Well 3 of the FPS girls, their parents and I are back from the USA. We never had a podium finish, as we had been hoping for, but the girls felt, after their exam, that they had done their best, especially under the weight of intense competition.
On the first leg of our journey, we flew into San Francisco and caught a connecting flight to Chicago, where we stayed for 3 days. It was a beautiful city - lots of lovely gardens, it was clean and we only saw one lot of graffiti. The girls loved shopping on "The Magnificient Mile" (a famous street) and the people were very friendly and helpful - even the homeless!!
After 3 days of rest and relaxation in Chicago, we hired a 12-seater van to Indiana. There were lots of laughs, as well as tension, on this journey - especially when the GPS system told us to go north when we were meant to be going south!! In the end, we abandoned the GPS system and relied on some printed Google Map instructions, which fortunately one of the dads had downloaded!
On the way south, we stopped off at a "Dennys" for a meal, and it felt a little like being in a Hill-billies show! "Grits" was on the menu, which even the waitress confessed to not having ever eaten! We avoided it!! At the University - a couple of hours further south - there was a cashier who wore a hairnet!!! I didn't even think that those things could be bought anymore!!! It reminded me of Enid Sharples off Coronation Street!
Indiana University was lovely. The town is really a little village built around the University, which is often the case at many American universities! The varsity was spread out over lots of hectares, in park-like settings (complete with squirrels and chipmonks!!), and was made up of lime-stone slab buildings which are about 160 years old. Limestone is common in the area. As is typical at American universities, there were ALL the facilities. Besides the actual university, there was a gridiron stadium, which seated 180 000+ people, several swimming pools, indoor softball stadium (full-sized pitch under cover), and a huge basketball complex, which had tiered seating to such dizzying heights that I refused to go to the top!! Even the girls were apparently treading VERY carefully (and considering that they seemed to have NO fear of any ride at Disneyland, which we visited before we returned home, I found this very intriguing).
After the girls had sat their booklet competition, they came out of the exam quite euphroric. They thought that they had done a great booklet. I was very happy for them, as all I have ever asked of them is that they do their BEST! They next day, I looked at some components of their booklet, and realised that they had "missed the boat"! It was not in a huge way, but it was enough for them to lose BIG marks because they hadn't re-read the SPECIFIC TASK which they were asked to achieve so they had spun off onto another connected, but not related-enough task to give them the marks which they required!!! The night before the prize-giving, I gathered the girls together to tell them that they wouldn't have a podium finish! I debated all day what to do, but the adults and I decided it was better to tell them before the prize-giving rather than them find out that they hadn’t achieved well at the prize-giving. There were tears as soon as the girls had realised what they had done!!
Much of their stress was due to accepting that not only had they let themselves down, but they had also let a lot of other people down, including me, the school, their parents and the community who had invested SO much time and money to getting them to the United States.
On the afternoon, after they had written their booklet, they needed to produce a dramatic presentation of their booklet. We had done a lot of preparation for this, before we left New Zealand, and even though their dramatic presentation was "heads and shoulders" above the opposition, penalty points for going over time, plus a mis-quote of a compulsory quote and a penalty over what was considered to be a costume, under the rules, cost the girls 15 penalty points - which put them out of contention for another podium finish!! This also added to their disappointment.
After our disappointments at the International Conference in Bloomington, Indiana, we flew, via Indianapolis, to Los Angeles where we spent a day or two at Disneyland, and after, two of the four girls visited Universal Studios. The atmosphere of Disneyland was just what we all needed to melt away our sadness about not achieving success at Indiana.
So near and yet so far!!! The girls have recovered bravely. They have learned a hard lesson about resilience and accepting that everything in life may not always go the way that we want it to go.
Maybe that is the most important lesson which they could learn from their BIG International experience!