As I would look at the people – and they would look right back and point, saying “LOOK LOOK A WHITE PERSON!!” – I would think how fun it would be to find some old Chinese buddies and join them in their morning exercises. I had this vision in my mind of the ginger giant (that’s me in case you were wondering) towering over all these seventy year old ladies who were doing their morning stretches, counting to eight while randomly pounding different parts of their bodies. And I would be right there with them, counting along, wondering how in the heck this helped with my bodily health in any way but marked it down to balancing out my “qi” or something random like that.
However, when it came down to it, I was too much of a scaredy cat to walk on up and start a conversation each and every time, so I would smile my white girl smile and be on my way.
The first morning when I returned to Shanghai this time, I re-commenced my morning Zhongshan Park ritual. As I rounded the corner, there were a whole bunch of 65 year old dudes playing badminton. I watched intently. And then suddenly, a pointed finger slowly rose up.
And it was pointed at me.
This interaction then followed in Chinese as I stood there dumbfounded in my seventh grade swim team t-shirt and athletic shorts. “YOU!”/ “meee????”/”YES…YOU.”/ (turns around to see whether he is pointing to his badminton friend who just arrived, but I see no one. Shoot.) “WHAT?”/ “You wanna play badminton???”
He walks over, with his pants pulled up to about five inches below his chin and his rag of a tanktop hanging loosely over his shoulders, and hands me all his badminton gear. When I look at him like “you have got to be kidding me,” he takes none of my nonsense and pushes me forth. For the next five minutes or so, I played badminton with my new buddies. Then I was on my way. As I was about to round the corner, the old man looks at me and says with the goofiest of grins on his face, “See you tomorrow!”
So now I have an open ended date with my badminton buddies for the next year. And I couldn’t be any happier.