A China – America Friendship Softball Game

This past weekend was Lanzhou University of Finance and Economics’ 7th Annual “China – America Friendship Softball Game” (中美友好垒球联赛). PCVs from across Gansu gathered in Lanzhou late Friday and took an early Saturday bus down to the school’s Heping campus to play softball and engage in intercultural exchange with the Chinese students.

Gansu volunteers and our Chinese hosts

Susan and Cam (the PCVs stationed at the Heping campus) had been hyping this event for months- and it certainly did not disappoint! There was a great sense of camaraderie with the group, and I hadn’t seem most of the volunteers since the winter training session back in January. Some volunteers took an 8 hour bus ride from their remote site to come in just for the game, so it makes me appreciate being placed in the provincial capital.

singing the national anthem

Also, we are a *very* competitive cohort, so there was a real sense of urgency to perform well here. The competition had Viper mascots on their shirts, and we had a Mongoose; a mongoose is one of the few animals in nature that can kill a viper. The six generations of volunteers before us who started this were so cheesy but also bizarrely scientifically accurate and kinda shady with the team name.

team huddle

We made brief introductions (the volunteers who spoke before me earned applause for saying the names of their schools in broken Chinese… but no one clapped when I did the same, so I guess my ugly yellow-greenish-gray hair isn’t fooling anyone!)

Awkwardly laughing when there was zero positive feedback for my speech

Also, Gansu seems to attract the tallest, toughest volunteers in all of Peace Corps China. At 189 cm I’ve never felt short before, but next to Cam and Dom I now know how it feels to be one of those people i figuratively and literally look down on, on a daily basis 🙂

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Kascow (far right) is on tippy toes i’m sure

Then the game began…

Susan the event coordinator goes up to bat

In life (like from Kindergarten until 2016), I’ve always found myself in the lowest quartile among my peers in terms of athletic ability. But due to cast of characters that Peace Corps tends to attract, a quick assessment of the field made me realize I just might [barely] rank in the upper half of a team for hand/eye coordination and speed… for the FIRST. TIME. EVER. IN MY LIFE! Harrison Cheng perceived himself to be in high demand!!!!

with Persol glasses, jeans and Puma sneakers, i’m clearly dressed for the occasion. i could use a little work on posture too…

After a quick crash course on the rules of softball, I picked up a glove and took on the responsibilities of second baseman and right fielder over the duration of the game. I also went up to bat several times, and made it home twice, which is better than I had ever done over six years at Robertsville Elementary School.

Contrasted against my 8 year old self, I’m probably less athletic now (my quadriceps were on fire just from running one base to another… and this was also a much smaller, modified field), but two decades of learning that you will regret things you didn’t try more than things you’ve tried makes all the difference!

Brett goes up, kills it, and sends me home. He’s clearly done this before

After the game we were rewarded with a talent show from the local Chinese students- this included several songs played on guitar and other Chinese instruments, a calligraphy demonstration, and a “China through the Dynasties” fashion show.

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We made it the Chinese-themed Met Gala, several years late! Thanks for the invite, Gong Li.

The gang took the bus back to Lanzhou for dinner, and made several toasts to our gracious hosts and event coordinators. The after-party took place on the banks of the Yellow River, under ZhongShan Bridge as always, late into the evening.

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every PCV in Gansu will recognize this bridge, and the large slabs of cement/ rock below it, where we gather for celebrations

I’ll spare you the hilarious and somewhat cringe-worthy details from a night that quickly descended into chaos, but I ended up hosting three PCVs in my living room on a sofa, a yoga mat, and spare blanket.

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morning after- we survived!

And of course we went to Charlie’s for an early lunch, as soon as it was open.

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To commemorate the great weekend, I put together a quick sketch (the bottom left figure is Wang Guiqiu, our site manager who came up for the game!) of the weekend camaraderie


Great weekend, and already looking forward to next year’s game!


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