Basketball in China

In my time traveling both internationally and domestically, I’ve found no better common ground than sports. For Taiwanese kids, sports are king. The pickup culture is prevalent and the locales are equally eager to play and meet new people, even 外国人。Heading to the public courts has always been a treat and the potpourri of playing levels and styles makes it easy for anyone to hop in for a few games of 4v4.

Thus far, my short time spent across the strait has proven to be no different and the university lifestyle, compared to a tourist’s perspective, fosters even greater opportunities to engage with local students. However, I must admit, approaching the campus outdoor basketball courts for the first time was a bit daunting and observing the subtle differences from my previous basketball experiences warranted a slightly longer warm-up as Alex and I adjusted to some new customs. Immediately we noticed every court with zx competitive game was 4v4 half court. Every other court was used to shoot around until the magic number 8 was achieved. We also noticed that all the games were “make it, take it”, there was no “check” before points, and no “change” after making shots during warm-up. Understanding these subtle, but familiar nuances however, created a very open, and welcoming atmosphere for us.

We quickly scouted the playing field and found a perfect group of 6 guys shooting around on the far end of the court. With my thick American accent, I asked if we could join them and they immediately introduced themselves, first in Chinese, followed by an English name. As always, I dropped my Taiwanese heritage and was immediately directed a Taiwanese guy, Leon. He told me about Fudan’s Taiwanese students and asked me to look into it afterwards.

Then, our new friends taught us a new way of picking teams. Our group of 9 assembled a tight circle as we were told to throw out a jiandao, shitou, or zhi, which would randomly separate, us into three teams of three to accommodate our odd number. As we played game after game, I was reminded of how slow and large my “game” was compared to their swift, quick playing style. But what remained similar to playing back home was the way the game slowly dissolved as we wore ourselves out. Both teams transitioned out of quick ball movement and strategic shot making to long three pointers and Cinderella sky hooks, similar to long nights spent outside on courts at Davidson. Eventually we parted ways, but not without the cell phone number of my new Taiwanese contact, Leon.

This experience reminded me that sports can promote equality and openness. Despite our weak Chinese proficiency and having no prior experience of basketball in China, we were able to connect with 7 other strangers from completely different backgrounds. We learned each other’s habits and weakness, our strengths and unique skills, until we became as cohesive as 3 complete strangers could be within 20 minutes of meeting each other. A fun and positive experience leaves me excited to explore other sports at Fudan including those that I’m very familiar with but also those foreign to me.


Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

When I was growing up, my favorite picture book my mom would read to me was Dr.Seuss’s Did I Ever Tell You How LuckyYou Are? In passing years, it seemed like just another one of my mother’s wily ploys to make me appreciate what I’ve been given. That sentiment has grown from feeling grateful for my N64 to appreciating my mother’s time and effort during my ice hockey phase and to understanding the sacrifices my mom made traveling to the US so I could grow up with more opportunities than Beitou, Taiwan. As I’ve matured and sampled bits and pieces of the “real world”, it seems that I’m able to understand more and more aspects of my life that I’ve taken for granted. Now as I find myself half way across the world in my own air conditioned room with all of my utilities paid for and a comfortable bed, the feeling has never been clearer.

Studying abroad is an absolute luxury, let alone in a global city like Shanghai. In our provincial western mindsets, the increasingly competitive workplace has told us spending time abroad is a necessity to keep pace with your own graduating class. Moreover, I’m a sophomore; one of about 6 that I know of abroad. In the words of my mom, I do feel like the luckiest boy on Earth.

Since arriving, I’ve realized yet another opportunity that I have overlooked for the greater portion of my life. I’ve spent in total close to a year and a half traveling internationally. That consists of 19 years of visiting Taiwan for about 3 weeks at a time, plus about a month and a half in the UK across two trips. That is a lot more than most Americans considering my dad has never left the country and I went on my first plane ride with him during a college trip to New York my junior year of high school. When I heard Julie had never even been on a plane, my feelings were two-fold. First, how has she managed to never fly when my entire 8th grade class flew to Washington DC for a week? But then I realized that traveling was an aspect of my life strongly emphasized by my mom and not prioritized by other families. Many times, that meant Christmas presents became a single Christmas present because we were going to Taiwan in the summer.

Aside from discussions in class, I’ve experienced first hand that Shanghai is really the place to be in China, especially for young professionals and students. My new weekly tennis partner, Henry, has been living in Shanghai for 6 years because his parents sent him to Fudan’s affiliated high school while they stayed in his hometown in a Northern province. Having lunch with my Taiwanese friend Leon the other day, I asked him if he’s ever been to the US and he responded “太贵了!”. In similar fashion, Alex’s new language partner told us she couldn’t afford to visit the states either, but she’d love to someday. Finally, my suitemate from Nepal feels so lucky to be pursuing his degree in software engineering at Fudan. All the while, I feel that some of the international kids here (and myself at times also) just treat it like we’re passing through; almost as if we deserve it rather than feeling we earned it. Because of this, I feel an even greater penchant to meet Chinese students and soak in Shanghai’s uniqueness rather than constantly comparing it with my love for Taiwan.

Further reinforcing this reflection is Constance Clark’s study of Shenzhen’s Marriage Introduction Agency. At first, it felt like eHarmony on steroids, but what really stuck was the reason these independent, self-made women were putting themselves out there. Living in an area where social, economic, and, quite literally, geographic mobility rested in the dreams of single women, they often feel like being put up for sale is their only way out. More shockingly is that many of these women prove to be more successful than their international suitors in all aspects but the man’s “privilege of movement.” After reading the chapter, I can’t help but imagine that a few changes in the public policies that imprison these women could set them free. Of course the cultural implications dig deeper than I can understand at this point, but it seems that many of the issues we learn of stem from the rapid modernization in China and the country’s ability to cope with it.