So playing Ultimate Frisbee is a big thing around here. We play it every Wednesday night and most of the day on Sunday. I don’t go that often, but when I do it’s really fun. If you’d never played, Ultimate Frisbee is a lot like (american) football, or basketball or hockey. You try to get the frisbee to your goal, while your opponents try to block you and steal the Frisbee for themselves.
Fun, that is, until I realized that frisbee is trying to kill us all! And it’s succeeding.
It started months ago. I had heard of this really cool girl named Waiwai, who was good at Frisbee but who didn’t come to practices that often. That’s because she had hurt her knee and had to have a few surgeries and couldn’t play for months.
Then there was a guy named Ivan. He’s probably the biggest Ultimate Frisbee fan in all of China (and has traveled around Europe playing Frisbee–more on him soon). But he has to take it easy because he has messed up both wrists playing Frisbee recently. Then I have another friend who has a sore back for a few days after he plays frisbee, and he plays every few days…
But those are people I met recently, and major frisbee players. A little injury is to be expected, right? But then frisbee decided to attack closer to home.
My good friend Zoe plays every weekend, and travels to nearby cities for tournaments. Or did, until she jumped to catch and landed wrong on her ankle 2 weeks ago. The poor girl has been limping, and hopping. The swelling goes down a little and she goes off crutches, only to have it get worse. Her underarms are worn raw from the crutches she needs to get around.
Then my friend Jen sent us a picture after a regular practice of a blackened hand where the frisbee had jammed into her.
And then the frisbee gods deemed it was my turn. I was just playing, running around and having fun (for the record I am a TERRIBLE player–honestly, I don’t even know the rules and when they say stuff like “force lake” or “stack up” I actually have no idea what they mean and I just watch other people and do what they are doing).
After playing several games I was running up the field when I heard a weird ‘pop’ from my leg. I had one millisecond to think “Uh-oh” before my leg touched the ground and I felt shooting pain. I didn’t make a big deal of it, I just immediately limped off the ground and asked someone to go in for me.
Then I sat down.
I didn’t want to seem like a whiny baby, and one of my darling former students was visiting me and I didn’t want to worry him, but it hurt A LOT. Walking was nearly impossible. I could put my good leg forward, then kind shuffle my bad leg to keep it. Step by tiny step, it took forever to walk anywhere.
I made it home and I went straight to Dr. Google. Turns out that popping sound is quite normal for tearing a calf muscle. Yep, I tore my mother-f’ing calf muscle and it seems like it will take 4 weeks or so to heal.
But life must go on, and while I was VERY tempted to cancel class because of the pain, I went. Step, drag, step, drag. My normally 6 minute walk to class took close to thirty. The one flight of stairs I had to climb to the classroom made me want to burst into tears they seemed so imposing. And the four flights to my room? I stayed in my place starving the first night rather than go down and up them to get some food at the cafeteria on the first floor. (My friends ended up rescuing me later.)
China has the worst infrastructure for handicapped people. My building has 3 steps to enter it. Three tiny steps. With my leg it is a small obstacle. But what about my friend with crutches? Or what about a person in a wheelchair? There is no ramp, and once in, there is no elevator either.
My classroom building is the same. It’s built on a slight incline so there are several steps to get in and classrooms on five floors with no elevator. And this is a public university.
And it’s not just that, but everything is so dependent on walking here. Even to get a taxi to go to the doctor would necessitate a 10 minute walk to the nearest school gate and then who knows how long a wait until I flagged one down. And the very convenient supermarket, only minutes away, turned into an endurance test I almost failed. (Luckily I ran into students who carried my bags for me.)
So this stupid frisbee injury has made me appreciate walking, and how easy it is for most of us. (I should be able to walk again in 4 or 5 days if it heals properly.) But it has actually made me pretty outraged at the lack of accessibility here. It’s been something I’ve noticed and disagreed on, but I never truly realized how bad the situation is until I was put in that position.
So frisbee, lay off my friends and let them play without injury. And China? Get with the program and make things more accessible. Now if you excuse me I’m gonna go ice my leg some more.