Well, happy New Year. ?We are sorry that we have been seriously slacking when it comes to updating this blog; as we get near the end of the semester A is busy writing papers (in Chinese) and H is studying and taking exams. ?Therefore, nothing too exciting is going on. ?On top of that, it?s ridiculously cold here, and so going out to places, even if we had the time now, really doesn?t sound too appealing.
But, let us tell you about Chinese sports and recreation. ?Clearly, this is an area in which there is a vast difference between China and the US. ?We noticed this as soon as we got here, when the Olympics were just getting underway. ?The only sports we could find on TV were?badminton, ping-pong,?and synchronized diving. ?It?s hard to separate causes, did CCTV focus on those because China excelled, or because this is what Chinese were most interested in? ?And?did they excel because they were most interested in these, or were they most interested in these because they excelled at them?
One of A?s goals this past semester was to join a club at school. ?Being graduate students, the only club that most of A?s classmates belonged to (or were going through the process of joining) would certainly not have welcomed A. ?Actually, they might have, but then we would have to renounce our citizenship or, at the least, it would have posed some issues. ?While discussing the desire to join a club, though, a classmate recommended that A join the department?s soccer team, so off he went to sign up.
The team had one informal practice and the next day was game day. ?A showed up early, warmed up, and then the team captain assigned positions. ?This was 6 v. 6 soccer, not quite indoors, but on a cement-like surface. ?The captain accidentally assigned 7 players to start, with 3 subs. ?Upon realizing the mistake, A volunteered to start as a sub, figuring that he would sub-in within the first 3-5 minutes. ?Nope. ?The whole half went by. ?Was subbing on the fly allowed? ?Yes. ?Were players on the field at various times bent over and winded? ?You betcha. ?Did A suggest that they step off and let one of the subs on? ?Well, he tried. ?A was missing some key vocab. ?During the half time, A did his best to communicate his idea, but only a few of the players seemed to get the idea.
Over the next few games, things got a little better. ?A was even able to suggest some basic tactics like passing the ball, moving to open space, rotating back, etc. ?With this edge, the team qualified for the playoffs! ?Unfortunately, before the playoffs started, Beijing had its first snow, and so the rest of the season was cancelled.
A had volunteered at a forum a few weeks ago and got to sit in a closed discussion with?a group of professors from the US and mainland China. ?The topic was ?understanding each other?s values,? and one of the Chinese professors made a comment about Chinese sports. ?He pointed out that the Chinese consistently failed to put together world-class teams. ?They had a huge amount of talent at individual events, but the Chinese sucked at team sports. ?His reasoning was that the Chinese, for all the talk of communitarianism and harmony, don?t know how, at the basic sports level, to create good teams. ?It was interesting stuff, but more interesting was how A had seen that bear out on the soccer pitch.
It was unfortunate the soccer season ended soon. ?The Spring season of true 11 v. 11 outdoor soccer will start up in March. ?Until then, aside from going to the gym, the only other real source of recreation in Beijing in the winter is ice skating! ?Who would have thought, but for the equivalent of $3 we can rent skates and skate on the lake at PKU, or for $10 we can go to Houhai in the very center of town (formerly a park for the imperial court) and skate there? ?So, this is what we did this past weekend when we needed a night away from studying and paper-writing. ?Skating is always fun, and it was H?s first time on an outdoor lake (and only second time ever). ?Fortunately, she is a natural, and not even the uneven ice or the dull skates we rented caused her too much trouble. ?It was incredibly fun to be out there with a bunch of other Beijingers just having a good time and finding a way to make the best out of Beijing?s freezing cold winter.
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