Sunday, December 16, 2012

Barcelona Angels, Being a "Silly Cow," Earth Wisdom in the Forbidden City, Chicken Heads & a New Destiny for Super Powers

Greetings Friends!!!

Surprise! I’m writing much sooner than I intended as I had some time this weekend before starting my Image Medicine studies with Grandmaster Mingtang. :)
First, remember in my last update how I mentioned my amazing ride I had on a tiny scooter with that little man and my huge luggage? Well a few days ago when in Kunming, I called that "little man" with his "little scooter" to see if he could do that tremendous feat again and take me and my enormous bags to my bus to go to the airport. :) Well, he was delighted to hear from me, came right over on his scooter and we had a wonderful chat while he took me to the bus. And, then to top it off, he said he wanted to give me a free ride, as he was so pleased to have a new American friend. Oh my! I insisted on paying but he said then he felt I was turning down the friendship and to please accept his gift! Gosh, such generosity! :) (see pic of us below…you can’t even see his scooter, it’s so tiny and is behind us…but you can see my big bags :))

An Angel from Barcelona
And then when I arrived in Beijing and was still on my way to my hostel, I had another wonderful surprise :). I had made it quite far with my HUGE bag and was feeling quite proud of myself, as I had hauled it from the airport to the first subway train and on the stairs to the next subway. :) Yet, then when I was on my way out the subway station, I happened to look up my last flight of stairs. Well, when I looked, my jaw must have dropped to my chest. The stairs kept going up as far as I could see and beyond and the escalator happened to be broken :(!! Oh no! And there's no elevator. Well, just as I was about to start the slow and tiring process of lifting my bag one stair at a time, I heard a sweet voice behind me say in English, "Would you like some help with that?" Well I turned around and it was a beautiful woman from Barcelona :). She said she saw the expression on my face when I looked up the staircase and then asked to help me! Oh so sweet!! With the 2 of us, we only needed one rest break and made it pretty easily :). 

Orange Curtains, Wavy Stripes & the Sound of Music!
And then...when I got to my hostel (as I shared on Facebook and I’ve included a couple pics below), I was so delighted to find the room they gave me! It's really cute, has 3 windows, is in the back of the building so away from the busy street, is on the "quiet" floor and has orange painted walls with red curtains and purple, blue, yellow and orange wavy stripes! –oh this is perfect for me! :) And...when I walked in the lobby the night I arrived, guess which movie they were playing? The Sound of Music!!! My all time favorite, and Maria was singing my favorite song, "I Have Confidence.." :)

Okay, so now I’m going to share with you all about when I flew to Beijing in Oct to meet my parents and some of our adventures in Beijing as well as with beloved Dr. Zhao and his family…and conclude with a hilarious story from our Yunnan trekking trip :) So…when my parents came. I was soooo excited!! It was their first time in China!! Oh my goodness – this means so much to me. As you know by now from reading my updates, that China (this includes the language, culture, medicine, qigong, food –yummy!!, people, mountains, rivers, etc) is a big part of me, my life and my life journey and evolution. While I’ve shared countless pictures and stories with my parents about China, Taiwan and my many adventures here, for them to actually be here and have their own embodied experience, is truly precious….and in their own words, has been a journey of a lifetime! :) They also joined me on my 2nd Qigong & Wilderness Trek with Szu-ting in Yunnan Province.

My Parents Come to Beijing, CHINA!
Gosh it was soooo FUN to go pick my parents up at the airport (see pic – they look soooooo happy, huh? :)) I woke up so super duper excited that day that I started dancing around in my hotel room the morning before they arrived…and thought…”What fun it would be to dance with all my friends!” So I made this short dancing video to invite you all to dance with me :). (I posted it on Facebook last month so some of you may have seen it). Here it is: Dancing Joy in Beijing.

Our time in Beijing was super rich. I found us a cute hotel in the heart of old Beijing, just north of Gugong (the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square) and right next to one of Beijing’s beautiful lakes, Houhai. As the traffic in Beijing is horrible (and even that is an understatement!), we got around in the delightful way of biking through the old alleyways. Oh it’s so fun to bike around here (once you get used to “wu wei” “no way” (or really it could be called “any way goes”) principles of traffic here and just make sure to be super aware of your surroundings at all times (no day dreaming allowed when driving or biking in China! :)) Mom was intrigued with the parks and groups of dancing elder women we peddled passed in the morning, and Rick and I soon found yummy “old Beijing” yogurt to sip on. This is yogurt that’s sold in little clay bottles at most little alley way shops that you happily sip and then when done, return to any little shop to be washed and reused.

Earth Wisdom Expressed in the Forbidden City
So we continued peddling on our journey that day to the Forbidden City, a massively impressive city with over 600 years of history and home to 4 dynasties (I may not be remembering all my facts correctly from our tour so please forgive any slight inaccuracies…). I am amazed with the immense intention and precision with which this city was built. It is built honoring the 4 directions with huge gates in all directions, South
– which opens to the vast Tiananmen Square and picture of Mao ZeDong – a portrait that we learned is completely replaced each year and hung on October 1, the country’s national day where 63 years ago, Mao announced the beginning of the People’s Republic of China. It has a gate in the North, opening to the beautiful Jing Shan Park, and gates to the East and West. Opening into the first courtyard/square are 5 archways – the middle and biggest, only for the Emperor to pass through…and his wife the Empress on their wedding day. There are 5 bridges over the “jin shui” river “golden river,” so named as it flows from the West, carrying the golden rays of the sunshine. And the 5 bridges are symbolic in honoring the 5 elements, wood, metal, water, fire…and the 5th element that is always underneath and grounds us, the Earth.

Symbols of dragons and the phoenix abound. The dragon is a symbol of the Emperor and the phoenix, the Empress. The two together bring harmony. And harmony is emphasized all throughout the city, with numerous inner gateways and buildings carrying names such as the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. Each hall has a specific purpose – such as one of the halls (I don’t remember which one now :)) is where the emperor would go to make his most important choices. Even though history is other than a display of harmony, to see it emphasized so deeply within this Emperors’ city and to see so much symbolism of the wisdom of looking to Earth, to Nature for guidance on how to live the wise way, how to find the way of Life and Harmony for the country and its people, was quite moving.

Earth…our Reference, our Grounding as Reflected in the Chinese Language
Also, in a conversation I had with one of my friends in Yunnan and then again with our guide on our day in the Forbidden City, we started ‘waking’ up to the meaning of the names of many of China’s cities and provinces. Many, many of China’s place names are in reference to either direction and/or physical features of the Earth or Sky in that area. For example, Yunnan is the land of the Southern Clouds. Sichuan is the land of the Four Rivers (there are 4 major rivers running through that province). Qinghai is land of the Blue/green Ocean waters, home to one of the world’s largest lakes and the largest salt-water lake in China. Henan (home of beloved Dr. Zhao :)) translates as the land of the Southern River. Hebei is the land of the Northern River. Hunan is the land of the Southern Lake. Jiangxi is the land of the Western River. Shandong is the land of the Eastern Mountains. Shanxi is the land of the Western Mountains….and I could go on and on. Most of these lands are named in reference to direction and the geography of the Earth, recognizing our inherent connection to the land, habitat and waters we come from.

Come Meet Me in “Black Sesame Alley” :)
So I could say so much more about our adventures in Beijing, our time hiking on the Great Wall, our visit with Grandmaster Mingtang at Kundawell, and our dinners with my dear friend Yajun (she also came with us to Kundawell and we were both surprised that Grandmaster Mingtang remembered her from 7 years ago when she dropped me off to meet him to go to Shaolin :)!) When Yajun came to meet up with my Mom, Rick and me, we were all on bikes and she had come via bus…so I had her hop on and ride on the back of my bike while we went to Kundawell. Yajun giggled the whole way as our ride reminded her of how she used to do this all the time with her childhood friends. She also laughed thinking that it must look quite hilarious to have a foreigner taking a Chinese around on the back of her bike! :) Oh and I also found one of “my alleys!” It’s an alley (hutong) that I found off of the famous Nanluoguxiang Alley…in Beijing called “Heizhima Hutong” “black sesame alley way.” Yay! Black sesame is one of my Favorite foods!! :).

Kailun is Back!
So after a few days in Beijing, my parents and I took the train from Beijing to Zhengzhou…and what a joyous reunion to be back with Dr. Zhao and his family!! YAY!!! We were all so happy to be together again!! Both Dr. Zhao and his lovely wife were eagerly awaiting and waving to us as we came up to the South Gate of the Zhengzhou train station. Dr. Zhao dropped Ayi off to start making a most delicious dinner for us while he took us to our hotel to get checked in. I think I explained this in my blog from my last trip to Zhengzhou in the Spring of 2010, that my last time staying at this hotel, I was basically treated as a Queen. They gave me such a beautiful room for much less than the regular price, fed me the most delicious breakfast each day, AND also made an exception for me to eat dinner at night with the staff after I came back from my days in the clinic with Dr. Zhao. And, if I was as much as 5-7 mins late for my dinner with them, they were afraid I wouldn’t have enough to eat and would go back into the kitchen and make additional yummy plates of fresh stir-fried greens, tofu, etc!! AND….they would also sometimes surprise me with the most beautiful plates of freshly and beautifully cut fruits!! I had also become friends with many of the staff people, as I was probably the longest guest they had ever had, as I lived there for 2 months! :) Well, on a side note, when I had called to make reservations for me and my parents to stay there for this visit, when they asked for my name, I gave my Chinese name, Fu Kailun. Well, the fellow on the phone said, “Oh! Ni shi Kailun! Ni yao hui lai!” “Oh, you’re Kailun! You’re coming back!” :)

So in coming back this time, although most of the staff I had known before have left, we were still treated so wonderfully!! Dr. Zhao again reminded me that this good fortune was due to his good relations with many people. In China, getting things done often comes down to the power of “guanxi” – basically your relations, your networks, who you know and how you’re known. Dr. Zhao has a wide circle of many friends, and many, many people who deeply respect him, his mastery, his profession, and who he is as a human being. Well in this case of our “hotel good fortune,” Dr. Zhao is friends with a policeman who happens to be good friends with the owner of this hotel. Two years ago Dr. Zhao called on his policeman friend to help find me a place to stay, who then in turn turned to this hotel owner, “Wang laoban” – literally meaning “Boss Wang” (I’ll refer to him as Mr. Wang).  I never met Mr. Wang last time I was in China, but this time, Dr. Zhao said I was to meet him and helped guide me on preparing some appropriate gifts. So that day, after checking into our rooms, Dr. Zhao said we were to go to the 5th floor to meet Mr. Wang…and I was to bring my gifts.

Meet Mr. Wang ~ a Man of Amazing Generosity
I felt a bit nervous but was also excited to be able to thank him in person. We went upstairs and entered a big rooftop room that was empty except for a table, chair, computer…and Mr. Wang! He immediately stood up with a huge smile, and warmly and sincerely greeted me and Dr. Zhao. While I was the one who felt I should be bending over backwards to thank him for all he did for me 2 years ago…and again for the wonderful rooms they’re providing for me and my parents this time at an amazing rate, he immediately went into saying how happy they were to have me back and to have my parents here. If we needed ANYTHING, to let him know; that he was going to arrange the kitchen staff to wake up and come to work 1/2 hour early the next morning to make sure we could eat breakfast before we left for a day’s outing with Dr. Zhao to Shaolin, and…that rest assured, when we were to leave, he would make sure our ride to the airport was taken care of! WOW!! I was barely able to squeak out an enthusiastic hello and greeting before he told me all this, let alone give him the gifts I had brought! I felt like I was a movie star or something! I am again so deeply moved by the sincere warmth and generosity of these amazing people around me!!!

Love as Family…Until We Become Family
And this generosity just continued through our whole visit. Our first night, after my brief yet wonderful meeting with Mr. Wang, Dr. Zhao took us back to have a most delicious home-cooked meal with Ayi. Really, Chinese food is AMAZINGLY delicious, and when you have the honor to eat a home-cooked meal (and Ayi made it all with vegetables she and Dr. Zhao grew themselves), it is a most wonderful treat. While eating (and several times during our visit), Dr. Zhao exclaimed how wonderful it is to be family. No matter that we have different governments, different cultures, different languages, and live on different sides of the planet, what a most amazing gift it is to love each other as family…and we have now become family. One of my dear guides, friends and mentors, Mick, also known as Barefoot Sensei often reminds me when training with him in the mountains, to “Run as the Mountain, until you become the Mountain”. Here we began loving each other as family, until we became family.

The Gift of Being Called a “Foolish Cow”
We were also laughing at how Dr. Zhao and Ayi, since my last visit with him in 2010, like to call me “sha niu”. I think I also mentioned this in my last blog, yet at the time I didn’t really understand the depth and heart of this term. I actually didn’t get it at all until this past summer when they were visiting in Seattle and then we all had a real good belly laugh! Basically, “sha niu” is a term of endearment and is one that is often only used lovingly with one’s daughter or granddaughter (similar to some of our terms of endearment, such as “sweetie,” “sugar pie,” “sweet pea,” “honey buns”, etc). The fact that they were calling me “sha niu” really pointed to and was a way they were expressing their love for me and their view of me a another daughter in their family. Well…the literal translation of these two words is “foolish cow” …or what in English we would say “silly girl” as ‘niu’ can sometimes refer to a girl. So each time Dr. Zhao or Ayi used this term when referring to me in the past, I would actually get a bit upset. I would almost always adamantly and immediately respond with “Bu sha!” (basically, “not foolish!!”) And while I often smiled when saying it, inside I was frankly upset! Why were they calling me stupid?! :( It wasn’t until this past summer when Dr Zhao and Ayi were visiting that they realized I was upset when they said this, and they then thoroughly explained the sweetness of this term and that they love me as a daughter. Wow! So now when they still continue to call me “sha niu”, I get to both receive the sweetness of their meaning and…we still often enjoy a good laugh too! :)

Hiking Song Mt. by Shaolin Monastery ~ a 2 Billion Year Old Natural Geological Museum
After our delicious dinner, Dr. Zhao took us back to the hotel for an early rest before our next day of adventuring in the Shaolin Mountains. He arrived bright and early with one of those “mian bao che” “loaf-of-bread cars” with Junling’s father-in-law driving (I call him Gugu) and Ayi and Junling’s mother-in-law all smiling and awaiting us with warm greetings when we hopped in. This day was amazing, and Rick, my step father who is a talented photographer, said this was one of the, if not the most beautiful hike he’s ever been on. While I had been on part of this hike while studying with Grandmaster Mingtang in Shaolin (as the trail starts by the Shaolin Monastery), I had never hiked all the way through to the other side of the mountain. This day, Dr. Zhao took us to the other side of the mountain to start our hike, a hike with 7,398 steps through ancient stone over 2 billion years old, a natural geological museum. (See pics below of this amazing place!)

In the middle of our hike, we stopped for a brief lunch and were shown yet another act of wonderful generosity and kindness. Once we sat down, Gugu, Junling’s father-in-law pulled out a rather large and heavy plastic bag from his backpack – something he had been secretly carrying up all these 1,000s of steps on this mountain. He smiled while handing the bag to me saying in Chinese, “Kailun, this is from Junling.” It was a bag with many different types of my favorite Chinese candy! – Shanzha – Hawthorn berry! :) Oh my gosh! Still after 2.5 years, she remembered that I love these candies and even thought to have her Dad haul enough candy to last me 2 months up this mountain for a surprise! :) She also, even though she works with Dr. Zhao in his herbal clinic 6-days a week and is away from her home from 7a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, somehow also found time to make a wonderful snack I can eat (as Henan is known for it’s breads, noodles, steamed buns, dumplings….anything and everything gluten-filled, which sadly means I cannot eat many of these snacks as I’m allergic to gluten :( …). She also made it with my step dad’s health in mind as he was starting to come down with a cold. It was pancake-like fried bread made with fresh corn flour (no wheat) and sautéed dandelion leaves! And it was sooooo delicious! I always see people eating all these amazing fried bread treats which I can only enjoy vicariously…and now, my dear friend, Junling, made me something I could eat, and something to help Rick clear the “heat” in his body and help his cold flu go away. :)

Back to the Clinic!
One of our days in Zhengzhou, I went to the clinic with my Mom to show her where Dr. Zhao does his “magic”, works his Mastery with so many, many patients who come from around the country to see him. His clinic is small and humble, yet the love, harmony, and what some consider healing miracles that happen for many are profound. My Mom was thrilled to finally see the clinic she’s heard much about and seen pics of, and also exclaimed, “How does anyone find him here?” China is so big, and the clinic is small. There is only a small wooden sign outside Dr. Zhao’s clinic door; no sign from the street or arrows pointing to his clinic in the alleyways. Yet, even so, people have a way of doing whatever it takes to find a good doctor. :)

Junling needed to work during our days of touring, as there is always a steady stream of people coming for herbs. Therefore, this day was also a time for me to see one of my “sisters!” :) My other “sister,” Lijun was away taking care of her mother who was in the hospital at the time of our visit (she is all better now, though and has reclaimed her good health :)). Well I only had time to give her a brief hug, present her with a few small gifts…and…clients started coming and she was swiftly back to work filling herbal prescriptions. Oh dear! I really wanted to help, yet I was also terrified of looking like a fool as it had been 2.5 years since I had measured herbs with that little, yet precise Chinese scale, let alone try to find the herbs from those tiny labeled wooden drawers holding over 400 herbs! Plus, my Mom was there….AND, if I were to help out and then look like I had no idea what I was doing, that would be too embarrassing! But as more herbal prescriptions needed to be filled, I stepped behind the counter and asked if I could help, if Junling and Ayi would kindly remind me how to use the scale. I was again amazed at their patience with me, and there was no such judgment like, “Geez! Don’t you remember?!” Junling just got the scale that I had used 2.5 years ago and reminded me how to use it. “Oh yes,” I thought, “I remember. This will be easy.”

Uhummm….Re-learning the Art of Measuring Chinese Herbs
Well then Junling gave me my first task for this prescription to be filled…20 grams of pugongying , dandelion greens for 5 bags of herbs.  Easy enough. So I proceeded to measure out 60 grams for filling the first 3 bags. I turned around to face the counter and the square sheets of paper onto which we put the measured the herbs. I began taking off some of the dandelion greens onto the first square piece of paper. So, if I have 60 grams of greens and 20 go in each bag, that means that once my scale shows 40 grams of dandelion greens remaining, I have successfully put 20 grams in the first bag. At that point, I can move on to measuring another 20 grams, for the 2nd bag, etc. It’s really quite simple, except I kept taking off more and more dandelion greens and the measurement wasn’t getting close to 40 grams! Oh dear! At this point, my face is starting to turn red as I realize I have less then ½ of the 60 grams of herbs left on my scale and yet I’m still putting herbs in the first bag. :( The woman whose prescription I was helping to fill, and her family were all there too, as well as my Mom, all watching me closely. So I realize I can either pretend I know what I’m doing and everything’s fine and risk this woman having the wrong amount of herbs (which is NOT an option), or I say something and admit I’m not succeeding with this apparently very simple task. So I lean over to Junling and say something isn’t right here and that basically “wo you fan cuowu” “I’ve once again made another mistake.” (Note from my last blogs of my time with Dr. Zhao, I became notorious for my many mistakes….fortunately ones we could all laugh about afterwards! :))

Well, Junling, bless her heart, came over to me to assess the scene. She calmly picked out all the dandelion leaves from the bag of herbs and then looked at my scale. I was quite embarrassed at this point….feeling I had thoroughly failed on such a simple task! BUT…then in looking at my scale, Junling said, “Oh! Zhege buxing. Wo yao huan gei ni biede.” “Oh! This scale isn’t working. I’ll get you another one to use.” I can’t tell you how relieved I felt to hear her say this! I think my face went from beet red back to normal in a mere matter of seconds. :)

A Thanksgiving Lunch
Later on that same day, I had planned a meal with Dr. Zhao’s help. I really wanted to do something to express my sincere gratitude, thanks and love for Dr. Zhao, his amazing family, Mr. Wang and Dr. Zhao’s policeman friend. So he helped me arrange a lunch for everyone to come to….Ayi, Dr. Zhao, Junling, her whole family, Mr. Wang and his policeman friend (gosh, I should really remember his name! :(..) Well, but in China, I think especially being a foreigner, sometimes it’s quite challenging to do something like this – even taking one’s Chinese friends/family out to a meal…as they often still find a way to turn it around and take you out instead! For example for this meal, Mr. Wang ended up asking Dr. Zhao if he could get all the dishes ordered himself to make sure they were done well (we were to have the lunch at his hotel restaurant). “Okay,” I thought…but I told Dr. Zhao to make sure Mr. Wang knew this was MY treat. I was taking them out to lunch. Dr. Zhao smiled and called Mr. Wang. Dr. Zhao said basically Mr. Wang would only allow me to pay the basic cost of some of the veggies and dishes, not the retail cost….nor to mention the French wine he ended up bringing too! OMGoodness! So what was to be my treat, ended up being yet another amazing act of generosity on the part of Mr. Wang! :) He did let me contribute some…maybe only enough to cover our appetizers!

Opening Doors and Warming Hearts
Well this lunch that we had was so very special. I was doing a lot of translating as my parents were there too. Mr. Wang was telling us more about the many things he does. He has been extremely successful in many different ventures and has does business with many foreign countries. He is also an excellent chief and used to have his own restaurant. One of the dishes was an excellent egg dish (and I’m not remembering the details of it now except it was DELICIOUS) that he said he created himself. He said I wouldn’t find it anywhere else in China :). And one of his business ventures is selling a certain type of automatic door for big hotels, or other businesses main entry ways. When my Mom heard this, her face lit up and she said how fitting of him to be in this business because on the spiritual side he is doing the same thing. With his big generous heart, he “opens doors” for people in a way where they feel so welcomed, loved and graciously taken care of. Gosh, when I translated this for Mr. Wang, he paused a moment, let this new information sink in, and a deep-seated smile came over him and his being. So beautiful.

Treasure of Friendship &… a Possible New Destiny for America & China
It was also delightful to hear and witness once again how much beloved Dr. Zhao is admired and respected among his peers and community. Both Mr. Wang and his policeman friend again expounded on how much they sincerely love, admire and respect Dr. Zhao, his profession, and his commitment to mastery. And the 3 of them also spoke to the treasure of friendship. That friendships, true dear friendships are one of life’s greatest, most precious gifts. The 3 of them certainly treasure their relationship and I so treasure getting to know all of them too, and seeing them together :). In our conversation of friendship, Mr. Wang also spoke to his hope and vision of America and China developing long-lasting good relations. Just as many Americans and Chinese, such as represented by all of us at this lunch table, have developed such special and lasting friendships, perhaps China and America as countries are destined to do the same. He said with both countries being such “big powers” in the world, if good, honest, friendly, respectful and peaceful relations flourished between the 2 countries, that could have a big influence on encouraging/creating peace on Earth.

Sister Time!
We finished our wonderful lunch around 1:30pm…meaning Junling still had another ½ hour before returning to work. Rick, my step-dad also needed some cold medicine so we both saw this as a perfect opportunity to get in some precious “sister” time. I said I’d go get Rick’s medicine and Junling chimed in that she’d escort me to make sure I got the right kind. Perfect! :) So off we went the two of us down the busy street with our arms linked, walking side by side. Oh how we have missed each other!!! It was so wonderful to be with Junling again! I knew our time wasn’t long so I jumped right in and asked her how she is. She told me of some of her challenges and joys; and of the news that she’s now taught herself how to use the computer and can buy things online :).  She also shared that she had to move as her old place was torn down (the whole neighborhood actually where I was with Dr. Zhao last time has been completely demolished. It’s part of the government’s plan to modernize the city and make all new, high skyrise buildings and wide streets). She and her family are living with some relatives and will be able to move closer to Dr. Zhao’s clinic when their new home is built and finished in ~3-5 years. We made the most of our short time together, as after buying the medicines, I then walked with her back to the clinic…and as there was no one there yet, we went back into the herbs storage room where Junling and I chatted and giggled some more. I asked her if she’s been practicing her dancing. She laughed and said no,… “But, have you heard this great song,” she asked excitedly in Chinese? She had it on her cell phone and played it for me – I had heard it a bunch in Shuhe, Yunnan and it’s a great dance tune :). She then also showed me this thing that’s like a hacky sack (in that you play with it by kicking it in the air with your feet) but it looks a bit different in that it has several colorful feathers dangling from it. Junling’s quite good at it! I managed to kick it once or twice before it dropped with a dud followed by our giggles :).

So as there was still no one at the clinic by 2:30pm, Junling then walked me back partway to my hotel, and we were all the while still linked arm and arm. Neither of us wanted to let go as we both love each other so, and this visit was much too short. But I told her I’ll be back there after the Chinese New Year and we’d have much more time then. Oh, “women dou shebude likai” “we both cant’ stand the thought of leaving…” We share such a wonderful warmth, closeness and wonderful friendship!

The Dangers of Biking with Foreigners Around
Oh and I just remembered one other funny story to share from our time in Henan Province. On our 2nd full day, Dr. Zhao arranged some of his relatives to take me and my parents to see Henan University. That day I wore a bright colored skirt I bought in Yunnan. As Dr. Zhao’s younger sister was taking us on a tour around campus, I was walking next to my Mom (who, by the way also draws a lot of attention for her beautiful, shiny white wavy hair! :) A rare site and to have that hair on the head of a foreigner is even more rare :)). Well as we were walking, there was this young fellow riding his bike past us. He saw my Mom and I and then kept looking….uhummm…even though his feet kept peddling and his bike kept moving forward…until…he…well, ran into a bush and fell off is bike!!! OMGoodness! It was so funny!! A friend of his saw the whole thing, went running over to him laughing (he was alright by the way) and the two of them got up, and kept looking our way while stumbling back onto the path. Ha! I guess we must have been a sight to see! It was so funny. :)

Oh dear! I haven’t even said anything about our Yunnan trek yet and this update is also amazingly long :)….BUT! I have a really funny story to share with you from our time in Yunnan before I end this update…

A Most Unsuccessful Yet Enormously Hilarious Dinner in Yunnan
So, I often speak of the amazing Chinese food I get to eat here and the variety of dishes, snacks, etc I’m discovering or being introduced to via friends. Well it’s one thing to successfully venture out and find a meal or snack that delights oneself,….and it’s quite another ball game or skill to do this for a whole group of people. While on our 2-week Yunnan trip, Szu-ting was quite busy with making sure all our logistics were in place, so she took a few evenings of rest while I took our group out for dinner. I had had some good success with this already; and it seems like a simple enough task, right? Well, in the Chinese art of cooking, each dish is balanced in terms of the colors and tastes. For example, a dish of stir-fried tofu also usually has some green and/or red peppers or tomato not only for flavor but also to add to the beauty, color of the presentation. Similarly, in ordering a meal, one must consider the colors, flavors (salty, savory, sour, spicy, sweet), etc and order something that is balanced and pleasing both to the palate and to the eyes and nose. :) And on this particular evening I’ll describe below…add to the mix of considerations that I’m taking a group of Americans out, so I know their palate is a bit different than many Chinese, and….that two of these Americans happen to be my parents (so I have the additional desire of wanting to be a good daughter and make sure they eat the best food I can find for them :)).

Ok, so with this background, on this particular evening I’m taking our group out to eat. Well, I could have gone the easy, safe route of going to a restaurant recommended by Yanzi’s friend (she helps manage Yanzi’s inn we were staying at), BUT…instead I got enticed by the site of a hotpot place right next to the flowing stream with outdoor seating, live music nearby, and blurted out, “Oh how about hotpot? Would you like to eat here?” I had already had a successful experience with taking them out to hotpot once before, so I thought this would be good too. Well, it ended up being a most unsuccessful choice! 

We had a waitress that pouted and ignored us much of the time. And to start, I looked at the menu and saw they had a hotpot with chicken and wild mushrooms in the soup base and then you could order and add other veggies, tofu, sweet potato, etc. Well, this looked good, I thought. Chicken is a mild tasting meat that most people eat in the States. It seemed like a safe choice that everyone would enjoy. And the wild mushrooms…they are a local specialty in this area of Yunnan. I had ordered such mushrooms several times at another restaurant and they were a favorite dish of mine. So the chicken and mushrooms…I thought this would be a good combination of “safe meat” with a local specialty.

Well it took forever for this hotpot to come out and in the meantime we had some not so pleasant exchanges with our pouty waitress. When it finally did come out, the pot was almost overflowing with strange meaty-looking fleshy things. And then I realized, “Hmmm…these are the wild mushrooms.” And they tasted super wild too! :(  Which I quickly thought was not the best for my Mom who was just getting over the stomach flu. “Well, the chicken meat and broth would be good for her, right” I thought to myself? Right then, Martha let out a squeal. She had just fished out a piece of what she thought was benign, unassuming good ol’ chicken meat with her chop sticks and was bringing it to her mouth when she opened her eyes to see a chicken head staring back at her! Oh dear!!! I quickly fished around in the pot in front of me (it was a big boiling pot of soup in the middle of the table) and promptly pulled out a chicken foot! Oh no! :( I had forgotten to ask if the chicken soup would just have chicken meat in it, or…..the whole entire chicken! While this is normal in China to cook up an entire chicken or fish, etc (and frankly quite great I think that they use every part of an animal they take for food…even if I don’t personally eat some of these parts), it is not in the States. And…my dear Mom who hadn’t really eaten anything in 2 days as she was recovering from the stomach flu, and this was to be her 1st real dinner, took one startled look at the chicken head, pulled away from the table and put her chopsticks down. Rick also quickly lost his appetite too. Oh no! :( Martha, had a good sense of humor though and quickly got out her camera to take this pic of the chicken head! Ha! She ate a bit that night but I think I’m the only one that left our dinner table with a full belly! Ah well. It makes for a funny story and lots of laughs, though, right?! :-)

Okay!  I did it, another update before my Image Medicine studies start tomorrow :).

Again, I mentioned I probably won’t write too much the next few weeks as I’ll be both working and in class, BUT…I may send some shorter notes :)

So much Love to you All and I wish you all a most Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Joy and Love-filled Holi-Jolly-days :)!

KarenJOY ~Kailun ~ 凯伦
p.s. Here's a few more pics of a Monastery we visited in Shangri-la...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Energetic Information, Receiving Gifts, Tiny Scooters, Tickling Tummies, the Happiest Family & the 1st Sunrise

Greetings Friends!!

Oh boy! So much to share again!! :) First, though, Happy 12/12/12!!! :-) Gosh, I know I have much to share from Beijing, Zhengzhou and Yunnan….and I’m still going to start with where I have recently been. Gosh, have any of you been to Guangxi Province, particularly the Yangshuo and Xingping area, or by Erhai Lake in Dali, Yunnan, or the little remote village of Nuodeng in the Yunnan mountains? Oh it is magnificently beautiful in all these places! As for Yangshuo, many of you have probably seen pics of this area as the scenery is quite famous and is on many Chinese paintings. Also, the 20 RMB (Chinese money) has a scene from this area…I’ve even been to that specific spot that’s painted on the 20 RMB note :).

Energetic Information ~ “LuAn has arrived!”
So before I flew to Guilin from Xiamen in Fujian Province, I had that opportunity to speak with the students in LuAn’s (Prof Keller’s) class at Xiamen University that I mentioned in the last update. Afterwards LuAn and I went out for a yummy vegetarian dinner and shared about so many things. At one point she was telling me about her many travels and adventures in India. We were sharing about the joy of adventuring abroad, being in a new place and how traveling has a way of easily opening our spirits to the unknown, to receive the unexpected magic and care and delightful surprises from the Universe. She told me about a time when she was in India with her former husband. At one point her husband was in a neighboring village and she decided to go find him. Her local friends told her how to take a bus to that town…and that’s all she knew. She had no idea how she would find him once she got there. And in fact, she hadn’t even thought about doing this, until many of her local women friends suggested she have an adventure and go find him. “Okay!:),” she thought, and off she went! Well, when she arrived and was dropped off, she realized she could be a bit fearful or nervous being dropped off in a new unknown place like this, or, instead she could have a very different experience. As she stepped off the bus, she chose to relax. She was consciously aware that as she planted both feet into the ground, an energetic message of “Lu An has arrived” was slowly or swiftly making its way out throughout the town, subtly but surely organizing her arrival and proceeding events. Her job was to relax, be conscious and be open to being received. Whether it took a few minutes or hours for the outer manifestation of this communication to come full circle back to her, didn’t matter as the message was being delivered, and she could relax and enjoy. Well, just then a jolly, handsome Indian man approached her with jet black shiny hair, bright eyes, a stunning, friendly smile and with his wonderful head-bobbing and Hindi accent, he asked, “Madame, Hello. How may I help you? Who are you looking for?” She told him her husband’s name and he smiled and said, “Okay, then you come with me; we will find him together.” And they proceeded to go all around the hilly town together having a delightful conversation…until they did indeed find her husband. :)

Well I love this story she shared! And I especially loved it as I was about to go to a whole new part of China in which I didn’t know anyone. I was flying from Xiamen to Guilin, Guangxi Province the very next day and then going on to the town of Yangshuo. But before I left, my dear friend Hai Dan came to pick me up for a quick lunch before going to the airport. And, guess who we ran into on our way out? Rolph, that very young “old” man from Sweden!! HaHa!! He laughed so delightedly as he had just mentioned me to the person he was chatting with, turned around and there I was with Hai Dan!! What a fun surprise for us all!! So we ended up enjoying lunchtime all together once more before I left :)

Message Received ~ Kailun is Here! 
So back to my point, after our delicious lunch and loving farewells, I hopped on my plane to fly to Guilin, Guangxi Province. I had a vague idea on how to get to the town of Yangshuo (my destination and about a 2-3 hour trip from Guilin), I knew I could ask people for directions and, remembering LuAn’s story, I also knew I could relax. Well, once off the plane, I headed out to the curb to get a taxi for the local bus station. Yet as I was walking towards the door, I happened to look at the woman behind the information desk to the right of the door. She happened to look up, our eyes met and she smiled and said, “Ni yao qu nali?” “Where would you like to go?” I told her I was going to the Guilin bus station to catch the bus to Yangshuo. She smiled and said in Chinese, “Well, you can take this blue bus right out here for only 20 yuan; get off at the first stop and from there take a taxi to the bus station for only 10 yuan. Or you can take a taxi directly to the bus station for 100 yuan.” Wow! She just saved me a bunch of money. I thanked her and happily walked out to the blue bus, paid my 20 yuan and hopped on. So I relaxed and when at the first stop, I gathered my things to hop off. The young fellow in front of me leaned over to the bus driver on his way out, asking about how to get to the bus station I wanted to go to. “Oh, perfect!” I thought, and then I tapped his shoulder, smiled and asked if he’d like to get a taxi together. “Sure!” he said. Well getting a taxi with a native is actually much easier, I’ve found, than trying to flag one down on my own. Some taxi drivers are a bit shy of foreigners, fearing that their English isn’t good enough or that our Chinese will be too hard to understand…but with a native, oh it’s pretty easy to get a taxi in a jiffy! :) So we got our taxi and sped along to the bus station…and then, this young man proceeded to walk with me to the ticket counter to make sure I bought the “express bus” ticket which would be a straight shot to Yangshuo, versus the local bus which meanders all over bumpy roads making various local stops. Oh how sweet and very helpful of him!! And then, when I thought he’d surely had enough of “taking care of” this foreigner, he walked me over to make sure I found and got on the right bus! Gosh, so helpful!! :)

So at 5:15 the bus left, I arrived in Yangshuo around 7pm, and checked into my hostel. I didn’t have any set plans, nor had I done any prior research on this area as to where exactly I wanted to go or what I wanted to see. I just knew I was drawn to this place and was open to give, receive and experience the Land and waters there. I also, drawing on LuAn’s story, knew that the energetic message of “Kailun lai le!” “Karen is here!” was subtly and surely making it’s way through the ground and life forms here, and if I relaxed, I would be shown and experience what I came here for. :) So…with that in mind, the first task for me was to once again explore the yummy foods available and enjoy yet another delicious Chinese meal. YAY!

Trust and Receiving Gifts 
Also, before arriving here in Yangshuo, I had talked to one of my friends in the States, Chuck. He’s a clairvoyant and I was talking with him about my travels. When he looked at my time in Yangshuo from what he calls a “reading state,” he saw there was something very special I could receive here. It could be easy to slip by it, but he said as long as I stayed grounded in my heart, followed my intuition and what “felt right,” I could likely encounter this special gift or gifts. Wow…okay, I thought, and I then planted this internal reminder to, when making choices, to check in at an embodied level, what was feeling right. So with these information and awareness, I meandered through the streets to find my grumbling tummy a good meal. I went into one place…but it “felt” off, so I left and went down another small, bright and warmly lit alley way. I stopped at one friendly and delicious-looking Taiwanese place, chose it and walked in.

While eating and chatting with the waitresses and the Taiwanese owner, I started sharing of my love of hiking and backpacking. At this point, a fellow who had been busily typing away on his iPad at the corner window table, perked his head up, smiled and said he too loved hiking and knew many places in this area. He’s an outdoor guide and could give me some tips on places I would like to see that weren’t the main tourist attraction sites. Well, at this point, I had already picked up my dinner tray and was sitting across from him at his table ready to learn. :) Many people in China travel with big tour groups when going to a new place. While this often appears to be the “safe” option, in many instances, it can also be disappointing, as many tours are rushed, crowded, and people are shuttled from one tourist attraction site to another, finally to head home with a sense of only having seen a superficial glimpse of what a place truly has to offer. (This is why so many of these young women I’m meeting are so THRILLED to be out traveling on their own and having some most amazing, magical experiences! They are taking a different path from the “model” set before them.) And I often too steer away from the presented tourist attractions and quest to find the smaller paths that tread and touch more deeply into the Lands I’m visiting.

So, back to Migao…. It turns out this man is an extraordinary human being with a big, generous heart and a beautiful vision. He used to work in the big city of Shenzhen just outside of Hong Kong. Yet, he found himself feeling depressed, his spirit cramped and unhappy. He started coming to Yangshuo for some short trips, and felt great relief in his being in coming here. So he started doing some side work, leading some outdoor trips on weekends in Yangshuo. He slowly started decreasing his time in Shenzhen until he left his work and moved to Yangshuo to fully invest in manifesting his 户外 "huwai" – outdoor career. Yet he is here for much more than starting his new career. On our many hikes and bike rides in the couple weeks I was there, he’s shared with me his vision. And he shared of some about the “black tourist industry” where some companies as I mentioned earlier are most interested in making money, not in people’s happiness and in assisting them in touching into the beauty of the Land they visit. Instead, they arrange people’s schedules super full, visiting some popular spots but then also taking people to specific shopping sites, where the tour companies get commissions on the products sold and make shopping sometimes literally a mandatory part of the tour. Migao, instead is interested in leading and organizing trips similar to what Szu-ting and I did this fall, active journeys that take people out into nature, and allow people to really experience and become a part of the Land, people, culture, wilderness that they’re visiting. Big, busy bus tours don’t go to these places. They have different goals. Our goals are for people to experience happiness, connection and a natural inner transformation as a result of the visit. Migao and I shared how these are the things are what we find important, as well as being of service….contributing to having a thriving humanity and Planet where people live from a place of inner Joy, Love and Respect for Life. Being out in nature naturally awakens our innate connection to our Earth, and naturally cultivates our hearts and beings as stewards of our Home. We are both thrilled to now know each other and he has now become my “gege” 哥哥 “big brother” in Yangshuo :) -- definitely one of my "special gifts" my friend Chuck said I may receive.

Beauty of Brothers & Sisters 
The other day when sipping some soup after a hike up a local mountain, I asked Migao more about his family. He’s an only child, his father passed away when he was 14, and his mother lives a bit far away in Hunan Province. He does have a 17-year-old daughter but he and his wife are divorced. (He explained that like many Chinese in his generation, he was married quite young, at 21 yrs of age and was not at all ready for married or family life at the time.) But he explained to me that he’s not at all lonely; he likes the company he keeps, and he’s created his own extended family of many, many friends. And I’ve mentioned this before in other blogs, that I LOVE how the Chinese address each other. For example, when two women are really good friends, they call each other older sister (jiejie) or younger sister (meimei) depending on their relative age. And if one is good friends with a younger or older man, one calls him didi (younger brother) or gege (older brother). I think this way of speaking is even more strongly used with my generation and the generations younger than me, as many of them are only children. So, as they don’t have any blood related brothers or sisters, they have their own “chosen” family of brothers and sisters. There have been so many times when I’m with some of my young Chinese friends, and they have introduced each other as sisters or brother and sister, and I thought they were blood relatives…until later I’d realize, or they’d explain that they aren’t related by blood, but are still nonetheless family :).

Generosity Abounds!!!
And people are sooooo sweet and so incredibly look out for each other here. I witness this all the time between friends, between people's "chosen" families, and also am often a recipient of this amazing sweetness and care taking. I’m continually amazed by people’s generosity. The other day when checking out of my youth hostel in Yangshuo, one of the young women on staff ran out from behind the reception desk and gave me a huge hug, saying “Oh wo shebude ni likai!” “Oh I can’t stand the thought of you leaving!” Wow! I was so surprised and touched! While we had been friendly with each other, she often seemed a bit reserved to me…yet, to come out and say this and give me such a big hug (several of them really, and then she held onto my arm shaking it up and down asking, “ni shenme shihou zai guolai ne?” “When are you coming back?”) was a wonderful surprise. :)

And then my friend, Migao also showed up the day I left Yangshuo with a huge bag of ‘jinju’ – these yummy little citrus fruits that grow in the villages here – there’s so delicious and SWEET!--, and a large bag of dried persimmons (there’s many of these trees growing here too and they dry these yummy fruits into what they call ‘shizi bing’ persimmon cakes :)). So thoughtful!! Though these fruits did seem to add at least another 5 lbs to my already FULL bags…I still haven’t fully figured out the “traveling light” thing :). He also, for about the 10thtime, reminded me that I really must buy much heavier, warmer clothes for going to Beijing and make sure I keep warm and that my feet are warm. :) Then, once I was on the bus on my way out of town, I received a text from a friend wishing me a safe trip and to make sure I let him know when I safely get to my next destination. And…soon after, I got a text from Amy (another dear friend I met here from Shenzhen who I introduce more below) wishing me a safe trip, saying she looks forward to our next visit, reminding me to keep my purse in front of me (I had a habit of letting it hang on my backside while we were walking together in town), wishing me much happiness in the rest of my travels and mentioning that she misses me! (Of course, written in Chinese, it takes much fewer characters to say all this than in English :)). And on Thanksgiving, even though it obviously isn’t celebrated here in China, I had friends from all over China texting me that day to wish me and my family a very happy Thanksgiving! So sweet!!! Gosh, I continually feel so loved and cared for by all these beautiful people!

Power of Connection
With all my travels, I so value connection. Connection with the Land, connection with these people I meet, connection with my own growth, yearnings, and quest to be of service, and to share a deep inner Joy. I can’t put a claim on this Joy I feel, it is a flow, a gift that flows through me when I’m open, when I’m grounded and connected and when I’m following my Heart’s expression. The more I share, the more I receive. I feel sharing is really one of the big purposes and services for me being here.

For example, the other day I arrived in the amazingly rustic, remote, and stunningly beautiful little village called Nuodeng (诺邓古村) in Yunnan Province with over 1,000 years of history up in the mountains ~4 hours from Dali. I was so, sooooo thrilled and amazed to be here when I arrived as the village is all built into the side of a mountain, no cars, just cobbled-stoned streets, clay and brick houses, mules and horses, terraced fields and plots of organic veggies, stacks of drying corn for pig feed, little piglets and quite large oinking pigs, and so many birds, big beautiful healthy trees, fresh air, blue, blue BLUE sky and millions of the brightest, twinkling stars I’ve ever seen! So after I had just arrived following a long day of travel, I climbed up through the winding village cobble-stoned pathways to find my homestay place, put my bags down and out I went again to explore before sunset. On my way back, I happened to explore another little path to take me to the top of the hill to overlook the village.

Tickling Tummies
Well at the top was a beautiful farming family’s home :). The mother smiled at me and asked if I’d like to come in and sit for a bit. I was a bit nervous about imposing as I just showed up on their land, but….her children were sooo cute (a 9 y/o girl and a 2 y/o boy :)), and I was curious to see their home, so I said yes and walked in. Most homes here are built 1 to 2 stories with an open courtyard (open to the sky) and an open kitchen and grain storage rooms with a couple rooms with closed doors for sleeping. I walked in and sat on one of their little stools and first started chatting with the 9 y/o girl, Yang Zhicheng 治城. She is sooo super sweet. She was excited to meet me and asked me about America. I asked her about her school and her life here, and her Mom, grandmother and little brother soon joined us. Her mom was also thrilled I could speak Chinese and just wanted to talk and talk…and the whole time we were chatting, her adorable little boy kept coming up to me and sticking out his belly for me to tickle…which I promptly would, and he’d squeal and run and bury his face into his grandmother’s lap :). Hee! And then he started coming up and turning his back to me, and I’d rub his back like I used to LOVE to have my mom rub my back when I was little. And again he’d first lean into my rubs and then start giggling and run back over to “Nainai” “Grandma.” The little girl and her mom then shared how she was actually in a movie that was filmed in Nuodeng 4 years ago. How neat! She’s so proud of it and wanted to know if I’d seen it yet :). She then proceeded to draw a beautiful picture of a rabbit and frog and gave it to me, her “Meiguo Ayi” “American Auntie” as a gift! (see pic below) Oh so adorable! And..we talked and talked (while of course continuing to tickle the little brother) until the sunset sky turned into a dark night sky with thousands of twinkling stars. So then this little girl, Yang Zhi Cheng, walked me back to my hostel for tonight, asking if I would please come back the next day when she got home from school :). Gosh, I’m sharing all this as another example of these kinds of super special encounters and sharings are so mutually beautiful, enriching and are one of the things that make life truly delightful and meaningful. This kind of cross-cultural exchange and sharing of our lives, and sharing a mutual admiration, respect, love, joy and generosity is one of my main callings in being here. And I feel so grateful to and for these beautiful people I’m meeting and how deeply and beautifully they welcome me into their homes, into their lives.

Come Meet Amy!!!
So back to my time in Yangshuo for a moment, another gift I received when there was my friendship with Amy. About ½ way through my stay, I felt strongly I wanted to extend my time. I had already bought my plane ticket though, and like in the states, it’s often quite expensive to change one’s flight last minute. But, remembering my friend Chuck’s advice to listen to what felt right, I decided to call my airline and ask…just in case. :) Well, I was sooooo surprised! Not only was it not expensive to change my flight, it was FREE! And in addition, the woman helping me on the phone, said I’d actually get 128 RMB (~$21) back as the flights on the day I wanted to switch my flight to were cheaper! Really? Ha! This is amazing! So I stayed. And I shared good news with Migao that night at dinner. He was happy too and immediately called his good friend, Amy from Shenzhen, to let her know I would still be here when she arrived in just one day. 

Well Amy came and we immediately loved each other! She’s such a free spirit, is adventurous, alive and glows with her own inner enthusiasm and playfulness. Our first night together when the 3 of us were having dinner, I said, “Do you like to dance?” Amy both sat up and lit up like a glowing flower immediately saying, “ YES!!” That night we went out dancing the first time together and had such a blast!! I think the dance club did especially well with business that night as it was packed and there was a crazy dancing “waiguoren” “foreigner” and Chinese girl on the stage! :) (see couple pics below).

We shared so much too -- in conversation, in our hiking adventures, in our dancing and jumping in the grasses and trees, and also spontaneously dancing to the hit "gangnam style" when she whipped out her hand-held music player (really it looked like a bike light! so small yet the music quality was great!) while on the trail! Ha! :) One night when I came back from a solo overnight in the small village of Xingping, both Amy and Migao met me at the bus station. Amy was so sweet as she ran up to me, swung her arms around me and said, “Wo hao xiang ni o!” “I’ve so missed you!!!” :-)

Girls Sleepover ~ Giggles, Glitter, Dancing, Sharing, Marriage, Travel, Dreams-fulfilled
That night, Migao took an evening of rest and Amy and I had our own girls night out, with dinner, dressing up in our glitter, and dancing, dancing, dancing followed by a sleepover. Girls having sleepovers are always conducive to staying up late and talking, sharing, laughing, talking and giggling, and talking some more. Amongst our many topics, we talked about marriage and how she also has so many dreams to fulfill. In China, many young women feel the pressure to get married early, but, she said, “While of course many people are happily married, I've also witnessed that after getting married it seems many doors close.” She explained that she’s seen so many of her own young friends get married, start a family and then wish they had had more time to explore, to discover themselves in the world, to travel. “Many of my friends have urged me to take my time,” she said, but she feels much pressure from her family to follow the “normal laid out path.” She said she loves meeting foreigners and hearing about our lives and the multitudes of creative ways we live them out. It helps feed her own imagination of what’s possible for her and her life, and also to listen to and for an expression that reflects or mirrors to her what she also truly desires. When on the subject of marriage, I saw Amy’s eyes get teary and could sense some of the fear she feels, yet…on the other side of this fear is her grand excitement for her life and what’s possible in her life.

I asked her to tell me about her dreams, and again, just like when I asked her if she liked to dance, she lit up and glowed! She shared how she desires to open a coffee/tea shop in Yangshuo with a few girlfriends. She desires to travel, especially to Tibet this coming year, to learn English and to travel to many countries abroad. She looked at me and said in Chinese, “Kailun, when I’m old and am about to die, I don’t want to have any regrets about not living fully. I want to be able to sit and relax and enjoy all my many, many wonderful memories of my adventurous, beautiful life.”

While Amy is working now, she has plans to quit her job this spring to begin fulfilling on her travel dreams and will take 2 months to travel in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. In the summer or fall, she’ll go to Tibet. And she and Migao are also planning to work together on leading some outdoor trips. What a beautiful being Amy is! Her spirit shines with such a boldness, purity and strength. I am so excited for her, her Life expression and the many many people she will touch and inspire along the way!

So my time in Yangshuo was wonderful….In between doing my writing work (on a beautiful rooftop deck overlooking the Li River :)), practicing Qigong by the river, eating all sorts of yummy local foods (I’ve included some pics below), and dancing some nights, I enjoyed much exploring of this area via bike and hiking. One of the hikes was on a rainy, misty day. I didn’t bring my camera so as to make sure it stayed dry, but the scenery was magical with low hanging fog and the surrounding mountains were a grey/blue color with the green river meandering through them…so other-worldly…And above I have included a pic of one biking trip and us sneaking in a few fresh, organic pomelo fruits that had fallen from the orchard trees in a nearby village, and below are pics of our wonderful hike from the small village of Yangdi, up and over a little mountain, and back to the small village of Xingping.

Dreamtime and Blue Water Oceans
So before I started this month of travel and writing work (it’s my month in between our last trekking trip in Yunnan and my time of Image Medicine study in Beijing with my Qigong Grandmaster, Xu Mingtang – which starts next week :)), I put a question to my dreamtime about where to go during this month. In my dream, I was by the ocean….hence I chose to go to Xiamen – the city Hai Dan lives in and invited me to and which is right on the ocean. And I also had several images of being next to such deep, deep blue waters, a stone walkway, and having a wide expansive view. Well when in the small fishing village of Shuanglang on our Yunnan trekking trip in early November, I recognized these waters and images from my dream. So I also knew that Shuanglang was one of the places for me to return to as well. Therefore, after my time in Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, I hopped on a plane to return to Yunnan….

The Most Awesome Tiny Scooter Ride
And I LOVE being in Yunnan again!! I think it is my favorite province (if I had to choose, which luckily I don’t :)). And, when I arrived at the Kunming airport, I had the most fun and frankly amazing scooter rides ever! I got off my bus from the airport, which dropped us off at a hotel in town. From there I went to the street to get a taxi, and well, I quite honestly didn't know how I would find one as it was rush hour and there were so many cars and trucks with little room for a taxi to pick me and my BIG bag up :). But, then came along a little man on a little scooter. (He is little and his nickname is Little Xiao :)). He said, "I'll take you and your bag. Where are you going?" "What?!" I thought. "How in the world can you even think it possible for my gigantic bag, my over stuffed backpack and tall, long-legged me to all fit with you on your little, tiny scooter?!," I thought to myself. Yet, I was intrigued, so I told him the name of my youth hostel and he said, "No problem. 10 yuan."...What?! This was even cheaper than a taxi, so it didn't seem he was doing this for getting a good deal from a foreigner. Hmmm, I thought,... I just couldn't see how we would all fit on his tiny scooter! But he was so friendly and so positively sure he could do it, that I decided to give it a try. And sure enough, in less than 2 minutes he had my big bag and backpack in front of him and I fit on the bike behind him! Amazing!! He was super friendly as we chatted while buzzing through the busy streets of Kunming and was all excited to hear I'm from the States. He had given rides to 4 Americans in the last few days and laughed saying, "Wo gen Meiguo ren hen you yuan fen!" "I have a special destiny or fate with Americans!" :)

Yunnan ~ the Place of Magnificent Skies, Mountains, Lakes, Twinkling Stars and Sunsets
So as I said, I love being back in Yunnan. It is such a special place with vast blue, blue skies, amazing tall mountains and the waters of Erhai Lake are pristine, blue, blue, BLUE, expansive and beautifully express the dynamic sky and it’s amazing sunsets and sunrises. Before going to the small mountain village of Nuodeng that I mentioned earlier, I went back to Shuanglang…the small fishing village I mentioned seeing in my dream. Gosh…so beautiful there!! I could take up all my photo space with just pics of the sunrises during my qigong practice, and the amazing sunsets (I’ve included a few pics below)! On my first morning there, I awoke super early with my new friend, Christina (that’s her English name – many of my Chinese friends love to have the chance to use their English names with me, just as I love using my Chinese name here :)). We both awoke a little after 5 a.m. as we were soo excited to go see the sunrise! At 27 years of age, this was going to be Christina’s first ever to-see-with-her-own-eyes sunrise! Wow! What a treat to enjoy that with her! So, as it was still pitch black outside at 5 a.m., we tried to sleep a bit longer….but alas we were too giddy, and finally got up and were out in the still cold, starry night sky at 6:45 a.m. Hmm…one of the locals had told us the sun rose at 7a.m. so we were hurrying to get to our special spot….but with it still quite dark out, we began to wonder… :)…Turns out the sun doesn’t actually rise until after 8:15 a.m., BUT…it was soooo stunningly beautiful to watch the night turn to day, the stars fade into a pink and periwinkle sky with a growing orange glow on the horizon. We saw many fishing boats heading out into the great lake too as the morning was arriving. …And then to finally see the glorious Sun peak over the mountainside and spill and pour Her grand rays of golden light across the valley, lake waters and the mountains on the other side was truly magnificent and so worth our chilly, patient wait. :)

Tania the Queen! :)
So my 3rd day in Shuanglang I met a woman who, I knew after meeting her, was one of the reasons for me being guided to go back to that town. For a couple of afternoons during my stay, I would go to this amazing youth hostel called Sky Sea Lodge, 海地生活. They have an outdoor seating area right on the water of Erhai lake with a most amazing, stunning view of the waters and surrounding mountains, and most magnificent sunsets. On my first day there doing my writing work, I noticed this tall, beautiful woman, and the only other foreigner I saw in this village. She spoke some Chinese and was busy working with several people that first day. The second day I went, however, this woman, Tania, came up to me. Turns out she is from Germany and she and her husband are living in Shuanglang now. She does healing work and has opened a “spa” in the youth hostel. She works with many, many Chinese women and though she says her Chinese is not good enough to talk as deeply and share as much as she’d like to with these women, she is offering information, new doorways, options and love to them all through her Images and Energetic work. Her “spa” is called Dragonfly in Chinese, as dragonflies are beings that symbolizes Transformation. She has a beautiful guiding vision, an elegance and grace of a Queen, and a delightful, glowing and adventuresome Spirit. We shared so very much in our conversation, our own paths and calls to service, what we’re learning in our time in China, and we both had a sense of recognition of each other in our meeting…it was meant to happen…

One of the Happiest Families Ever
Oh my goodness! I’m also excited too to share with you one of the most amazing evenings I had in Nuodeng up in诺邓古村, that other little village I mentioned earlier that I visited in the Yunnan Mts. It was again with that adorable family that lives up the hill from where I was staying. The little girl, Yang Zhicheng, had asked me to come by after she got home from school that day….so I walked up the hill in the evening setting sun around 5:30p.m. and had a most joy and love-filled time with them!! And they are one of the happiest families I have ever met! At first I chatted a bunch with the Dad, as he had many questions about the U.S. since he wasn’t there last time I came,….and all the while he and his daughter and son were also coming over to him, whispering things in his ears, lovingly tugging on this ears and poking his belly and they were all just laughing :). The grandmother is adorable too. She just speaks the local dialet of the Bai minority people, but her smile, warm heart and laughter say it all.

And then while Yang Zhicheng was doing her homework, I played with the little one again. He kept running up to me and this time turning his back as if awaiting my now-known-and–loved back rubs. And then he had me pick him up and we had fun taking pics. We also went out behind their home courtyard to see the roosters, donkeys, chickens and to watch his Dad feed their many enthusiastic pigs! They then insisted on me staying with them for dinner and Yang Zhicheng, once done with her homework, excitedly took me to see their beautiful abundant veggie garden where she proudly pointed out all the different veggies and flowers. What a beautiful and abundant garden!!!

Dinner was delicious! And so wonderful to be with the whole extended family sitting in their little kitchen with one of their little tables (~ 1ft high) and little squat stools :)….And our after dinner entertainment was complete with Yang Zhicheng insisting I draw her some pics (so I drew my hat and an ear of corn that she snatched from their upstairs corn storage for me to sketch :)), and then….drum roll…Yang Zhicheng performed several songs and dances for me! Oh so sweet!! I video-recorded a couple of them and the whole family was sooo delighted to see the whole show replayed! I joked with Yang Zhicheng that now she’s been filmed in at 4 movies (albetit these were quite short snippets :)). Oh…we talked and talked again until the night starry sky had long since arrived, none of us wanted to say goodbye…They told me about many trails in the area and how next time I come, they could take me to many places and I could ride their horse too. Oh another beautiful family I already love so much!! I feel so blessed and am so grateful to have met them. We all said we would treasure our memories of our meeting in our hearts forever.

12/12/12 at 12 noon ~ Surprise in Dali Old Town!
So I enjoyed a most picturesque hike out of Nuodeng on the old Salt Trade path (as Nuodeng is famous for it’s salt production and was a destination on the salt trading route in the past). I included a pic above where you can see the whole village on the mountain side, and do you see the big tree towering above all the houses? That is a most amazing, beautiful wise tree that blesses the whole village! :)

I then took the bus from the town of Yunlong that I hiked to back to Dali Old Town for a couple of days before I head to Beijing. I had gotten an email from Tania right before leaving Nuodeng that she was in Dali Old Town for a few days…just the time I would be there. So this morning, I called Tania to let her know I was here and arrange a time to get together if it worked out. Well, as soon as I called she said, “Oh good morning! I knew it was you as I was awaiting your call!” What?! – I thought, really? “What are you doing at 12 noon?” “Nothing in particular,” I replied. I had some work to do and was flexible as to when I did it. “Good. Today is 12/12/12 and I have a special gathering to take you to,” said Tania. And she then told me which street corner to meet her at in about 45 mins time. Okay…here continues my Life adventure! :) So I packed my bag and walked to the street intersection she mentioned. Within a few minutes, a car pulls up with two Chinese women, a fellow from Holland, a cute little white puppy and smiling and waving Tania! :) So I hop in and it turns out we go to a wonderful Chinese couple’s home in a nearby village and have a most amazing ceremony and meditation with a whole group of wonderful kindred spirits. The meditation was quite powerful, a giant receiving from and giving to many of the many Wild Lands I’ve visited…. What an amazing day of powerful connections and meaningful sharings!

I could say much more ….AND…yet again, it is getting late and this update is quite long….

Facebook in China? It's Called QQ ! 
One quick other thing to share though :)… about one friend I was “chatting” with on China’s version of Facebook called QQ ..(yes, I’ve been indoctrinated into yet another Social Networking Universe here in China and am actually posting and chatting with my Chinese friends this way some now too! :)…it’s a bit of a learning curve but they are patient with me :)). I met him when hiking up a local mountain in Xingping in Guangxi Province. I was sharing with him about my travels and blog writing and he mentioned I’m the American modern day version of Xu Xiake. Well I didn’t know who he was so I looked him up on the internet and he was now famous traveler and writer in the Ming Dynasty in the early 1600s, traveling all throughout China for 34 years! He kept a travel log of writings on the geography, plants, peoples, customs, cultures, etc he encountered and really helped people (when most didn’t travel) know more about their own country and the diversity of life there :).

Okay, well I’m sleepy again now :)….and thank you soooo much for those of you who have made it through yet another epically long travel update :). And thank you to all of you who have written to me. I LOVE hearing from you, even if it takes me a while to respond sometimes. I’ll be in Beijing as of this weekend, as I’m going to study with my Qigong Grandmaster, and probably won’t have much writing time for a while. But…maybe that will get me to send some shorter updates to y’all :). I still have those early Yunnan updates to get out too! :)

Oh so much great, grand Love to you all!!! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy Holidays to you ALL!!!

Kailun 凯伦