Friday, December 09, 2005

Three Snowy Vignettes (C-16)

Turkey Hill stood as the greatest of sledding slopes: a sharp drop from the top till about mid-way, a sudden and short plateau, then a gradual decline to the stone wall guarding adventurous children from the seldom-used back road and opposing lake.

My sled was a long, blue plastic bullet ridged specially to cut the snow while providing control. Gripping both sides in my hands, I charge down the hill in hopes to kicking up enough inertia to really launch off the mogul we had piled upon that mid-way plateau.

Hitting the snow belly first (and simultaneously knocking the wind out of my lungs) I instantly realized that not only would I nail that jump, but some serious air would be put between the tundra and my eight year old frame. Sure enough, both came true as I hurtled into the atmosphere.

“Hurtled” really is the best word, for immediately after hitting the jump my hands let loose the sled and my body began some variety of triple-half-gainer-Immelian-lutz or another stunt that would grab the envy of the entire Flying Circus. Regardless, all instincts told me that this monumental jump would end in nothing but a mighty face plant.

Surprised was I when I landed firmly back on my sled and continued to rocket down that hill. Face first into that stone wall. Through the stone wall. Across the backroad. Out onto the frozen lake. Finally skidding to a halt. Realizing that no sledding experience could ever top that single run. None ever did.

Rockwell had mustered up 30 or so of the 44 high school freshmen who lived in the dorm to challenge the few stragglers left in America House that night to a snowy rumble. Boarding only 15 first year students, half of whom were somewhere else, the odds did not look good. Regardless, we plucky few agreed to meet at a designated corner of the Great Lawn.

It began as most adolescent fights begin: lots of name calling, little action. No one wanted to be the instigator for anything that might actually get them in real trouble. Certainly not the quiet kid wearing glasses who barely spoke, a.k.a. yours truly. But for some reason something snapped and I took a challenge that was meant for my roommate.

Now, my roommate was a scrappy bastard from Topeka who had seen his fair share of tussles. I was not, nor had I. But I had been on the JV wrestling team for almost two weeks (my roommate was already varsity), so I thought I had everything under control.

The fact that my opponent was a 300 pound Korean named Cho didn’t phase me a bit. Not at first at least. We circled, I made the first move, shooting in to manipulate his balance into a trip. Well, he just sat on me.

If you’ve never had 300 pounds of Korean pushing your face into the snow, don’t try it. My cheeks began to lose feeling as fast as my dormmates were losing honor, respect, and hope. No one thought this was going to end prettily. And no one ever thought I’d actually lift those 300 pounds of Korean off my head, roll them back into the snow, and then bestow one of the most riotous whitewashings ever given.

I had finally arrived in China. In a week’s time I’d be in Harbin, a city nestled deep in the Manchurian Plain and (in)famous for its chill. And even though Harbin was known as the “Ice City,” that day Beijing itself was a frozen white blur.

Saying that I had arrived in China doesn’t necessarily mean my luggage had. No, my warm clothes and insulated boots apparently ended up on a separate slow boat. All that had arrived with me were my t-shirts and underwear and the sweat shirt and coat I had worn on the plane. Outside of that: nothing that was going to effectively confront the snow coming down outside; certainly not my ratty old sneakers. (My boots were in the lost luggage as well.)

But confront it must, as I needed to exchange my traveler’s checks so I could pay for another night in my room instead of sleeping in the street. Too bad it was a government holiday. After several banks and even more kilometers, I finally had the cash I needed and so I paid up and retired to my hotel room. Cranking the heating and changing out of my snow-soaked clothes I nestled into bed with a hot cup of tea in an effort to ward off any impending ganmao or at least defrost my bones.

I was aching, shivering, congested, and beat to the core. It was my first day back in China.


At 8:08 AM, Blogger Canadian said...

Good one Bill!

At 10:19 PM, Blogger lex said...

It has been and always will be downhill from the Cho moment, probably your most shining moment at andover and in life. One of those david beats goliath moments that will always be treasured by those who saw it all happen.


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