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The week of September 20th: The Dragon Dances

Master Guan has returned! We are all very happy to have him back. He is tough, but through. Also, the film crew that scoped the school a couple of weeks ago returned. They interviewed Kailin and I, filmed our rooms, and practice.

This week has seen us finishing the tiger, and starting dragon.  We are real learning machines at the moment. Dragon is hard and my thighs have been complaining. However, I like it best of the animals. It is very beautiful and most like a dance. Kailin’s dance training is really showing now. She picks things up way faster than the rest of us. Also, I have started yoga early in the mornings with Simon (Viking guy). We are a good match in that we have opposing strengths and weakness so can help each other out. Unfortunately, he has proved a bit unreliable. Christy, however, has joined yoga and is very reliable, so I have company. Hopefully, KK will join us soon as she is completely well. We have both continued to cough, sniffle, and be tired. Plus she started her home schooling this week, so she is adjusting to that.

I have been downtown three times this week. Interesting for the ears when ones head is stuffy! Christy and I discovered 2 wonderful things. A place that sells one-of-a-kind hand painted T-shirts, and that our tailor has a pattern book!!! We can pick anything and they can make it. The second trip down on Wednesday we were heading to eat bao si and jiao si (steamed dumplings/buns filled with “stuff”) but they were out so we end up at the hotel instead. We discovered they make homemade soya milk. I will be buying that every time I go down now! We went back on Saturday intending to eat at the Hotel again and they were closed catering a party so we end up eating at the dumpling place. Life is this way here. You seldom finish a plan unaltered.  The dumplings were excellent. You don’t want to look around at the hygiene, but the food was good and cheap. It is family run and we got to watch the Mother and daughter making the bao si. Their hands are like poetry in motion. I filmed it. We have to go down 2 times per week: Once, to drop laundry on Wednesday and then back on Friday or Saturday to pick it up. Also, down is the only place to get money.

It is the Moon Festival this week. Last night at dinner the staff gave us all moon cakes. I have now tried several different moon cakes and I have to say they must be an acquired taste. I have only had one that I sort of liked. They are a dry, heavy, filled pastry. That is not very sweet in a weird way. Personally, I believe they would work well as projectile weapons.

I have heard a few stories about the Moon Festival. It seems to be a time when families get together to eat, esp. moon cakes. One guide told me it is the best time of year to look at the moon and sun. That if one looks at the moon when it rises and then the sun when it rises, one’s eyes will heal, allowing one to see clearly.  Another person said that it revolves around the story of goddess who fell in love with a mortal and divulged a secret to him. For this she was banished by the other gods to the moon. Only once a year does she get close enough to the earth to see him. Who knows for sure? I would like to look at the moon and sun to test the first theory, but the theme of this week has been cold, foggy and wet.

We had Taoist class and Chinese class this week. We are learning foods in Chinese. Very important! When Christy and I went to Nan Yin to get fruit we bought this sesame candy. She told me the name translated to Cow Leather Candy. So I repeated the Chinese name back to her. She immediately began to laugh. Apparently, I put the wrong accent on the second word and turned it into Cow Fart Candy!!! This story has served the whole place well for a continued good laugh. Perhaps it is better I don’t talk for awhile yet!

The question came up in Taoist class as to why the turtle and snake are the symbolic animals of Wudang. In true Chinese style, there appear to be several stories. One is that, since it lies in the north of China and the astrological signs of the turtle and the snake lie in the north sky, these were picked as protectors. Second, is that historically there were two tribes in this area: One that honored the turtle and one that honored the snake. Eventually, these tribes came together and the symbols were united. The combined symbol is found carved into local tombs. Third, and my favorite, an ancient Emperor wished to become immortal. He left his parents young and came here seeking everlasting life. When he arrived he found he was angry all the time, so he threw away his stomach and intestines. His stomach transformed into a turtle and his intestines into a snake. He was at peace, but his angry animals became bad spirits that raided and killed in the surrounding area. Eventually the Emperor became strong enough to call them back to him and master them. After this he set them as permanent guardians of Wudang Mountain.

Sunday we woke to glorious sunshine and a perfect day. Not too hot, not too cold, and NO bugs!!! I filmed practice again.  Golden Sunrise (small< 4’5”>Chinese gal, this is her chosen western name) does a wonderful fast form. I filmed the whole thing. She lives in Beijing and has invited us to go home with her in November for awhile. Maybe. Tonight we had a going away dinner with Master Guan for Ron and Jackie at the hotel by our school. The food was great, except the Kung Pao Chicken should have been called Kung Pao peanuts. They got really carried away on adding them! We also ordered the “whole fried fish”. Literally, whole little fish about 6” long. You eat everything! Looked disgusting, but tasted great! Some of the boys need a beer to get going on them.

A few funny questions were asked of Master Guan. Who can become a Taoist monk? Answer: anyone, it is a universal, all inclusive religion. Will meditation help me be able to do the splits? Answer: only if you meditated while doing the splits. Is it possible to fly through the air like in the kungfu movies? Answer: only in Hollywood. Is my meditation good? Answer: sometimes, but in your case maybe makes the mind ask more questions and fidget. In this case better to do Chi Gong or Tai Chi. Then only focus in now and the body’s demands will bring the mind stillness. This way you get silence and fitness!

This Master has a good sense of humor. I imagine you have too to work with foreigners and kids all the time. I chatted with him briefly on the way down to our dorm. He started martial arts at around 5. He said he liked to kick so his father got him a teacher. Better way to get his kicking out each day. At 10 he went to Shoalin training fully time, then later to Wudang. He is engaged to be married soon. His girlfriend also practices chi gong and tai chi for her health. He has become very successful. The school website gives a long list of credentials and awards. It has been a good week, and the cool weather has been a welcome relief to all the heat.