Saturday, April 10, 2004


is where I am today. It's a good hour out of Stuttgart by train but well, it's pretty and there are castles on hills. Exactly the way I remembered Europe from 20 years ago!

It just struck me, I was in Europe more than 20 years ago. Shit, I'm old. I know that also when I got introduced as the esteemed adjudicator from Singapore- Mrs Ung! Emphasise the U. Anyway, I'm hiding now while the teams are prepping for their improptu round in about half and hour. We have a holding area, but it's filled with loud opinionated people who love to hear themselves talk and instead of trying to compete with them verbosity and outright arrogance, I'm hiding. Call me chicken if you want to, accuse me from retreating from discourse, but really some battles are just not worth fighting especially when the exact reply they deserve is "shut the f%&k up!".

I think it's in the blood of debaters, that they think their view is right and they have every right to grab every moment and just bulldoze. One thing I've learnt about debaters is that the most difficult thing to do is with them around is to get a word edgewise into any conversation. Student debaters and ex debaters are all the same, except student debaters, you can still push around and make them listen with that evil eye that I am known for. Ex debaters, by virtue of being ex debaters, have egoes the size of houses and it is just impossible to go up against them. They're arrogant, presumptuos and think there is no one greater than them and they could organise things better than the poor overworked organisers here. And might I add, the most arrogant ones seem to come from a country that shall remained anonymous but is way up north and is apparently neutral in most things. I think they think they have much to prove and overcompensate by making huge asses of themselves.

Now, not all are like that. I had the most delightful conversation with the Slovenian team this morning, on our long train ride in. And I must admit, I learnt alot from talking to these 17 year olds. Well, the first thing I learnt was where Slovenia was. Pardon my ignorance, but at least I admit it. Anyway, these are kids that had to pay most of their way here, whose eyes bugged when I paid for my apple juice and Ricola drops with a 50 euro note because they'd never had so much money in their hands before. These are kids who remember what it was like to be part of the Yugoslavia that broke up and experienced first hand, Serbian atrocities and Milosevic's policies. There was so much to learn by just listening to them talk about their country and they talk about it with such hope and pride that it will succeed. They speak with such knowledge and depth about what has gone on in their country and the issues the country is facing. I am in awe of these 17 year olds who want so much to debate that they would do anything to be at the World Schools.

Same with the Korean team. No one told them about the competition, no one was willing to pay for their passage into Stuttgart or their registration fees, but they came anyway. They had no training and no resources, so they wrote to Singapore and asked to borrow our training videos. They came, trained, watching one video of one debate match, knowing full well they would lose, but they came for the fight nonetheless.

If nothing else, I will take away from this debate humilty that, there are people in the world, so passionate about things that they are willing to leave no stone unturned to find a way to fulfil their dreams and passion. And I am touched by that.

Well, it's almost time for me to go and judge the next round, Slovenia vs. Ireland. It's going to be tough for Slovenia but it'll be interesting to watch how they go about the motion This House Believes that the music industry should be held responsible for its detrimental effects on the youth.

Then, it's another 1 hour back into Stuttgart. Let's see which country I get to learn from this time round.

17 Feb 2004

Ondine tossed this thought in at 09:47

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