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April: a month of transformation

April began with snow melting and us finally making the climb (20,000+ steps) up to Golden Top from Nan Yan. We have wanted to do this since we arrived last August, but our knees and general fitness were not up to it. I am proud to report that we did the walk that Master Guan runs in 45 minutes, in 4 hours. We could have gone faster, but we wanted to enjoy ourselves and take pictures. Plus we did it  and had no soreness the next day….we were tired and hungry when we go to the top, but we were not knock out for days afterwards like many people. On this walk there are four gates that eventually lead you to Golden Top Temple. It is said that if you leave behind one human flaw at each gate, then Shen Wu will grant you one wish when you reach the top. I don’t know if this is true, but I figured I have plenty of flaws so I might as well leave some of them behind. When I got to the top I made my wish and thus far I am receiving it. I can’t say what I left behind or what my wish was as that would jinks the whole thing. This means you will just have to use your imagination. What would you leave behind? What would you wish for? All in all it was a fun day with friends.

We started practice the next day. It was really easy to move back into the routine of Wudang Mountain. We spent the first week reviewing the forms we had learned along with starting our new forms. Kailin is learning Fan and I am learning Tai Chi sword. I really didn’t know if sword would be for me, but as it turns out I love it and seem to have a real knack for it. Kailin is loving fan and it is perfect for her, as her long legs and arms make it even more beautiful.

The Masters have started taking us on walks one day per week which is fantastic. Spring has transformed the mountain in these four weeks. April began brown and cold and now at the end of the month it is lush green and covered in flowers. We have done the walk from our school to Care Free Valley, from our school to Nan Yan, and last week Master Guan took the group to Golden Top, but we opted out as we had just done it.  Watching the mountain change has been spectacular. I am so glad we are here at this time. I love spring everywhere, but here it is especially dramatic. I was riding back up the mountain on the bus and the smell of orange blossoms was overwhelming. Parts of the mountain are covered with mandarin orange orchards.

Of course with spring and warm weather come the tourists. They are back in force, so often we practice at school instead of at the temple. I like both, but being at the temple makes eating with the nuns easier and the food there is much better than our school food. Having a rice cooker has also really helped, as even just a little good food goes along way. We have been hanging with old friends: Krishna, Christy, Renato, Cabrine, Mike, Roseanna, Sabina, Niko and Luka and meeting many new friends: Michelle(USA), Jason and Lara(Canada), Daniel(UK), Pascal(Swiss), Hendric (Spain) and Sijlie(Norway). Plus Jurgen is back from Germany with a group of friends. We also saw Simon for about 2 seconds. His Mom’s Tai Chi school were touring China and they were on the Mountain for a very short while. We hope to visit them in Norway eventually. If one was going to come to Wudang only once, then spring would be the time to do it. It begins with odd spots of color as the cherries bloom and crescendo with azaleas as everything goes from varied browns to deep rich greens. Beautiful!

Other things have been going on too. Christy has been helping Kailin with Math, I have been treating everyone in need and playing my flute, we have seeing Master Du, Kailin has learned to do laundry Chinese style and we are all feeding each other whatever we fix in our rooms. Luka’s cat is pregnant. I have been helping him make cat food. There are no pet shops anywhere near. We only have the older Chinese students at the moment; the little ones are all down in the town. We miss them. They are good fun. Plus, people are leaving: Jason, Lara, Christy, Hendric and Sijlie have gone and soon more will go, but then we have gained Niko….This is life on the mountain. Only the true Daoists are stationary here.

The other big event was Kailin’s birthday on the 24th. She turned 15. We measured her so Grandma and Grandpa can put a mark on their wall…She is 5’8” tall. The school celebrated by bringing her flowers, oranges, a wonderful card done by Cabrine, and a silly hat. As she was in bed with a bad cold everyone came to our room and sang Happy Birthday to her. A few days later we celebrated with a trip to near-by Shiyan. We went shopping with her birthday money from Daddy and had Hot Pot, a famous local meal. Hot Pot is a do-it-yourself meal. They bring you a pot of simmering stock over a sterno candles. Then you order all the things you would like to cook in that stock: meat, veges, etc. plus sauces to dip your food in once it is cooked. It is good fun and Shiyan see so few foreigners that the staff is as much fun as the meal!

As the month draws to a close, Kailin has finished her form and I would be done, but I have been in bed with a bad cold for the past 3 days. I will definitely finish this next week. We had it coming with the colds, as Thailand saw us eating way too much ice cream and chocolate. We were in good junk food starvation after being on the mountain. Now we are back and our bodies are cleaning up. The good news is, at the end of a month of training, Kailin has no knee pain, I have very little and we can run the steps up to temple!!!! We can even do multiple steps at a time! We are so much tougher and fitter than we were. This training and Muay Thai are a good combination. Also the 30th was National Tai Chi Day, so we all did Tai chi walk together in celebration!