Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Art of 'Meirong', Auspicious Friendships, & the Hilarious Nature of Cell Phones


Greetings Friends!

I’m just about to start our first trek in the Tibetan Plateau of Sichuan Province!! :) YAY! Wow! After so much dreaming about this particular part of my journey (our trek)….it is coming true as well (and how very appropriate that I’m currently at the Chengdu Dream Travelers Hostel! :))

One of our participants who arrives today, has been on the fence this summer about coming, as she’s recovering from a ski incident last winter and has had continual check-ups with her doctor. Szu-ting, my friend and co-leader, is the one in touch with her and I hadn’t heard the final outcome of her situation before leaving for China last week. Yet, 3 nights ago I had a positive and vivid dream about this woman, Annie and woke up knowing she was coming. …And then got word from Szu-ting yesterday that she also arrives into Chengdu today. Excellent! (On a side note, I’ve also been studying, learning, and experiencing the power of Dreams with another one of my teachers in Seattle.  I’m finding that dream work and Qigong have many similarities. Both augment each other and are powerful tools in self development and tapping into the vast informational and spiritual resources within and around us, in our world and other worlds, and in the physical and invisible sides of life.)

So….first to share just a bit (my time for typing is a bit short as I’m organizing our group today and packing, well…..repacking, really, my bags as I once again brought too many clothes! Sigh…Last time I came Ayi laughed at all I brought saying I should just bring the clothes I’m wearing on the airplane and buy new ones, as things are so much cheaper here…and it’s fun to shop with my Chinese girlfriends :)…. And this time I’ve already bought a new pair of jeans (for $14!!!) and a sweat shirt for $7 this week – China pretty much has everything except floss and good chocolate :).)

An Auspicious Friendship at Lugu Lake ~ Home of one of the last Matriarchal Societies
I’ve had a wonderful week with my friend Yajun in Beijing and am continually amazed at how generous she is! She and I are the same age and met 7 years ago when I was traveling for 1 month in Yunnan Province before I went to meet Grandmaster Xu Mingtang at Shaolin Monastery. I was visiting LuGu Hu (Lugu Lake), home to one of the last matriarchal societies, and rented a room with 2 beds at a little Inn. There was a storm right after I arrived that washed away part of the narrow road to Lugu Lake … for about 1 week while the road was being fixed, I was one of the few “tourists” at this magical place, had my room to myself and got to know many of the locals :). Once the road was re-opened, though, I came back to my room one day to find I had a new roommate….and behold it was beautiful Yajun! And thus began our wonderful friendship! It was rare then to find another single young Chinese woman traveling alone, so we both knew we were fellow adventurers….and indeed had MANY great adventures in that special place. So since then…every time I come to China, I have my own personal “Welcome Buddy” in the country’s capitol city of Beijing….Yajun!

She is amazing. Each time I email her telling her I’m planning to come to China (and am of course super excited), she emails back with a similar pizzazz and enthusiasm of her excitement and welcoming me to stay 
 to share it with me. She immediately wrote back and said, “Hao bang! Ni keyi zhu wo jia!!!!” (basically “Awesome! You can come live at my place!!!!” And then she proceeds to send detailed emails and maps on which buses to take, where to get off and what subway lines to switch to…to eventually arrive at her new home. It’s actually a bit intimidating as Beijing is SOOOO BIG and the transportation system is enormous….and the train stations are super confusing even in being able to speak and read Chinese. But she is a master at clear, simple directions….and as her profession is in landscape architecture, she is a master at making me color-coded maps and diagrams so I know precisely where to go and where to meet her. 

The chinese characters are her notes to me as to where to get off the bus when I reach the train station, where to walk to and where she’ll be waiting for me :)) And even though I was 3 hours late to our curb-side meeting pace b/c of plane delays and massive traffic, she was still waiting for me with a big smile, bright eyes and a big hug when I arrived.

The Art of "MeiRong" - Beauty & the Wisdom Women Share
We had a great 4 days together and I love how we are continually exchanging our knowledge, stories, practices and ways we’re learning and evolving in our lives in our visits. I started teaching her qigong and strength training in the mornings and introducing her to ecstatic dance in the evenings before bed.  And she continued teaching me the ways of “meirong” 美容, some of the many ways Chinese women stay so beautiful and take care of their skin :), simple methods to augment good health, and cooking me delicious breakfasts and dinners (YUMMM!!!!). On the methods of “meirong”, similar to what Junlin shared with me two years ago, she shared how drinking lemon water and honey is good for one’s skin. She also uses a simple ground-up concoction of the Chinese herbs, baizhi and fuling, along with either dried powdered milk or flour mixed with a little water. This is an excellent paste to put on one’s face like a mask for 10-15 mins and then wash off. She also excitedly then took out these little packets of individually wrapped items as big as a tums tablet. She explained that she read this book by a 70 years young woman in Japan who put these moist paper-like wrapping on her face every morning for 10-15 mins – it “bao shi”保湿  protects and enhances our skin’s moisture – and then showed me a picture of this lady! Indeed her skin is beautiful and does not resemble that of a 70 y/o. :) We both put on these funny looking masks in the evening time  -- unfortunately I didn’t think to take a picture of this as it would have certainly given you a good laugh!

One evening after our dance session, we also watched a TV program of a Chinese medicine doctor who was addressing simple methods to cure some elders’ common ailments. The doctor then also went into simple ways to protect one’s skin and how, using some massage techniques and various acupuncture points, one can prevent or minimize wrinkles. Yajun explained that these kinds of TV programs and information are so common now in China and most people have a foundational knowledge of the very basics in Chinese medicine in terms of knowing the warming, cooling, etc characteristics of our foods, which ones are good for different organs, which ones are good for purifying or nourishing our blood, which are good for women when menstruating, or just after birthing a baby, etc. I just LOVE this about the Chinese culture!!! And am especially fascinated by the women! I have always come here to study with two of my dear teachers, both men, both Masters, Grandmaster Xu and Dr. Zhao…..and I also spend so much time with my Chinese “Sisters” – my dear women friends and elders, and always learn so much from them.

When in Taiwan in college, I got a grant to do my cultural anthropology thesis research on a well-known and almost exclusively practiced women’s postpartum practice, Zuo yue zi 坐月子, literally meaning “sit for a month.” Most women in both Taiwan and China do this practice and eat very specific food that are to help repair and nourish their bones after childbirth. The foods also make sure the newborn baby gets excellent, highly nutritious food through his/her mother’s milk. All women I spoke with, even those who said this month’s practice was one of their most difficult months ever (traditionally woman went through this month practice soon after marriage and moving into their husband’s family. It was often their mother-in-law who prepared all the foods and made sure her new daughter-in-law observed the practice and many restrictions during that month. For some women who had some tension in their new relations with their mother-in-law, this month was quite difficult), still wholeheartedly agreed that this was one of the best things a woman could do to augment her health and prevent illness in old age.

Just this past month when Grandmaster Xu Mingtang was with us, he pointed out that women around the world, on average, live 10 years longer than men. He said he observes in his own teachings and classes (and even yoga classes that he’s gone to in Seattle :)) that a large percentage of participants  - sometimes 80% - are women. (In the one yoga class Xu Mingtang went to, he laughed saying they were all women! He was the only man. He felt it a bit awkward and didn’t go back :)). Women know how to take care of their bodies, of their health well….and this is certainly what I observe in China. Just as I feel like a sponge….learning and absorbing from my dear teachers, Xu Mingtang and Dr. Zhao, I also am continually learning from the many, many wonderful women around me.

A Surprise 
So my time for writing is getting short now…though I’ll share one more thing. This past week while in Beijing, I commuted with Yajun each day to her office, starting from one of the newest, furthest “neighborhoods” in Beijing (it was most recently all farm land so it is super quiet and peaceful there at night with wonderful crickets chirping and singing…such a difference from the continual “renao” – hustle and bustle of the city)…to the capital’s central district. It takes us a 10 min walk to the subway, 2 different subway trains, and a bus ride from Beijing’s Western Train station. It takes about 1.5 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening as the traffic is quite huge. I worked plugging in my computer into one of the Ethernet cables going into their offices 2 internet computers and would hop off whenever someone wanted to get on line….The last 2 days though, Yajun realized there was an empty office – one that one of their visiting managers uses occasionally but he’s usually not there….so I, a mere visitor got to work in one of the nicest offices in the firm! Everyone works in an open space with cubicles and I got moved into my own private office with windows on two sides of downtown Beijing and the surrounding mts (that can be seen on a rare clear day)!!! Wow! So generous of them :)

Hilarious Nature of Cell Phones
Oh, I also have a Chinese cell phone now, which is HILARIOUS!! It has a most obnoxious ring, is extremely loud when I turn it on or off, and makes a ridiculously LOUD variety of beeping tones when I attempt to type in my cumbersome text messages! :) (And I have NOT been able to figure out how to change any of these "noise" settings!) My first few times using it, I kept apologizing for the noise to everyone around me on the elevator, in the bus, in the taxi (at which the taxi driver just laughed) or at the office….but then I observed that most people’s phones make similar rather ridiculously loud sounds and no one seemed the least bit disturbed or annoyed. More they thought it was strange that I was apologizing. I realized it was only me who was embarrassed. :) So if you like loud rings, talking on your phone in public and fancy beeping buttons, come to CHINA! :) You can beep and ring away all you like :)

Okay…so great to share with you all!! Thank you for this opportunity to share! And thank you soooo much for all of you who have written to me. I love to hear from you!! :) Even if I take a while to respond sometimes, know I receive your notes with great love and appreciation and send my big love to you. I will be offline for the next 2 weeks while on my first trekking trip and will have much to share in my upcoming updates.

So much great LOVE to you All!

Kailun 凯伦

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