Badminton is slowly changing my life and this was reflected in my summer holiday. Instead of traveling all around China during my two-month long break I decided to spend my hard-earned money and my free time studying Chinese. Why? Because of badminton of course! Now that I’m delving deeper and deeper into the Chinese badminton world, speaking English is no longer an option. And while I’m fluent, and have been for years, it’s not an incredibly high level fluency and a lot goes on that I don’t understand.
My traveling backpack was a little more full than usual. That’s because I packed my badminton shoes, clothes, racket, sweat bands and sweat wiping towel.
At the school I quickly got the reputation of “badminton girl” and one time even got invited to play at a private badminton court in some rich guys mountain villa. I played against everyone willing to try and won almost every game. I even played against a kung-fu master. He was amazingly quick and strong, but I had the better strategy so I won.
Most of the time I played with teachers and students from the Chinese school (and English school next door.) We played at the Yangshuo gymnasium in less than perfect conditions. The floor was wood, and as the community gym, it had every sport imaginable (and every sports lines drawn on the floor, making the badminton lines very hard to distinguish.)
I kept badminton in my studies as well. While we worked from a book I took it upon myself to copy badminton articles, translate them and ask my teacher specific grammar and usage questions from the articles. I also wrote an 8-page essay called “why I love badminton.” Afterwards I sent it to my coach and he loved it.
And when the Olympic badminton games started I would watch them as I studied.
And even though I kept badminton in my daily life, the thing is, I missed it terribly. Unexpectedly so. I’m a natural born traveler. New places and new experiences don’t scare me, it’s staying in the same place that I really dislike. I’ve arranged my whole life to scratch my itchy feet and I never miss people or things. Homesickness is not in my DNA.
And yet I felt this real sorrow, and this real yearning to be back with my friends playing badminton. It was such a new feeling, and so unexpected I didn’t even recognize it at first.
“Is this what home sickess feels like?” I asked a friend after explaining my feelings to her. “Do people feel this regularly?”
I’m not sure what changed in me. Six months ago I already played badminton a lot, and I already knew my coach and I traveled a month without even thinking about them. Of course my coach didn’t have his gym yet, and I didn’t have my new group, but I didn’t even think of them twice while I was traveling.
Luckily, it wasn’t a one way feeling. The day I came back to Xiamen I had to go to a friends farewell party. I got back home at around 1am, and upon hearing I was back, two of my teammates asked me out for a late night dinner. I was so exhausted my Chinese was miserable, but they had missed me and I had missed them and we didn’t even want to wait one night to see each other.
And as soon as I could the next day I saw my coach. As a traditional Chinese guy he didn’t go on gushing about how much he missed me, but I know he did.
“Xiao Bing, you’re back?” he texted me in the afternoon. When I said yes, he responded right away.
“I’ll come pick you up and bring you to the court.”
“Okay!” I said at this unexpected surprise. “I’ll be ready in 15 minutes.”
“I already left. Hurry up!”
I then had to run around my house in a frenzy getting all my gear together again after a month-long break.
Seeing him again was like seeing my long-lost best friend I hadn’t seen in years. We aren’t that close in that he doesn’t know much about my life and I don’t know much about his, but he not only accepts my badminton obsession and desire, he helps me achieve my goal, so he has become a big part of my life and seeing him reminded me how much I love playing.
Pulling up into the driveway of the badminton courts I felt such a feeling of comfort and relaxation. My coach pulled up to the door, turned off the car, turned to me and said:
Glad to be back. Now it’s time to make up for all the training I missed.