To be a Canadian for a week?!
“To be a Canadian for a week? Interesting!”
That was what I said after I heard the news. No matter whether I liked it or not, I failed the final round of the tryout. Originally, I thought I wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) have got a chance to take part in the mathematics competition this year. However, a phone call changed the situation.
“The Canadian team still needs one more teammate. Would you want to be on their team?” my teacher asked. At first, I got a bit confused. Joining the Canadian team? It sounded quite weird. But who cared which team I was on if I could participate in the competition? So I agreed and decided to do some practice before the competition.
From the next day, my daily life changed. I put away bunches of novels and took some sets of math books. My life started to be surrounded by math. Despite the dramatically change, I felt great. It was like stepping into a world full of logic. By solving the problems one by one, I felt as if I was ready to fight ------ to fight for myself, and to fight for a country across the Pacific Ocean. I was on the path of war.
“I hope two Wangs will make it right.”
“Professor Andy: I’m Scott. Since I’m on your team in the mathematics competition, may I ask you who my teammates are?”
It was the first letter I sent to him, who was the leader of the Canadian team. Though we didn’t even know each other before, he replied within a day.
“Dear Scott: I would like to arrange to meet you some time, either after school or on the weekend. What is your preference?”
It was the hardest problem I’d ever met. Fly to Edmonton now? It would cost me nearly a day. How could I do it after school?
While I was thinking if the sentence had any other meanings, I got another letter. “Dear Scott: You must be puzzled by the former letter that I sent to you. I mistook you as someone else, whose surname is also Wang. I hope two Wangs will make it right.”
“How interesting it is!” I thought. There was also a Wang thousands of miles away ------ and we were going to be on the same team. It was really a coincidence.
Will we really make it right?
Geometry? No way!
It was time for me to contact my teammates.
“Kevin, Desmond and Angus: Hello! I’m your teammate, Scott. Since we’re on the same team, should we do some practice and discuss some math problems together?”
Within two hours did they notice my letter and write it back. All of their letters were short ------ and those were probably the shortest letters I’d ever seen. There was nothing besides the word “OK” in the letters. However, they all seemed happy to find out the last teammate. The composition of the team was now complete.
After that, I wrote to them again “Can you tell me which category you are best or worst at in math?” Since my worst category was geometry, I hope to find that they were good at it. But I soon realized that it was just a daydream.
“Hi Scott: I think I’m best at combinatory, followed by number theory. I’m not really good at geometry. Desmond”
“Hi Scott: Geometry really isn’t my strong suit. Angus”
“What?” I thought. “We’re all poor at geometry? No way!"
Playing pokers before the competition?
I finally arrived in Bali, Indonesia after a five-hour flight.
After getting off the plane, the first thing I wanted to do was to find my teammates. Though we’d discussed some problems in the past few days, I just couldn’t wait to see them. So I felt really excited when I reached the hotel.
However, as I got their room number and headed for their rooms, I couldn’t find them. No one seemed to be in their rooms. Just when I decided to go back to my room, I saw some adults walking toward me.
“Are you our last teammate?” one of them asked me friendly. At first, I didn’t know how to answer them. How could I know if they were the parents of my teammates or not? But as I saw the clothes they wore, I was sure that they were. The clothes they wore were with the words “Canadian Team” on them. So I nodded and asked “Where are my teammates?”
Their response actually surprised me “They’re probably swimming now. Since we’re going to eat dinner soon, do you want to play cards with them after dinner?”
“Playing cards BEFORE the competition?” I was a bit confused. I thought we should play cards AFTER the competition. No matter how surprised I was, it was true ------ as I walked to the lobby, I saw some of them were playing pokers. I guess I should join them!
We got to practice!
“Hey! We got to practice for the team competition now!” our team captain, Desmond, told us a day before the competition. After dinner time, our team soon gathered at one of the rooms, getting ready for our first ------ and probably the last ------ practice.
First of all, we needed to divide the first eight questions. Since we already knew that all of us weren’t good at geometry, we left the geometry questions to be divided last. However, before the geometry questions were divided, Desmond and I had already taken two to three questions each.
“What should we do now? I asked. “Each of us should get two questions each, but now this seems impossible!” After some discussions, Desmond and I decided to give one of our questions each to Kevin and Angus. After that, Desmond and I took the geometry questions. While we finally divided all of the questions, ten minutes had already passed.
“We’ve got to do this much faster in the competition tomorrow!” Desmond told us. After that, we started to work on the problems by ourselves. Though I tried my best to do the two problems I got, I could only come across one of them. As the time was up, we went on to the final two questions.
We divided ourselves into two groups. Kevin and I worked on one of the problems, and Desmond and Angus worked on the other one. However, we soon realized that none of us could solve the problems we got. So we switched our questions and gave it another try. No matter how hard we tried, we could only get partial solution out of the questions. Finally, we gave up.
It seemed that our abilities were far from excellence. Could we really make it tomorrow?
Was a second really important?
It was time for the competition.
I sat quietly, waiting for the competition. I could see my teammates were also waiting patiently. We all felt confident enough for the contest.
As the competition started, I turned to the last page of the contest paper and look at the last problem. It was usually the hardest problem of all. I tried my best to figure something out, but I just couldn’t get it. So I made a guess and went on to the other questions.
It wasn’t long before I discovered a really awful thing: I couldn’t come across the third question counting from the end, either. Since both of the questions worth twenty points, it would be a pity if I couldn’t come across any of them. It meant that I probably needed to say goodbye to the medals.
I started to feel nervous. It seemed that I could do nothing but wait till the end. The more I tried, the worse I felt. I even felt a bit frustrated. But a sudden thought changed my situation.
“I get it!” I cheered in my heart. I finally solved one of the two problems. However, I found out that there were only three minutes left. I really needed to race with the time.
So I made a quick choice: instead of writing my proof in either English or traditional Chinese, I wrote it in simplified Chinese. It was the fastest way to write the answer. I wrote and wrote and wrote, until I heard the loud sound: “Ring!” I put my pen down, with my hands still shaking. I completed my answer just in time.
How important a second was! Or else I’d fail to give a complete solution!
“Canada! Don’t lose your country’s face.”
In the afternoon, there came the team contest.
“C-A-N-A-D-A, Canada!” We cheered together before we went into the contest hall. After that, we stepped into the hall and found our seats. The half-hour waiting started at the moment.
After waiting for some time, we felt a little bored. “When is the competition going to start?” one of us asked. But no one could answer. So we kept quiet and nearly fell asleep while waiting.
However, team B was a lot smarter than us. They didn’t waste their time at all ------ they started to play cards. At first, we didn’t notice it. We thought they were probably just chatting. But we soon figured out that we were wrong.
“Who are playing cards over there?” As the chairman asked, all of the students in the hall became quiet. “Put them away! This is a contest hall, not a casino!” the chairman continued. Just when we were curious about who did it, the chairman announced the answer “Canada! Don’t lose your country’s face!” At that moment, we finally knew the answer ------ but an embarrassing one.
No matter how embarrassing it was, we soon got rid of the feeling. We were going to face one of the most important events during the week ------ team competition.
“Wait a minute! I nearly get it!”
As we got the problems, we looked over them as fast as we could. We needed to divide these problems in ten minutes.
“Who can do this one?” the captain, Desmond, asked.
“No, I can’t!” one of us responded.
“Then I’ll give it a try!” another one answered.
We divided the tougher problems by this way ------ volunteering. Though we knew this way was a bit ridiculous, but what could we do instead? There was no one in our team who could come across those problems!
So here’s what we did after the precious ten minutes: just try our best. We each got two problems to do. Fortunately, when the time was up, we had completed most of the problems. It was time for us to reconvene and work on the final two problems together.
Desmond and I soon solved one of them. However, the other one seemed a lot more difficult. The problem looked simple enough, but we needed some mind-blowing thoughts to figure it out. Just as we were going to give up, I suddenly came up with a thought. “Why not draw the diagram this way?” I said. I then started to draw my diagram. Unfortunately, after I drew it, we found out that there was a mistake.
“Wait a minute! I nearly got it!” I shouted. But time wouldn’t wait for us. “Ring!” as we heard the alarm, we knew that our efforts were in vain. We were so close to the answer!
Happy or not, the competition was over. Let’s enjoy the rest of the week!
From octahedron to tetrahedron
It was the cultural night. All of the countries had been well prepared for the presentation, and so had Canada. As we stood beside the stage, we felt really excited. How different the two shows that we were going to bring were!
Our first show was quite mathematical. Using some ribbons, we first formed an octahedron. Then, we changed the octahedron into an icosahedron simply by moving some of the ribbons. After that, we changed the icosahedron into a dodecahedron. We did all of the changes smoothly.
The next step was the hardest process of the whole variations. We needed to change the dodecahedron into a cube. Although it sounded easy, we had to make it by letting go of some parts of the ribbons. If the ribbons tied up together, we failed. Fortunately, the step was all right. Finally, we changed the cube into a tetrahedron. We had formed all of the regular polyhedrons during the variation.
After the polyhedrons, here came our second show ------ singing. The song we sang was “Baby”, which was a popular song. While we were singing, we also heard a lot of people singing together with us. As our presentation came to the end, the audiences cheered loudly for us.
Walking down from the stage, we then started to exchange our gifts with contestants from all around the world. Meeting those people and making friends with them made the night really fascinating.
“Let’s go swimming!”
“Hey Scott, do you want to go swimming with us?” my teammates asked me when we met at the corridor. Looking at them all taking their swimming suits, I started to hesitate. I couldn’t swim! How could I swim together with them?
However, since I didn’t want to stay in the room myself, I decided to go with them. At first, I just stood beside the swimming pool and looked at them playing. After a few minutes, I felt bored. Why was I standing here alone without playing together with them? So I joined them.
When I first reached the water, I felt a little cold. There was a big difference between the pool’s and the ground’s temperature. But I felt comfortable then. The water cooled me down a lot, and I soon realized that the water was only a meter deep. My feet could reach the bottom of the pool easily. Getting rid of my fear, I started to play happily in the water with my teammates.
We divided ourselves into two teams. Like playing soccer, the goal of our game was to kick the ball into a specific area. The only difference was that we were allowed to use hands. Since I could neither swim nor hit the ball, what I did during the game was trying to disturb the others. I splashed the water whenever the other team was hitting the ball. And in the end of the game, I found out that all of us were just splashing water on each other. We broke into a laugh, and it was the end of the game.
As I got out from the swimming pool, I figured out that we’d swum for nearly two hours. What a long time it was! But I really had fun!
End of the competition
In the afternoon, we were all back to the contest hall ------ this time not for the competition, but for the closing and awarding ceremony.
While all of us sat down, we couldn’t help asking our team leader, Sean, about the results. At first, he only told us “All of you did well in the competition.” Then, he told us a bit more “One or two of you get medals, and the others all get merit prizes.” Hearing the good news, we cheered out loud. It wasn’t so hard for one or two of us to grab medals, but it was hard for everyone to get a prize. We were really lucky.
Besides the individual results, we were also curious about our team results. However, instead of asking our team leader again, we decided to wait for the announcement this time. After some time, we heard the announcement “Team contest: Canada A, merit prize; Canada B, merit prize……”
“Great!” we cheered again, but even louder this time. As we were on the stage, we just felt so happy. We smiled widely when we took photos together. From where we stood, I could see my teacher clapping for me. In the sound of cheering and clapping, the competition finally came to its end.
Did I get the result I want? Of course. I got a silver medal in the competition. But this was not the most important thing to me. It was true that a lifelong friendship would be a lot more important than a shiny medal.
To all the teammates from Canada:
Thank you for giving me such a good time.
To Professor Andy:
Thank you for giving me the chance to be on your team.
To Teacher Sun:
Thank you for introducing me to Professor Andy.
To my dear family:
Thank you for giving me supports when I was down.