Sunday, December 17, 2006


The semester has ended, many sad farewells were said yesterday afternoon, and now I'm in Shanghai. Just here for a couple days, staying with my old friend Sunny from last summer, and checking this place out. Expect a more substantial update on this after it's been digested.

Good news for people who hate my photographs! My camera was stolen today. Looked away for a moment in People's Square, the geographical (though no longer ideological) center of Shanghai, and poof, it was gone. So I feel like death now, and shan't write any longer. Instead, I give you something written a week ago that never made it up here. I feel it needs to be said:

In recent months, I have said some regrettable things about the sport of Table Tennis, and I would like to take this opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings that may have arisen as a result of those comments.

The controversy began a few weeks back, when I showed up for my first game with the Beijing University baseball team. I think my consternation, upon finding cars parked all over our field, was understandable. My aggravation was elevated when I discovered that the baseball game, an American pastime, had been trumped and bumped by a Ping Pong tournament in a nearby building. Evidently, the spectatorship for said tournament had gotten completely unmanageable, and they had to send people to park on the Baseball field.

It was at this time I made a few comments that I now recognize as both reprehensible and spurious. Most notably, I suggested that China get a “real” national sport, and may have referred to ping pong players as “a bunch of paddlewhackers.” Although reprimanded at the time, it wasn’t until a recent evening that I realized the magnitude of my mistake.

I sat in a local restaurant, eating a late dinner alone, and noticed a crowd of people gathered around a television in the corner. I went to take a closer look, and found they were eagerly watching the semifinals of the women’s team table tennis event at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. The Chinese women were in tight competition with the Koreans, another of the world’s best teams. With no other occupation while I finished my fried noodles, I stayed to watch.

If you don’t know it already, let me be the first to tell you: that sport is seriously intense. I watched as Guo Yue, who was described to me as “really famous” in China, took on Moon Hyun Jung, presumably a hero to Korean girls. There was screaming, grunting, and jumping for joy as the contestants dashed around, taking full-body swings at a little white dot. The ball whipped back and forth, almost too fast to follow with the human eye. The women displayed jaguar-like reflexes, and a sniper’s precision as drops of sweat flew from their brows. The crowd went wild, waving Chinese flags, when Guo Yue prevailed, and even wilder when China clinched a spot in the final with teammate Guo Yan’s defeat of Kwak Bang Bang (not kidding).

I hereby retract my previous comments, and hope I can be forgiven for my mistakes.


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