Chulalongkorn IV 2009, Bangkok

i flew to bangkok last friday after work and joined z, sandra, eugene and franziska there for the IV. i was supposed to be back in KL on sunday, but ended up changing my flight ticket to monday because the programme was longer than i’d planned for. z and i managed to break and even get into the grand finals, though it was quite obvious our level of success was fully due to z’s ability alone. he won best speaker of the tournament, which i felt he truly deserved. the other team, sandra and eugene, managed to break as well and rightfully should have gone on to the grand finals, but didn’t. franziska was there as a judge and she got to judge the semi-finals, making her debut as a judge a breaking one, which was pretty cool.

i did make some progress compared to my first IV, but it’s becoming clearer to me that no amount of training will make up for my clear lack of general knowledge. even given a crazy amount of practice, i’m growing uncomfortably aware that i will eventually meet my own glass ceiling of ignorance. i’m not going to write a lot on this one as i didn’t really feel like the experience was particularly novel or personally rewarding. if anything, i felt like a burden on z all the time who kept our arguments afloat. he did assure me that i was doing fine for a beginner, which was mollifying, but the truth is i relied so much on him that i felt i performed worse than even at my first tournament. my speeches were probably better, but they certainly were not my speeches.

some personal notes:

  1. POI more – too slow, too hesitant
  2. more original content – not enough general knowledge and still have a weak grasp of principles
  3. structure – require a lot more practice
  4. less rhetoric, more analysis – again, more practice
  5. better speech notes

strangely, my favorite part of the tournament was the small gathering we had at Bombay Blues after the grand finals, which i guess was intended to be the equivalent of the usual debate social. i say “strangely” because i don’t usually enjoy debate socials. the acquaintances i meet never feel like genuine friendships and there always seems to be a need for enduring a barrage of small talk, which has a place quite high up on my “things i detest in life” list. but here, we were a small group of six, including the Chief Adjudicator, who despite his alarming appearance turned out to be an incredibly nice person.  the bar was in the middle of a quiet alley and we were out on the balcony under the husky night sky. it was an Indian oasis, with waves of party music and shisha fumes hanging sensuously in the electric air of Bangkok’s darkness. we sat on exotic cushions placed around low wooden tables. the atmosphere was so light and alluring that for the first time throughout the tournament, i actually felt comfortable being myself. clearly, the alcohol helped as well.

i found out some amazing things about the CA which reminded me of the world i used to be more familiar with. (i can probably only best describe this as my ISKL times of art, literature and a lot of wondering.) we talked about graphic novels, Waiting for Godot, Haruki Murakami and tattoos; we asked him many questions about his life and his line of work, and learnt a lot of astonishing things in return. i felt that my world expanded slightly by the force of his presence. he was so different from me and yet so like me. i felt guilty for not being more myself at all times throughout the year since i left ISKL. of course things are different now and i believe i am quite positively changed by the past year, but i don’t know, i often feel like there is a part of me whose needs i have grown to deny. in a way, i think these needs were being met by having such an open conversation with this giant man.

saying goodbye to Z for the last time was very painful. we clung to each other in especial desperation during our last hour at the airport, almost completely ignoring eugene and sandra. we held each other close and rubbed our hands all over each others’ bodies, trying to memorize the touch, smell and taste of each other. eventually we had to head toward different terminals, so the last i saw of him was his back while he was walking through the security check of Suvarnabhumi’s terminal F. i missed him terribly that day and night, and woke up extremely depressed yesterday morning. thankfully, that phase of helplessness has passed now. why, though, should merit its own post in itself.


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