This week was filled with comings and goings. Lyn (Chinese) had a great leaving dinner at one of the little restaurants by our temple. It was our first time eating there. The food was excellent and Lyn was the perfect Chinese hostess: lots of food and drink. The Germans also left and we all had a special meal prepared by our school. On the subject of food we got new cooks this week. We are excited as the ones that are leaving barely rate the label of cook. Thus far the food does seem some improved. We actually had a dish with meat instead of bone in it and the MGS usage seems to have dropped a bit. We will see how it goes!?! In the area of arrivals: a lovely couple from Lithuania arrived today. She has beautiful red hair the color of maple leaves in the autumn sun.
We now know for sure we are living in the mountains. The temperature drop like a stone Monday and Tuesday and we had our first snow. Beautiful, but wet and it didn’t stick. The cold did stay however…for several days and brought to our attention how cold our rooms are/will be, i.e. the same temperature as outside! When I inquired about heat, we were told there is none! This comment spawned several days of negotiations. Turns out they do have heaters and heating pads for the bed that they are willing to let us use for additional money per day. I had to remind them rather forcefully that we contracted for 100% inclusion of everything.
We did a very unsuccessful test run of these heating devices. The heater looks like a small table fan with a heating element instead of blades and the bed pad is a heating pad, not heated blanket. This means if you sit cross legged on the heating pad and put the heater right next to you…you might not freeze, but forget comfort. This lead to a conversation with the boss man; turns out the problem is shortsightedness combined with a government based electricity limit. This place was given their allotment based on being a school not a hotel. Apparently they don’t believe in keep their school kids warm. The allotment was based on lights and light computer use only. Supposedly the problem is going to be solved and then they will be able to offer proper heat…even to the kids. This is China though, so I’m not holding my breath! Luckily the weather turned off nicer again. We will have to decide what to do about this issue and soon. This also drove us to purchase more substantial long underwear….an wonderful experience. They are use to dressing warm here. We now both have long underwear lined with faux fur…very snuggly. They even make lingerie here that is sexy and designed to keep you very warm…might have to get some just in case!
We practiced at the Temple most of this week which was lovely as the Taoist orchestra has been practicing there all week for a concert too. This means we were serenaded as we practiced. We finished Tai chi 28 and have been reviewing everything we have learned thus far. Tai Chi 28 has a lot of low moves, so my knees have been complaining for the first time ever in my life. The good news is my thighs are being forced to strengthen. Kailin is very excited to be done and is very ready to start a fast form.
On Thursday Kailin and I went with Krishna to Carefree Valley, also known as Pure Pleasure Valley (sounds like a brothel to me) to see the Wushu show and take photos. Carefree Valley is a place where Wushu has been practiced and displayed for years, and is famous for its meditation falls and Taoist sculptures. It is also where the local monkey population hangs out, but I have been twice now and not seen them. Today it is a rentable movie set that doubles as a place to entertain tourist. Several times a week local Wushu Schools send some of their best students here to perform for tourist. This allows the tourist to see what is being taught on the mountain and gives the kids a chance to perform. I should mention that not only tourist come for the show: so do the white pigeons that live here in their own house. When the music starts they all fly to the top of a nearby roof and hang out. There are also pictures from all the different movies that have been filmed. Most recently, Karate Kid. It has a river running through it complete with swans and many other water birds. You have a view of the 8 Immortals tea farm and many of the most important peaks in the Wudang Mountains. It is lovely. Kailin went back later in the week to sketch.
This weekend (Saturday and Sunday) the Wushu kids moved in. They were carrying luggage in and the pulley box that delivers things was nonstop for hours. They range in age from 10-18, though the little ones only look about 7. They are 4-6 to a room. We watched them work out for the first time on Saturday. Now all doubt has been removed: we foreigners are all whimps!
They are up at 5:30 to run steps and the mountain. Then they have breakfast and a break. Next is morning workout from 10-12, then lunch and another break till 3:00 when afternoon training happens and goes to 5:30. Then there is dinner after which they do regular school work till 8 or 9. Plus, discipline is way outside what would be approved in the west. If you slack or mess up you get beat with various weapons and the whole group repeats the exercise. The teacher constantly moves through them correcting with a smack here and there to adjust the less focused. Plus they are doing all this training with no heat, a shared bath house with very little hot water and poor food. Despite this they are a happy lot: Always quick with a smile and willing to help. When they do a good job it is celebrated just as intensely as failures are punished. Plus birthdays and other important family events, like new baby brothers/sisters, weddings of older siblings, etc are celebrated. Of course they are amazing at Wushu, no wonder they were selected to be the key performing school this past year at the Shanghai World Expo, plus they have been in many movies. Still it is a very single tracked life. I’m sure it wouldn’t be right for me, but I admire them. Fortunately they are easier on us. We enjoy watching their practices and our practices are constant source of comic relief for them.