The battleground was set. A row of eyes narrowed with focus; sweat rolled down temples. Blades of grass stirred hesitantly in the light breeze, whispering to each other about what was to come. Our band of twenty valiant gladiators was poised, ready, waiting. The silence was thunderous, and our mission was singular: to capture the carefully guarded treasure waiting not fifty yards away.
“One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish!” Like panthers we leapt forward, only to freeze in our tracks seconds later. The battle? A classic children’s game. And the precious treasure we sought? A rubber fish.
When I learned that our first bonding event as Huang Fellows would be a low ropes course, I was thrilled. In my naiveté, I pictured an American Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course, an opportunity for Tarzan-like displays of jaw-dropping athleticism. The reality, although quite different, proved far more rewarding than I could ever have imagined.
The activity that perhaps best embodied the spirit of that day was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. As a team, we needed to somehow retrieve a rubber fish from its guardian (Katie from Durham Parks and Rec) and get it back over the starting line. Katie would remain with her back turned to us as long as she was chanting the name of the game. However, if she turned around in the interim and spotted one of us moving or saw the fish in our possession, it was game over.
So we strategized. Should we form a long line stretching from our starting point to Katie and pass the fish secretly between us? Should we shuffle forward and backward as an enormous human blob to shield the fish from view? Should we send a single person up to simply lob a Hail Mary pass back to the remaining nineteen and hope Katie wouldn’t turn around in time? Idea after idea failed. Some failed quickly, while others brought us to the very cusp of success before tragically crashing and burning.
Between iterations, we reconvened and reevaluated, and the brainstorming sessions were simply spectacular. Equal parts uproarious laughter, impassioned advocacy, and fiery determination transformed us from near strangers to a cohesive team. Over an hour and a half passed, but we kept doggedly at it. Finally, out of our cumulative experience and collaborative discussion, a winning idea was born.
I would move as quickly as possible to the front, retrieve the fish from behind Katie, and throw it to a blob waiting ten yards away. They would quickly hide it from view and shuffle backwards to join a secondary blob, at which point the fish would be impossible for Katie to detect. The Double Blob Strategy, after some fine-tuning, worked beautifully.
Many things blossomed that day. As individuals, we each practiced balancing our dual roles as leaders and collaborators, leveraging our strengths and letting others complement our weaknesses. As a team, we came together and worked single-mindedly towards a greater goal. These lessons set the tone of the fellowship and reinforced the idea that patience and teamwork were integral to our success. Ultimately, it wasn’t a battleground we stood on—it was a playground, a place to explore and discover and grow and laugh at ourselves. Best of all, it wasn’t a band of twenty gladiatorsI stood among—we were a band of twenty friends.
Rishabh is a first-year student from the San Francisco Bay Area studying Biomedical Engineering.