It's that time of year again, when the 1st year international class sets off for the wonder and splendor of British Hills in the mountains of Fukushima. We returned yesterday and the girls all get to chill out at home, along with the rest of the 1st year Tokiwagi students who went to the mountains of Oze. While they're busy chillin' I've put together a montage or two of images from the trip.
We had beautiful weather the entire time and I'm sporting a well-sunburned dome to prove it.
The trip went off without a hitch except for one missing shoe. So, if you happen to be in the neighborhood of British Hills and see a single shoe kicking around looking sad and ownerless, please mail it to Tokiwagi care of Kurumi, who will be hopping around on one foot in PE class for the next few weeks.
Thanks British Hills, same time next year?
So, a few weeks ago we had our all-Miyagi intermural High School sports weekend, where students and teachers must go out and cheer on our TGH girls while aiming the occasional boo or raspberry at their opponents. Before that, there was a ceremony where all the sports girls introduced their club teams. Here's a montage I put together of that event. I'm not going to write out the title of each team, but if you're interested in them then we can play a little game where you message me your best guesses and I'll tell you how many you got correct. Sounds like fun, right?
As expected, we kicked butt in most events. Our soccer girls crushed their opponents in the final 9 to zip. There was also alot of noise buzzing about the success of our tennis team, which has greatly improved. I went to three events- Basketball on Saturday, Table Tennis on Sunday and Softball on Monday. Tokiwagi's basketball team is one of the best- guided by the steady coaching of Mr. Ushiwata (the King of Basketball!) and his assistant coaches- Iori and Nakama (the princes of Basketball!). But Saturday's game against a skillfull team from Shoukei almost ended in an upsetting shock, eh! TGH was leading fairly comfortably throughout the match but in the last quarter their opponents nailed a rapid succession of 3-pointers and pulled in front by about 5 points with a few minutes to go! Mr. Ushiwata brought out the big guns and they pulled the team's fat out of the fire by coming back with some huge blocks, interceptions and lay-ups in the last minute. The balcony full of the TGH player's mothers exhaled in relief.
Just so I can connect this post to the international class, there are three of our girls supporting the squad in the pic below. Also, four international girls actually play for the team so there's that too.
The next day I went to table tennis- many sweaty teenage boys taking ping pong very seriously- that is all.
On Monday, my co-homeroom teacher and I drove an hour to the outskirts of Nakanida for an event I was actually really psyched about watching. Only a few years ago TGH's softball team didn't have enough members to compete in an actual game, but then they got a new coach- Kana, who works in our office and is an ex-JSDF (Japan Self Defence Force) officer. She whipped the girls in to shape and the club's enrollment leapt. They may not be champions yet but I'd say they're the overall most-improved sports club at TGH in the last 5 years. Also, I've personally found them to be some of the politest, friendliest, funniest and most cheerful girls around school; which is what made watching what happened in the game that much tougher.
Tokiwagi was playing a seasoned and disciplined Rifu team that are annual favorites to win and were no doubt eager to put our upstart squad in its place. They even brought what appeared to be half the school, as well as their boy's team with horns and huge drums to bash away the school songs. Our supporting side consisted of the team's family members, 3 teachers, our school custodians and 1 student.
Unphased by the drums and chants, our girls got on base on the 1st swing and got a run in the 1st inning! The teams exchanged chances back and forth- singles, doubles, pop flys, grounders, walks, slides, strikes... out after out, inning after inning, eventually scoring one more run each before the final inning. This is where I wondered to myself if this might be the greatest game of softball ever played anywhere at any time, and yes- I undoubtedly believed it was.
It was 2-1 for us. Tokiwagi was up last, so Rifu was at bat. The first girl grounded out to first and we were two outs away from winning. The second girl popped up to shallow outfield and we were now one out away from Tokiwagi's greatest ever softball victory. The opposing army of supporters had fallen silent. What everyone believed to be the last opponent stepped up to bat. I'm not sure what the count was but she eventually hit it to the deep outfield, gaining a double. And that is when our pitching suddenly disappeared completely. Walk, Walk, Walk. 2-2 with the bases loaded. The pitcher was changed but to say our relief pitcher struggled to find the strike zone would be an understatement. After 4 or 5 more walks, a Rifu girl was eventually given a pitch good enough to hit. She grounded out and the agony stopped.
Then something happened that I would compare to the Grinch's revelation on Mount Crumpet when his heart grew 3 sizes in reaction to. Even though Tokiwagi had one more at bat, everyone watching knew the game was over: their families, the teary-eyed custodians, we three sunburned teachers and most certainly everyone on the opposition's side- who had gone from cricket-chirping silence to boisterous revelry in the past 20 minutes.
Everyone that is, except Tokiwagi's baseball team itself. As they ran in from the field I could not see one ounce of disappointment in their faces. They shouted encouragement to each other, made jokes and cheerfully warmed up for their final chance. Without a doubt, their hearts were breaking and everyone knew it, but they refused to crack. Anyone who happened to be dropping in on the game at that moment could be forgiven for thinking it was the top of the 1st inning, 0-0.
They didn't get any more runs, and lost, officially. They politely saluted the opposition and the officials, came over and bowed to us and thanked us for our support, and THEN, collapsed in a cloud of dirt and tears and bawling and wailing. I hate watching my students whimper and whine after a defeat at the hands of a better opponent. Almost every year I see it happen and I think to myself- "You were ranked 4th, you came in 4th- what's the deal?" But this time I wholeheartedly agreed with their reaction. They were the slighty better team through the course of the entire game and, aside from the pitchers, even as they were helplessly watching the game slowly melt away from them. But they played a great game. It was no longer the greatest game but IT WAS A GREAT GAME! So cry girls- its justified. But hold your heads high as well- and that's justified too.
Like I wrote before- they lost the game, officially... officially.