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...

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