Delfos Project & Math Olympiads

This was my last Olympiad. I first heard about Delfos when I was 14. I got to a Maths National Olympiad final and was told about this Maths Weekend school. Boring, I thought, so I didn’t join. 2 years later I happened to meet someone who went to Delfos and convinced me to try it (Thank you Catarina!). So I went. Expectations were low, but it was worth the shot (I already did maths in my spare time, but the idea of spending my weekends sitting in a classroom didn’t seem too appealing. I believe most of you will relate). How wrong was I. There were a few teachers who guided us a great deal (a special thanks to professor Kovacec who always went the extra mile for all of us), but the mutual learning was what amazed me. Yes, there were lectures, but we could just sit in the back doing something else or walk outside if, for any reason, we weren’t feeling productive (or if we just didn’t feel like it). But there I was, surrounded by people who were motivated to learn maths out of their own will, for fun. People who enjoyed the tricks and details observed in proving tricky problems, and were there for the challenge and the beauty of these proofs. We challenged each other with increasingly harder problems, and we improved ourselves.

This is the environment that I was lucky to have found. Together, we solved problems and became friends. Summers ran by as we spent weeks at a time in each others’ houses, swimming in the ocean, playing Playstation, camping in Gerês, playing Mafia till 3pm and solving IMO’s. We grew together. It’s funny how I thought Delfos would be this dull place where people stare at books and learn how to mechanically solve problems.

As wrong as I was, we did solve problems and even went abroad for some Math Olympiads. My first one abroad was in Brazil. Foolish me thought: Brasil is warm,I can just use flip-flops all the time. Wrong. I should have taken trainers. I hadn’t been there for a day but decided to play tennis (there were tennis courts nearby). Shoeless. Under the scorching sun. I got blisters. I couldn’t stand on my own two feet. For the rest of the week I had to use canadians. I will never make that mistake again, but at least I got to enjoy Salvador da Baia. The streets are surprisingly similar to Porto’s, due to our “calçada”, even more so than many Portuguese towns.

It so happened that my birthday was during that Olympiad. They got me a surprise cake and Pedro, from Angola, was put in charge of getting me to the cake. I was playing Catan at the time with my Portuguese friends (who were unaware of the surprise), so we finished the game. It only took an hour of 20ish people waiting. After finishing the game Pedro tried to convinced me to go to the swimming pool (the cake and the people were next to it), but it was dinner time and I was hungry, so I went for dinner with the rest of the Portuguese. Another hour went by and everyone was still waiting. Finally we went to the pool and there they were. I was really surprised (If I had any suspicion of such they wouldn’t have waited for 2 hours). The guide from Timor Leste convinced me to follow his tradition of breaking 17 raw eggs on my head (as I was turning 17), and after a quick rinse in the shower we all went to the pool. I will not forget this birthday.

I had my next Olympiad in Mozambique, but since I’ve been there before (to visit my brother, who worked in Maputo at the time), there wasn’t the novelty factor in it anymore. The last trip abroad was in Panama, in the ciudad de Panamá. During this trip we were escorted at all times by guides, and you can’t imagine how disappointed I was at crossing Panama’s Canal while not having had the chance to swim in neither of the Oceans bordering it (I managed to do so in both Brasil and Mozambique). It was an awesome week with Miguel (me), Miguel (Santos), Miguel (Moreira) and Luís (Duarte). However the ending was stressful for my parents. How so? Well, the flight took some 14 hours (with a schedule somewhere in Europe, I actually forgot where. It doesn’t matter, we never left the airport, so let’s say it was Frankfurt). We departed from Panama early in the morning and arrived in Portugal (Lisbon) at 9pm ish, after wich I had a 3h train trip to Porto. As such I emailed my parents the day before telling them I would arrive in Campanhã’s train station by midnight ish. I did not specify the day (which I assumed my parents knew). They assumed I would arrive on the day I sent the email. When they got to the train station I wasn’t there. They waited and waited. They went to the cops, who promptly told them there is a 24h mandatory wait period before initiating searches. My parents called my friends trying to figure out if they knew were I was. All the while I was sleeping. I woke up in the morning, didn’t check any form of communication cause I had no reason to, and I went to the airport. I got in, I started the flight. My parents still had no idea where I was, but by then they were hoping that I would arrive the next day. Something about the idea of me getting kidnapped in Panama wasn’t pleasant to them, so they hoped. I finally arrived at Frankfurt, with a call from Bea (a high-school friend of mine). She told me to call my parents since they were worried sick because of me. I did so, and my father was surprisingly calm as I spoke (probably relieved after all this). I boarded the last leg of my flight, had the 3h trip with another friend of mine from Porto and finally arrived home. Everything ended well. Except for my parent’s heart. That couldn’t have done them any good.

As a final note, I leave the list of all Olympiads I was lucky enough to have gone to, all in Mathematics unless otherwise stated. Happy times.

Date and Place Olympiad Medal
September 2013, Panama Ibero-American1 Bronze
August 2013, Mozambique OMCPLP2 Gold
March 2013, Portugal National Silver
November 2012, Portugal Paulista3 Silver
July 2012, Brasil OMCPLP2 Silver
March 2012, Portugal National Gold
November 2010, Portugal Paulista3 Bronze
May 2009, Portugal National (Chemistry) Silver
March 2009, Portugal Regional (Chemistry) Gold

1 Participants: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, España, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Uruguay y Venezuela.

2 Portuguese Speaking Countries´ Math Olympiad.

3 Portugal/Brazil joint Math Olympiad.