Oct. 12, 2009
Since Tuesday I have been on the road, beginning with an away game at Winchester. We went into the game 1-1, with a game canceled due to Swine flu. The boys weren't convinced we should have a loss on our record, so the game was crucial. In addition, Winchester and Eton have squared off since around the time Columbus discovered America, putting the Eagles/Cowboys, Red Sox/Yankees, or Michigan/Ohio State rivalries into perspective.
For the first time since I arrived to England, we enjoyed a model rainy English day which meant cloudy weather with a light shower every fourty minutes or so. During my youth soccer playing days, I could not have asked for better weather as it meant soft ground conducive to nasty slide tackles. As a coach, matters become more complicated as line up sheets begin to bleed the ink from my line up cards. Nevertheless, the ball bounced our way and we escaped with a 5-1 win behind a hat trick from a boy recently transplanted from rugby. The physical play to which he was accustomed on the rugby pitch made him very effective on a rainy, muddy day. During and after the game, however, I was forced to discipline a few boys quite harshly -- something I had sworn I would never do no more than 5 years ago when I was in high school, should I ever become a coach or teacher. That didn't last too long.
I was hoping to see the Winchester Cathedral, and a few of the other historic Winchester buildings, but the pitches were a bit removed from the central campus. Nevertheless, the fields and rolling hills provided a beautiful scenery.
I had house duty at ASR on Tuesday night which meant little time for packing, exhaustedly went to bed immediately after leaving, and woke up early to pack for Dartmoor, where I was so kindly invited to assist a Geography field trip.
The drive to Dartmoor lasted about three hours (had a glimpse of Wales), and we then arrived at the gorgeous estate of our hosts, which sleeps over 70 people. Without breaking into poetry, it is difficult to capture the scenes with words, so I will leave my descriptions short. We spent our first day exploring small, rural villages in the region. Rural, in this context, is different than rural in the states. In order to access these towns, we were required to drive down 5 mile long roads that were only the width of one car. During rush hour, we encountered two cars and this meant reversing all the way to an opening off the side of the road (which was usually draped in shrubbery, stone walls, or fences). At one point, we reversed nearly a half mile, down hill, in a completely wooded area. We were visibly tourists, and scoffed at by the locals. An understood rule of Eton field trips is that you never mention that you are visiting from Eton. Otherwise, people tend to provoke trouble just for the sake of a story. The villages were beautiful, and a few points that stood out to me were a Church founded around 600 AD and very English-looking buildings with straw roofs (remarkably efficient for drainage and insulation, but a horrible fire waiting to happen).
At the end of the day, we settled in for supper at the glorious property where we stayed, and each of the boys (equivalent to 10th-11th graders), were allowed a beer with dinner. Probably wouldn't see this in the States on a school trip. We then hung out til bed between either Superbad, Ping pong, or pool. An interesting thing to point out -- British boys know more about American movies than I do. There is no British Hollywood; most of the hits over here are American films, so no need for me to feel homesick in this area. I enjoyed wine with the other Masters on the trip, and went to bed anticipating our hike in Dartmoor the next day.
We were lucky enough to have one of the most brilliant days possible in terms of weather. I was told that there are about 15 days of clear blue skies per year, and we landed one. Basically, we explored the Tors of Dartmoor, these ancient granite rock figures that have emerged over hundreds of millions of years. We hiked Hay Tor, an area very notable for being the granite source of the London Bridge.We also visited Princetown, one of the largest prisons in England that was built in 1806 (truly yesterday by British standards) and held American POWs from the War of 1812. Naturally, the boys accused me of espionage.
That afternoon, we were challenged to a soccer game by another student group staying at the estate from the Rashid School in Dubai. Because I am a 16 year old trapped in a 23 year old's body, I couldn't resist playing and the Eton boys capitalized on this opportunity to slide tackle the hell out of me. Very enjoyable game to play, and interesting to witness differences between English and Arab boys on the soccer field. We arrived back to Eton yesterday afternoon, and as I write this I am preparing for a soccer game at 2:30 against Hampton. This our first home game of the season, so now my colleagues will witness my American coaching antics.
Tonight is the Master's Guest Night, a ritzy black tie event with 6 courses, held in the most famous and beautiful old buildings of Eton. A close friend and tennis teammate from JHU will be joining me as my guest. I believe the Headmaster's guest is the Chairman of the Olympic Committee. Should be an extraordinary night, and my fingers are crossed that guests have cameras out so that I can snap a bunch of photos without seeming like an obnoxious American.
Johns Hopkins Blanks McDaniel, 9-0