Friday, July 28, 2006

Hey Andy, did you hear about this one?

Last night, the Fainter, S and I went to a fundraiser for the Red Cross, benefitting Indonesia, which has had its share of natural disasters in the last two years. The format was very cool -- Indonesian food, music, and arts and crafts for sale -- plus a pub style trivia contest. Twenty-percent of all purchases went to the Red Cross, as did the $3 donation required for each person who wanted to paticipate in the trivia contest.

You could take part in the trivia contest in teams, with up to six people on a team and so we were a team of 3. I said from the very beginning that I was going to be the purely ornamental part of the team, as I know nothing about Indonesia except its general location on the earth, that its capital is Jakarta, that there was something Not Nice (tm) happening for a long time with East Timor and... well, that's pretty much it. The other category of questions were going to be tea-related, and I know very little about tea except that I do like to drink it, preferably either Earl Grey (that would be the JLP influence), and/or English Breakfast (which would be the hangover from my massive UK crush). However, we got lucky and while some of the questions concerned tea (where was Thomas Lipton from? Glasgow -- we didn't get this; we guessed Edinburgh) and Indonesia (What was the loudest sound ever recorded? The explosion of Krakatoa -- which thanks to the wonder that is PBS, we *did* get), it turned out to be a more general trivia contest.

The contest was set up in five rounds, 10 questions each. We did well on the first round, getting five of the questions correct, including the answer to which queen was the state of Virginia named after (Elizabeth I). We managed to name three of the countries where German is the native tongue (we missed Switzerland -- said Luxembourg instead), and came very close to knowing just how far away the pitcher is from home plate. In rounds 2 and 3, we fell behind, earning a measly 2.5 points in each round. We didn't know what was the second largest island in the world after Greenland (New Guinea) and we (read: I) punted badly on naming the two countries which are bordered by the most countries (Russia, China). In round 3, our second 2.5 of the night earned us an editorial remark from the graders --- "Ooooh!" --- which didn't sit well with us at all. It was on.

Our new strategy was to go with our initial gut answers to the questions. The thing was, we'd come up with an answer, debate it, decide it was wrong, and then go with something else. This happened with the baseball question when I ventured that I thought the pitcher's mound was 60 feet away, but decided maybe 60 feet was too far, and let's do 50 instead. The answer was 60 feet and 6 inches, and yes, they were giving partial credit. The Fainter answered "The Dutch" on one question, but got overruled by us, and guess what the answer was? The Dutch.

In round 4, we came roaring back with 7 points out of 10, with answers to questions like name the five countries that start with the letters M, A, and L (Malta, Maldives, Mali, Malawi, Malaysia) and name the small country in the Pyrennees where Spanish, Catalin, and French are spoken (Andorra) and the longest river that ends in the same country it starts in (Yangtze). We also knew the ancient capitals of China included Xian and Bejing and that there are approximately 18,000 islands in Indonesia. I think at the end of round 4, we had a total of 17 points.

In round 5, we pretty much got all 10 of the questions correct, including the national sport of Indonesia (badminton), colonizers of Indonesia (Britain and Japan), identifying a quote of Abraham Lincoln's and the name of the volcanic formation Indonesia is part of (the Ring of Fire).

The cool thing is, we still thought we were in pretty much at the bottom of the heap, given our poor performance in rounds 2 and 3, and so when they started with the placements (last place = team 9), I don't know what we thought. I assumed we'd be around 5th or 6th place, because the few times they'd read the subtotals out-loud, everyone else was scoring gazillion points to our 2.5 points. However, place 5 went, then place 4, at and at third place, we just kind of stared at each other. Could we, the benefactors of the snarky comments in round 3, actually have *placed* high enough to win a prize? Could we actually have *won*? Third place came and went, and then, our team name -- Bambang, a reference to Indonesia's president -- was called. We'd gotten second place.

To say we were thrilled is a major understatement. We'd been so convinced that we were at the bottom of the heap that placing had never even occurred to us. And yes, while we'd done awesomely in rounds 4 and 5, we assumed that everyone else had too. Anyway, we won prizes -- a bag of loose leaf tea, a tea strainer, and little cake, all nicely packed into a cute pottery bowl. It was all very nice, but more exciting was the thrill of actually placing and the fact that we did it in support of a very worthy cause.

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