Friday, March 6, 2009

Skating Like A Penguin

Short note: This is a super back-dated entry that I only managed to post up now. Believe it or not, this trip was held two months back, but I was too busy back then as I just returned from my winter holiday in Malaysia and just before I managed to get myself settled-down, my finals followed.
Just like snowboarding, I have never skated, not even once in my whole life. When we were told that the school would be organising a skating trip for the international students, I was the first to raise my hands up. After all, who would want to miss this all-expenses-paid trip. It was held two months ago, in the second week of January when the school had just reopened after our two-week winter break.
Back then, it was just the starting time when the snow began to fall heavily and on the day of the trip itself, it was snowing all the way.
View of the almost frozen Shinano River, the longest river in Japan - taken from the Nagaoka Bridge.
A common view of the villages during the winter season - taken when the bus made a stop at the traffic lights.

We were taken to Kashiwazaki Aqua-Park, about an hour bus-ride from Nagaoka.
The place is just separated from the sea by a road. On that day, strong and heavy hailstorm hit the place when I went out to look around the area. This park not only has a skating ring, but it has other facilities as well - like indoor swimming pool, traditional Japanese restrooms and public bath.
Kashiwazaki Aqua-Park.
After the registrations were done, we were introduced to two instructors who would be in-charged on us for the day. But before we start with anything, we were asked to take our pair of skating shoes which were already prepared and placed at one corner. Well, I had the easiest task of locating my pair of shoes - I just had to look at the furthest end of the shoes' row and there is where my shoes was.
I was quite surprised that they have such big size, because I had gone through some experiences at bowling centres, where they do not have my size and I had to wear a tight pair of shoes. However, this pair of skating shoes was still kinda tight and I asked if they have a bigger size.
They use centimeters here in Japan, not only for shoes, but for clothing too.
Thank God, there was one pair - size 30cm.

Since most of us were first-timers, we didn't even know the correct way to wear and tie our skating shoes. So the poor instructors had to check first on our shoes before we proceeded to the next thing. We were made to do a warming-up session first and it's actually quite hard. Imagine wearing a skating shoe, which has a piece of blade just a few millimeters wide and we had to do all sorts of movements - like flapping our arms wide and using our feet to hit the ground continuously like a penguin.
We however, just followed whatever the two ladies asked us to do, and it was actually quite fun.
Penguin in the making.
Happy feet were clearly enjoying themselves.
So, after we got ourselves warmed-up, it was the time to enter the ring.
Half of the ring was closed for us.
But it was not as simple as we thought.
Guess what, we didn't walk into the ring but we crawled in. Yes, I kid you not, she said she's gonna teach us from zero and just as a precaution, she thought it's better for us to enter the ring by crawling. Again, we obeyed to her instructions and made our entrance to the ring like four-month babies.
I guess it must have been some time since most of us crawled like this.
Even the super-sporting Maruyama sensei did the same thing like the rest.
The embarrassing thing is, the small kids which were around four to seven years-old, suddenly stopped from skating and looked at us, the jakun in amazement. You know, those "Huh??!" kind of glance. Not only they were looking at us, they were laughing away and we not no choice but to smile back at them. I wonder what they were thinking about us at that time.
Anyway, we didn't bother to think about those kids anymore and just continued our skating session by the two instructors. They asked us to stand up slowly while spreading our arms wide to balance our body. Everyone did it so slow in fear that they might slip and fall on the hard ice.
Can you feel the tension?
Next, we were required to walk to the side of the ring which seemed like an impossible task. For those who have never tried skating before, walking on the ice surface is totally different experience because it's just too slippery. A simple analogy is to slide an ice cube on an ice surface and that is how slippery it is when you are walking on the ice wearing the skating shoes.
We tried to get to the end as fast as possible, and as soon as we reached there, all grabbed the pole tightly and our heartbeat began to get faster. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief once they got to the side of the ring. We were hoping that we do not have to walk to the centre again and just happy to stay there, holding to the pole lol.
"This is just the beginning of the lesson, kids," said the instructor.
My cuak face wtf.
Sodo (second from the left) tries to balance himself.
The lesson continued with the instructors teaching us how to slowly walk on the ice. Balance is the important point in skating and to make sure we do not fall too often, we just have to spread out our arms as wide as possible whenever we feel like falling down. Another point is to make sure our body is straight and not bend backwards.
So, we were slowly required to try to increase our walking speed and subsequently, we managed to skate on the ice surface already. We were in disbelief at that moment - it was like a miracle lol. Yea, maybe I am over exaggerating here, but I tell you the feeling is so exciting, even more for a first-timer like me.
How to get down on our feet while we were halfway skating.
We were even taught how to gostan while skating too. Cool, eh?

However, that was also the starting point where we fell in love with the surface of the ice. One after another of us had their butt kissed the hard ice surface, including myself. At first, I counted the number of times I fall. Once, twice, thrice, four times, five times and it went on and on. But in the end, I fell down too many times, that I can't be bothered to keep on counting anymore.
By the way, I wasn't the person who fall down the most, but I would say I was among the people who fall down the most. I'm not particularly proud of this achievement anyway, because my butt really hurts every time I made contact with the hard-rock ice surface. I think being tall and having a higher gravity point is really stupid because I will never enjoy such sports anymore for the rest of my life. Same thing when I go for skiing and snowboarding.
Why can't I just be a little bit shorter? Sigh...
(How ironic it is, when I'm complaining now, while I just mentioned about we people who will never be satisfied with our lives in the previous entry)

Anyway, we continued skating and began to gain more and more confidence. After some time, we managed to skate much better and not just walk one step by one step anymore. However, not everyone were quick learner and we were divided into two groups - one for the ones who still couldn't really skate and wanna learn step by step, while the other is for those who wanna learn some new skills and tricks.
For the more advanced group, we were taught how to make a 180-degree turn and stop instantly, how to move in circular movement non-stop, and a few others. But just a few of us managed to master those steps, while nobody able to do the circular movement.
More like a kindergarten game, no?
As for the beginner group, they were made to go through various drills and in fact, they were actually harder than the other group. One of the drills was to go under a goalpost-like pole to practise their balancing.
We were given a short lunch break and after that, everyone were free to skate by their own as the skating ring was open to all.
It was the weekends and the place was fairy crowded.
So this time, we had to skate among the Japanese kids and adults while making sure we didn't simply go and hit them. Too bad I was unlucky to lose my balance at one point, and hit a poor little kid in front of me. I pulled my emergency break but too bad at the most vital moment, it wasn't working =.=
This was taken after I managed to calm down and skate properly.
With my 5th Year seniors, Roby (Indonesia) and Chuyen (Vietnam).
Among all who went to this skating trip, I guess the person who enjoyed the most is my junior.
Pictures above should tell everything.
I can proudly say now that I can skate already. Barely, though.


Anonymous said...

wow. i have not skate for 10 years!! i'm going to feel scare if i were to skate now in sunway pyramid.

Kae Vin said...

i used to skate in Bukit Jambul alot when the ice skating field was still in operate.

and then i went the Megamall in Butterworth to skate when BJ closed down.

not long after that the one in Megamall closed down too.


Now I think Sunway Pyramid is the only ice-sakting field in Malaysia

I'm not pro though

Anonymous said...

i want i want

=chuan guan= said...

i still urge to try once...envying...

syaza said...

tu la..dulu ajak dating kat sunway x nak~

calvin said...

@ renaye:
yea, every time you step into the ring, you will always feel as if it's your first time stepping into it, unless you are really good in it already >.<

calvin said...

@ specialhuman:
i never know megamall has a skating ring. but i'd love to try outdoor skating one day =)

calvin said...

@ anonymous:
why not?

calvin said...

@ =chuan guan=:
nobody is stopping you ;)

calvin said...

@ syaza:
since when did you ask me to date there? o.O