Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wednesday Notes from the Senior Coach

On Tuesday evening we had dinner at the Club of Melli Bank after a delightful stroll along the banks of the river to see the historical bridges of Isfahan. The competitors and leaders strolled the banks separately, but ate dinner together; the leaders arrived first and paced nervously while waiting for their competitors to arrive.

Team USA, which rides on bus 12, was the last of the groups to arrive. We had staked out a table and ten chairs along the patio for the team, the leaders, our observers, and the two Iranian guides. We then settled down to a meal where the conversation kept returning to the performance on the experimental examination.

I think we all agreed that the experiment was challenging to complete in five hours. Not impossible, and not unreasonable, but challenging. We still don't know the marks on either the theory or the experiment, although the leaders will get the marks soon.

That is, of course, if Paul doesn't manage to completely frustrate the tour guide for the leaders' bus. Looking after the leaders while sightseeing is somewhat like herding cats, except that cats are more likely to come if you call. Our tour guide has shown incredible patience!

One nice surprise was the local man who came up and read a poem in Farsi for Rui as a Isfahan birthday greeting. Then we sang.

On Wednesday the leaders toured Hasht Behesht palace and the Chelel-Sotoun Museum. Chelel-Sotoun was the summer palace, also known as the palace of forty pillars, even though there are only twenty. You can find the other twenty in a reflection in the pool. In the afternoon we toured the Jame Mosque and the bazaar, where store owners were only too glad to help us to unload our currency. But polite and fair, though frightening at first, the bargaining aspect of making purchases can be fun, particularly when the store owner tries to help you to bargain. Something like playing poker, where your opponent asks to see your card so he can recommend a bid…..

We joined the students for dinner. Mostly happy, although the reality of the exam being finished, yet not knowing the results, weighs heavily on a few. But spirits were lifted high by the open air dinner, singing and clapping and talking; and the continued gracious hospitality and friendship of our Iranian guides.

Paul Stanley
Dobson Professor of Physics
Beloit College