Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Sporting Crew

Dave works with a fairly young crew. Mostly single, well educated, well paid twenty somethings who enjoy both life in the city and each other's company. Today the group planned some organized exercise and invited us to join them.

They had reserved two badmittons courts at a gym in Pudong. This fact alone is novel in my mind. You had to reserve badmitton courts? What, because other people might be playing on them?

But yes, that is exactly why. In fact, of all of the sporting facilities in our complex - tennis, swimming, squash, aerobics, golf, etc. - badmitton is the only court which is consistently booked. So yes, they reserved two badmitton courts. And we took the girls to join in a badmitton morning.

This after Dave and a neighbor began their morning playing squash for an hour. More specifically, the dads played squash while the moms and the young children sat outside and chatted. Our main focus was on keeping the kids outside of the squash court and away from small, rapidly flying rubber balls. By comparison to squash, badmitton seemed all the more simple. There was not even a ball.

Now, my American perspective is that, well, nobody plays badmitton. They sell the sets next to the croquet and the bocce ball at Target. Families buy them when they're hosting large picnics, and crews of 8 year old boys may play for a few minutes. But groups of adults do not wait in line for badmitton, and they certainly do not own their own rackets. Unless they came with the set they bought at Target when they hosted the family reunion.

The Chinese love badmitton. They take the game rather seriously, and they play it rather well. And, as it turns out, badmitton is a pretty fun game. Speaking as a girl who never became an athlete because of an inborn propensity to close my eyes whenever a ball flies toward me, the shuttlecock is right up my alley.

Dave's coworkers are a very welcoming crew, and happily played at our level. They made me feel a part of their group, and helped me to enjoy my first attempt at badmitton. After everyone tired of badmitton, they migrated toward the ping pong table. This is another sport that Americans laugh about and Chinese people take quite seriously. Dave was proud to hold his own against a Chinese opponent - everyone was impressed.

The girls enjoyed Dave's coworkers as much as ever. I rarely saw S--, as she placed herself in other people's arms the entire time. And L-- did her best to learn badmitton by carrying a racket and shuttlecock around the gym. She even learned how to say badmitton in Chinese - and her tonal pronunciation is much better than mine.

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