Exercising in the Orient

I received an invitation to play badminton nearly two months ago, and after making excuses for some time, I finally agreed to give the sport a shot. So far I’ve been to play a few times now, and it’s fun, even though I end up sore and soaked with sweat.

Badminton is best played indoors so that the shuttlecock isn’t affected by the wind (even though there is hardly ever what I’d call a brisk wind in Long Xuyen). One of these arenas is near the People’s Committee for the city. It looks like the auditorium was initially intended for basketball, but now five badminton courts are set up on the floor of the gymnasium.

The building itself looks like it was meant for something else; there are two unused rooms near the main doors that were intended for selling tickets that are now locked and full of junk. And because there can’t be any wind, the windows at the top of the building are mostly kept closed. The building seems almost like a ruin or an artifact of some kind. It has a feeling of ancientness about it with peeling and faded paint and dust-covered cement bleachers.

For me especially, after I’ve been moving and sweating for 15 or 20 minutes, the atmosphere inside this monstrous building feels like a sauna or a sweat lodge. Every pore of my body drips sweat and everything that I’m wearing is soaked within a few minutes. And because there can’t be any wind, the doors are kept closed and there are no fans, and of course no air-conditioning.

It was an interesting experience the first time I went there. I thought I would only encounter strangers, but instead I ran into several people who have studied or are studying English with me, and since then I’ve even struck up a few conversations with people I don’t know.

So after leading a mostly sedentary life for years, I’m giving badminton in the monstrous sauna a try.