Yea, maybe I'll tell my parents about it, I thought, but me joining a tournament for scholars? I doubted it. Despite what they say about asians, I am not a genius despite my chinese blood. Nevertheless, I told my parents about the tournament and they said I should join if I want to. The next day, Amanda asked me about the competition. "What did your parents say, Cher?" she asked. "um.. They approved, but only if I want to," I replied half-heartedly. Amanda persuaded me to join the tournament, and she was very persuasive and in the end we did join, and so did another handfull of junior highschool students.
We were all divided into groups of three, and I was in a team with Amanda and Michelle from grade 8. Mr Jim provided us with training sessions after school every day. "Guys, you should check out their website, there you can find materials for the tournament," Mr Jim informed us. I was surprised. I didn't know that we should study from materials given by the tournament. "You should divide tasks between your group members so that you can cover more area. If I'm not mistaken, there's a science resource, a history resource, a literature, music, art,film, and poetry resource," Mr Jim continued. My jaw literally dropped. "Mr, don't forget the current affairs resource and special area resource," said Gregory, an incredibly smart student from grade 7A. I looked at his backpack. It was full of resources that he already printed. I was amazed. Gregory was really serious about the tournament. After the afterschool session (we did some debate practice), Amanda asked me about the resources I would like to cover.
"Art! I answered spontantly. As you might have known, I really like art, and I thought "How difficult can a material about art be?" At home I downloaded the art resource from the website and I might as well bang my head really hard unto my desk. The art resource, consisting of 60 something pages was nothing like how I imagined it. It was full of paintings I didn't recognize, and some stuff about art connoisseurs. I bit my lip as I scrolled down the resource. "Huh, the Scream. I know that. The Automat, Edward Hopper. That looks familiar. Well at least I recognize a few," I thought. I decided to read the rest of the resource that night, but I am nothing but a master procrastinator, so I spent the night watching season 4 of Chuck.
We only had 1 week to prepare ourselves for the tournament, which was held on Sinarmas World Academy BSD. Time seemed to pass by very quickly, and before I knew it, the tournament day came. It was Saturday (I forgot the date), and my stomach felt very queasy. The night before I was considering whether to come or not. The day before during the usual after school rehearsal, a competitor from grade 8 decided to forfeit because he strongly believed that we were not ready yet. I didn't blame him. He was right, we were not ready. Our time was too little, and most of us (including me) hadn't read most of the resources. I felt that I wasn't ready. I was afraid that I might lose and the fee to join this tournament might go to waste. But I had to come, at least for the sake of my teammates. I dressed in my usual school uniform (Mr Jim told us to dress formally) and my parents drove me to the school. There I met competitors from my school. We sat and read some of the resources that we had not covered. I observed my surroundings. The lounge room where we were sitting at was filled with students from lots of different schools, dressing formally, and re-reading their resources. They looked very professional, as if they had been doing this for years and years. My stomach lurched." If I were to compete against these people, I'm gonna lose. Bad," I thought to myself.
At about 9 am or so, we competitors were escorted to the school auditorium. Unlike the auditorium in my school (actually it is not actually an auditorium. It is a gymnasium, but it does the trick, so we just use what we got), the auditorium in Sinarmas was air-conditioned, brightly lit, had lovely maroon seat covering, and a massive stage and podium. Us competitors from Laurensia sat next to each other, and from where I was sitting I could see men running around. One person caught my eye, a guy with dreadlocks in a purple shirt and trousers. I couldn't keep my eyes off his dreadlocks. They were a light shade of brown, and they resembled a somewhat bedraggled mop. What really got my attention was how he fitted a pen and a list of some sort inside his dreadlocks. He also managed to fashion an ornate hairdo by using his dreadlocks as a hair band to keep his mop of hair away from his eyes.
We waited for a while, until finally the man with the dreadlocks came to the podium and said some stuff about a great assistant who won't be joining next year. I learnt that the man in the dreadlocks is named Zac. Then the founder of the tournament showed up. He was pretty tall, his brown hair was perfectly coiffed, and he was dressed very neatly in a tuxedo. He was way younger than how I imagined he would be, and he approached the podium. He produced a fluffy white thing from his pocket and clung it around the microphone. Moments later it was revealed that the object was in fact an alpaca doll. The man introduced himself. He said that his name was Daniel something. I couldn't remember at that time, all that I remembered was that it started with the letter B (in my defense it was a very difficult surname, and his surname is actually Berdichevsky)"Welcome, scholars!" he said. He had a surprisingly low voice, and I strongly believed that he was not a full-blood American despite his American accent and western looks. The founder welcomed us warmly and told us that the tournament is not a competition, it is a festival of learning. Zac kept on speed-walking back and forth from the stage to the backstage, taking alpaca plushies from the backstage and putting them under the podium on the stage.
"As Zac and I and the team traveled around the globe, we collect alpaca plushies from almost every country we visited," Daniel said. He pulled a camel plushie from the podium. "The Egyptian alpaca," he said. Some of us started giggling. "The Taiwanese alpaca," he said as he pulled a fluffy pink alpaca-looking plushie from the podium. He continued this for a while and it was hilarious so I started to giggle along with the crowd. "And last but not least, the Japanese alpaca!" Daniel exclaimed as he pulled a Totoro plushie. Everybody laughed. The plushie was adorable, and to this day it is still my favorite kind of alpaca. Then Zac informed us about that day's schedule and the technical stuff.
After that we were sent off to our first round; the collaborative writing. It was held in the air-conditioned gymnasium. I was pretty excited because I like writing. We sat in our groups and they gave us a booklet each. In our groups, we were to choose a topic to write about from several options in the booklet. After a long moment of consideration, I finally settled with a topic which was "Wall-E knows what love is."
"Who needs pencils?" a blond girl in a sherlock holmes-ish ghetto asked loudly. "If you need them, please raise your hands up in the air," she continued. "Please raise your hands higher, or I'm gonna cry!" she announced. Some of us laughed, and she started to run back and forth to distribute the pencils. "I'm starting to like this girl," I thought. I saw her when I was in the auditorium, and back then I thought she was one of the competitors. She was actually a member of the WSC team. The girl introduced herself before the writing started. We learnt that her name was Bunnie. It was an adorable name. We were given 50 minutes to write our essay. When time was up, I finished my writing and was quite satisfied with it. After the writing round, we were given 30 minutes for bathroom break and snack break, and we were to return to the gymnasium afterwards for the scholar's challenge. During the break, us competitors from Laurensia asked each other about what we wrote about and how did it went. We went to the lobby to grab some snacks, and found Mr Jim and Mr Chris, both our coaches from Laurensia. We told them about the round, and they told us to just have fun. 30 minutes were up, and we returned to our seats in the gymnasium.
The scholar's challenge, consisting of 125 multiple choice questions, was very difficult. I didn't read most of the resources, so I needed to rely on my sense of logic. My palms were sweating, and in my head I could clearly hear the ticking of the watch that the competitor in front of me wore. The questions which I could answer with absolute confidence could be counted with fingers. There was something about narcolepsy in the science section, and the only thing that popped into my head was none other than Mr. Benedict, a fictional character from my favorite book, The Mysterious Benedict Society. At least it helped in some way. The book taught me a lot about narcolepsy. Time passed by ever so quickly, and in what seemed like 15 minutes, Bunnie gave us the 25 minute warning. My heart seemed to leap out of my chest. I had only reached question 86, and I had like 30 something questions left to answer. So I took a deep breath and rushed to finish them all in time. "5, 4, 3, 2, 1! AND TIME," Bunnie counted down. I finished circling the last number when time was up. I breathed a sigh of relief when the papers were collected. I looked at Amanda, and she gave me an uncertain look. It must have been difficult for her too,I thought. I looked at a frustrated Gregory. "How was it?" I mouthed to Gregory.
"I only knew 70% of the answers," Gregory mouthed.
I was not surprised, I knew that Gregory was incredibly smart. Well I've got nothing to lose, I thought. I didn't expect to win, so I won't be upset if I didn't.
The Challenge was over, and that could only mean one thing; the debate rounds are coming. There were 3 debate rounds. We were given a list of rooms where each debate round would take place, and also the side we would be debating (either affirmative or negative). Amanda, Michelle, and I headed to our room. My hands were sweating, and there was a nauseating feeling inside my stomach. My mouth became pasty and dry. I dreaded the debate rounds. I did so badly during the practice the day before, and I am far from confident to debate against another school. I knew that I would do badly, and knowing that I found it hard to breathe. I was scared, and I could only hope for the best as I took deep and slow breaths.
competitors from Santa Laurensia Junior Highschool
Sinarmas World Academy. Yep, this is a school.
daniel and the japanese alpaca.
zac and his dreadlocks.