Monday, September 29, 2008

Frisbee on the Other Side of the World

When I left the United States, I brought along two Frisbees (discs actually, as Frisbee is a registered trademark of the Wham-O corporation and UPA sanctions the 175 Discraft Ultrastar as the official disc for ultimate, i.e. I am a Frisbee snob). However, I wasn’t really expecting to use them in any serious Ultimate competition. Maybe there would be a couple volunteers that played (using logic and stereotypes together: if hippies play Frisbee, and if hippies join the Peace Corps, then there should be people in the Peace Corps that play Frisbee), but I never imagined playing in a locally run game of Ultimate. However, yesterday, all of my expectations for Frisbee in Kazakhstan were shattered.

I played a pickup game of ultimate. In Almaty. In Kazakhstan. Sure, it was six on six. And there wasn’t really a stack offense. But there were stall counts, brick rules, and even travels called. More on the backstory….

One of the Kaz-18 volunteers (Nora) had told me about pickup on Sundays in Almaty. Almaty is the major city in our Oblast (like a state) and is only about an hour away by bus and only costs about 1.15 to get there. Last Sunday, I was stocked to go, but decided to stay home because my family was having guests over. This Sunay, my afternoon was entirely free, so I jumped at the chance to play Ultimate on the other side of the world.

I left my town and traveled into the city alone. The directions I have are worth quoting: “Take a bus to Ramstore. Walk back down the hill and take a right at the big TV screen. After about 100 yards, turn right. It will look like an alley. There will be a gate with a star on it and a guard. Frisbee is through the gate and up the hill on the left.” I may have accidentally entered a military location at first, but eventually I found the fields.

I was there early, but after about half an hour I saw two girls show up carrying the familiar site of a white Ultrastar. My heart leapt with joy. A few minutes later some more guys showed up, and I introduced myself. There was one other American, Jason from New York who had been in K-stan for a few years. The rest of the crowd were local Kazakhstanis! Crazy.

We started with four on four and eventually made it up to six on six. We only had a dirt field to play on that we drew lines on, since they don’t have cones in Kazakhstan (according to the people playing). I played with them for about an hour and a half. Some of them had solid flicks. Cuts were okay, but not really that great. Defense was basic man-to-man. Stall counts were done in two different languages (and I thought about adding in some Kazakh as well, but always forgot to do it.) It felt surreal to be playing with my new friends, using primarily a different language, in the middle of a huge city, in Central Asia. My mind could barely wrap itself around how awesome that was.


Margie said...

I am glad you got to play your favorite game. I know you enjoyed playing. be careful where you go

Karen said...

That's awesome! Similar to our "med student pick-up" here in Nashville :)

Amy said...

I'm so excited that you found frisbee...home away from home.

gamehube said...

wow, very cool. maybe you could use some of your vacation days to go to the Bangkok hat tournament!