Not just your ordinary field day
Ever since seeing Sports Day on the Trivandrum International School calendar (on either its original or its rescheduled date), I simply assumed it was what we call back home "field day" - you know, 50 yard dash, three-legged race, softball throw, that sort of thing. Well I once again underestimated the scale of an event at TRINS. The day long sports event was a mini-Olympics, complete with opening and closing ceremonies, parade of nations (school houses, actually), and medal ceremonies. The preparations for this event were as fascinating as the event itself. In about 36 hours, a frequently used but largely neglected athletic field was transformed into a sports venue worthy of the cover of a TRINS promotional catalog. I'm seeing a pattern emerge that characterizes the staging of special events not only at the school but in India in general. Firstly, for special events like Sports Day or the TRINSfest earlier this year, organizers go all out to make the event as grand and as impressive as possible. The amount of work that goes into staging and organizing is amazing but often is usally undertaken in an atmosphere of apparent chaos. I stress the word apparent because order doesn't usually emerge from chaos, yet it does here. Preparations began on Wednesday afternoon for Friday's Sports Day.
From what we've seen, large events requiring shelter of some sort always involve the construction of structures from metal staging materials and sheets of corregated plastic roofing. Construction of these structures is very labor intensive but there is plenty of labor around. I wonder if tents will ever make it here...
Lena helps out with the scrubbing of the basketball hoop stands
They even brought out the lawnmower for the week.
The competition for Sports Day was both for individual glory and for the glory of your student house. Every student at TRINS belongs to one of four "houses" though their groupings are hardly as important to the TRINS students as say Gryffindor or Slytherin are to Hogwarts. In fact, I had heard little mention of houses by the students until the day of the event. On the morning of the event, students assembled in the main building by house, each with a house color shirt usually worn for gym.
Mari belonged to Jalam house (Water) - can you find her in the crowd?
The sorting hat dropped Elena into Prithvi (Earth) house.
The parade of houses proceded to the playing field and assembled for what I thought was the first event of the day - tropical sun endurance contest. It took quite a while to get everyone lined up and all of the pieces in place for the opening ceremonies, but once it all started, the program was nicely done and full of the sort of ceremony and tradition that a lot of American kids might snicker at but which the Indian kids respect and honor.
Prithvi house lining up
Jalam house gets ready
The release of the balloons during the opening ceremony.
Each of the houses had a representative come forward with the house flag and the flags were held together while the sportsmanship pledge was recited - very ceremonial and almost moving. Have a look:
Once the ceremonies were concluded, the competition got underway
The winner's spoils
The coveted house cup
For outstanding athlet
Some of my students from Vayu house
The bus drivers look on
Mari putting the shot
Lena on the relay team
Lena in the high jump
Mari showing her house spirit
I have some wonderful colleagues here at TRINS - they are very friendly, supportive, and committed to their students. I caught most of my male colleagues hanging out together near the first aid shelter. Each one sports a grooming feature nearly universal among Keralite men - can you figure it out?
I'm not the only non-Indian teacher at this school. From France comes Patrick who teaches French and from Germany comes Barbara who teaches, you guessed it, German.
After lunch came one of the whole team competitions - the house cheer. I like these videos because they highlight the role the upperclassmen play in providing leadership for the younger students. I'm posting the entries for Mari and Elena's house. First, the Jalam team:
Next came Prithyi with someone you know playing a prominent role
Hoping to get the parents involved, a number of events were offered in which a parent could participate. The first was a faculty vs. parents tug of war competition. I figured this would be a quick one until I watched them uncoil a 15 foot long rope on the ground. Then it was explained that the tugs would be one on one! A bit awkward, but even better was the fact that if you won, you got to compete (alone) against two (or three if you wanted) opponents! I'm still trying to determine the logic in this scheme. However, the real spectacle was provided by the active partication of both female teachers and parents in their beautiful, colorful sarees, most in some sort of sandals. More often than not, one or the other ended up on their face or back in the dirt and grass laughing and smiling all the way. Great sports, all of them, but I never got used to the sight.
I thought I had a chance of winning the bowling contest - I'm pretty good at mowing down the pins. As the event began, I witnessed numerous intense fathers taking a cricket ball and heaving it straight-armed towards the cricket wicket about 30 feet away. No pins to be seen. I was allowed to wind up and chuck a fast ball but didn't come close. So much for bowling.
Jenn got in on the action too with her participation in the apple bob and the balloon burst. She won three events!
The long day of festivities came to a close with numerous medal ceremonies.
Closing ceremonies included, in true Olympic fashion, cultural entertainment provided by the host country, in this case, the junior schoolers. See if you can find Lena:
Sports Day ended up being much more than I anticipated and offered yet another glimpse into the values shared both by the students at TRINS as well as the Indians of Kerala.