Wow! Yesterday I had the joy of meeting 2 beautiful grade school girls - who then walked with me all the way back to my hotel! I walk by a school ground everyday on my way to clinic and on my way home. So far I've been the 'yang wa wa' - 'western barbie doll' that no one thought could speak Chinese. I've exchanged several big smiles and warm "hellos!" with several people (many Chinese are excited to interact with a foreigner and are often shy too -- both to use their English and to use their Chinese in case I or another foreigner doesn't understand -- but one word they are rather bold with, especially if they have a group of friends around them is..."Hello!" usually followed by several giggles :)). But no one has really talked to me in this daily 10-minute walk stretch. And since I'm usually on a 'schedule' to get to clinic or get back to the hotel before dinner is over, I haven't engaged in conversations.
Power of Smiles
Yet, even though I haven't engaged in many conversations on this walk, I just Love the power of Smiles! And I enjoy making eye contact with people and truly connecting with them -- even if it be for just a brief moment. Eyes can convey sooo much information, so much energy -- just one glance can convey fear, anger, shyness, joy, and/or Great Love. Often I look at people I pass in the eye and if they meet me, I often smile. And smiles, as I mentioned, are so powerful. Several times, when I've made eye-to-eye contact with people on my daily walk and then add a smile, what has started as a distant, hesitant and quizzical look from them can, in a brief moment, turn into a most warm, delighted, loving gaze/eye twinkle and beautiful smile! Oh, I love this!! It's as if all of a sudden their inner Light and pure Love bursts forth and floods the space between and around us. What can be such an ordinary moment can also turn so quickly into a most sacred one.
So on this daily walk of mine, I've passed many, many children who often look up at me with wide curious eyes as I'm one of, if not the first 'live' foreigner they've seen. Many times as I pass little girls, who are often walking usually in pairs, if one of them sees me before the other, that one often pokes their friend and points discreetly and sometimes not-so-discreetly at me saying "Ni kan! Wai guo ren!" --"Look! There's a foreigner!" (One time I even received the big compliment of a 2 year old who saw me at a big veggie market and yelled out in a loud voice, "Da meinu!" and everyone around including me began to laugh. ("da mei nu" means 'big or tall beautiful woman")
Well yesterday on my way back from clinic, there happened to be a couple of teenage boys who were a bit more daring than the rest of the folks and they drove up in their cart (they were hauling some sort of supplies) and said "hello!" :) I said hello back and then they asked in English what my English name is. After I told them, they got more bold and asked in Chinese if I spoke Chinese. In replying yes they got excited and many people watching our conversation were also surprised and started to gather around. These boys then proceeded to ask the common questions (what's my age, am I married, etc. -- This aside brings up one other benefit of being in China-- I've found that b/c many people don't see a lot of foreigners, for some reason that has the effect of making me appear younger than I am! --Gosh, people are soooo friendly here - they give me the benefit of the doubt with my language - always complimenting me on my Chinese even if I've just said hello, telling me I'm smart even when a package of herbs I'm wrapping for them unravels yet again as they and Jun Lin-- patiently wait and "vote my victory" saying "meiguanxi, man man lai" - "that's okay-no worries - just take it slow" :), and now with my age they say "oh you look like you're in your twenties - I thought you were in college!" One woman today said she thought I was in my late teens!! Now that's stretching it a wee bit! - Gosh, coming to China can easily be a great self-image booster!!! The next 'staying young' promo in the States can just be a trip to China!! :))
Anyways, after a few questions from these teenage boys, this gave other people around me the chance to hear and realize that 'oh she does speak Mandarin'....and hence come forth to have a conversation. Well these 2 beautiful little girls, Su Mengwei and Tai Mengyu, came up beside me at precisely this time and said "Aiyi nihao! Ni shi cong nage guojia?" "Hello Auntie, what country are you from?" Oh I was sooo touched by these girls - they are precious. I proceeded to tell them I'm from the U.S, and found out I'm the first American they've met. They were so excited and so was I! :)
Su Mengwei also quickly exclaimed as we started talking, "Wow! Look-- her eyes are Blue!!" This was also a first for both of them to see 'in person' as most Chinese have various beautiful shades and hues of brown. We proceeded to walk together the 3 of us as we were headed in the same direction, and they asked me many questions. "What is America like? Do you have as many fun things to do there as here? Do you have old historic sites too? Are you very rich? What kind of work do you do? Are you married? Will you marry a Chinese man?" I told them about our wilderness parks and about my love of dancing and the ecstatic dances and family dance we have -- they both got excited and asked if I could teach them to dance! :) One girl already dances a special type of Chinese dancing. They then asked if I could please stay in China longer and if I come back, can I please stay here for many more months? Our conversation also drew lots of attention from passersby, some of who also stopped and talked with us (see pictures above and below-- one is of me with these 2 girls and the other is with the baby of another mother and her grandmother).
Gosh, I love talking with little kids! Just to be able to understand them and feel their curiosity and get a glimpse into their world and be able to offer my love through my sharing and laughing and communicating with them. Language is so powerful and in being in another culture, I particularly feel and am acutely aware of the doorways speaking a common language opens. For example, Gaogao, (I've been reminded now is Dr. Zhao's grandson :)) was shy when he first met me, but now we like to joke around and play together. In the car ride back from Kaifeng the other week, he was testing my English :) -- by saying the Chinese word for something and seeing if I could name the correct thing in English! :)
Jun Lin's First Dance Lesson
Coming back to the subject of dancing, yesterday I gave Jun Lin her first dance lesson as well. :) Dr. Zhao and I had lunch again with Jun Lin and her family and afterward, Jun Lin and I went to their upstairs room which is on the roof of their family's home to play pingpong :) (and we found we're actually most compatible pingpong players - we played and giggled as she, her son, and her dad also badgered back and forth in a playful way about certain topics I didn't understand as they were speaking in 'henan hua' - their local dialect) -- This room is a most comfortable bright space with windows all around and many plants that her mother is growing (she loves to garden and since there is no open soil around, she has many potted plants here -- and it is so refreshing to be amongst green plants! :)) After playing we ate some pineapple and I brought out my little ipod touch. I don't have speakers to project the sound better but I've been using this anyways to dance with. I've told Jun Lin about my love for dancing and how I do it in my room at night and how we all dance together in Seattle and the ecstatic dance communities around the country. (BTW the reporters are coming tomorrow again to do some final filming at my hotel room to take pics of me writing to You :) and of me dancing --as they'd like to capture all of my daily events.) She is curious and asked me to show her. So I took out my ipod and started dancing. Her mom came up too and Jun Lin was so delighted. She started moving too and then her mom joined in as well :). Jun Lin felt a bit awkward so I did some simple steps and encouraged her to feel the beat and first relax and let the beat come into her body and move her. She still felt self conscious and is planning to video tape me dancing to 2 songs that I'll give to here so she can watch and practice :) YAY! I'm excited to see the love of dancing spread! The joy dance brings is contagious!
Opening the Gates
Gosh, I feel so much is just starting to open up now and am acutely aware of the short time I have remaining. Today in one of our clinic lull's, Dr. Zhao started teaching me about something I remember him mentioning last summer in Seattle (the 6 different types/characteristics that each of the 14 meridians have), and again I really had no idea of what he was talking about! I felt frustrated at the time b/c I knew he had so much to share and I wasn't understanding at the time what it was! Well, today he began talking about the same subject and I'm understanding!! Oh this is so exciting!! I feel a sense of doors opening to understand easily (or at least with more ease!) Dr. Zhao is such a good and patient teacher and I am seeing the value of learning in this experiential environment. For example, in working with Jun Lin with the herbs, she'll often tell me about some of the herbs I'm gathering for the prescriptions, saying - "oh this one is good for women - just like dang gui," or "this is good for colds," etc. I find this way of learning easier for me - as I'm more of a kinesthetic learner. So he taught me of the 6 characteristics of each meridian "Jing, xing, shu, jing, he, yuan" -- basically, the first "jing" (it's a different character than the 2nd one listed) is the 'well' where the energy of a meridian starts; its beginning movement is 'xing'; it flows into and fills points which is 'shu'; it continues to flow like water which is 'jing'; the energy flows and gathers together which is 'he'; and the energy then reaches it's source point -- the end of the meridian channel which is 'yuan'.
He also spoke of the "luo xue" - which I'm now again understanding what it is! YAY! These are points that connect certain meridians/organs that directly influence each other. If any of you have seen a meridian circle chart you'll notice that of the 12 meridians listed (with Ren Mai and Du Mai - the Central and Governing Vessels listed in the middle), 6 are yang in character and 6 are yin. The organs are ordered as to what is their 'strong' time of the day and alternate between yin and yang organs. The "luo xue" - or luo points - are points connecting subsidiary channels that run between paired organs that are listed next to each other on the chart. For example, our stomach and spleen meridians have a channel where energy runs directly between the 2 organs from these meridians -- on the stomach meridian, this point is "feng long" or ST40. On the spleen meridian, this point is "gong sun" or SP4. Another cool thing is that this whole system makes more sense as it's coming more alive for me in the Chinese language. These "luo points" -- "luo", as I understand it, is short for "lian luo" which is a commonly used phrase for 'connecting' -- you can say, for example, "wo chang change gen ta lian luo." "I often connect (or am in touch) with her." In this way, the names of these point categories make sense as, through these points, our organs communicate with and support one another :). Dr. Zhao also mentioned that while these points help share and balance energies of the paired organs when we are well, they also help "tiao li" or bring another organ back into health if it's out of harmony. (A disclaimer note-- those of you who are already practicing Chinese medicine, please let me know if my understandings anywhere along the line here are misinformed, as I'm relaying what I've learned through my other-than- perfect Mandarin comprehension :).)
Pulses and Pregnancy
Another neat thing I've experienced in the past couple days is....feeling the pulse of a woman who is pregnant! Wow! It truly is different and has the sense of being a bit slippery or 'hua' and feels almost like water flowing over slippery beads or pearls. :) Pulse-taking is something Dr. Zhao is just starting to introduce me to. Sometimes he has me sit with him and feel the patients' pulses after he does. He's introducing me to this technique by telling me the very basics of the most simplified differentiation of 4 pulses and then having me feel this with clients. These 4 kinds of pulses are: Fu - meaning a floating pulse which is very much on the surface of the skin - you can feel it right away and often represents a sickness caused from an external force/agent; Chen - meaning a sinking pulse which is felt only by pressing into the patient's wrist more -- and it often represents disharmony coming from inside the body; Chi - meaning slow; and Shuo- meaning fast. In the one-page paper on pulse diagnosis that Dr, Zhao gave to me to read, the author described how various schools have taught doctors to discriminate a wide range of pulses - many averaging 26-28 different kinds! This doctor/writer, however, favored not teaching so many as he felt that too many different kinds sometimes led people to mistake normal healthy variation in pulses as being a disharmony of some sort. Right now, I am grateful to start simple!! :)
So much to learn in a short time! If I could just find a pair of ruby slippers like Dorothy's in the Wizard of Oz, I could easily make weekly trips over here to visit Dr. Zhao and his clients while back in the States :)
Another surprise today was a visit from my 2 newest friends-- the little girls, Su Mengwei and Tai Mengyu!! They found Dr. Zhao's clinic and came by right as I was leaving with a surprise "xiao chu xiang"-- "treasure box" for me!!! Oh they are so adorable!! They wrote their names on the box and wrote "Kailun Ayi song gei ni!!!" "Auntie Karen, here's a gift for you!!" And inside....oh my!! All sorts of wonderful treasurers!!! (see picture below) There's 2 little dolls which they told me represent them so I can think of them when I'm back home in the States; a picture of a farm house and birds and a stream they drew on a piece of cloth with their names on it; a picture of Su Mengwei, a journal Su Mengwei wrote in saying I can write down both my happy and sad feelings in; a beautiful shell necklace; fun colored pens/pencils; and bows! Oh my!! They are sooo sweet! One of Dr. Zhao's clients helped us take the picture above and I've also include one of the 'treasure box" which is this blog's title graphic (first pic) :)
Also included are few pics of a wedding I went to today with Dr. Zhao and Jun Lin. That whole experience could easily be another story in and of itself!! What a mixture of Chinese and Western traditions, also decorated with flashing and glittery lights, and, as many Chinese love 'renao' -- lively and loud' - the club/disco-like music in combination with the loud game-show host-like MC for the wedding ceremony and flying film cameras filming the whole thing on big screens was quite a scene! It was also beyond LOUD and while I desired to "be polite", I also desired to plug my ears the whole time! So I compromised by turning my head to the side and 'discretely plugging the ear facing the speaker while pretending to scratch a persistent itch and readjust my hairdo :).
Congrats to all of you who make it to the end of my long updates! :) I love sharing!! And as Dr. Zhao postponed our night study session, I thought I'd write again tonight before those sessions start up. For those of you who know Richard Ward (our dear friend in Z Y Qigong who is currently living in Guangzhou, China), he is flying up to Zhengzhou this Saturday to visit me and Dr. Zhao and his family :) We'll be hiking together on Sunday, and Monday is a national holiday for visiting the burial sites and temples for ones ancestors. We'll be doing this yearly outing with the Zhaos too :)
Much Great Love to you ALL!!! Thank you so much for your emails. Your messages mean a lot to me.
Much, Much Love,