Sunday, March 30, 2014

Don't Think Too Much, Wild Monkeys, Unexpected Kisses, Traveling Aquariums & Cabbage! :-D

Greetings Friends!!

YAY! I have some time to write again!! I Love sharing with you and have so many stories to tell!! Sometimes I wish I could just beam them over to you as they happen! :-D 

Don't Think Too Much!
So I am continuing to learn and study well during my time here in China. As Dr. Zhao knows I’m set on getting lots of practice with acupressure techniques, he’s been having me do some of the acupressure/massage treatments on several of his patients. I’ve also been …yes….still reading the same book each day and that combined with my writing work in the early mornings and evenings, I’ve developed some of my own neck and back aches :(….sometimes I wonder if this is really just in sympathy of all the neck and back syndromes I’m reading about in Dr. Zhao’s book…or of the people coming in the clinic!!! Anyways, last week one day in particular, my back and neck were really bothering me and I was just about to ask Dr. Zhao if he’d give me a “tune-up” treatment when he called me into the treatment room…”Kailun lai lai. Ni gei wo an mo, ranhou wo ye gei ne an.” “Karen, come, come. Here…you can give me a treatment and then I’ll give you one too.” Oh great!! Perfect! I get to practice AND get a treatment…and I didn’t have to ask either :). So I went ahead and gave my treatment ….and for the first time he said I’ve made an improvement and got the basics down “Lidu xianzai keyi. Keyi le.” He actually seemed relatively relieved, saying ..well more under his breath that after 2 years…I’m finally getting it! Haha :) Well, I was so excited I jumped up and down! Though I did it discreetly as I was in the clinic and Dr. Zhao was still resting on table after his treatment….and I didn’t want him to see me jumping…as I thought it was best to stay “poised”. :)  So I went to tell my sisters, and Junling gave me some good advice…”Zhao daifu shuo ‘hao, you jinbu’ ni jiu ziji xiang ‘xing’. Ruguo ta shuo bu hao, ni jiu xiang ‘Xing’ “If Dr. Zhao tells you you’re doing good and have improved, just think to yourself “okay..good.” If he tells you that session wasn’t good and what to work on, just think to yourself “okay good.” This way, she explained, you keep your heart at peace and  you just focus on studying. Don’t think too much, just study hard and study well. Oh such good advice!!

So it didn’t take long for me to put her good advice into practice. The very next day after my “good news treatment,” the government official from Hebi that Dr. Zhao and I went to visit in my first week here, came to Zhengzhou to see Dr. Zhao. After Dr. Zhao checked his pulses and adjusted his prescription, he had me come to give him an acupressure treatment. Well, I was so happy to be able to do it, and I wanted to do my very best. But…oh my Gosh!! His back was so hard!!! Though as I wanted to do a really good job…I ended up over doing it and hurt my wrist! :( Oh no! I didn’t want to tell Dr. Zhao as I felt embarrassed…but then after the government official left, Dr. Zhao said, “Kailun, lai. Ni zai gei wo anmo.” “Karen, come…you can give me another treatment.” Oh dear! So I had to tell him I hurt my wrist…”Oh no!” he sighed. Oh phooey! I was afraid maybe I hadn’t really improved since I hurt myself…But, this just gave me an opportunity to think “xing”, not think too much else and keep on studying and practicing :) (though I am resting my wrist for a few days and Dr. Zhao is now treating that too!…But, this just gives me all the more time to read his book! :-)) I also remember the wonderful, wise and happy words my dear Taiwanese Mom, Peng Mama told me many times last year in my visit with her …”Bu yao xiang tai duo. Xinbao yao kaixin! :)” “Don’t think too much; it’s best for our cells to be happy!” :)  

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(Here's a pic Lijun took of me reading....yes, you guessed it...Dr. Zhao's book! :))
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Back to the Mountains! Yun Tai Shan 云台山
Gosh! This past weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to go to the Mountains! YAY! I was so excited! Dr. Zhao knows how much I love being out in the wilderness and hiking so he said he could help arrange for me to join a 2-day trip to Yun Tai Mt., a beautiful National Forest park and mountain that is 2-3 hours from Zhengzhou. So great!!! Dr. Zhao stayed to work (as his clinic is open on Saturdays too)…so 2 of his wonderful brothers came (I’ll call them Lao San and Lao Er). They had not yet been to this mountain before either so it was the first time for all 3 of us. :) I was so looking forward to being outside in mountains with no computers, no cell phone, no studying. My purpose was to be fully present with Yun Tai Mt, enjoy getting to know 2 more members of Dr. Zhao’s family, meet the lovely people I would encounter on this trip, love the environment fully and practice qigong :-).

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I was quite impressed with this park. China has done a wonderful job of protecting the wildness at this park, and giving many people the opportunity to feel into and explore such magnificent natural beauty. In the park there are shuttle buses to take people around to different areas with a variety of hikes and activities so that people young, old and in between can all find a way to thoroughly enjoy and experience this mountain and her diverse gorges, peaks, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and wild life. It is very clean and I was happy our trip leader, Xiao Wei, gave us plenty of time at each place we visited to feel a fullness and richness of experiencing the beauty of this Mountain. I also like how there are many signs thorough out the park that remind people keep the land clean, to love the land, enjoy the beauty and of our responsibility to protect and preserve it.
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Roots of China's Elders 
As I mentioned in my first update, China, like the U.S. is a place of many juxtapositions. While there is a growing trend of protection and preservation of some of the wild lands, there is also much destruction and pollution. From my own observations, feelings and conversations with people, I do feel the pendulum is starting to swing more to finding a way to again live in a way that supports all life. While the pollution is extreme in many eastern cities in China, I still observe that many people – especially the elders, “live close to the Earth” – meaning, they, from the roots of their culture and 100s and1,000s of years of history of cultivating the land, having a medical and mystical system that is innately tuned into the rhythms of Mother Earth, our stars, seasons and cycles of life, still hold an inherited knowledge, tendency, ways of being that support them and their health that are rooted in connection…versus the separation of Man and Nature that became so strong in Western societies. (Note, even as I write this, I’m hearing my 9th grade history teacher sharing a quote with us that “No generalization is worth a damn…including this one!” :-) so while these thoughts/observations are generalizations, I offer them just as my observations from my time here.) The U.S. has been in the mode of development, industry, technology, domination of nature, industrial agriculture for many, many years. China is also walking down this path, thought their time on this path is shorter. Massive change has happened in the last 30-50 years…and before that, China – for a large portion of the population was largely an agrarian society. And before Mao came into power, many of the farmers, many of the people had quite a hard life. Dr. Zhao’s brothers shared with me some from their childhood and all the change they’ve seen just in their lifetime. As children, often there was not enough food “bu neng chi bao”, sometimes only a couple rolls of bread and some soup or zhou (rice porridge) for a day’s worth of food. Many people built their houses with grasses and other natural materials. As they grew, Dr. Zhao and their family experienced gradual changes, being able to build their home with bricks, and a gradual rise in quality of life in terms of ease of access to material goods, enough food, clothing, shelter, etc. Dr. Zhao’s older brother, Lao Er told me how especially in the last 30-40 years he’s seen such a massive change. Now most people, while they work hard, they have plenty of good food to eat, can afford a good place to live and all necessities and enjoy their life. He does see though, that to “achieve” this, there has been much destruction/degradation of the environment. He hopes that this too will change. While we were hiking and then resting while enjoying the view of a waterfall, feeling the light warm spring breeze and hearing the birds sing as they flew to and from their nests in the little mini hole/caves in the gorges cliffs, Lao Er smiled as he took in the beauty and air and said how much he loved being in the mountains. “Zai chengshi li, duo shi da lou, da lou, daochu kandao de duo shi da lou” – “In the city there are just skyscrapers after skyscrapers, That’s all one sees. I love coming here to see the nature.”
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(Here's Lao Er :) -- his water bottle is actually full of Chinese herbal tea from his younger brother, Dr. Zhao :))

Wild Monkeys!
On one of our hikes on our first day was in the Macaque Valley. We climbed up a stone path way with many other people to an overlook place where every couple hours a man gave a show with some captive monkeys. Yet we continued on and walked down another path. Part way down there was a short turn off to a quiet place close to the bottom of a small canyon. I felt drawn there and asked  Lao San and Er about stopping there for a bit. They agreed and oh, I liked the energy right away. It was so still and peaceful, and looking up into the towering cliffs, you could see several (amazing!!) trees somehow growing out if these rocky sheer cliffs and their wonderful pink blossoms in bloom! And then…oh my gosh! We looked out about 50-100 yds out from our perch and saw a whole troupe of wild Rhesus monkeys! Oh they were super cute and super playful, mischievous and able to climb, jump and tumble over, swing onto pretty much any surface! – including rock ledges, hanging grasses, supple tree limbs and boulders in the dry river bed below. Haha! Oh I was so content just to stay there a while as Lao Er and San chatted with the local man, a worker for the park. This place was his official “perch” and he took care of making sure his portion of the pathway and surrounding areas were clean and garbage free. While it is wonderful he has such a great place to be for his work, he also clearly works so very hard…6 days/week from sun up to sun down in all types of weather conditions. Gosh, so many people in this country work so very hard…and even so I witness such a kindness, a light and twinkle in so many people’s eyes here.  

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"Now We're Finally Home!" :-D 
Later as the daylight was turning into the golden glow about 2 hours before sunset, Lao er, Lao San and I hiked up another path. We didn’t have a lot of time at this point before we were to meet up with our group and trip leader, but…we went for it! :) Gosh, I’m impressed w their “tili” – “physical strength” – even Lao Er at 68 years of age was trotting down the path with us. The water pools and streams down this canyon were soooo clear!!! The little water falls and big boulders were gorgeous. At one point both Lao San and I went to put our hands in one of these luminous water pools. Lao San laughed and said, “Ah, zheyang cai dao jia le!” “Ah, now we’re finally home!” Haha! I told him this is often how me and my backpacking girlfriends feel when we reach a beautiful body of water and feel and follow our irresistible urge to strip down and jump in!! :-D

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I also enjoyed having a whole evening and nighttime on the mountain. As we were traveling as part of a group, we stayed in a place right outside the park that was a small farming village with some special travelers’ dorms built to house out-of-town guests such as ourselves. It was more like a dormitory with a big kitchen to feed us dinner and breakfast, and…for splurging with a whole extra 30 yuan ($5) I got a room to myself :-)! Yay!! After our early dinner, I walked into the surrounding fields with the moon and Yun Tai’s various peaks in the background. I passed village families making fires to cook their dinner and happy dogs trotting through grasses. As dusk turned to dark, I returned to my room for an evening of delicious meditation and sleep. While karoke was playing in the background, I folded my pillow to use as my meditation cushion and turned my awareness to the awesome presence of this Mt and Her many peaks, gorges, blossoming branches, gentle breezes rustling the cliffhanging grasses, and the many blessed living waters --flowing, plunging waterfalls, tricking down cliffs, surging through narrow canyons and the cool sparkle of the moonlight. I loved sinking into the Stillness and the wholeness of Life. …and Resting….

I woke at 5:30am with the moon rays shimmering through my window, quietly sharing it's presence with me as I returned from dreamtime. It was so peaceful. The village was still quiet as most people were asleep. After meditating, I eagerly put on clothes and went to see if I could get up on the roof :-). And I could. Yay! And just as I came out, the sun rose over mountain! Oh such Beautiful blue skies and an hour of delicious qigong practice! YAY!!!

So on this 2nd day we were climb up to one of the highest peaks on this mountain – though it’s not a very long hike as we had a bus that took us to a fairly high starting point…a road that has 14 tunnels and took 10 years of hard labor to build between 1977-1987.

Hiking & Unexpected Kisses!! :-D 
And oh my gosh!! It was so fun to go hiking!! Also, as I’ve mentioned before in my other blogs, if you ever desire to get a taste of what it’s like to be even somewhat famous, come to CHINA!! :-) I didn’t see any other foreigners in this park the whole time….which made me stick out even more. And on this day we happened upon many groups of university students who were on a weekend outing together. Well! These university students in particular were so enthusiastic. They were super excited to see a foreigner and really wanted to connect and ….of course…that includes taking LOTS of pictures! :) This one group here was so AWESOME! This delightful young woman in pink was so sweet. She’s from Guilin, and practically squealed when she saw me. She kept saying “Wo hen xiang qing ni!” “I so want to kiss you!” And she did!!! Several times! Haha! (Unfortunately I didn’t catch that on my camera! :-D !!) And then the guys ran into the scene to get a pic all together and then some one-on-one pics. It was so fun! :) We made it up to the mountain top together and Lao Er and Lao San were happy to let me enjoy my new friends for a while. There is a beautiful Daoist temple on top, and the young woman in pink, Tao Wen Qing, took me by the hand to “baibai” in the temple and offer our prayers to the Mountain. Oh it was beautiful. She smiled shyly and said she didn’t really understand all the traditions – she so wished she did – but she did like to offer her prayers in the mountain temples. She also bought me one of the little red pieces of wood that are available at the temple for people to write their individual prayers and hang them so each prayer gets carried away in the winds as they blow through the temple courtyard.

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(Here's me with Tao Wen Qing -- the lovely young woman who gave me so many kisses! :))

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They were such a fun group! We didn’t want to part, but as I started to head down the mountain with Lao San and Lao Er, I heard and looked up to see beaming and smiling faces shouting, “You’re beautiful!” and “I love you!” Oh My Gosh!!!! They are so amazing!!!

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(Here's a pic of me with Lao Er and Lao San :))

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On the way down, I also met this pair of twins!! I was so excited and explained I was a twin too….and of course, the natural response to all of this was to take a picture :)!

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Do You Think She Speaks Chinese? 
Well when we reached the bottom and were waiting for the rest of our group and trip leader, I started looking at all the yummy snacks being sold in the stores on the side of the parking lot. Oh and I found some treats with no wheat flour! Yay! As I was looking at the variety of flavors, I heard the bakery workers talking and getting excited to see a “waiguoren” – “a foreigner.” They started a lively discussion amongst each other…”ta hui bu hui shuo zhongwen?” “do you think she speaks Chinese?” “Ni gen ta jiang ba. …Bu, ni gen ta jiang.” “How about you go talk with her?”…”No, you go talk with her.” And after some back and forth, one of the fellow bakers came up to the front of the stand with a big smile on his face and said, “Neng gen ni heyin ma?” “Can I take a picture with you?” I laughed and smiled too, and said an enthusiastic, “Keyi ah!” “Yes, definitely!” Haha! It was so fun! The other workers and the owner’s little kids all came out too and we took several pics together. Gosh, it’s so fun to be able to offer so much Joy just by being here and saying Yes to these wonderful people! :-D

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Empty Bus Surprise 
So after a most beautiful afternoon visiting one more temple (this one a Buddhist temple), we all hoped on our bus and headed back to Zhengzhou. While the mountain is actually pretty close, as it only took us about 1.5 hours to get to Zhengzhou, it took us another 1.5 hours just to get part way across town! There was so much traffic! I was listening to some fun dance music though and eating a few yummy snacks so I felt fairly content. But after a while I started to look around and noticed our bus was actually quite empty! What?! Over half of the passengers were gone!….but we hadn’t made it back to our destination stop yet. I realized that even though we were in the middle of a massive boulevard, the bus driver was letting passengers off, and of course being used to this traffic scene, these people were just easily and in a very relaxed manner making their way to the side of the road amongst huge buses, trucks, mopeds, honking cars and 3–wheeled vehicles and more! Then a group of guys behind me also stood up, saying, “Suan le. Tai du che. Women xian qu che fan ba.” “Oh forget it. There’s too much traffic. Let’s just get off and first get some dinner before heading home.” And they too got off the bus!! Then the young couple in front of me stood up as well. They were discussing other buses they could take on alternate roads to get them back to the girl’s home. We started chatting and this young happy lad was explaining he still needed to get across town to his girlfriend’s place to get his bag and then head back to the train station. He was taking an 11 p.m. train to Xian…and then he said with a smile…”see, then I can get into Xian about 5 a.m. and will make to my morning class in plenty of time! :)” And the two of them then also happily hopped of the bus and somehow blended in with the traffic and navigated their way easily and safely to “shore”. :)

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(this is a pic of the Buddhist Temple we visited before leaving for Zhengzhou :))

Traffic Humor and Jingle Bells! 
Haha!! So I have so many FUNNY traffic stories here in China. Even on my daily short bike commute between my hotel and Dr. Zhao’s clinic, I often find myself giggling and laughing out loud at some point. As I’ve said before, I am truly amazed how the traffic flow actually does in some organic yet chaotic yet somehow with some harmony does…well,… flow! The other day I was biking back to the hotel and heard the sound of jingle bells playing!! What?! I thought…Christmas songs?! I actually found myself singing along! And even though I’ve learned that these trucks playing songs are usually garbage trucks in China, I still have the image of an ice cream truck that pops up in my head…b/c the sound is very much like our American ice cream trucks :). Well, on this day I was biking and heard jingle bells behind me. Giggling and humming along, I thought it must be a garbage truck and kept peddling. Then I looked behind me to make sure it had plenty of room to maneuver around me and…oh my gosh!! It wasn’t a garbage truck at all! It was a spray-water truck!! Aiyo! This truck has a big spraying hose that sprays as wide as the boulevard to keep the dust down…and it was coming right my way and could soon be a very unplanned shower!! So I quickly peddled onto the side walk with a bunch of other mopeds, cyclists, push carts, pedestrians, wheeled food carts, etc. Phew!! And then the truck continued to bumble down the road right past us all with its water spraying behind. Haha! It also reminded me of the water-spraying trucks at Burning Man!

Mobile Aquariums 
And then today when I made it to one of the big intersections and was waiting for my opportunity to join another bunch of cyclists and mopeds and make our way across the boulevard, a woman with a small 3-wheeled vehicle with a wide –plywood platform built on top was carrying ….fish aquariums with live fish swimming around!!! Oh My Gosh!! Amazing!! I wish I had my camera ready to show you! :-D

Curiosity & Cabbage 
So in my next update, I’m going to share more about my studies and learning with Dr. Zhao. Before ending this one, though, I’d like to introduce you to some of my friends here at the hotel. The staff here are so sweet! I eat dinner with all of them each evening and as one of the round tables usually fills up before I make it down the stair after returning from clinic, I often end up sitting next to one of the older men at a neighboring table. He’s very sweet, and curious…though he mostly speaks in the Henan dialect which is still a bit challenging for me to understand…but with smiles, patience and a lot of laughter we do make it through our communications :). The other night both he and another fellow were asking me lots of questions about America. They are both fascinated, as in their minds, America is “hen fuyou” “hen fada de defang” – is a very rich and bountiful place that is beautifully and well developed. I have found that many people who haven’t traveled to the States before do hold an almost fairy-tale view of the U.S… it is very much the land of plenty, of goodness, of perfection and opportunity in many people’s eyes. While much of that perception is focused on America’s material goods, such as houses, cars, buildings, etc, I also see more people talking to me of it in terms of clean air, fewer people, protected wilderness…. Well on this particular evening, this older fellow was full of questions…”Does America also have four seasons like we do here? What is the temperature like?” He was then commenting to his co-worker friend that everything in America is cheap. Houses, food, clothes, you name it – it’s cheap in America. He then turned to me and said, “Right?” I had to explain that no, actually things, especially houses, can be very expensive. Then he started asking me, “Do you color your hair? Why is it blonde? Do all Americans have blonde hair? Are all Americans thin?” Oh I loved his curiosity and pureness of heart! Then, as we were enjoying our dinner and often have some yummy stir-fried cabbage as part of our meal, he looked down at his cabbage and said, “bao cai yingwen zenme shuo?” “How do you say “bao cai”  in English?” I replied, “Cabbage.” Haha! He then smiled and laughed at himself along with his friend as he said, “oh…wo ting bu dong.” “Oh…I don’t understand” …like that was a silly question as I don’t understand English. Haha! We all laughed. :)

Oh Yay! Thank you again for making through another travel update!!! I already have so much to say in my next one!! So I better send this off. :-)
Thank you, thank you, thank you for joining me in CHINA!! And thank you so much to all of you who have written me. I love hearing from you!! :) (While I may be slow in responding, I so appreciate your words!!) And those of you who would like to come to China, Szu-ting and I still have some spots available on our Qigong & Wilderness trekking trips this Aug and September if you’d like to come and experience this amazing place! :) We’ll be exploring the beautiful wilderness and villages of Western China in Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. 

Here's a couple pics of me and one of my sisters, Junling to conclude this update and wish you great happiness and health and Joy!! :)
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So So So much LOVE from CHINA!!! :-D

Kailun 凯伦

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