School trip - at the worst bowling alley in the world!
Wednesday morning saw the long awaited department bowling trip to Omuta, an event that almost didn't happen. Originally scheduled for months ago, it was knocked on the head by the Principal twice. It seems that it would be unacceptable for the students to miss three lessons of angry men in suits and slippers barking from an antiquated textbook.
Luckily, he finally gave in, and the International Department headed en masse to Omuta. When we got there, I was surprised to see that it wasn't the new alley near shikenjyomae station, but a ramshackle old warehouse of an alley in the dark recesses of the city. I didn't expect much, and that's exactly what I got.
Walking up the steps, it smelled like a bowling alley, and it looked like a bowling alley. There were the well worn house balls, the rubbish fruit machines and greasy proprietors skulking about. When we had all finally arrived (everyone was split up into coaches and cars), there began the grand farce that is the collecting of money. Despite the fact that the designated student leaders had already collected all the money from everyone, there still seemed to be a deficit, and around 20 minutes had to be allotted for about 5 people to individually count the cash.
After this, there was the obligitory 15 minutes of getting the correct shoes and balls. And then, just when I thought we might actually get bowling, everyone had to gather around, and there were speeches from the department head, the homeroom teachers and the designated student organisers. Bear in mind that the Principal had only given us 3 hours to play with, and this had to include traveling to and from the alley. With this added to the bureaucratic farce of money, shoes and speeches, it meant that there was only about 45 for bowling.
So, anyway, the moment had finally arrived, and having brought my ball, I was setting myself up for a potential fall. I glanced at the lanes, and recoiled when I saw that they were a dirty wood colour. It was clear that some oil had been applied to the lanes at some point in the past, but it wasn't recent. Given the hooking potential of my ball, I was worried.
The games began, and immediately the students seemed to be on song. The teachers seemed to fair according to their personalities - the nicer ones struggled, whilst the boorish bullies were hitting their targets. It was interesting to see their various styles: amongst my favourites were the ultra deep leg bend of the Department Head, the strangely-80s-music-video reverse roll of the 1st year teacher, and pictured below, the cosmic haight-ashbury fertility dance of the President's secretary.
When it came to my turn, I played safe, and threw a hard roll cross lane. It didn't turn as much as I hoped, and left the 10 pin. Attempting the spare, I missed by a far way, and this seemed to set the tone for the game. Whilst the two students on my lane played pretty well, I struggled, to the extent that I was open in the first 6 frames. At least 20 points down against people that had cheerfully told me that they hadn't bowled since the early 90s, I was under pressure. I could hear Linh Dang whispering abuse from afar, and I could imagine Ben Gammon bowing his head and shuffling off to find a new bowling friend. It would take something special to get even over a hundred, which was an absolute must.
I decided to go straight down the right with lots of pace, and lo, a strike, a strike, a spare, a strike and a spare! From being at the bottom of the heap, I had managed to leapfrog all the teachers and many of the students. In the end I think I was in fourth place, and narrowly avoided being presented with a bin bag full of cheap snacks. Face was maintained, for the moment.
Then began the team play, which seemed to be some weird system of random people bowling in random order as quickly as possible. Pretty uninteresting, apart from the fact that my monstrous hook 7 pin spare, in which the ball theatrically moves from the 30th board across to the 1st and whips into the pin, was witnessed by the student body and for a few moments at least I was an idol...
We only had time to play three games, and then there were some photo opportunities. I like photos, but there are only so many times you can pose and do the peace sign. Thankfully, one of my favourite students, the fantastically named Suyeon Woo, took it upon herself to pick up my heavy bag and do a few bicep curls, all the time looking like a very cute rabbit in a uniform.
Inevitably, despite the tight schedule, there was time for the teachers to demand that the students bowed and shouted thanks to everyone and everything, and incredibly there still seemed to be time to buy ice cream and milky drinks.
On the way home, I fell asleep in the car, due to the warmth of the day. When I was at the point of waking up, I realised that this was to be the last school trip of my short time at the high school, and I felt a little sad. It took a fast morning in a ropey bowling alley for me to know that, despite the crap that I have had to put up with at the school, I really will miss the students once I am gone.