Archive for August, 2006

Love Thy Neighbors, 2006

Something happened yesterday afternoon: Martin (A black prosecutor fm Florida, who teaches tennis while waiting to pass his NY bar exam) was giving tennis lesson to my kids in the North Middle school. There are five courts, all individually separated, all with 2 hops on each side of the court. It was very deserted on the campus, except 4 ladies in one court and anther taken by a coach with a boy. Half way through the lesson, I saw couple of young men walked toward us with basketball. They didn’t pass by us; instead they walked into our court. One of them started talking to Martin while he was feeding balls to my kids.

Young man 1: “When are you finishing up?”

Martin, shrugged, “30 more minutes.”

YM 1: “I am sorry but can you move to another court, hoops in this court are better than the others.”

I was glad that Martin replied, “why can’t you wait for 30 minutes till we finish here?”

YM 2: “But there are 10 of us, we have to wait for 30 minutes?”

Martin “Tough love.”

More young men have arrived and they all piled into our court. Some stood, some sat, some discussing loudly why can’t they have the court and why don’t we just pack up and move. Some even started shooting the hoop.

YM 3: “Why don’t you just move, so we can play. …. It’ll be dark by the time you finished. … We play here every day ….” It was 5pm.

Martin clearly the heaviest and tallest one, but couple of YMs were bumping chest with him with sound bit of f words. A fight were about to begin. I walked toward them, “get off the court now, we are not moving. You wait for your turn.”

The YMs left Martin and turned to me.
YM 1 said, “I can help you to move the stuff to another court.”
YM 3, “if you don’t let us play here, you are not going to play here either.” And he walked toward the net and trying to lie down. I asked the YM 1 where are they from?
“We all from here, this is our school.”

YM 2 who’s very short, came over, shouted at me repeatedly, “you don’t understand.” Pointing to Martin, “maybe you can explain to her …”

“Which part of it you think that I don’ understand?” I asked, trying to contain my anger and disbelieve. I didn’t want to lose my temper in front of my kids.

“Your English is fine, but you just don’t understand. ….”

“Guys, off the court. Is this the way you’d like your mother be treated?” Martin asked.
Actually few of them got bit quieter. But YM 2 and 3 won’t relent. YM 2 shouting, “my mother would have moved, she is reasonable …” There were 9 of them, some are seniors and others are off to college. All in shape, white (or Persian) and mostly are tall. I felt very threatened. So I called police, without a notion as what the police would do.

YM1, “you don’t have to call police. I was nice to you. We’ll move.” So by the time police got here with one female officer, in 4 cars – FOUR CARS – the group has moved to the next court. The officers, had to raise their voice, told them to go home. As they were reluctantly departing, YM 1 who was the last to leave, holding the basketball, said to me, “would you please ask the officer to allow us, the few nice ones to play here? Some of us are leaving next week for college…” I started to walk toward the officers who were also leaving, but then I changed my mind.

I stood on the grass, as did the officers, watching them got into their shimmering convertibles, roadsters and SUVs, and sped off.
I asked the officer who stood next to me, “has this type of thing happened before?”
“No.” he replied sternly.
“Was it appropriate by calling the police?” I was really helpless and felt violated.
“We are here to protect you if you felt threatened.”

Martin said quietly that should those kids are black some of them would have been in jail. Hmmmm. I didn’t know what to say. Part of my anger is from the fact that those thogs put my kids through the ugly bullying. But on the same token, I was glad that I was there to see how they handled it, providing some support. They can’t and won’t live in the glass jar, sooner or later they’ll have to face the world on their own.

We finished our lesson and I was surprised to see the police cars were still around – the courts are on a small mount. The female office didn’t leave till I started the engine. In the car, Martin said (I’ve heard this one few times before) that when he teaches in my town, the kids often ask ‘why’ 10 times till they get what they want. Those are my neighbors.

This is the second time I experienced blatant condescending treatment by my fellow humans. The first time? Munich, 1991, in a restaurant similar to The Palm, the blonde waitress flatly refused to serve us.


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Olympic-sized Swimming Pool

People, I need help here: the meaning of ‘Olympic-sized Swimming Pool’ could have such drastic meaning in different countries: 25m in US and 50m in the rest of the world (almost, I reckon? Full disclosure, I haven’t traveled the world … yet).

I grew up in Beijing and taken to swim in the then-not-so-muddy Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace when I was only 6 moths old. Since then I perfected my breaststroke in the public pools that measured 50 metres, my high school’s included. I also swam at Morrison Hill in Hong Kong, London, Frankfurt, Paris, etc., even in Cairo, which were all 50m!

Then on my fray to the USA, first stop was Honolulu. When I made the reservation I chose a hotel boasting an Olympic-sized pool on its brochure. Little did I know. So when I strided over to do my laps, did I realized it’s so small. Did I go to the wrong pool? No. “This IS the Olympic-sized pool”. The hotel employee who’s passing by told me. Excuse me??? Ok, I shouldn’t argue, after all, it’s a hotel.

Then I wandered into New York and eventually settled down. Now I really needed a pool to quench my thirst. Hmmmmm … few Olympic-sized pools I went to, were all half the size, well 25-yard. I was really dumb founded: why can’t US have the regular pools as the rest of the world do, as poor as China and puny 寸金只土 as Hong Kong??? I am bewildered at the fact that American swimmers are grabbing record amount of medals at each summer Olympics with little (almost none?) imported help (i.e. like in badminton, so to speak).

Granted, there are few pools in NYC that are 50m, but given the size of this country and plentiful of the capital … this is my point and perplexity. Don’t you think that I hadn’t ask. The replies from various coaches were

“I have no idea …” to “Oh, this [short course pool] is cheap to maintain.”

HHhuh? Pardon me! Thinking that in 2003 when I went to Beijing and visited my high school. Guess what? The out door 50m pool was long gone, instead a sparking indoor Olympic-sized pool was built. (Ok, disclosure: my high school ranked 3rd in the country.) What’s more ironic is the adjacent Renmin University (my high school is on the campus of the Uni), only few yards away – has just built its own luxury indoor pool, 50m. Oh well, short course has it advantage: great for practicing flip turns, 🙂

Out of north shore on LI, there are two I used to go. One is built in 1998 for the Goodwill Games, Aquatic Center at Eisenhower Park, and the other is at Hofstra Uni where my kids learned to swim: King didn’t … Pumpkin improved. Most time, both pools are being cascaded into short courses to accommodate more teams and swimmers. Ok, getting bit anal: The dimensions of an Olympic pool are required to be 25 metres by 50 metres, stated by, (FR 2.1.1). Truthfully, 25m = 82.02 ft, so the American’s short course is less than 25m. No wonder I have such good timing in 500m and 1000m (ok that’s a self-deprecating joke), and it’s legal! Americans are litigious, and yet there is a lawsuit over the pool size. Hmmm..

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