Report from Tomorrow - Vol 45

1USD = S$1.71 (S$1 = 0.58USD)

Our Return

I recently submitted my resignation to the bank, starting a process that will see us leaving S'pore a bit earlier than planned. We will be returning to the USA in October of this year, rather than January of 2000. This is a good time to leave the project and it allows us to return for year end activities like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Y2K.

With luck we'll return to our house in Ann Arbor. Our tenants have agreed to move out early if the real estate agent can find them another place to rent, so we're very hopeful this will work out.

I've begun the process of looking for a job in Ann Arbor. Before this adventure began I was looking at opportunities with the University of Michigan and it is still appealing for all the same reasons (lots of time off, low pay :-). I'll not reject something else that comes by and it's early days yet, so we'll see what is available.

Dragon Boat Race III

On 19-20 June I participated in my third Dragon Boat competition for the local Canadian team. You may recall my account of the previous two races (see vol15 and vol33 at http://www.hps.com/~tpg/singapore/).

The loss of a number of key people who had been with the team last year was a blow, but this was offset by the appearance of lots of new young people - so enthusiasm was high, but we lacked experience. As usual practice began about 12 weeks before the competition.

One major change was that we lost two key sweeps (the person who stands at the rear and steers). In one of the early practices, I was asked if I'd like to sweep. "Anything to help", I replied. Those who have canoed with me can guess what happened - you see, I have this little problem with left and right sometimes.

So my first experience was memorable as I steered us into a wall. Don't worry, folks. I'm in control, I quipped. I quickly learned that when steering, one mistake is nothing to get worried about, two means you are getting into trouble and with three in a row and you haven't a chance of recovery. So I worked on reducing my mistakes and the coach kept us in the middle of the river and we all got along just fine.

I offered several times after that to return to the "engine room" and row, but at most practices we were short of sweeps, so I actually got very little practice rowing. My sweeping did improve substantially, but I was still uneasy about it. The sweep places a key role in the start of the race and I was not looking forward to my first sweep competition.

This June's race was not an international competition (no money in this economy), but was the longest yet for us - 800 meters. It was held at Marina Bay, so we had to deal with ocean currents and occasionally waves from boats going by. It was much better than the waves in my first competition, but not as simple as on the river (my second).

Saturday came and you can imagine my relief (and probably others) when I learned I was not sweeping. We were in more races than ever this time - the ex-pat race (2 boats), women's (small 12 person boat), a mixed race (men and women) and a men's race. The goal the first day was simply to qualify, placing in the first three positions. The lack of experience showed and we had terrible starts - barely qualifying in each race.

At Sunday's races we were all anxious and determined not to get left behind at the start as we had on Saturday. The first race was the men's, a race the Canadians had never qualified for before. As always, we were older and heavier, competing against younger local men.

As we sat in the boat, the leaders kept repeating the strategy for the race - who would call for charges, who paddled getting us lined up at the start (a good sweep makes all the difference here), etc. We repeated constantly, that as soon as we got lined up, to prepared to start at any instance (our mistake on Saturday). The tension was palpable as we waited. AWAS! (Malay for attention ("get set") actually, but no one waits for "go" :-) and we surged off.

We actually were in second at the start, but we overtook them and were off churning the water. We maintained a killer pace. The other boat (this had quickly turned into a 2 boat race) was just a few meters behind. Sitting in the "engine room" I could see their dragon head move up as they put on a terrific charge that must have lasted 200 meters.

At the 500m mark we were dragon head to dragon head. I was dying and didn't think I could last another 100m much less three times that. Then came "charge" from a hot shot at the rear and we slipped a few meters ahead. They charged again and at 100m both boats were full out. We maintained enough to snatch victory, but none of us had an erg of energy left - except to scream and yell. Gosh, just writing about it, gets my adrenaline pumping again. Yahooo!

The second race was for the ex-pat race, against our perennial foes, the Aussies, and others. After the first race, this was sort of anticlimatic. We got off to a good start and blew them all away, winning by 15 seconds.

The team had never done so well - and winning the men's race in such a grand style was a thrill for the whole team. Later at the BBQ those of us who had won two gold medals decided that the other half of the team (in the second ex-pat boat) deserved a medal for all the work they put in. Each of us presented our second medal to someone else. It was a very touching moment and says a lot about the team.

Sadly this was my last dragon boat competition here. It's been a great experience and I'm very glad to be part of the Canadian team here. I must acknowledge Mary for supporting me through it all. Thanks, babe. :-)