The group was asked to reflect on sports and leisure activities here in China as compared to back home. Here are Rachel’s thoughts and observations.
“It’s a pretty well known fact that the elderly in China can often be seen out and about throughout the day doing tai chi, dancing, and taking walks. The most active population of China seems to be this group. This contrasts sharply to the men and women in their twenties and thirties that can often be seen jogging around the reservoir at home. In school, teachers and students alike are required to participate in morning exercise, whereas at home, an hour of yoga once a week fulfills our yearly requirement for P.E. The students here study for much longer than we do, so they get an hour break. What they do with this break tends to depend on gender. The boys play sports like basketball and soccer, while the girls take slow walks around the track, chatting with their friends. All physical activities here are gender specific. Boys play sports, and girls cheer for them, when the teachers walk around after lunch they even separate into groups of men and groups of women. There is of course gender discrimination in sports at home, but here there aren’t even separate girls divisions. Girls here are given the choice of cheerleading, dancing, or watching. I think the biggest deal for me was when I joined the pick up soccer games that the boys play during lunch everyday. Every time I did anything remotely impressive they were all in awe. The fact is that they just don’t see girls that are even remotely interested in playing sports, never mind ones that have been playing them for most of their lives.
“Kids in China have less free time than kids in the US, but they spend it similarly: playing computer games, going outside from time to time, etc,. The problem for the students here though, is that from what I’ve seen, they are really not allowed to make friends that they see outside of school. They aren’t allowed to use the Internet if their midterms are within a month’s time. They aren’t allowed to play sports if they haven’t finished their homework for the night and studied for any upcoming quiz or test. This is a shame. I feel like the kids here are missing out on adolescent friendships (not that those are all great by any means), goofing off, and discovering (or struggling to discover) who they are. These are all parts of growing up that I think we take for granted.
“Another leisure time practice in China is the post-meal walk. It is believed by many in China that walking at least one hundred steps after every meal allows a person to live to one hundred years old. I think it’s a great practice because people often do this with family or friends which allows them to chat and relax. They also don’t feel sluggish later in the day from all the feels they’ve eaten.
“The good thing is that most of the (at least urban) Chinese population is exercising daily, which counts for a lot. However most of the physical activities could stand to be a lot more gender inclusive.”