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.
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.
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.
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!)
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 🙂
Then the game began…
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!!!!
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!
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.
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.
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.
And of course we went to Charlie’s for an early lunch, as soon as it was open.
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!
Disclaimer: All opinions shared in this blog are the author’s own, and do not represent the views of any outside organization, including but not limited to the United States Government and the Peace Corps.