On China

Chapter 4

Pickleball Forbidden City Bejing 2012

Pickleball Comes to China

It all started about seven years ago. A close friend of mine prodded me to try the game Pickleball (usapa.org). Being a former tennis player I picked up the game very quickly and today I am an avid player, including National tournaments. Two members of our local group that play are from China. One day we had a lunch and talked about taking Pickleball to China. We would have to fund the trip ourselves but we would essentially show the Chinese people how to play the game. They are famous for loving raquet sports and true to form they loved it. The result was a 25 day trip with six couples mostly all Pickleball players. We played in Bejing, Shanghai, Yangtze River Cruise, and Guangzhou. We played in the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and even the Great Wall. I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams Pickleball leading my wife and I to China.

The Chinese people were not warm or cold. They were very curious about us though. They would oftentimes come up and point blank take our picture. If I was able to establish a small connection with someone they warmed up immediately. This generally took the form of engaging a small child with a wave or a smile. Once their children were interested so were the adults. In addition, as we spontaneously demonstrated Pickleball in parks and open spaces around the country the people would gather around and eventually we had them playing.

The major cities were extremely clean and safe. We would ask our guides if it was safe to walk downtown at night and they would sort of laugh and say, ‘of course, why not?’. From many walks at night in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong not once was there even a hint of ‘weirdness’ from anyone. How free it felt to walk without fear and simply enjoy the evening. The one Saturday night in Shanghai was particularly incredible with all the buildings and boats lit up and on display. Quite extraordinary really.

China is a strange mix of state control AND capitalism. While we were there the news organizations Bloomberg and the New York Times was banned from access via internet. Facebook was blacked out as well. Yet we found the people quite happy with their government as most have seen an increase in their standard of living and their wages are good. It was not uncommon for us to have a Starbucks coffee.

This trip was epic in so many ways. I remember so clearly our last day in Guangzhou (formerly Canton). Four of us decided to go to the center of the city where there was a massive and highly manicured park. The National Library was there as well as the new Opera House. We set up our Pickleball net outside of the Opera House and played between the two largest (giant) buildings in the city. Honestly it was like playing in the Grand Canyon. It takes my breath away just thinking about it.

I took my camera everywhere and literally took thousands of images. What you find here are the ones I like the most. Click here to see photos from China! - enjoy!!