YAY! The reporter and I have been playing phone tag and yesterday it finally worked out for both of us for him to come by and take pictures of me writing to you (he was actually taking the pictures right as I was typing this paragraph :)) And he took pics of me dancing! YES!! Oh I so love to dance and my desire is these pictures inspire others to put on some music and dance their JOY!! Even with my little ipod without speakers, as soon as I hear the music, I’m bouncing and boogie-ing (how do you spell that anyway?!) I then shared with him lots of funny stories from my letters to you which he’s going to put in the article – it will be fun to see it written in Chinese :) I’ll send you all the link to the article when it’s published (most likely later this week).
A Day of Exploration - Ren Min Gong Yuan – People’s Park
On Monday I thought Richard and I would be joining Dr. Zhao and Ayi on the national holiday of "Qin Ming Jie" to pay their respects to their ancestors but it turns out Dr. Zhao felt it was best he and Ayi just go themselves….which meant we had the morning to play and explore on our own! :) We looked at a map and decided to head for a big green square – which was Ren Min Gong Yuan – People’s Park. I realized in this freedom to go out with Richard, that although I’ve been here for almost 1 month, I really haven’t explored Zhengzhou very much – it’s a HUGE city!!
I loved going to the park as it was again so green! Lots of flowers are now in blossom (spring is finally here) and I love seeing so many people all gather together – there were several groups of elders gathered in pods of 3-4 people with one or two playing a Chinese traditional string instrument and others singing the traditional ‘xi’ – Chinese opera songs. Richard noticed that although there were MANY of these small singing groups in a relatively small area (each one gathered by some wooden or stone stools/benches under trees (as it was actually quite warm! – not so today-BUT I’m happy that spring is showing it’s face more frequently now :)), somehow, miraculously the various songs, instruments, tunes, pitches, melodies, keys, tempos didn’t clash! Each group seemed to have just enough space to fill their area with sound without overwhelming the other groups – which is a great thing, otherwise the trip to the park could quickly turn into quite a noisy, high pitched, squeaky experience – and instead it was quite delightful – hen hao ting – beautiful to listen to :).
And of course there were the older people with their huge calligraphy brushes painting poems on the walkways with water (this is a great way to save paper! :) – and I remember my last time in Beijing in Dec. 2005, I saw people painting Chinese characters in this way – except then b/c it was FREEZING COLD, all the characters froze – so you had the delightful scene of frozen calligraphy poems and songs written on the park walkways :)). There are also the dance groups – modern dance, some form of traditional Chinese dances, tango or salsa, and more. People also gather to play cards, and at this park there were even people bungie jumping in the background off a platform (every now and then Richard and I would look up – and poke the other if one of us didn’t see it yet- to see yet another person boinging up and down :)).
There were also sooooo many kids! The kids here are sooooooo CUTE! And I just love how kids are such a big part of the society here and kids are welcome everywhere! Sometimes it seems in the States that there are relatively few places where kids/families are really warmly welcomed. In China, (at least where I’ve been) most places seem to be kid places, family places, elder places – places open and welcome to all ages. And I love how integrated their society is – kids, grandparents, parents, cousins, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles (and of course all the appropriate Chinese terms that go along with all these relations – I’ll save that ‘lesson’ for another time – see Update 5 for more info on what I’m referring to ;)) are often seen together.
Before we left the park, Richard and I heard what sounded something like a marching band and singing (yet quite different from any of our ‘American’ marching bands) and promptly went over to investigate. There was a group of probably about 60 people gathered with BIG smiles and open mouths, singing songs they obviously all knew – and it wasn’t a generational thing either as elders, parents and – well I guess most of the kids were watching their parents sing with great curiosity but not singing themselves. Because it was a holiday, more people of all ages were singing, but usually it’s mainly retired folks who come once a week to sing. What a great activity! The woman leading it had a strong booming voice and at the end of one song, exclaimed, “Nimen kaixin bu kaixin?” “Are you happy?” And the crowd roared, “Kaixin!!” “HAPPY!!” Although I thought Richard might get bored since it was all in a different language, we stayed for many, many songs. Afterward Richard commented that he just loved being in that energy and could have stayed even longer. He felt several chills and energy running through his body while listening to and observing the joy in the crowd. It was a full, enriching, nourishing and uplifting energy to be in – as was apparent by the many loud, Bright, smiling and singing faces. As we were walking away and Richard said this, it just reminded me how sensitive we are to the energy around us. Just walking through a busy and noisy crowd, I noticed my body energy felt a bit more chaotic – yet amongst the singing I felt a strength, harmony and uplifting energy….
The Joys of…Lunchtime!
So soon after our park experience, Richard had a plane to catch so we exchanged BIG hugs (it was soooo great to see him and have him here even if it was a short visit) and hopped in a taxi to fly back to Zhong Shan. So I was then left on my own to enjoy the fun adventure of....eating! YAY! I love meal time in China! (I guess I love it in the States too b/c I love to eat…but in China it’s even more exciting b/c there are soooo many delicious, nutritious options and they’re sooooo cheap!!) So I walked around looking at the Chinese characters on the store fronts – and found one mentioning ‘chao cai’ – ooooh stir-fried veggies – Yum! So I popped inside and seeing that it was full of locals, I sat down. Another young man sat down with me as there were no other open tables. He quietly ordered his lunch and I then ordered mine. His came before mine and it looked so delicious that I had to ask what he was eating. He was surprised! He didn’t expect me to speak Chinese. He smiled big and asked me where I was from. When I said from the U.S. he delightedly proclaimed I was the very first American he ever spoke to! He said he had seen some Americans before but never dared talking with them. He was afraid either they wouldn’t understand his English phrases or he wouldn’t understand their Chinese :). We were both thankful to have a meal companion and enjoyed our yummy food together (I got stir-fried Chinese white cabbage with tofu over rice) and our mutual good company.
After lunch I still had a ways to walk back to the hotel (as Richard and I had taken a taxi to the park which was a fair jaunt from my hotel) and I decided to take this opportunity to explore my greater neighborhood :). So I began my stroll and at the same time started to desire having some fresh fruit. Right at that moment, as I was walking down the sidewalk, an older woman peddling a cart of fresh plump mangos bumbled by…”Ooooh mangos!” I thought. Well it was as if my thought was so loud that she heard me because she then promptly stopped to ask if I wanted some mangos – oh yes!! Yum!! We started chatting and then another older woman walked up to ask for the price. And then we all started talking. But what is funny is after a couple sentences with me, this other older women appeared startled and said, “Oh!! Ni hui jiang Zhongwen!!” “Oh! You can speak Chinese!” Even though we had already been talking, it just hit her that I was speaking her language despite the fact that I’m a ‘wai guo ren!” :)
A Morning Surprise from Ayi
Yesterday I was back in the clinic again – We had 2 days off – with Sunday being our ‘rest day’ (when we went hiking – see pictures below :)) and Monday being a holiday. So that meant I had 2 days where I didn’t see Ayi (as she didn’t go hiking with us on Sunday). Well yesterday when I arrived at the clinic, Ayi was there and as soon as she saw me walk in the door, she said with a big smile – “Wo hao jiu bu jian ni ah!” “I haven’t seen you in so long!!” And then gave me a BIG hug!! Wow!! I was so touched and I too felt so happy to see her again!! The Chinese don’t often give hugs so to receive a BIG hug from Ayi was such a wonderful surprise and gift!!!
Evening Class #2
Last night I had another evening class with Dr. Zhao. I arrived as he and Ayi were finishing dinner and also watching some ‘wushu’ – Chinese martial arts boxing :) As Dr. Zhao washed the dishes, Ayi looked over and asked if I’d like to hear her sing a song. “Oh Yes!,” I replied. She said this was a song she used to sing in school…and then she began…Wow – it was beautiful – sounded somewhat like some of the Chinese opera songs – so many different tones and levels even within singing one word. Half way through she hesitated and started to laugh …she forgot the words…yet I said she could just continue, make them up – I would never know the difference :)! Anyways, as Dr. Zhao and I left to go into the clinic to study, she said she’ll review (as she took out an old song book) and sing for me later this week. I love Ayi! She is so wonderful and she continues to make me so much wonderful food each day at lunch – often times she comes up to me at clinic saying what she’s planning for today’s lunch – I think she probably enjoys how much delight and excitement I express in my anticipation of enjoying her food! :)
So in last night’s class, first….before we got started I told Dr. Zhao that my knee was hurting again – from the inside. This has happened to me before – and can sometimes be quite debilitating. His eyes lit up and he said, “Oh lai…wo jiao ni zenme zhi!” –“oh, yes – come here – I’ll teach you how to treat this!” – He had me sit on the treatment table, roll up my left pant leg and then said that this would probably hurt…but not to worry. I would feel much better. He said this was the same method he used with my mom (I remember how painful it was for mom as I was interpreting for their session by phone as my mom lives in San Francisco and Dr. Zhao was there for a few weeks last summer). Anyways, he proceeded to slap my knee all over until it got very red (and yes it hurt!!) and water started to come out from my skin. He said my knee pain was caused by cold stuck inside and the slapping technique (which Mingtang uses too) gets the cold energy to come out. Wow! I feel so much better! My knee got warm and hot and now is much much better. Dr. Zhao rolled up his pant leg too and then had me practice on him! What a teacher! :)
We then had a class on different types of neck and back conditions and treatment. I love how he teaches and he teaches with such patience. I, again, am recording with my little ipod touch and scribbling my mix of Chinese, pinyin and English while Dr. Zhao is writing in calligraphy with his paint brush every word he says. This way we both benefit as 1) he gets to practice calligraphy while teaching, 2) I get to see and review how to write all the characters – as some of the terms are new to me, and 3) this slows down the pace of his talking so it’s easier for me to understand and absorb/digest his teachings :).
Ayi came in with some fresh hot water for us towards the end of our session and said, “Kailun, ta nenme xinxi de jiao ni. Ta meiyou zheyang jiaoguo beiren. Jun Lin, Zhao Fang, Zhao Peng – ta dou meiyou zheyang jiao tamen. Zhi you ni. Ni zhidao ma?” “Karen, he teaches you from his heart and with much much care. He’s never taught anyone else like this before – not even Jun Lin or his children, Zhao Fang and Zhao Peng. Just with you. You know?” I am so grateful to both Dr. Zhao and Ayi and am so grateful for my time here.
Oh and a quick update on my young friends, Su Mengwei and Tai Mengyu. They often come by at the end of the day to see if they can squeeze in a quick hello, give me a hug and maybe if they're lucky, get to ask me some more questions about America. :) My time is pretty full right now with clinic hours, evening study, my own study, my writing work, dancing, eating and of course my sharing with you all :) -- and Dr. Zhao is very aware of and protective of my short time left -- sometimes tells them that they must go if I'm still working or am studying. Even so I can tell he too is touched by how precious they are and their strong desire to see me :). Yesterday as I left and was getting a ride back to my hotel with Dr. Zhao, they both came up to the car with big smiles. Tai Mengyu gave me a picture of her and they both gave me another journal. Then they said, "Ayi, Ni kan!! Women dai ni gei women de dongxi" Look Auntie! We're both wearing the beautiful hair pieces you gave us!" Oh how cute!! Last week when they walked back to my hotel room with me, I showed them my room and they LOVED seeing and exploring all of my "American" things. I had just bought 3 sparkly hair pieces when I went shopping with Junlin and decided to have them each choose one for themselves. This way we could all sparkle together and think of one another :) They loved these hair pieces and had me show them how to tie their hair up in it. Well, as I was just learning myself, I didn't do it so successfully for them but told them to show their moms and that they would help them put the sparkly hair pieces in their pretty hair. I was as delighted as they to both see them and see these sparkles in their hair yesterday :)
Also, attached below are pictures from my hike with Richard, Dr. Zhao and Jun Lin on Sunday. We went to a beautiful canyon out in Luoyang called "Long Tan Da Xia Gu" Some of the pictures are a bit sideways as for some reason Dr. Zhao likes to take them like this :) (I will make a note to ask why :))
There's also one of Richard and I by a waterfall and notice the Chinese woman making the 'peace' or 'victory' symbol -- the little girls did this in my picture with them too -- it's a popular thing to do in photos here.
The plant is of 'lian qiao' -- this is an herb we use in clinic -- we use the seed pods (you can see a few of them) -- Lian qiao is good for fevers and sore throats. I also included a couple pics from our lunch (it was funny -- as we started eating, a mother and 2 little kids came up to me -- the mom asked if her kids could have their picture taken with me -- Oh yes!! I love taking pictures with kids :) So we took pictures....and then the mom asked if she could take her picture with me.. and oh yes! of course - that's great!...and then in a few moments she came with her younger brother -- oh yes! yes, that's great - let's take a picture. And then... her older brother and their cousin came....and by this time another family and their kids has also lined up to have their pictures taken! It got to be quite humorous and after awhile the excitement (especially with 2 'wai guo ren' present!!) settled down and we all got back to eating our lunch :)) The last picture is of one of the many village stone home we saw in the mountains :)
Well, gosh it’s already my bed time yet again! I just get to writing and keep on going :)
Thank you again for your emails!!! YAY! I feel sooo happy hearing from you, and again, even if don’t respond right away by email, I AM sending my Love!!