Thanks for visiting again to hear more about my adventures as a young girl in Sri Lanka. This next installment is part of the “still getting there” set up, but soon I’ll begin writing about the island nation where I met presidents and elephants, so stay tuned!
My classmates were all up in arms. Clogs had been banned from the halls because, as Mrs. Peters had told us, the “constant clomping was distracting to teachers and students.” While the footwear controversy was the topic in the school lunchroom, at home our conversations focused largely on our impending year-long trip to the tropics. For me, the next few months were spent finishing the 4th grade, preparing for the trip and getting one of two reactions about our upcoming travel. My friends barraged me with questions. “Will you have electricity? How will you go to school? What do they eat?” One classmate asked, “Do they have bathrooms there?” “Of course,” I snapped, “I’m going to another country not another century.” But secretly she got me thinking. I had no idea what kind of situations my family would be enduring.
From adults I received a completely different reaction. “What a wonderful opportunity. You must be so excited! I bet you can’t wait for your big adventure!” I’d smile and say, “Oh yes. I can’t wait.” However, change to a fourth grader is scary and a year, which to an adult seems to slip by so rapidly, looms like lifetime to a ten year old – especially spending an entire year away from what you have always known. One late spring evening my parents hosted a dinner party with some of my father’s colleagues. These academics were squarely in the “This will be an experience of a lifetime” camp and I had endured their recounting of magical sabbaticals in Portugal, the Philippines, and Mexico all throughout the meal. I asked to be excused to go outside and play a bit on the wooden swing set my grandfather had built for us, before it grew too dark. The sun was low and, although the air was cool, the rubber swing seat still radiated heat . As I swayed back and forth I composed a song I entitled “Why me.” The lyrics were simple. “Why me? Why is it always me? Do do do do.” I was clearly not a great lyricist. Generally I was not a sullen child prone to composing angst-filled ballads about my life, but traveling abroad for a year seemed very daunting to me.
As school wound down in June our preparation efforts vamped up. My girls’ softball team was in the league playoffs and there were games and practices to fit in around trips to sit for new passport photos and various other administrative chores. I spent what seemed like hours at the travel agent’s office with my parents, challenging myself to see how many times I could spin around in the brown leather chair next to the agent’s desk before I felt dizzy, while Mom and Dad organized flights for the four of us and the college students. One Friday, we visited the college health office where we received gamma globulin and Tetanus shots. The shots were painful, but not a big deal; there was nothing else to do that night except rest up for the championship softball game the next day.
Our team, Malcuria Trucking, had been the little engine that could since the start of the season. We were a younger than average team with consistent base hits and a great pitching duo. My contribution was largely to stand at the plate, and present a strike zone so tiny that I would almost always draw a walk. I would then disappear into right field, an area rarely reached by hits from 3rd and 4th grade girls. Saturday morning, however, I woke with a swollen sore right arm and an achy backside. Mom helped me pull my red uniform over my head and indicated she thought the soreness would fade as I moved my arm. We were to face Mr. Twisty – the other team with pitching chops – but my arm remained as stiff as our team performance that day. My right field counterpart began the game. When I would usually sub in, the coach asked if I felt up to it and I reluctantly declined. “I’ll put you in for the last inning,” he said. As I sat watching the other team’s lead grow to three, I chalked up another reason why this trip to Sri Lanka was a huge pain. So I spent most of our championship game on the bench, trotting out to my spot in right field only for the final at bats of the other team. Although it was early June I was hot in my polyester uniform and felt feverish from the reaction to my vaccinations.
When Malcuria Trucking came up for its last licks, it was three up and three down in the bottom of the inning. With the last strike, the other team jumped for joy and celebrated their championship while we began to shuffle out of the dugout for mandatory good game salutes to the other team. Suddenly the young umpire waved her hands and called the coaches over. The Little League had a rule that all players must get up to bat before a game was official. Malcuria Trucking still had one active player to take the plate.
“Now batting, the right fielder, Johanna Bloss,” boomed the announcer as the coach explained to me that we still had a chance. If I got on base the game would continue until we got another out. “A walk is as good as a hit!” yelled my teammates. As the consistent walker I was used to this kind of encouragement. However, on this day, I really just wanted to quickly put an end to the angry stares from our opponents who were eagerly awaiting their celebratory ice cream party. So after taking one ball I swung at the second pitch. Much to everyone’s surprise, the ball zoomed down the first base line and into right field, where I am certain the right fielder was as shocked to see action as I was to have hit to her. “Is it foul?” I asked. “Just run!” yelled the coach, and I ran to second base before I heard him scream, “Hold up!” Twelve red shirted girls now clung to the dugout fence with hope that Malcuria Trucking might pull off a miracle. I would like to say that my hit started a rally that cost Mr. Twisty the championship that year, but the truth is the next batter struck out and the other team got their victory party after all. I did, however, get the game ball.
“For swinging away despite a sore arm, and for good luck on her adventure,” said the coach. In addition to our second place trophies we enjoyed a pizza party! I have to admit that helped my arm feel a lot better.