or not, it was time to leave!! This year, along with the different kits, the school also provided a cool kit bag - in their travel uniforms, the kids looked really professional!! The whole team - 48 kids, 8 teachers - were to travel to Beijing by the fast train, and they set off in pouring rain! Last year, I was on the same flight as the team - this year, we were going to travel to Beijing a couple of days later - so it was bit hard to let go - never is easy, right?!! The school policy is to always travel one day before the tournament, so that the kids can settle in before the games begin - and everyone was looking forward to the visit to the Great Wall that had been planned! 

Go Tigers!

Fobisia this year was at Harrow International School - and most parents were booked at a Crowne Plaza about half hour from the school. The kids were to be at Hotel Jen, a little further away from our hotel. Of course, we only got to see the kids at the events! The first day was the swimming in the morning, followed by athletics in the afternoon. Our overnight train got into Beijing at 7am, and by the time we checked into the hotel, and took a taxi to Harrow, the swimming was well under way! Luckily for us, Manasi had yet to swim - so we didn't miss seeing her in the pool!! The Dulwich parent contingent was one of the largest, and with our matching T-shirts and banners, we made quite the splash!! Was a successful morning for Dulwich - Manasi walked swam away with a bronze in the 50m breaststroke! Yay, Manasi!!

After a quick lunch, it was time for Athletics - and a change of venue to the Paralympic Center. Ajey and I hadn't signed up for the parent bus, so we had to figure out our own way to the stadium - with another couple, we finally made it - quite in the middle of nowhere, would have been really hard to find if we hadn't been with Cat's mom!! We were there way ahead of the bus, and as the light drizzle turned into a steady downpour, we were starting to wonder if we were in the right place - when finally some of the organizers from Harrow started to show up. There were no covered tents for the audience, and it looked like we would have to shiver through the races - fair enough, the kids would be drenched, after all - when the rain let up a little. 

Delays and the soggy ground meant that while the athletics events would proceed as planned - all the field events would be postponed - hopefully, to be fit in during the football and the T-ball. What can I say about the athletics - quite literally a clean sweep for Dulwich!! Our stellar athletes won race after race, much to the delight of all the parents and the coaches! Manasi didn't run any of the sprints this year - but had an unexpected event, the 800m. After trailing for the first half of the race, she fought her way to a well-deserved bronze, missing out the silver by a breath!! An unexpected, but welcome medal!! The 4x100m relay brought another gold - with Manasi running the first leg, and starting the team off with a good lead!! Well done, Dulwich!!
Trailing the field...

...and the hard-fought bronze!

Celebrating the relay gold!

The Paralympic Center was in such a remote place - it would have been quite impossible to get a taxi - so we gladly accepted a ride back to the hotel on the parent bus. Most of the parents were at the same hotel - and it was a great occasion for us to have a fun-filled evening with our friends, without having to worry about kids!! There was an Indian restaurant 5 minutes away from the hotel - and Ajey and I ended up ordering for everyone - everyone was in high spirits after the high medal tally of the day!! After dinner, some of us then drifted to an Irish bar across the street for a nightcap - and the party went on quite late!!
Not many parents were up early to go watch the T-ball the next day - for one, it had been a really late night, and some of us need our beauty sleep - second, T-ball is not really that exciting to watch - what, it's true!! Anyway, by the time we made it back to Harrow - our kids had already played a couple of games - and the results were a bit mixed. To be honest, all the teams are pretty evenly matched - all of them are equally bad, ahem, good!! So win or lose, doesn't really depend a whole lot on skill level, but a great deal of luck!! To be sure, our kids still need a lot of training and practice - but today, luck wasn't with our team either - so no medals in T-ball!!

Meanwhile, I had my own little drama going on. Since the train ride over, I had a little itch in my right eye - I initially thought it was an insect bite - but a couple of days later, my upper eyelid was completely swollen, and the lower lid wasn't looking too good either. Time to go see the doctor!! Of course, we didn't know any local doctors or clinics in Beijing - so the best bet was to head to the huge United Family hospital. 1000RMB later - yes, the consultation fee for the doctor was a whopping 1000RMB - I walked out with a diagnosis of an infection, and a prescription for a 10RMB ointment!! I did get relief instantly, but couldn't join the others for dinner that night - the infection probably caught up with me!!
Last day of Fobisia - a day of football!! For a change, we were at Harrow on time - only to be met by a tearful Manasi - she had forgotten her football cleats back at the hotel!!! And although she could have played just as well in her sneakers, sometimes these little things are so important to the overall morale - that there was nothing else to do but Mom to the rescue!! So my friend TW and I set off to retrieve the cleats!! There were few paranoid moments when our taxi driver turned the wrong way and drove us to an abandoned parking lot and asked us to get out of the car - both of us were convinced that we were being kidnapped by organ traffickers!! We were yelling our heads off, refusing to get out - much to the consternation of the driver. Poor man - all he wanted to do was switch cars!! Sooo - not really an abandoned lot, no kidnappers - and even though it seems like it, TW and I are not crazy - well, maybe just a little bit - actually, both of us the sanest people I know!! What, really!!
Anyway, the rest of the taxi ride was without incident - of course, the taxi driver now knew better than to try anything - and we were at the kid's hotel. In Manasi's room, I resisted the urge to tidy up a bit - was happy to see that she had her dress for the gala dinner hanging neatly in the closet and she had a book on her bedside table - what more can I ask for?? Grabbed the cleats, and headed back - we had had the good idea to ask the same taxi to wait - see, sanest people ever!! Manasi had already played one game in her sneakers - and she was really happy to have her cleats!! Our train back to Suzhou has at 5pm, so we couldn't watch all the games - so we were on our return journey when we got the message that the girls had won a bronze!!

Bringing back the cleats!

 The team got back the next day - was so good to see all the smiling faces - it had been a fantastic tournament!! And I had a really good time too - unlike last year, I had decided to take a step back, and just enjoy - and that's what I did. Didn't get caught up in any crazy competitiveness, no yelling from the sidelines, no negativity at all!! The kids, of course, are all real stars - getting through all 4 days with a grace and dignity far beyond their years!! And kudos once again to all the coaches - our kids wouldn't be achieving what they did without all your hard work and dedication!! Well done, everyone!! Go Tigers!!

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