Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Enthusiasm & Haircuts, Meet the Lion King, Mystery of Languages, Daoist Temple Trees, & Preschool Fame

Greetings Friends!

Oh I have so much to share with you on this final leg of my wonderful 6-month journey in the East! :) I had a most amazing experience visiting a preschool with one of Dr. Zhao’s relatives, had a most precious final week with the Zhaos, and have had some magical encounters here in Beijing…including a meeting a most enthusiastic hairdresser, and …the Lion King :) (Hee! I’ll tell the story below…but it’s of a most jolly 72 years young man I met in a beautiful park …and his name translated into English –partially phonetically and partially via meaning…is Lion King! :))

Okay, so for those of you who aren’t on Facebook and didn’t see my update and pics of my preschool visit, I’m going to share about it again here. In my last week in Zhengzhou with Dr. Zhao, Lijun’s younger brother came by the clinic to pick up some herbs for their mother. He also had a big smile on his face as he was going to ask Dr. Zhao if it was all right to take me to his preschool one morning before I left. Dr. Zhao too thought that would be great fun and they agreed I would go with Lijun’s brother the next morning.

Pre-School Fame: Hugs, Notes, Songs, Love and Cuteness!
Well! I think I've said this before...If you'd like to 1) be younger; 2) receive lots of compliments; and 3) experience a glimpse of what it's like to be a movie star...come to CHINA ….and for a peak experience in all these areas….visit a preschool in CHINA! :) The day Lijun's younger brother came to pick me up, he was so excited as he knew the kids would LOVE this! He had already told them the week before that I would come and they were so happy!

The preschool itself is a precious place. Lijun’s brother and his wife started this school 8 years ago with one class of 10+ kids and they now have 200+ kids there! It is all beautifully decorated with an abundance of colorful, happy wall paintings they and the teachers painted themselves :). (You can see some of the walls in the pics attached)

Long Noses
And gosh, talk about enthusiasm!! These amazing, beautiful kids were sooooooo THRILLED to meet a "waiguoren"...a foreigner! :) They've seen Americans on TV but I was the first for them to meet in person. Throughout my whole morning there, they gathered around me, hugged me, held my hands, drew pictures for me and put them in my pockets, came up to me and called me "piaoliang jiejie" "beautiful older sister"...and some even came up to me and said..."piaoliang jiejie, ni xiang hua yiyang piaoliang." "Beautiful older sister, you're beautiful just like a flower." Oh my gosh!! They're sooo sweet! One little boy came up to me and asked, "Piaoliang jiejie, weishenme ni de bizi zenme name chang ne?" "Beautiful older sister, why is your nose so long?" :)! They even had me sing and dance for them too! It was wonderful. I've attached several pics of me with the kids, and some pics of me with the teachers in front of the school too. The teachers took a TON of pics :)  YAY!

MeiNu JieRi –美女~ Women’s Day with my Sisters
My last few days with Dr. Zhao and his wonderful family were also most precious. On the Friday before I left, it was International Women’s Day and many women in China get the afternoon off from work, and many of these women…. Go shopping! :) Well, Dr. Zhao closed the clinic early that day and sent Junling, Lijun and I on our way to have a girls’ afternoon out. Besides our steaming hot bus ride to one of the shopping districts (b/c it was so super duper packed!), we had a wonderful afternoon together. I’m not a big shopper, BUT I love every minute I have to spend with my Sisters J. On the way to one shop, Junling spotted her favorite local vendor who makes home-made yuanxiao – like mochi – fresh sticky rice balls with yummy fillings like black sesame paste (my favorite!!), hawthorn berry, peanuts, redbean paste, etc. Junling bought a bag full, and smiled whispering into my ear that she was going to take me to her older sister’s place tonight where we’d cook dinner together AND have these yummy yuanxiao! :) Oh boy!

Just Us Girls
That evening, Lijun and her younger sister left to go to a different part of town and Junling and I met up with her delightful sister, Junli (all these names sound quite similar, huh? J). It was an unusually hot day for the 8th of March – about 78 degrees and when we arrived to Junli’s cozy apartment we were all hot, a bit tired from shopping and ready to relax and make a yummy meal. Ha! I love how when together with my Chinese girlfriends, as soon as we get inside (and it’s just us girls) we all took off our pants or skirts and walked around in our tights or undergarments. With China (in general…and I know generalizations are not worth much) being a rather modest place, I find it funny of the lack of modesty around one’s girlfriends. So super relaxed and casual :-).

Foot Massages & Sewing Skirts
Well that evening was delightful. I immediately liked Junli’s apartment. It’s in an older part of town so all the buildings are only a few stories high (kind of like Dr. Zhao’s old neighborhood – all of that has been torn down since my last visit in 2010 to build tall high rise apartment buildings and wider streets). And something about her place also reminded me so much of my Grandmother and Great Aunt’s wonderful home. Junli went into the kitchen to make a delicious healthy meal of sautéed broccoli, sweet potato noodles with fresh spinach and three generous bowls of ‘yuanxiao’ for dessert (YUMMMMM!)…while junling and I sat on the couch. :) My foot still has quite a bit of pain so Junling immediately asked for my foot and gave me a foot massage! Oh my gosh. I am continually surprised in just how very sweet my wonderful friend and sister is. :) Then, while sitting on the couch with my tights on, skirt off, I explained how I was much more comfortable now as this skirt I bought in Yunnan, while quite cute, the elastic waistband was about 1.5 inches too tight! Well, Junling looked up at me as though shocked and exclaimed, “Ni weishenme meiyou tiqian gaosu wo ne?” “Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier? I could’ve helped you fix your skirt.” Oh my gosh! I had no thought of asking her or anyone to help me fix this. Yet, she then picked up my skirt, examined the seam, fumbled through one of her sister’s desk drawers and …viola! She found an elastic band exactly the same size as the one in my skirt, and in about a total of 7 minutes, my skirt was fixed!

I know I’ve said this so many times, BUT I am still continually amazed at the utter sweetness and generosity of my friends and of Chinese people in general. I could fill a whole book with infinite examples of big and small acts of generosity of Dr. Zhao, Ayi, Lijun, Junling, Nicole, Jumin, …their whole family continue to shower me with….such as Dr. Zhao giving me his brand new snazzy red bike to ride around town with, Ayi cooking a ½ dozen delicious tea eggs for me to take with me the day I left for Beijing…along with packing a big bag of fresh apples and milk, their whole family preparing such a wonderful farewell lunch for me on my last day in Zhengzhou, junling surprising me with my own homemade cloths (to use in giving acupressure treatments) that she made herself – blue cloth with blue and yellow hearts on it! :), and Lijun surprising me with 2 new shiny, sparkly hair clips – as she knows I so love shiny/sparkly things. :) Oh, I could say so very much more…and I desire to tell you some about Beijing and some special encounters…

A Destined Meeting at Temple of Earth Park
So I have someone else I’d like for you to meet! This is a new friend I met in my last few days in Beijing. His name is Mr. Wang Yong Liang (王永良) and I met him in the Temple of Earth Park…another special “yuan fen” or destined meeting. So first..how I found the park…. I was biking through a new neighborhood I hadn’t visited before as I was on my way to get my haircut. I just liked the energy of the whole neighborhood I was in. It’s called Heping Li 和平里 –literally meaning a place of peace and harmony. I immediately noticed the many trees and birds and thought ..”if I ever live for a longer time in Beijing, I will live in this neighborhood.” :) Then I passed the park and oh! I really liked it! But, at the time…I continued to my destination of getting my hair cut. As my hair is fine and curly and therefore is much different than most Chinese people’s hair, I wanted to find someone who was used to cutting “waiguoren” “foreigners’’” hair. My friend, Anna who works at Kundawell Institute is Russian, has lived in Beijing for 8 years and has hair very similar to mine. I asked her for a recommend and she immediately messaged me back saying she had the “perfect boy” for me to go see. :)…So with good directions from Anna, I was biking and on my way to see this hair stylist, A Dong. Actually the whole event of meeting A Dong and getting my haircut was quite funny and a good side story.

Curly Hair & an Enthusiastic Hair Dresser!
A Dong really liked my hair! I found it quite amusing that long after the cutting and styling of my hair was complete, A Dong seemed quite content and delighted to continue fluffing up my hair, playing with it this way and that, brushing it some more, using the blow dryer a bit, and then…adding some more…”goop” :( to style it some more. Actually I’m not sure what this “goop” was…but maybe my face unknowingly gave away my concern/dislike for it, as A Dong immediately reached for the bottle of “goop” again and held it up so I could see it, explaining and assuring me that is was completely natural. Yet, the strongly scented perfumes coming from his “gooped” up, sticky hands that were then in my “gooped up” hair confirmed that it was anything BUT au natural :). Anyway, it was super funny and fun to see just how much A Dong was enjoying himself with my hair, and at the end I must say he was quite proud, standing next to me looking in the mirror with a big smile on his face. He was also impressed that I’m a writer and before I left asked if we could take a picture together. He kept saying in Chinese, “gosh, an American, a blonde and a writer…this is great!” :)

Meet Mr. Wang Yong Liang!
So back to my story about Mr. Wang Yong Liang and the park! I had forgotten about park while getting my hair cut, but as soon as I started passing it, it caught my attention again. I realized that I didn’t “have” to be anywhere soon so I parked my bike and went to explore. I saw the park entrance fee was only 2 yuan (~30cents) so I bought my ticket and walked in. I immediately felt drawn to the right and followed my draw. Oh I loved the energy in this park! – so many trees, birds, little bridges, and pathways. I followed one pathway to a board with Chinese writing on it with information about “baoyang” “staying healthy” and some words specifically on “feiqi” “lung qi”. Well I stopped to read the board and was delightfully surprised that I understood almost all the characters but 1!

Just then I heard a jolly gentleman’s voice say, “Nihao!” Oh, I guess me standing in front of and reading a sign all in Chinese gives it away that I speak Chinese :). (Often times Chinese people assume I don’t speak any Chinese and will first say “Hello!” with big smiles :)) Well, I turned around and oh my goodness, this wonderful 72 years young man and I started chatting and he is just AMAZING! We talked and talked for half an hour and had so much to share and were both filled with so much JOY! He is an amazing teacher and life-time student. I guessed he was in his 60s but he said he has 3 ages. He has his physical age of 72, his body health age of 36, and his spirit age of 18! Haha! Oh he’s so great!

Mr. Wang Yong Liang is a lover of languages, and he explained that he used to teach Chinese to foreigners and has also taught himself English, Italian, Russian, Spanish, German, and today was just learning Swedish – my ancestral heritage!

Beauty of the Chinese Language ~ It’s Fun & Easy!
Mr. Wang brings languages to life and in that respect also reminds me of my first Chinese teacher who made the whole Chinese language come ALIVE for me. Mr. Wang started sharing with me the beauty of the Chinese language and how, when understanding the roots of language and the characters, what the radicals mean, the pictures they paint and which part of the characters one can look to for help in sounding out unrecognized characters…oh it all becomes so FUN and makes it so easy to study!! For example, the Chinese word for “to look” is “kan” . The left part of the character is the hand radical () and the right/bottom part of the character is the eye radical (). So if one didn’t know what this character meant, one could figure it out…as when we “look” at something in the distance we often bring our hand up to our brow and “look” out onto the horizon. :) So this character is a picture of that! Haha! Another example I love is the word “to rest” “xiuxi” 休息. The first character, “xiu” is made up of the person radical () and the tree radical (), representing a person “resting” against a tree. :) The 2nd character in the word “to rest” is “xi”  made up of the self radical () and the heart radical () – signifying resting in one’s heart. :) Another 2 examples Mr. Wang enthusiastically shared are of the characters for “man” and “woman.” Man is “nan”  and comes from China’s agricultural roots. In the past most men worked long days out in the fields growing crops. The character is made up of the radical for “field” () and the radical for power/strength (). Woman is “nu” and is made up of one radical, , which is in the character for “good” .  :)

Mr. Wang went on with talking about if one knows the base character, one can often figure out the pronunciation. For example, he spoke of the character, qing . There are many “qing’s” but their meanings differ depending on the radical in front of it…for example, clear water is “qing” with a water radical in front 清。A dragonfly is “qing” with a bug radical in front of it . A feeling of love is also “qing” with a different heart radical in front of it .  Oh I could go on and on…and so could Mr. Wang! :) These discoveries/understandings so brings a language to life!

Language & the Dao
With his bright shining eyes, Mr. Wang continued to share with me some of his discoveries of how our languages across the globe have many, many commonalities! Oh my gosh!! He is amazing! Most people, myself included, assume that Chinese and English are about as far apart as languages can get from each other. But with twinkles in his eyes, Mr. Wang explained how understanding languages really comes down to understanding the Dao, the Nature and Life. He said some beautiful quote from Lao Tzu in the Dao De Jing….though I didn’t have paper or my camera or recording device! :(…so I will require giving you another full report next time I see him. :) He gave so many examples though of different words that across cultures and languages use the same part of the mouth, similar consonants, etc. One example I remember of the many he gave is the Chinese word for burden is “fudan” – saying “burden” and “fudan” in English and Chinese is actually quite similar and has a heaviness to the word itself. In another example he was demonstrating how language and our words come from observing nature. He spoke of the words for flowing water. In Chinese, flowing is “liu” – where in English it’s “flow” – they actually sound very much the same. Oh…I wish I still remembered the multitudes of other examples he gave!! I was so excited!

We also spoke together of the goodness of people. He loves coming to park and meeting foreigners from all over world. He shared that he usually feels a bit nervous when approaching and talking with foreigners, but with me he said he felt so relaxed and free. Oh me too, I exclaimed! I also shared with him about my writing and my life and he was so impressed to meet a writer. He said he thought I was in college (early 20s – again Thank You!! Come to China for staying forever young! :))

King of Eternal Goodness & the Lion King
We also discussed our names and the meaning of our names. Mr. Wang has a most wonderful name. It is Wang Yong Liang 王永良, literally meaning “King of Eternal Goodness”! :) He then reached into his pocket and gave me his card, which has his English and Chinese name. His English name is Lion Wang. He explained that the character “Liang” in his name sounds a lot like the English word “Lion,” so he chose that. And “Wang” is his Chinese family name, so his last name in English is Wang…Lion Wang. BUT,… the Chinese character for “Wang” means “King”…so Mr. Wang is really the Lion King! :-) Who would have guessed that I’d meet the Lion King in a park in Beijing?! :-) Haha! We both laughed. I then explained my name, Karen Joy Fletcher and how “Karen” means “Pure” and Joy…well means Joy, and Fletcher is a maker of arrows (or the feathers on the end of the arrows)….so in a sense my name means Pure Joy Cupid! :-D! Haha! Oh we both laughed some more.

Gift of Heart Connections
Gosh, we kept talking and talking, and shared what a gift it is to have friends of all ages, nationalities, and genders. We spoke of the treasure of sharing beautiful heart connections with people, and how a heart sharing between 2 people enriches and brightens them both. I also showed Mr. Wang a pic of Rolph, mentioning my 86 years young friend from Sweden and that was when Mr. Wang exclaimed with delight that he was just studying Swedish that day! And he then proceeded to rattle off numerous words for Tree, etc…in Swedish with a perfect accent. How does he do this? :)

Oh my gosh! We were both laughing and smiling so big…so happy to meet each other. We gave each other 3 big hugs on our parting (unusual to even have 1 in China!) and as I walked away I kept looking back and waving. We both felt our meeting was fated, destined – “you yuan fen” .

Last Day in China ~ Adelaida & Bai Yun Guan Temple
My last day in China for this trip was also a very special day. I went to Kundawell Institute and met up with my friend, Adelaida from Spain. I met her in my Image Medicine course this past winter. She’s been living in China for 3.5 years, speaks Chinese and has just had a major transformation in her life these past 2 months since learning qigong and image medicine. She has a whole new confidence, peace, groundedness and inner joy in her that was hidden, obscured by fear before. Oh what a joy to hear of her inner discoveries and of some beautiful encounters, synchronicities and much, much new information coming to and from within her now. When finishing our lunch, I mentioned my desire to go to a temple that afternoon as it was my last day in China for this trip, and asked if she’d like to join me. Well she mentioned a Daoist Temple on other side of town, Bai Yun Guan Miao白云观庙. When she mentioned it, I realized this was one of the first temples I visited on my very first trip to China 13 years ago. I hadn’t been back since and immediately felt a “YES!” to go. So we hopped into a taxi and on our way.

Bai Yun Guan is a beautiful temple, and as soon as we arrived, I again immediately liked it. It’s a “working temple” in that there are many daoist practitioners who live there. They take care of the temple, perform their rituals, meditate, and are seen throughout the temple complex in their Daoist outfits with their long hair tied up in bun on the tops of their heads with their little black caps. At the time we went, several of the Daoist practitioners were in their temple for rituals performing one of their ceremonies. It was beautiful to witness.

A Time to Give Thanks
Adelaida and I also got some incense for our own personal rituals of thanks. It was so special. This was one of my times to formally give thanks. I have so so so so so very much gratitude for this amazing 6-month journey! I am so grateful to all the precious, beautiful people, lands, waters and mountains I've encountered and touched with my spirit and that have all in turn, touched and enriched my Soul.

I went into almost all the temple rooms, bowed and said my prayers of gratitude and looked into the faces of the Buddhas and deities and felt them smiling and also saw a sweet sadness reflected in their eyes. Probably my own. I also felt strongly that all I’m learning and receiving and all the help and blessings and guidance I’m receiving on the invisible side of life is with me. Even as I travel Westward, I also continue to carry and receive from these precious treasures, energies, teachers from the East. One of my life purposes is integration, being an ambassador of sorts and building bridges between the East and West. My Beloved Dad, when still alive told me this at a very early age,…when my interest in Chinese and Chinese medicine was just budding from a personal healing crisis and transformation. I have a great, great love for China and Her treasures and I love to share all I receive with others. We have so many great lands on our beautiful Earth. The more we intimately know each other, our humanity, and our blessed home, the more we greet and treat each other with great love and kindness.

Daoist Temple Trees & Beijing Nighttime Streets
Both Adelaida and I felt a desire to practice qigong in the sweet energy of this temple and did Big Tree practice in one of the beautiful courtyards. Beautiful. Then, when we went back to Kundawell and said goodbye, I stayed, went into the meditation room and did one more solo, wonderful qigong practice in the strong energy of my Teacher’s school. Kundawell is a very special place. The energy is high and strong and I love meeting students, practitioners from around the planet there. :) After having dinner and good conversation with some of the staff , I enjoyed one more bike ride through the night-time streets in Beijing. Oh I love it! All the delicious smells, foods of all kinds, kids playing. And I love passing the dark parks by the ancient Drum Towers hearing the music playing and elder women out dancing and laughing, men smoking and chatting, dogs running with wagging tails and all types of things steaming and roasting on street side carts. I Love China!! I love the people here and the land and waters and richness. Thank you for another amazing, truly amazing journey of a lifetime. I am already looking forward to my return. And…I am also welcoming my journey West ward. I’ll be traveling another couple months in the States before coming back to Seattle.

I love you all so much!!! Thank you for joining me. Thank you for sharing and witnessing with me this magical and beautiful world we live in. Sharing with you makes this journey even more rich and helps spread its riches on and on to expand and multiply. My desire is that all the goodness and blesssings I have received also bless you, your loved ones and all Life on our Planet. Till the next China Adventure…:-)…

Much, Much LOVE to you all!!!

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