Saturday, April 4, 2009

My Own Attempt at Ping Pong Diplomacy

While on another one of my afternoon walks, I came across a xiao-qu (small community-something like a block of apartments in the same neighborhood) which had several ping pong tables set up. People of all ages were either playing or standing around watching the vigorous exchanges. When I stopped to watch for awhile and then started to take pictures, the games got even more competitive. The older men in particular seemed intent on showing off their skills. Then I was invited to play. Part of me wanted to join in on the fun, but I also was thinking about my expensive camera and really didn’t want to leave it in the hands of some Chinese person I didn’t know. Despite my hesitation, the ping pongers were insistent on my participation, so I reluctantly put down my camera and took up a paddle.

I kept remembering all the times I had played ping pong in the basement of my parent’s house and up at the lake. My family is pretty competetive with any
sporting activity and ping pong is no exception! I was thinking to myself, “I sure hope I remember how to do this.” It’s one thing to lose in the privacy of your own home, but it’s another thing to be the foreigner getting their tail whipped in front of 40 or 50 people standing around watching! I tried to muster up the confidence of my nephew Troy, who is known to be not only a fierce ping pong player, but can talk smack while doing it and get away with it!

It didn't take me long to realized this was not the time or place to get cocky, especially since these were daily players who took the games seriously. Even if I had been an amazing player (which I'm not), I would never have dared to beat them in their own backyard and make them lose face in front of their community. I sure wouldn't have done the dance that the guy in video did! Not cool! (click the link to view-or go to and search for excessive ping pong celebration)

So, you might ask…how did that work for you? Well, I will say that I didn’t lose face by being completely inept...I did score a point or two, but in the overall picture-I think I’ll stick to something less competitive….like photography!