I was by myself, practicing my serve, when I came across a plastic birdie in the box. We never play with plastic birdies and I tried serving it like the others and of course it went all wonky. When I was picking up the birdies later, I found the plastic birdies among my other errant serves and then it hit me.
What a perfect metaphor for me playing badminton in China.
I am the plastic shuttle among all the feather ones. Kinda the same and yet totally different…
Let me tell you a story from Saturday night to illustrate my point. I went to a new court with my friend Yang Ping’s group. I had never played there before and of course, didn’t recognize anyone outside my group. After a little while, a guy from a few courts away gets my attention and kinda gestures for me to come over.
I’m 98% sure he’s saying “Xiao Bing” (my Chinese name) which means he knows me even if I don’t know him. (Pretty common phenomenon being the only foreigner). Yang Ping tells the guy no because we were waiting for the next game and they were almost finished.
Yang Ping and I play our games and after I ask him about that guy.
“Was that guy calling me or you?” I asked. Yang Ping shrugged. “Do I know him?” I asked.
“Maybe you do, I don’t know,” he answered. I have several people on wechat that have invited me to play with them, but I never met. Perhaps this was one of those guys?
“Did they want me to play?” I asked again. “Should I go over there?”
My friend shrugged again.
“If you want.”
So I went over and kinda held up my racket and said, “play?” and the guy nodded with a very impassive face. In usual fashion everyone seemed almost scared of me and didn’t talk to me (many people think I can’t speak or understand Chinese, even after hearing me speak it, so they remain silent.)
I ended up playing a few games with them before retreating to the safety of my group. I’m 98% sure that he DID call me and he DID know me.
But I’m 2% sure I crashed a game of strangers.
Thus is the life of a plastic shuttle among feather shuttles.