Nostalgia. Nostalgia. Nostalgia. I can still recall the crisp, rushing wind as it grazed my face from every angle. As we twisted and turned so rapidly, the darkness of the night was engulfed by the neon lights surrounding us in the same manner as the bowl of mountains did. New York New York Roller Coaster has been one of the most adrenaline-rushing mechanisms I had ridden in my entire existence, and I was glad to have experienced it along with those whom I have grown close enough to call my family: The Dragon Army.
The day before, I was waving goodbye to my family as I boarded one of my first plane rides in Houston, Texas. The ticket read “Las Vegas, Nevada”, but I had not processed this until the steaming, oven-like air brought trickles of sweat upon my forehead as the door of the plane popped open after the four-hour ride. Las Vegas Nevada, more specifically, at the South Point Hotel, was where the ITC United Fighting Arts Federation World Championships took place every year, and the Dragon Army, our undefeated Karate Demo Team, had decided to return and uphold its legacy. For the past five years, our demo team had been undefeated as we had consecutively received multiple award from Grand Master Chuck Norris himself. And now, it was an honor to return back to his created karate organization: UFAF.
I can remember so clearly the intensity we all had as we bowed into the ring to perform what we had been training for 6 hours a day and four days a week for the entire summer up to mid-July. I can remember so clearly the passion our movements had in sync with the motivating music. I can remember so clearly the amazement of the black belt judges, along with Master Norris, as our tricks were perfectly landed and our thrown weapons were perfectly caught. I can remember so clearly the nerve racking moment where the entire arena was in intense silence as we were seconds from discovering the champions. And I can so, very clearly remember the tears rushing down our faces as Chuck Norris handed the award to our instructor.
As we toured the outside of the hotel, we managed to visit several sights at the Las Vegas Strip including the Hard Rock Café, Coca Cola Store, M&M Store and New York New York. We as a team of about 30 karate tourists transformed into temporary Vegas performers as we put on unintentional small shows in the middle of the streets. The small claps and audiences we accumulated meant the world as they were enjoying us simply having our kind of fun. Even though our next so-called performance was not karate-related, it will remain in my memory forever as complete strangers joined us into dancing the Wobble in the middle of the M&M store. What began as three simple friends having fun to music turned into a mob of laughing dancers. But the real bonding moments between us all occurred between the doors of the massive hotel. The reserved pool party for competitors only, the midnight adventures to the inner-theater, the trips to the arcade, our competitions in the bowling alley, our all knighting venting sessions.
Although the Vegas roller coaster has reached the top of my list, the roller coaster of a journey I have experienced with my Dragon Army is by far by most prized award. It is something that instead of being materialistically represented by an object, it is portrayed in the unbreakable bond we have for one another.
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