Solitude, Basketball, and Rain

I’m not sure what “reverse culture shock” is, really. I never feel a “shock,” or a strong sense of being out of place while I’m home in the USA. Perhaps I never go back for long enough. There are always different things that I notice, though. I’m well beyond “wow, Americans are fat” observations. This past trip, my most poignant “American” experience was on a basketball court.

I’d been meaning to practice my shot. I’ve played basketball precious little since I moved to Shanghai, years ago, and it shows.

There’s a little park with a basketball court in my parents’ neighborhood in Tampa. The park is public, but it’s usually empty. Since all I wanted to do was practice my shot, an empty court was exactly what I was looking for.

My second trip to the park was the last day of my visit. It was great to have the court all to myself while I slowly worked my shot back towards the “acceptable” range. As I felt the first few fat drops of rain, I knew that no one would be joining me.

In Florida when it rains, it rains with a sense of purpose. The rain comes down in earth-drenching torrents, but within several hours the sky is clear again. In Shanghai, on the other hand, the rain dawdles. It rains lightly, in stops and starts, for days, accomplishing little more than the creation of mud and the destruction of mood.

As the rain soaked me on the court, I felt amazingly clean. The ground looked just-washed. The rainwater in the gutter rushing to the storm drain was crystal clear. I walked home, acid-free rain in my eyes, feeling enormously satisfied.

I don’t blame China for what it is, but this combination of solitude, basketball, and rain cannot be had there.

rainy court
Photo by purrfecjisteq on Flickr


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Cute! love the last paragraph!

  2. I’ve been reading a lot on blogs about the pollution problem in China and it is worrisome. How is Shanghai? Not as bad as Beijing, I hope?

    As for obesity in the US, I think it’s a problem of our cuisine. Seriously, you cannot eat out without getting fat. The portions are ridiculous and most foods are very unhealthy. Exchange students complain all the time of how much weight they gain. After gaining a whole bunch of weight myself, I now mostly eat at home and bring lunch to work. Even when I eat out, I end up taking a doggy bag almost every time.

  3. Ugh, you really haven’t been in the US very long at all then.

    It’s been raining for the past month, two months straight in Florida and I am so sick of it. My apartment floor got soaking wet in one area, and the parking lot is designed really badly which meant all the water got up to the bottom of the car, way past my tires and I think it damaged it. And I had to wait at the hospital for two hours for the rain to stop but it never did so I just sucked it up and had to wait for the bus in the pouring rain.

    Will it never end???

  4. Everyone knows a lot of the manufacturing industry, especially the low end ones, have all migrated to China. Along with the migration of industry, there is also the migration of pollutions. You can’t make steel without burning a lot of coals. All these people lampooning China for its heavily polluted cites, but the pollutions is the unavoidable side effect of making all those things you can buy in Walmart, cheaply. In a way, the people there have to live with polluted air just so the people in more developed countries can enjoy cleaner air, cheaper products.

  5. I love this post John!

  6. Seektruthfromfacts Says: August 1, 2008 at 9:23 am

    This isn’t really a China/US comparison… moving between smalltown Hebei and Harlem (or Haarlem), it would surely be China that provides basketball, rain and solitude. But it’s a poignant picture of Shanghai/Florida differences.

  7. Nice post. 🙂 You’re lucky to both have several basketball courts in your parent’s area, and to know where they are. I haven’t known many good little b-ball spots since I moved out of Brandon years ago. I wonder if there is some sort of google app for finding them. I would sort by remainder of net left on the hoop to get rid of the riff-raff.

  8. zpinzane,

    Heh, not sure about the Google app, but the ones near my parents’ place are actually in pretty good condition (one new net, the other net not too badly ripped).

  9. Tae,

    Pollution is a problem all over China, but at least in Shanghai we don’t have dust storms. Shanghai has also traditionally been greener than Beijing, but Olympic preparations may have changed that somewhat.

  10. Dana,

    Well, as long as Florida isn’t flooded, more rain is a good thing. The water table has been low for a long time.

  11. Gizzle,

    Thanks! 🙂

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