So last post I was talking about badminton competitions and how I haven’t had a ton of trouble, but it was something I was worried about.
Well, lo and behold yesterday I woke up to my phone lighting up. (It was on mute but I was getting some texts.) With my half-asleep brain the only thing I registered was my coaches name and the “cry face” emoji. Me and my coach aren’t big texters so I grabbed my phone to see what was up.
“Xiao Bing” he said with the worried emoji. “The organizer (of our upcoming competition) called me. He said you can’t compete.” Then he used the cry emoji.
“Why?” I asked shocked. “Because I’m a foreigner?”
“I talked with him for almost 15 minutes. The rules say that foreigners can’t play. Call him, tell him yourself you want to play.”
Honestly, I HATE using the phone in China. It’s my weakest point when speaking and listening to Chinese so I avoid it at all costs. But to get into the competition, I would fight.
“What should I say?”
My coach and he gave me a suggested dialogue including a greeting and some words to say. “Tell him you need to play. Tell him you are really looking forward to it,” he added.
Then my coach suggested I ask my friend Yang Ping for some help getting a certificate from the local badminton government group saying I was an amateur and not a professional.
“They need proof,” he said.
“Proof of what? That I live in Xiamen? That I’m not a pro?”
Then my coach said forget it and told me to call him. I was utterly bewildered at what was going on by this point so I called him and he kinda repeated some of the same stuff and told me to write an essay about how long I have been playing, my training etc.
“In Chinese?” I asked. “Okay, give me about 30 minutes though.” My coach continued to say something about how I needed to prove I was an amateur player and I joked that my coach should invite the organizer to watch me play for a few minutes and he would know, har har.
“I have video from the other night,” I said. “I also have the article in which I won third place at the Jimei Competition. That competition doesn’t allow pro’s to play, maybe that will convince them?”
My coach told me to send him everything and as I was writing the essay he asked for my visa and any other government documentation of my job. He also asked for my essay I wrote about badminton last year and then he said I didn’t need a new essay even though I was basically finished with it. I sent him the list of all the competitions I have ever played in my life, which was a small list, and then I waited.
Through the course of this I realized what the problem was. The organizer thought that my coach had shipped in an American professional athlete for the competition. (Why is the obvious question. It’s a team tournament and even winning mixed doubles doesn’t guarantee the team will win. And it’s not the biggest grandest competition or anything.)
Proving I lived and worked in Xiamen (for 3+ years) was what finally convinced them I wasn’t a threat. Also, my essay probably sounds very child-like to native Chinese speakers so their estimation of me probably went down.
My coach sent me some screen shots of conversations from people saying that I could play. He wasn’t just chatting with the organizers but he enlisted several people’s help as well. If I wasn’t dedicated to my coach before, I would be now. He could have easily just accepted it and found someone else. But he fought for me and spent half a day dealing with this just so I could play. Best. Coach. Ever.
In other news, my decision to be a top player has been working. In preparation for our competition we now have TWO professional badminton players helping us. There is the Taiwanese pro I play with every week, but there is a Chinese local pro that comes from time to time to play.
I haven’t seen him in months and usually I play one game with him, or someone from his crew, and I feel guilty and stupid and slink away after. But this time I played all night and I fit in. I was not shy, or embarrassed, and I not only held my own against these guys (and girls) but was the reason for our victories. It was amazing. I have never fit in with the group before and this time, for the first time ever, I did.
And if I needed quantifiable proof of my improvement I got it on Thursday. Every Thursday night I play in a different court with a different group. It’s all guys (and one really high level girl who coaches me sometimes) and we have taken to playing a competition every week. There is a badminton app in Chinese where you enter everyone’s names and it sets up the play schedule for you and keeps track of the points and wins. Over the course of the game you play with everyone as your partner but the app comes up with individual winners based on games won and points in the game.
Since it is usually all guys and me I tend to do pretty poorly. Usually 6th or 7th out of 8 people. It’s fine, a lone girl will have a hard time beating guys. Last week I was 7th losing five out of seven games and losing them with a big point disparity.
But this week, to the shock and surprise of all, I FUCKING WON!
Boo-Yah! Quantifiable proof.
I promised a video in the title and now we come to it.
On Wednesday night, my coach and the pro Taiwanese player played a great game that I caught on film. So I made a short video of their game to immortalize for all time. My coach is the one in the shirt that says “China” and the pro is the one who has black socks pulled up high (he is on the far side in the beginning of the video. My coach is on the one on the near side.) My coach is 40 and the other people are no older than 25.
I’m super lucky and grateful that this is the caliber of people I play with on a daily basis. And two of them teach me. How could I not improve with them on my side?
Please enjoy (it’s a youtube video so you’ll need a VPN if your in china). It’s called “My coach has a loud voice” cause he’s the one doing all the shouting. Heh heh.