More on NST-ASCI – some chronology (Day 1)

Pre-tourney

The arrangement to KL was a little unsettling for me because it entailed waking up early (which I hadn’t done in ages) and catching the first bus to the checkpoint, and then meeting Ian at the newly built CIQ (which Ian’s dad wasn’t familiar with!). Thankfully all went well as I arrived in JB a little earlier than expected because there was no traffic jam during the early hours. The JB side of the checkpoint certainly looks grander (and definitely newer) than the Singaporean side, but it doesn’t seem well thought out – commuters now need to walk quite a distance after passing through immigration to reach the public roads, and it is more hassling than convenient. I heard a few people (while I was on my way back, waiting for a bus to take across the Causeway – they were presumably Malaysian because of their Mandarin accent), commenting in Mandarin that the checkpoint should have been built with convenience instead of size/ grandeur in mind. Apart from the distance the checkpoint lacks clear signposting and commuters might get lost if they do not look clearly for the paper signages with “To JB” or “To Woodlands” – international travelers might not even know what “Woodlands” is referring to! Certainly much room for improvement.

I managed to find Ian and his dad drove us to the bus station at Larkin (no 170s going to Larkin at that time so I had to do it that way), and he (Ian’s dad) added two bottles of water, some bread and Filet O’ Fishes to our stashes before sending us off. The bus ride was decent for me though I didn’t get much sleep – I was feeling a little ill from the lack of sleep the night before (and perhaps the CNY goodies)… so I didn’t feel comfy enough to get >2 hours of sleep.

We reached KL (Pudu station) at about 11 am+ and traveled to the KL Sentral station via taxi (as Ian himself was unsure about getting there) – we met some tourney organisers there who were waiting to bring us to the University in a van. We registered upon arrival and got our room, which was inconveniently situated on the 4th storey with no lift access. The room was not very good too though still sufficient (hard bed, drinking water source on the first level). At that point, I had already used up 2 packets of tissue and I had only brought 4 – it didn’t help that the tissue box in the room had only 2-3 sheets left.

I knew that the schedule was somewhat relaxed but I underestimated how spaced out it would be. I had practically nothing to do from 1 pm to 5 pm and I am probably indebted to the presence of Ian, Darren and Ramaraj (who arrived together) during those hours – I’d probably have died of boredom otherwise. The Malaysian youths came to Ian’s/ my room and chatted livelily about the recent WYSC (where I discovered more than I knew from the website) – and in some cases brought me in by talking about the Singaporean scene. I didn’t feel as chatty that time though, still feeling fluey and tired (and on my 3rd packet of tissue).

Darren and Ramaraj left our room after a while to “study” – while Ian and I lazed around in our room for a while before crashing their “study session”, which turned out to be an anagramming session. Pretty intriguing considering the Singaporean kids were themselves doing such things together 2-3 years ago too! I stayed to solve some anagrams (which they usually took from the dictionary) myself and it certainly helped to pass some time.

We had our dinner at 5+ pm before traveling to the Auditorium which was some distance away (so all of us took some form of transport there) – there was again quite a lot of spare time before the games started at 8:30 pm. I used the time to catch up with Chaiwat (who was studying some high probability bingos) and Thacha (who was studying a list of 4 letter words) – as well as converse with the other Malaysian youths. Surprisingly enough, Ganesh arrived to direct the tourney – I thought he was still hibernating (sunbathing might be the right word here) in Somalia! The TDs spent some time explaining the rules to the newcomers, and we eventually started the tourney on time.

Tourney (Day 1)

As I said in the previous post, I won’t be talking much about my games but I will probably talk about the tourney itself. The tourney was played to 5 point challenge, which was a relief – Ganesh was also around to ensure tourney rules were as close to the standard as possible. My team (called Dark Horses) was first paired with this team called Seladang – the pair had met in secondary school and were now in different universities. They seemed to me like former interschool players. Darren’s team was perhaps unfortunate to meet the Thai team first after the random assignment – their teams split the games 1-1.

Our next pairing was against Fellers (which I’d misheard as Phallus when the team name was called), a team of two Nigerians who had recently moved to Malaysia – and who had also not played Scrabble for at least 3 years (or rather one of them 3, the other 6). As such I had a Collins word challenged by my opponent – they seem to be extremely friendly though, and are interested in coming down to Singapore for tourneys. We were second at the end of the first day, losing on spread to Martin and Leroy’s team. I had also forgotten to bring my fourth pack of tissue to the venue and was relying on borrowed tissue from the organisers at the end of the day.

The first two games were over, and we decided to adjourn for the night. Darren and Ramaraj had decided to go back to their homes, probably deciding that it was better to sleep at their own places than stay at the hostel. Chaiwat and Thacha, who had come down a night earlier, had already stayed in the hostel for a night and moved out the next day to a relative’s (of Chaiwat) place. Karl Chin and Brian also had lodging elsewhere, so that meant that Ian and I didn’t really know many more people staying in the hostel – that also meant an early night for us (and some recuperation for my illness).

I will continue this in another post.

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