Friends on the flip side

(City Weekend)
Updated: 2008-01-17 09:33

"I started Beijing SnowBoarders because I didn't have anyone to go to the mountain with," Lee Hee Su says, thinking very hard. "There weren't many Chinese snowboarders at the time, so I decided to find some other Koreans who wanted to go." Lee founded Beijing SnowBoarders (BSB) in 2003 and in the first year had 100 members. Today, there are more than 2,000.

The group was originally called "Beijing SnowBoarders Team Korea," but this year they want to break out of that. "This is not Korea, this is a foreign country," Lee says looking down, thinking to herself. "We want to act like we're in a foreign country. We want to meet different kinds of people. Probably the different languages are our biggest problem and that's why we stuck to Koreans."

The language is certainly a problem. Lee often pauses when talking, paining over what to say next. These language difficulties make it hard for many foreigners to break into other foreigner communities and are what give Lee her pensive look. She's actually very exuberant. Like most of the people in BSB, which now includes Japanese, Laotians, Filipinos, and some Westerners, she loves to make new friends. "We're all snowboarders. We can have fun together," Lee puts in. She smiles big.

Lee always smiles when she's understood, when there's some common point of interest. "Do you drink?" she asks as we leave Lush. She points across the street to the izakaya (Japanese drinking place) above KFC. "You ever go there?" she asks. I tell her I haven't been for a while. "Yeah?" she says. She lights up. She's beaming. "You have to come next time."

That's the point of BSB: Snowboarding is made up of many wonderful solitary experiences. The wind whistling by your ear and the spray and crunch of hitting the ground are things you experience by yourself. But riding chairlifts, telling jokes, and drinking afterwards weren't meant to be done alone.

Beijing SnowBoarders
Tel: 133-6660-6544 (English)
How: A bus Saturday and Sunday at 7am in front of the KFC near the Wudaokou subway station; and 7:30am at Wangjing 3 Qu west gate. They organize trips to different ski mountains each week.


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