My very first debate competition was both exhausting and a real education. I was invited to go with the university’s debate coach and the two top debaters to Beijing to participate in the 12th “FLTRP Cup,” the National Debating Competition sponsored by the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. Little did I know that, the night before the competition started, I would be drafted as a replacement judge. I, who didn’t know nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ no debates, would have a crash course in the rules, techniques, and judging of them. After overcoming a major case of nerves, I discovered that after the first round or two, I was really getting into it. At the end of 8 preliminary rounds, I was thinking that I was a pretty good judge.
The two UESTC debaters worked their hearts out, enduring as many as 3 debates each day, winning 3 and losing 5. The venue was the state-of-the-art FLTRP Conference Center south of Beijing, a beautifully-designed facility.
Since I wasn’t needed for the final rounds on Saturday, I spent the day in Beijing, hanging out in the district where I had stayed on my previous visit in March. It was a sweltering, dry, and dusty day, so I spent a fair amount of time sitting in Starbucks, eating Korean food, browsing in the English language section of a local Xinhua Bookstore, eating ice cream, and buying souvenirs. It was nice to have a week’s reprieve from earthquakes, but on my return to Chengdu, just as I was settling in for a nap with the dog (who spent the whole week alone in the apartment, with occasional visits from another teacher), another aftershock hit, the largest one since the original May 12 quake.