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Tetherball in Tibet

They say that necessity is the mother of invention (shoutout to Schoolhouse Rock, which most scholars agree is the peak of western civilization). While this is certainly true, the progenitor of this saying never considered the importance of boredom as a factor. Sure, necessity produces useful inventions such as the lightbulb, the automobile, the telephone, and more, but boredom leads to a certain kind of creativity, one that leads to Tetherball in Tibet.

Let me back up a little first. Stepping into a valley of grassland after our first five hour trek, the group quickly came to the realization that, while beautiful, the entertainment options on the Tibetan plateau were lacking. Most of the group was just content to relax in our tent and enjoy the scenery. Nik, however, had no such idea in mind. No, the boredom was getting to him, forming in his head a scheme so crazy, it just might work. A little bit away from our tent was a very long cement pole (maybe 20+ feet?). My guess was that it was used for horses or extreme caber tossing (the lack of Scotsmen on the Tibetan plateau makes me think it was the first one).

Spying this pole, Nik decided that it would be perfect for, of all things, Tetherball. Now, at this point I was pretty sure that Nik was succumbing to altitude sickness, because this plan seemed doomed from the outset:
– The pole was too tall
– We had no ball
– Even if we had a ball, we had no method of securing the ball to the pole
– We were tired and wanted to sleep in the tent

Nik, in what was surely a burst of divine providence, didn’t take no for an answer. To solve the ball dilemma, he acquired the balloon that our instructor Zack found on the trek three hours prior. For some reason, Zack carried this mystery balloon the rest of the way. We quickly decided that this was going to be our ball…because it was shaped like a ball. Look, it’s not an exact science, okay?

In what can only be attributed to Fortune herself, the balloon came with a string long enough to tie it to the pole. After tying it, however, we realized that that ball was much too light to actually play tetherball with, almost as though it was a balloon or something. To solve this, Nik took one of his shirts and wrapped it around the balloon to add more weight.

The next problem was that the balloon was much too low to the ground. To fix this, I got down on all fours and Nik stood on my back and shimmed the rope up…yeah, after the hike I was pretty out of it and didn’t ask many questions. After this, Noah and I played a test round, and it went poorly. Just did not feel like Tetherball. We moved the shirt around and tried different ways of folding it, but with mixed results. Sometimes it worked, but for the most part the shirt would fall off in a round or two.

After what was already several hours of “let’s-see-how-many-different-ways-we-can-put-a-shirt-on-a-ball”, Zack came over to offer us guidance in our experiential learning. His idea was to put a pair of long underwear over the shirt, and then use medical tape to create a stronger bond. After some more adjustments (this time with more long underwear)…it still fell apart after a maximum of two rounds.

The real coup de grace, however, was the idea to put the balloon-shirt-long underwear combo into a plastic bag, then use medical tape to tape that up. After that, we lifted Muskaan into the air so she could push the rope up further. At this point, half the group was extremely dedicated towards getting this Tetherball to work. Finally, after we shimmied the rope up as much as we could, we stepped back.

One round, Nik v Thomas. Perfect.
Second round, Nik v Noah. All quiet on the western front.
Third round, Noah v Peter. Two rounds had progressed smoothly, but a third was not in the cards. After several hits the damage of the prior rounds began to show, and the bag almost ripped. As Noah and I finished our round, the ‘tetherball’ was hanging on, literally, by a single thread.

In the end, we never could get a Tetherball tournament going. But let all the highest heavens echo for eternity that we tried our best.