Monday, July 20, 2009


Editor's note: I originally wrote this post some time last fall. In the many, many months since then, Z and I have been regular visitors to the ping pong hall at Yan Bei Yuan. Our games have certainly improved, although we have a long way to go catch up with the crowd here. And, long ago, we bought new, more expensive paddles, so we can no longer blame the equipment for our competitive shortcomings!

This was the score by which Z and I lost our first-ever doubles ping pong match...To a team of two guys old enough to be Z's grandfathers.

But, first things first...How did we get involved in the ping pong scene in the first place?

One of my complaints, from the very beginning, was that there is no place to da qiu in Yan Bei Yuan. I mean, this is China. It's the national game. There are tables everywhere...Just not in our neighborhood.

Well, that's what I thought until the day I found out that a professor two doors down from my office also lives in Yan Bei Yuan. (Why does stuff like this take two months to happen?) As I was lodging my "there are no tables to play on in all of Yan Bei Yuan" gripe, I was greeted with a puzzled expression. "Of course there are ping pong tables in Yan Bei Yuan."

Like so many things here in China, you have to know where to look. Walk down the path between two of the apartment buildings. Eventually you will come across a low, white building. Non-descript. You could walk right by without hardly noticing it. Inside? Yep, there they are, those elusive tables.

Every late afternoon, a bunch of retirees gather to play highly competitive, yet jovial games of doubles. Think Yoda. He can hardly walk. But put a light saber in his hand...

It's not like I'm bad at ping pong, or anything like that. Well, actually, relative to the crowd here, I really do stink. Now, nobody has actually come out and said this. One guy, though, after examining Z's equipment, told Z that his father ought to buy him a better paddle.

Yeah...That's it...It's the equipment!



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