So this post is about a month behind, but we got to participate in the corporate division of the 2015 SIIT on October 31 with a bunch of our Chinese colleagues and a handful of expats from South Africa, the USA, and Wales. At this point we had been to an official team practice in Shanghai once and practiced once with two coworkers in Suzhou to remind ourselves how to play. For the Americans the most difficult concept was to avoid the forward pass (which is considered a turnover), and maybe that we had to get back 5 meters on defense after every touch. I will not go into great detail on the rules, suffice to say we had a lot to remember. Playing 6 games in one day was incredibly exhausting, but we had a much better feel for the game by the time we were done. Unfortunately we came in second to the Air New Zealand team in the last minute of the 20 minute championship game. We were tied 0-0 and with a minute left the other team made it into the end-zone to score a “try”. I am still a bit confused as to how the word “try” was selected to describe a score, and even our wise master yoda would remind us “do or do not, there is no try…” In the end we did not have enough time to get back down the field to respond, so out chance at victory was foiled at the last minute. It should be noted that the All Blacks (New Zealand’s national team) defeated Australia’s Wallabies to win the rugby world cup this year, so perhaps they were destined to win. Rugby is a pretty big sport for the kiwis.
Photo credit goes to Roger, one of our co-workers who attended along with other “cheer leaders” who came to watch us all play. Playing organized team sports in China (even recreationally) seems to be less common than back in US. Often times people are happy to participate from the sidelines and cheer others on. The most common sports many of our friends and co-workers enjoy are badminton and ping pong. I do not think I have ever been invited to play ping pong or badminton back home…but I digress.
After the games were done our team received the 2nd place trophy for the 5th year in a row and we learned about a very interesting WeChat function: sending your friends “lucky money!” For those of you unfamiliar with WeChat, it is an internet text/messaging app that also has a “moments” function which is essentially Chinese Facebook (since facebook is blocked on China’s internet). In the messaging section there was a group created for our team where we could share notes, pictures, and messages along with lucky money. This lucky money concept was supposedly developed by the WeChat founder as a way to give his employees their new year bonuses. How it works is a person specifies to whom they want to send money (a group, individual etc), they specify how many people can get money (10 seems to be common, but 8 was chosen in the example below), they can specify each persons amount or most commonly: random amount, and then it becomes a race…the first however many people to click on the icon that appears in the group chat are redirected to this page where a random amount is assigned and one person wins the most, hence “lucky money.” This money can then be used to buy things at convenience stores like family mart, movie tickets, and loads of other things I don’t even know about because buying things from a mobile device seems to be more difficult for those of us without a Chinese ID number.
Everyone sat around the table passing money back and forth this way for at least 15 minutes after dinner finished and I think in the end I had 24 RBM which is about $4. After dinner most of our team went to a bar in Shanghai, but us Suzhou folks headed home because we had a 2 hour drive home and were just plain exhausted at that point. Next time we will plan ahead with our puppy and stay the night to check out “Big Bamboo.”
The next few days we both had significant difficulty walking despite the fact that we had 3 subs at each position for the 6 20-minute games. Overall this is one of my new favorite sports, I feel far more competent than I ever did at softball back home. It is just too bad all the games are in Shanghai. Maybe we will need to look for a co-ed league in Suzhou.