it was actually sort of pointless to come into the office this morning. with just a few hours before we left for the sports meet, nobody was in any mood to work. mr.song - the korean administration who speaks english/korean/chinese fluently - was one of the hosts, and he was kind of freaking out and asked for my help going over his talking points to make sure there weren't any glaring grammatical errors. he looked at me and said he should've asked me to host the event, since i'd have no problems with the english. that actually sounded kind of interesting (from cambridge to changshou, being the emcee of something with hundreds of people), i said i might consider it for the next company event (i'm just worried it might take away from my photography duty, which is what i love doing the most).
lunchtime was moved earlier to 11:00. afterwards there was a mad scramble of people racing to catch the first bus leaving the office. but wasn't the first bus not scheduled to leave until 12:00? apparently i was wrong, or maybe there'd been a clarification e-mail that was written in chinese that i didn't understand. since everyone was leaving, i didn't want to be left behind, so i hastedly shut down my PC and went to catch the bus as well. turns out the first bus - like usual - leaves when it's full. that meant it left by 11:20. since the meet wasn't until 1:00, that gave us a little more than an hour to go home and rest up a little bit (bearing in mind it takes us half an hour to get back into town). i took the opportunity to get off the bus at the flower shop so i could buy a daffodil bulb (RMB$7) for shirley.
after walking home and taking a shower, i noticed it was almost 12:30. since i was the official photographer, i wanted to get there a bit early so i could figure out the best angles. when i showed up by 12:45, the place was already packed with participants, all dressed in blue (guys) and yellow (girls). so much for getting here early! i wanted to get a higher view and asked if could get into the stands. the guard pointed me in the direction, but when i got there, the gates were locked. so i ended up climbing one of the fence to get access. after a few minutes i noticed mr.song was gesturing for me to come down, since it was almost time to get started. turns out he wanted me to come down because the guards had complained that i had gone up in the stands without authorization (safety concerns, which is kind of funny, because china is super unsafe everywhere).
it takes me a little while to warm up to shooting photos so i was just snapping away randomly as the procession started: there was OPMT, which represented the owners; there was our company, which had so many employees we were split into two separate teams; 2 subcontractors, which included construction/chemical employees; and 1 union group. even within the company i work at, i see people all the time i don't recognize; added to that even more additional people, it was kind of incredible to see how many people are actually involved on this project.
the first events were soccer and basketball, which were happening simultaneously since they took the longest. soccer was in the outdoor stadium, basketball in the indoor gymnasium. mrs.gu had asked me yesterday to photograph basketball, which was fine with me, since it's probably easier to shoot than soccer, which has a bigger playing area. turns out that wasn't the case, as the gymnasium (the same place where we play badminton on occasion, although i've given it up) wasn't very well lit for the occasion.
the bracket had 3 rounds: preliminary (played in 20 minutes half court), semifinal, and final (both rounds played in 20 minutes full court). on the sidelines were basketball groupies ZF and FY; i remember something FY said a while back, that when she was younger, she thought all guys should play basketball (now that she's older, she thinks all guys should wear buttoned shirts). it felt a little bit like high school, all the girls fixated on the guy athletes as they perform on the court. if you were good-looking and an athlete, that's apparently an intoxicating combination for these girls. as for me, i was bored from the start. with bad lighting, i couldn't get any decent shots, and just went for quantity, hoping that out of all the blurry photos, maybe a few might be clear enough to be usable. i did however have a courtside chat with ZF, i asked her what team she was cheering for (our team, naturally). i ended up staying there until around 3:30.
once basketball was over, i quickly went back to the stadium, hoping for the start of the other events. however, the soccer match was just finishing up, the final to be determined by penalty kicks. i got there just in time for the final kicks, standing right behind the goal to get some good action shots (outside the lighting was much better).
since we were behind schedule, the organizers quickly assembled the people for the next event. a long rectangular court was sectioned off with people standing in the sidelines. suddenly scantily clad cheerleaders showed up inside the box. i wasn't that surprised, because mr.song had already told me the girls of CC7 were going to be doing a dance performance. half of me was kind of angry at this sexist display, but the other half was fully invested in whatever these cheerleaders were about to do. i started out standing behind them, but ran to the other side of the performance rectangle to get a better angle. i owe it to all the guys who will beg me for photos afterwards to get the best shot that i could.
next was the jumprope event, taking place in the same rectangle. 10 people would be jumping in unison, at least 2 of them must be female. the first team - because they only had one team - were given 4 chances to get a high score instead of the allotted 2 chances. they set the bar amazingly high, with 35 jumps on their 3rd try. the team members were so exhausted, they tangled after only a few jumps in their last attempt. it wouldn't matter though, 35 was such an amazing feat, no other teams could come close, the closest was 11. because were in such a tight space, my wide angle lens really saved the day, because that was the only way i could capture all the jumpers at once. i shot low to the ground to heighten the effects of each jump, in shot in burst mode (which i always do anyway, but this time was important, to capture the action). i also shot in shutter priority with shutter set to 1/200s.
that was followed by the 4 persons 5 legged race. out of all the events, this seemed like the one that would have the most injuries, with participants running with their legs tied together between their team members. this event used up the whole soccer field, so i wasn't sure where to stand. i started on the sideline so i could get some side-by-side photos of the participants running, but saw the regular company photographer standing in the middle of the field, and figured that would be a better place to catch the action. nobody is running that fast that you can't move out of the way when they come by. all the participants from my company and the owners were moving fairly slow, being that most of these folks are white-collar engineers or administrative people who sit behind the desk all the day. but the teams from the construction groups were flying, probably running as just as if their legs weren't tied together. naturally they won in the end.
tug-of-war was next. i had the best seat in the house, right in the middle between the two teams, so i could get the best reaction shots of the participants straining. funniest part was when management brought out this crazy muscular chinese guy who walked out and stripped off his jersey to show off his physique like an 80's movie villain (think blood sport with jean-claude van damme). everyone was abuzz with talk about this ringer, but when it came time to actually pulling, the owner group quickly lost. there's not much one muscular guy can do in a tug-of-war situation.
the final event was the relay race, and i really wanted to see that one (because it's one of the only events i could've participated in), but mrs.gu told me to go to the phoenix hotel first with some photography assignment. so after tug-of-war (around 5:50), one of the drivers drove me to the hotel. i thought it was to download my photos onto a laptop so they can have a slideshow of the sports event, but it was actually to take photos of people as they came in and signed a signing wall. i was assigned to chehong, who had the job of handing people markers as they came in. at first it wasn't so bad, just a few at a time, but eventually it became a crazy torrent of people, and there was no way i could photograph all of them. at one point during the crush of people, chehong tagged my back with one of the permanent markers, leaving a mark. when i saw loren, i asked him to save me a seat because i would probably be stuck at the entrance for a while.
when i finally found my table, people were already eating (i didn't expect them to wait for me). i was feeling giddy after an exhausting day of photography, and saw the red wine on the table and down the whole glass without thinking about the repurcussions. "where's the baijiu?" i asked, remember seeing one on each table when i came in earlier when nobody was here yet. yangyi was planning on taking it home because nobody was going to drink it, but i told him i'd drink it with him, so he took it out, and filled my wine glass with 51% alcohol biajiu. in between eating, i would hurry up to the bottom of the stage to take photos whenever there was a speaker or some sort of announcement (like raffles). after that red wine i was already drunk, but combined with the baijiu, that probably wasn't a good idea. even walking to the stage, i had to hold on to objects for fear of falling down. and when i poured myself another glass of red wine, i spilled some all over my hands.
and then there was fengya. i barely interacted with her all day, but when i saw her sitting across the table from me, i knew there could not be any other girl for me here in china, that nobody else could compete with her, and that i was madly hopelessly into her, and if she's not into me so be it, but if there's even a shred of hope, i'm going to pursue this to the very end.