Monday, August 11, 2008

World Ultimate and Guts Championship

Wednesday was my first shift as a volunteer for World's Ultimate. Volunteering was great, we were treated so well, given cool T-shirts and free food. My first game one of the Columbian girls had a neck injury but didn't have to go to the hospital. I scorekept for a few more games and then wandered off to find the Domino's (from the Dominican Republic) and watch their game.

It's so much fun to be at an Ultimate Tournament and the first one ever that I have not played in. It was especially hard as the second game I scorekept for was Mexico vs Australia and I knew half the women on the Mexican team. I'd played with them all when I was in Mexico, the worst part was, when they saw me they also wished they'd known I would be there so I could have been on the team! Instead, I taught them a few new drills and will hopefully play for them next World's.

Thursday I also had a neck injury my first game, one of the Venezuelan Master's but thankfully he also didn't have to ride in the ambulance. After their game they got in a big circle with drums and all the French and Venezuelans danced, they even pulled me into the center for a little while, so embarrassing but tons of fun. Thursday afternoon I watched the Domino's warmup before ditching to see if I could play for Mexico in their game against Ireland. Ireland said no, which in hindsight was likely for the best since if I had played Mexico might have won. Ireland wasn't such a strong team and basically won the game on their height and longer strides, without that advantage the game would have been quite different. Instead I coached the girls throughout the game, it was great fun and they played very well. Their first game against Ireland they lost 17-3, this game they lost 17-9 which showed great improvement on their part.

Afterwards we watched part of the showcase games which was in the beer garden and had hot tubs on one corner of the field. The water was so hot it took me 5 minutes to get in up to my knees, the Mexicans thought I was a total wuss. I don't feel so bad though, as the day before I jumped into the Pacific ocean with a few of the Dominos when most of them thought it was much too cold...

Friday was my final volunteer day and I managed to be scorekeeper for the game of the Dominos vs Mexico! Loved it, I knew all the Dominos and most of the Mexicans so it was a great game to watch. It was also the second time the two teams played each other and Mexico had lost previously and was determined to redeem themselves. The Dominos won once more, in a much closer game and then spent nearly 45 minutes taking turns to give pep talks about their play during Worlds. Most of the players were quite new to Ultimate and it was their first competitive tournament, so they had really come in seeded last in rankings and hoping to win just one game. To win three, and twice against Mexico was very exciting.

This blog is totally long overdue, but I just have to write it down. The final game was Canada vs. USA Open division. It was a great game to watch, and especially fun as one of the volunteers I'd become friends with was American, so we heckled each other as Canada, USA traded points. It also turns out that one of the guys on the Domino's team is arch-nemesis with my favourite player on Team Canada. Of course I was so happy every time John Hassel was on the field and had a great play, and he was cringing or upset every time. So much fun!

The flight home was terrible, after a month of being in clean cities or places, trees, blue sky, fresh air, beautiful views and skylines, I returned to NY exited JFK Airport to cars honking, concrete a grey sky, polluted air and just wanted to leave again immediately. Since returning to NY it's been good to see friends again, and get back into Ultimate shape (such a joke! I'm so out of shape!!!) but oh, how I miss travelling. I now also define my life BSD and ASD, before scuba diving and after scuba diving. It was such an incredible experience and "trippin' on acid changed my whole perspective on shit." Need I say more?

Vancouver, BC

Time warps are pretty sweet. I left Australia at 1pm on Monday, arrived to Los Angeles at 930am on Monday went for lunch with my brother and his wife and baby, left Los Angeles at 130pm on Monday and arrived to Vancouver at 4pm on Monday, after over 20 hours of travelling only 3 hours in my life had actually passed me by.

Trev met me at the airport, and it is so exciting to be met at the airport. I travel so frequently that I am fully accustomed to arriving at a strange airport and finding my way to where ever I need to get. Being picked up and driven to where we had to get, not worrying about having the proper currency, following the correct route or anything else was heavenly. We went first to UBC where the World Championship of Ultimate was taking place and met up with the team from the Dominican Republic who I stayed with. Being phenomenally jetlagged we then decided it was in my best interests to wander around the beautiful downtown waterfront before supper and putting me to bed.

Tuesday morning I went with Trev to the Capilano Suspension bridge a little north of Vancouver. The suspension bridge was first built approximately 200 years ago across a deep ravine and it is quite impressive whoever thought to build a large, rickety, wooden suspension bridge to leap from mountain to mountain rather than fording the stream beneath.

There is an entire tourist industry built around the suspension bridge showing off the beauty of BC's forests and vistas along with some Native American totem poles, etc. Despite that, they've kept the area in a remarkably pristine condition and the splendour of the valley and bridge are not destroyed at all.

We then wandered around Granville Island's market under the bridge and ate lunch out on the docks. It is so beautiful to see a city on the water which has made efforts to keep the water and shoreline beautiful. Living in NY, some of the ugliest parts of the city are right along the waterfront, and sitting on a plaza swinging my legs over the water with seagulls circling overhead, ships and tugboats travelling back and forth under a beautiful sunny sky is such a treat and just not possible in NY. There was a musician playing there who needed a serious dose of endorphins, he was the most depressed street musician I have ever heard play and the only downside to my lunch.

In the afternoon we travelled to white rock, where there is a gigantic white rock in the middle of the beach which was deposited centuries ago by retreating glaciers. I am sure this rock is, in fact, white. To ensure the tourists know exactly which rock it is (the only large rock around for kilometres) they have painted it with the whitest white paint possible... I don't understand at all. White rock is a beautiful beach, we wandered out onto the wharf where kids were jumping off into the water 20 feet below and a few guys were hauling crates of crabs onto the wharf and letting the kids throw the crabs back into the water which were too small to sell.

We waded through the water for a little while and my coral burns stung intensely, we also saw tons of little mudskippers which was pretty cool. I tried to corner a few but failed miserably. The day ended early for me as Trev flew back to Calgary and I happily passed out in my sleeping bag on the floor :)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Just another day in Paradise...

On Friday I decided I could not bear to leave Cairns and changed my flight to the last possible time I could return to Sydney and still make my flight back to Vancouver. Cairns is such a beautiful place. I arrived and wondered what I would possibly do there when I wasn't scuba diving as there is not that much to do, it is a small city.

Wandering around I was enthralled by all the beautiful plants growing everywhere, tropical plants which I studied and have always wanted to see. There are large fruitbats (bats which eat fruit and are the same size as crows, even a bit bigger especially with wingspan), cockatoos, all sorts of birds with funky featherings and colourings.

I spent one evening watching the sunset over Cairns harbour. The setting sun across the ocean, with a backdrop of mountains covered in the oldest rainforest on earth, home to numerous animals that exist nowhere else. Watching the tide come in, slowly covering the mudflats which are home to crocodiles (danger, no swimming!) turning red, orange and golden in the setting sun. Watching fish jumping out of the water to escape predators in the midst of all this. I went to watch the sunset the following evening and took my jacket so I could also stargaze.

None of these sights compared to on the boat. Watching sunrise and sunset in the middle of the ocean, where the horizon truly does drop away into sky, nothing interferes with the glimmer of the sky and sun on the waters except for the motion of the waters moving is a magnificent experience. At night, stargazing can suck you in for hours, as you lay on a rocking boat with only the sound of water and a soft engine peering up at sky so filled with stars no other light is needed. As I lay gazing at the stars and my eyes became accustomed I was able to make out the milky way, see upwards of 20 shooting stars, some with tails which lit up in their wake. On shore, it took me quite some time to refind the manta ray constellation, and when I did only half the stars were visible.

My last day in Cairns, Taka, one of the scuba instructors from Japan (this guy is one of the coolest people I have ever met, in every sense of the word, he's like a Japanese god) invited me to go wakeboarding with a bunch of the other scuba instructors. I was told the only downside is that I would feel as though I were hit by a truck the next day. Never having wakeboarded I assumed it would be similar to waterskiing, its not, its similar to snowboarding. And I do feel as though I've been hit by a truck now...

Took me numerous tries to get up, finally I was switched to a board which was the right size for me and that helped immensely. My first time out of the water I headed straight for the first jump, couldn't figure out how to get around it in time and had to let go... Finally got the hang of getting up, headed around the lake, made it past the first turn went wide of the second turn and went flying headfirst into the water. Second time around, same spot, same fall, this time I was so determined to hold on tight that I felt myself lifted out of the water, lost my board behind me and finally released the cable to a phenomenal splash. Third time around, Nick offered me insructions on turning left. As I am weird, I am a left-footed, right-hander, which means I wakeboard backwards and had difficulty on what should have been the easy turns. Made it around the first turn, made it around the second turn, went wide of the third turn, I was going so fast I dove through the air some distance into the water. Nick said afterwards he was watching and thought I would head straight into the pole by the bank I was going so fast.

Afterwards, I had two hours till I had to catch my flight and I hung out with them till Ralph drove me to the airport, we cut it to the last second, I checked in 30 minutes before my flight took off and we were all hoping that I would get lucky and miss it, no such luck...

I arrived back to Sydney last night, hung out a bit with Jenny and her sister and hopefully have convinced Jenny's sister to now go scuba diving! This morning had a lovely chat with Jenny on her way to work and now must go to pack and head off to the airport to fly to Vancouver.

When I told Nick about how excited I had been to see a shark, and my attempts to sneak up on it, after I thought I would be so terrified, he gave me a shark's tooth which he had. As silly as it may sound, that tooth may be the one thing to keep me from crying as I board my flight back into the western hemisphere...