Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Amazing Race

Last year I was a participant in the Amazing Race, and I "ran" it with my intern team.  You may remember the post from last year on it which can be found here.  

The Amazing Race is two and a half days of intense team building as teams are given clues they need to figure out in order to find a location where they will be given another clue or challenge to complete.  And they're racing the other intern teams!  It's based on a TV show of the same name.

This year the Amazing Race began in Kiev, Ukraine.  Most of the interns flew directly into Kiev where we met them.  It took us a little longer to get to Kiev - on Monday night we left Krakow, Poland, on an overnight train to L'viv.  After a day exploring L'viv and meeting to discuss the race we got on another overnight train to Kiev.

The first overnight train was what I expected - little compartments with three beds on top of each other and I shared with two Czech friends.  But because you cross a border (Poland to Ukraine) you are woken up a lot - by customs officials, and two lots of passport control officials.  And the train tracks are different in Poland and the Ukraine.  So in the middle of the night, as you cross the border, the train is stopped and lifted up and the wheels are replaced!  It all leads to not a lot of sleep.

The second overnight train was different - there were no borders to cross or train track differences but instead of being in separate compartments there is just one compartment per train car so you're kind of having a sleepover... with fifty-three of your closest friends.  (We were back on this train for the return journey to L'viv.)

So on Wednesday we, the helpers, were probably just as tired as the mostly jetlagged American interns!  But the race began...

It was a lot of fun to be involved in the race!  I enjoyed getting to know the different intern teams as I saw them at different stations they were at.  

One of the challenges of completing the race in the Ukraine was that the alphabet is different!  So everything looks so strange, and you can't even really begin to guess at what the signs might be saying.

Some of the challenges we set the teams included:

  • doing a street performance in a big square
  • completing a cross stitch of the Ukrainian flag (four lines of blue stitches, four lines of yellow) - this challenge was incredible.  It was thought it would take at most an hour for each individual to sew their flag...  and then one team of guys dropped from first place to last (17th) because it took one person four and a half hours to sew it.
  • go on a zipline across the river
  • find out facts in a museum about tanks (remember, with a different alphabet!)
  • learn five specific Ukrainian words from a loop of fifty being spoken out loud and repeat them perfectly 
  • learn a traditional Ukrainian dance and perform it
  • the food challenge was something called holodets, washed down with kvas - basically, jelly made from boiling a pig's head washed down with a fermented, non-alcoholic leaf drink
  • find six different coffee shops around the city and sit down and half a cup of coffee with the helper stationed there
  • cross the Ukrainian border!
  • put the challenges you completed in order
  • recite the JV core values
  • list the JV countries and their capitals (not sure I could do this one!)
There are others, but I've forgotten!  I was one of the helpers at one of the coffee shops.  It was quite an arty coffee shop so it took about fifteen minutes for each drink to be made, which meant I had a lot of time to get to chat to different interns from different teams!

The race finished in Krakow on Friday.  And it had accomplished its aim: to bond teams.  These teams will be serving all over central and eastern Europe together this summer and the common experience, joys and frustrations the race provides helps the teams to bond quickly!

The other part of the race is, it pushes people and you can get to know who you are and who your teammates are under stress.  This is such an important thing to learn as you head into the summer, and something each person can grow in as they reflect on the race.

So, overall, an incredible few days!  I was definitely grateful for a good night's sleep on Friday night but the lack of sleep and overnight trains were more than worth it!

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