Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tchoukball Fans... GET READY!

Taiwan  in 2009 is the place to be for sports fans who happen to follow athletic activities nobody else cares much about.  Last year, Beijing had the Olympics.  This year, Taipei will host the 2009 Deaflympics (something about that name seems like it should be offensive even though it's not) and Kaohsiung, my current home, will host the 2009 World Games.   

"What do you mean by 'athletic activities nobody else cares much about?'" you may be asking.  Please raise your hand if you've heard of the following sports:

More ridiculous than the event itself is the city of Kaohsiung's attempts to build hype around a generally lackluster competition.   For starters, each elementary school must play host* to one competing country and we're supposed to teach our students about the guest country.  Maybe that's easy for my roommate Dan, whose school will host the USA.  My school will host Uzbekistan.  If I were to teach a lesson on Uzbekistan (which I won't because we barely have enough time to finish our curriculum) it would go something like this:

Me: Good morning class
Students: Good morning Teacher Vicky!
Me: Today we are going to learn about Uzbekistan.  Can you say UZ-BEK-I-STAN?
Students: UZ-BEK-I-STAN (repeat)!
Me: Very good!  Now, Uzbekistan is a very important country for illegal trade.  Does anyone know how to say illegal in Chinese?  (student answers) Very good!  Now, who knows how to say "guns and drugs" in Chinese?  (student answers).  Excellent! Uzbekistan is famous for selling illegal guns and drugs....

Then there is the theme song, as shown in the following music video.

I'm surprised I haven't memorized the words yet because it plays non-stop during commercial breaks, AND schools all around the city have to learn dances to the song.

Which brings me to my observation of the day: Some fellow ETAs and I were walking through the Cultural Center (the big park near my apartment) tonight when we saw a group of about 30 or 40 elementary school students performing a dance to the theme song. Most of them were dressed in normal clothes, but there were 3 randomly placed students wearing full animal costumes (dragon, unicorn, and lion).

And I thought I'd seen everything....

*I don't totally understand what "playing host" really means, but everyone I've asked makes it sound like they'll be using our schools as locker rooms.  This seems strange because the desks come up to MY knees and I'm only 5'2, yet most of the World Games athletes I've seen around here are comically tall.

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