Nî Håo! (knee - how) Hello!
It was 8 years ago, when I moved from Long Beach California back to Tri - Cities Washington. I met up with a dear friend from College for a drink at White Buddha, a cocktail lounge (has since closed down) for drinks and appetizers. It was at that meeting that we talked about dreams, goals, future ventures. I wrote on a white squared cocktail napkin, several countries I'd like to visit. On the top 5, I listed, India, China, Thailand, Nepal, and Tibet.
Why? Because they are places we've learned the least about in my school cirriculum, they are very foreign in dialect, culture, history, and one of the most misunderstood for me. I don't go in search of things or people more like me, but different. It is the discomfort that makes one feel more able to become comfortable. It allows me an opportunity to bring information, experience, and maybe spark a wild free feather to spread wings to fly and go see for yourselves how different, and truly alike we are as humans, seperated by boarders, religion, race, and cultures of a different place. Perhaps, this can encourage us to be more open and welcoming to eachother in the USA, a place where the opportunity to become a 'melting pot' of a sort and share a tolerance and love for one another.
Like many of us, I found myself getting caught up in business, work, and relationships that I used as excuses to be 'focused' and not have the time to follow through with my hearts desires.
Being a Fire Sign, freedom, adventure, physical movement, music, and intrigued by visual stimulation are major parts of my spiritual hunger that makes me feel alive. I finally took the leap in 2015 to India for 1 month, and felt myself reborn. The Alien hindu tounge I didn't understand, smell of spices, Indian & Persian foods permeating the air on one block, followed by the foul stench in the next block coming from poor sewage systems in the slums of New Delhi,..shocking BUT heightened my senses. Then the holy river..The Ganga that ran through Rishikesh, Yoga capital village of the world, Cows controlling the traffic, monkeys running alongside people, Cafe's with Tea and delicious foods with a view of Ashrams built next to the river as far as the eye can see...such beauty where man & woman does not dominate nature, but becomes a part of it. Lastly the state of Goa, the beach city of Arambol where the Beaches are greated by luke warm salty water, Yogi's invade the beach everymorning. It is a bit of a 'hippy' place, very liberal, a kind of less crazy Amsterdam, where Charas (Indian "keef") is rolled in tobacco cigarretes and enjoyed over a coffee or tea on the beach restaurants. Tables low to the ground with pillows on the floor for sitting...it was the trip of a life time.
Alas, 1 month was not enough for me, we fast forward 3 1/2 years later and here we are in China on a 3 month journey. The 1st leg of 3 is coming to an end for me here at the Henan Province, at the base of the Yuntai Mountains. Enrolled in the Yuntai Shan Cultural and Martial Arts school. About 500 students, approximately 40 of us foreigners made up Germany, Austria, France, Sri Lanka, Italy, Norway, Albania, Brazil, and USA (in order of population). We have a very structured schedule:
6AM Role Call, and 50 Minutes Conditioning Training
8AM Role Call and Power Training, Flexibility & Acrobatics
10AM Forms & Weapons Training
2PM Role Call and Endurance + Forms Training
410 Role Call and Strength, Forms, and Conditioning Training
620PM Role Call and Free Training (whatever you want to advance in, or simply recovery time)
8PM Role Call
845PM Lights Out
Our only day off is Sundays, and we get half of Wednesday off. Role Call still happens 7AM, 750AM, and 5PM so freedom is quite limited in this sense.
We've had some trips to the closest 'big' cities, like Jiaozou, and Deng Feng where the famous Shaolin Temples were built and today are huge tourist attractions. Unfortunately this has forced many of the great masters to move further into the mountains to maintain untainted training, tradition, less distraction, and stay out of reach from the Communist regimes long arm that has influenced teaching and diluted their original practice to more perfomance based Wushu training.
This type of rigid schedule has gained me an appreciation...for the training that most people don't get to experience. For the freedom that many people lose in the prison system of the U.S.A. For the freedom that many don't get in private schools. While this might seem a little tough, it really pushes people to change and grow, from the training, to the no alcohol or smoking policy, the Shifu's (especially my Kung Fu group Shifu Yuan, there are also Sanda and Tai Chi groups, 3 total groups) are very hard on us. Being late to role call means 100 push ups per minute, I had several of these lol. Forgetting to unplug electronics results in people getting chargers, laptops, or lightbulbs being taken away. Hot showers have to be prepaid on a card that tracks water usage, creating another appreciation for hot water. Truly this Military like school has had on impact on me. From Habits, to Physical training, but one of the greatest impacts has been the people I've had the good fortune of training alongside and talking with.
Now I ride on a bus to Jiaozou where I will catch a train. I said my last farewells to my brothers and sisters of Yuntai Shan Martial Arts School. It is bittersweet, I could of spent another couple of months if I had the time, but with only 7 weeks left I want to see more of this country, another school, and meet more people who will no doubt spark reflective thoughts for myself to grow and know myself more deeply. It's exciting, everytime I cut ties and begin moving to another place. Now, I must wrap up this blog, leaving the rocky norther desert mountains of the Henan Province, as we go deeper South into the lush green lands of China. They say Szechuan Province is known for Spicy Food, Panda Bears, and a bit of a more 'modern' way of living. I don't know, I'll see for myself.
There are things one should consider before traveling to China, so check out my next blog, as I honor my current age of 34, with 34 things to think about & prepare for a less 'rough' introduction into the Land of the Sleeping Dragon.
From China, with Love and Encouragement,