A Travellerspoint blog

Nisha and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

No wonder Nisha wants to move to Australia!

We got up bright and early and had breakfast (on floor 2!) with Master Yang and his father. Then it was time to pack up and leave Jinan for Qingdao. This is a city on the ocean where the German's made their eastern colony thereby inventing China's greatest beer (Qingdao Beer... its really kinda a self explanatory name).

On the train ride I got the window seat again, (aren't I a stinker?) and glad for it because my tummy started to do that thing where it bubbles and churns something unnatural. I couldn't even read my book which I am generally good at on rides like train or airplane. Its car and bus rides that I have to glue my eyes to the windows. But today, I sat and watched the never changing scenery, tightly grasping onto the barf bag I hid under my tray table so as not to draw attention to the ghost who can't stomach train rides.

Snow:

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And then, out of literally nowhere, I saw something completely unexpected! If I hadn't been so sick there would be no way this cold and barren landscape could hold my attention for an hour and a half, so maybe my luck was turning. Karma was rearing its amorphous face, and I was really just grasping at straws hoping that this was a good sign and the glands in the back of my mouth might just stop producing unwanted quantities of saliva.

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Thats actually this really large golden Buddha in the middle of nowhere! There was a small cluster of farm houses near by, but whatever this place was, it was something I didn't expect to see here.

About 30 min. later, ready and rearing to get the hell off the train, we made it to Qingdao. Master Yang's friend, Master Zhang (pronounced like a “j”, and has a long “a” like Gandhi), met us at the train station with his 12 seater van.

Joe:
Master Yang said, “There he is,” and began talking a mile a minute in Chinese with his friend. I imediately liked this guy and knew he was a great martial arts master. He looked very strong and so happy to see Master Yang. He gave him a big hug and the way he walked and talked told me that he had a lot of good energy. He was definitely quick and sharp with a shine in his eyes. I hardly noticed that he was significantly shorter than Master Yang. Master Zhang had short cut jet black hair that receded just enough to give a mature look. He had a round face that was also sharp and tan, and he was solid and a little stocky. He had a constant kind yet sly smile on his face.

Nisha (so many names, identity problem?):

Master Yang left his suitcases with his father at their hotel back in Jinan, so he only had one bag, but Joe and I had every thing we owned, so it was very nice being able to take up 3 seats with our stuff and get to have some space to ourselves. We picked up his wife on the way to lunch, and I started to think that maybe it wasn't the train ride. Don't get me wrong, Master Zhang is probably the worst driver I have ever met, but his driving wasn't making me car sick. It may have made me (and Master Yang) fear for our lives, but the ride was pretty smooth (luckily everyone he cut off or drove in front of on the wrong side of the street made way for him, maybe he is a legend in his town for 2 things). When we sat down to eat I did the thing I hate doing, I was the American that didn't eat the Chinese food and only asked for a Coke.

Then, it started to snow. BLLAAAAAA! No, that wasn't me throwing up... yet. That was me just hating that I didn't feel good and that my head was burning up and my body was getting the chills and I could look forward to hanging out in the snow doing god knows what for the rest of the day. Master Zhang's wife was increasingly insistent that I ate something, and when I wouldn't put something on my plate, she obliged. Later on I forced Master Yang to translate that I had an upset stomach and wouldn't be eating until it settled, and then I was let be for the rest of the meal.

After lunch we got dropped off at our hotel for some free time. Master Zhang wanted to go to his school and pick up some things, and then I think that he was going to pick us up later in the evening to meet some of his friends for dinner. I really wasn't sure of this, because all I wanted to do was lay down and die. I felt absolutely terrible. Master Zhangu took care of getting our room keys, which came really quickly, and then I laid down on the bed with Joe and passed out.

Several hours later I woke with an extremely dry throat and a knot in my stomach. I asked Joe if he could get me some water. We had none. The water in China has to be boiled before you can drink it, and this hotel didn't come with one of the bottled water dispensers. "Could you go out and buy a bottle of water?" Joe didn't seem to understand the severity of how I felt until that moment. If I needed a drink bad enough to make him get out of bed, get dressed, go outside in the snow in a foreign country to find a stand or market selling water, then I really must be sick.

When he came back I was feeling even worse, and I asked him when he brought over the water if he could also bring over the trash can. He did so, placing the can next to my bed. Then, after only getting my itchy dry pipes wet with the liquid, I grabbed for the trash can. Vomit. Lots and lots of vomit. It came out rushing like a high powered faucet. I couldn't control it. I couldn't stop it from overflowing up my nasal passage. I only hoped my eyes didn't start crying the acid. It was over within seconds, but the trash bin was a quarter full. I felt like the little girl from the Exorcist.

I washed my mouth out with water from the sink, and then Joe got me to take small sips of water. I felt a little comforted, but not enough to keep going. That was enough water for now. I fell back asleep. The next time I woke Joe was rubbing my shoulder. "Master Yang called, its time to go to dinner. How do you feel?" "Can you go without me?" He smiled and told me that he would bring me back a little something in a few hours.

Joe:
I went downstairs with master Yang and I walked into a James Bond movie. Around the big round dining room table sat five intense old chinese men. If it were a movie, all it needed was everyone playing poker instead of having food in front of them. Each had a cigarette held in their hands in different positions with thin wisps of smoke floating up beside them. They were regal, powerful, and still. I stood for a moment and we were all frozen in time. They were all white haired and had an aire of much age and wisdom, but mostly had very serious faces. They were very strong with youthful bodies and perfect posture. One sat with legs crossed, one with legs half crossed, and the others sat with both legs connected to the floor at various angles to the table and with various widths. These guys had power; something beyond the power that money and control over society gives people, but more of a primal physical prowess. They were tigers; no longer hungry, but content to sit and flex their powerful muscles with each breath.

I sat down and spoke a little chinese with several people. Master Zhang was looking very upright and strong as usual. He made several toasts and talked much. He joked around a couple times and it reminded me of when I first saw him. Master Yang told me that he became sick and that was why he was in a bad mood. It was a normal everyday banquet like the ones we have every day. Except, the people made this dinner very interesting. There was much less talking and people were more serious. Except one guy who was about forty and came to the banquet already drunk. I figured out that the young guy between me and him was his student as well as the young man on his other side. They kept pouring him drinks even though they seemed obviously embarrassed by his behaviour. Everyone seemed very interested in the young American martial artist, just like we've seen at other banquets. But, The drunken guy seemed very interested. He said he loved America, then he proceeded to repeat over and over very loudly with much slurring, “I only know 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, I love you! Wa ai ni!” That last part means I love you in Chinese. He would also just toast me over and over saying, “I love you! Wo ai ni!” with different inflections. The old Masters seemed quite pissed at this guy, but they hid it very well and seemed very relaxed about it. I figured he was their student and now he's an alcoholic. Maybe he was a budding young master.

Master Yang told me that these five guys are all Preying Mantis Grand Masters. The best from the old days. He told me that they are all in their 80s. They looked fifty and I told them so. I said they looked so strong. They thanked me and smiled with much kindness. I was afraid to ask them a question about communism, but I asked anyways. I asked them if the government gave them trouble about teaching Kung Fu thirty and fourty years ago. They said they had some troubles, but apparently the west blows some of it out of proportion. I asked them some other good questions and talked a little. Mostly Master Yang was translating for me. But, my questions were well restrained and not probing or annoying. Maybe a few years ago I would be bubbling with questions about the essence of Kung Fu and how to become Masters like them. I would be desperately trying to get past the language barrier and just getting people annoyed. Instead I was respectful and I just absorbed. Meanwhile, the alcoholic was engrossed in his phone, his head down and listening to someone speak. He kept saying softly over and over, “Wa ai ni. Wa ai ni. Wa ai ni. Wa ai ni.”

Half of what you need to learn from a Kung Fu Master can come from their body language; their eyes; the way they move. The Grand Masters were so interesting to watch. I knew from seeing them that I am on the right path; not the best path for anyone, but the best path for me; the one I love. I want to have their power, but with no desire for it; no desire to use it. I want to be powerful enough to be beyond the desire for power. Kung Fu mastery gives this to people. Any master who is power hungry or shows insecurities has fallen from Grace. They've accepted Jesus and are going to Heaven when they die, but for the moment they've lost their connection with God. They are and always will be masters, but they are no longer Masters. These old Grand Masters were at the age that it seemed they could no longer fall from grace or make mistakes. They smoked like they knew it was unhealthy and they were countering the bad energy as soon as it hit them. They showed Grace by shaking hands and smiling at the drunk as his two students carried him out. I excused myself to bring some food to Nisha, but she didn't want it and I went back down.

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Me:

Joe returned in what may have been a few hours, but I couldn't really tell. All I knew was that I tossed my cookies only once since he left, so the timing was well made. He brought up something that smelled distinctly like food, and I felt the works getting ready to explode again. "Put it on the other side of the room!" I think Joe understood the situation, and he quickly obliged. "Now, put it where I can't see it!" This time, a little hesitation added to his movements, but he still did as I asked. He made me drink some more water, and then the works started up again anyways. This time it was only small bits of water I was getting rid of, so it didn't take long and it didn't bother me too much. I also had that hunger pain mixing like a yin yang with my nausea. "Watermelon." I asked. "I would like some watermelon." I knew that at these fancy dinners they always brought out the fresh fruit tray after all the food was done being eaten and people had sat around and talked for about 15 minutes. "Well, there isn't any watermelon at the dinner, but if they bring some out I'll get it for you." That was all I could ask for. Then he told me a quick rendition of what he just told you, and then headed back downstairs for the rest of dinner.

Joe:
I listened to the Chinese and watched as the Grand Masters talked amongst themselves. We had desert and I toasted them in Chinese. I kept it simple so I wouldn't make any mistakes. I said to the five, “You are Great. . . and I am small. I love Kung Fu and I am very pleased to meet you all. Cheers!” They appreciated it much. I bowed to them respectfully and again when we were leaving. They each shook my hand and my favorite of the five had a definite twinkle in his eyes. He seemed to be the strongest and maybe the oldest, though he didn't look old. He was thin yet thick, short yet tall. He had short white hair tousled like the youth of today and large thin eyes on a round sharp face. He was made of the Tao to an unreal extent.

Maybe someday I could study with him when I can speak Chinese. He doesn't teach my favorite style, but that's ok. He retired from the spotlight and Master Zhang runs things now, so it would be tough to get him as a teacher. I really have freed myself from chasing these dreams. I will just keep plodding along, trying and trying to find and convince a teacher who won't teach. I can't be detered because I've already given up. For that reason, I am certain that I will find an old Bagua Master like him. I am certain because if I don't find an old Master in the world outside, I will find the old Master within me. I will become him.

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My favorite is second from the right. Also, one of the really cool powerful GrandMasters had left by this picture. You can see him in the other photo.
Me:

When Joe returned from dinner he brought me 3 triangles of watermelon.
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Slowly he let me try my luck at eating some while we watched an episode of Castle before bed (Joe never lets me do this b/c the screen isn't good for you to stare at before you go to sleep). It was the best watermelon of my life! The amount of liquid it let out was just enough to make me hydrated, but not puke, and the food was just enough too.

Feeling better, but not quite right yet, I decide that I'm glad I visited China, but I really really wouldn't want to live here. Still, my mother has assured me that everyone has bad days, even people who live in Australia.

New Zenglish of the day: In the New Zealand version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, he wants to move to Timbuktu, not Australia.

Posted by - Rain 06:15 Comments (3)

Happy Woman's Day!

When I asked Bing Qing if there was a Man's day, she looked at me and said "No, no, we don't have one of those. Do you?" I told her that we did not, and then said "I guess every other day is Man's day then right?" And through her laughing and nodding I assumed she agreed.

Bing Qing took us on a tour of her university (Shandong Normal University... yeah, I don't know why its called that), on the way to the 1,000 Buddha Temple Mountain! Her university was pretty cool with a huge statue of Chairman Mao in the front greens. This got us talking about Chinese history (b/c I don't remember any!) It was only within the last hundred years that China moved from an Emperor system to a Chairman system, and Bing Qing believes, as most Chinese do, that Chairman Mao was a hero who made life much better under the Communistic system. Unfortunately as with every great movement for the people, things never pan out as they should. The rich and powerful make sure of that. But she said that if she could choose between the system where the old chairman chooses the new chairman, or a system where people get to vote between 2 choices of candidates who had the most money to make it onto a ballot, she would go with the chairman system. At least then the people aren't duped into believing that they actually have a choice. She actually didn't say it like this, but if she were American, this is how I think it would have come out. Being that she is Chinese, the truth in what she was saying was skirted around and made to sound much nicer than she probably felt. However, after we brought up that we don't like either of those options, we explained (as best we could), how the parliamentary system works in counties like the ones we are going to move to; and all 3 of us agreed that a voting system based on proportional representation is the best choice because makes it so no single party has a majority of seats which better represents how no single party represents the will of an entire cuntry.

When we made it to the 1,000 Buddha Temple Joe needed to take a cold break, so we went to a restaurant and he ordered some tea. I was upset that he was waisting our time, so I didn't drink any (plus, the dinner ware comes prepackaged in plastic wrap, and if you break open you cups and plates you get charged for their cleaning and rewrapping, so it wasn't worth it to me to pay for a few sips of tea).

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Then, we finally made it to the continuation of the Taishan Mt. range! Wait, did Bing Qing just tell us that the Taishan Mt. range goes around the outside of Jinan? "Yes, and the temples on Taishan Mt. are only maybe 60 km away." Thats maybe a half hour drive! We left Taishan on a train that took 3 hours to get to Beijing, then the subway for another hour to get to the airport, then we spent maybe 5 hours sleeping at a 5* hotel to then take another train 3 hours back to Jinan! We could have hiked to the top of Taishan rather than rushing from the Halfway Gate to Heaven, spent one more night in Taian, and then took a bus, not train, to meet Master Yang in Jinan! That would have saved probably about 500 yuen and 8 hours of needless travel! Hair! Pulling out! Steam! Spewing out of ears! Damn Chinese Whispers! (That is what the British call the game Telephone.)

1,000 Buddha Temple:

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Yeah, that was the biggest Buddha they had at the temple, and probably one of the biggest ones in the world. He was big.

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Now the staircase became narrow, steeper, and windy.
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This girl kept following us up the staircase, except from in front of us! Her and her boyfriend were ahead of us on the stairs, but anytime we would slow down to take a picture of something, they would slow down, and any time we would take a break because we were tired, they would rest too. Then her boyfriend finally had enough and turned around and asked if his girlfriend could get a picture with us.

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Thats one of the hotels on top of 1,000 Buddha Temple. That seems to be the trend with Chinese sacred places. A mixture of sculptures, engraved calligraphy into stone, temples and hotels.

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Then Joe found a rather unstable looking toboggan ride.

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And if I even sightly hinted that I might say something to talk him out of it, his eyes would fill with an anger that told me that anything I said against this idea would kill his spirit like a child who discovers that Santa isn't real because the baby in line for the photo in front of them pulls the fake beard off exposing not just the truth that this man doesn't exist, but that your entire love and trust system you had going with your family has just been proven to be all a sham as well! So, I held my tongue, and Bing Qing and I agreed to meet him at the bottom. It only cost 15 yuen, which is like $2, so it wasn't like it was a waste of money. I just got a little worried when I asked Bing Qing to translate for me what the ride opperator was screaming as Joe used both hands to push against the sides to make the ride go faster. She translated: "Slow down! Hold onto the hand break! Don't go so fast!" Yeah, theres no way Joe caught a word of that, and I'm not too sure he would have listened even if he understood the guy.

Joe:

When I first read of angry kids and fake Santa beards I didn't think it fit. But, as I think more about that day, I admit that this simile is an exquisite lie that reveals much truth.

I remember Climbing down those curving stone steps like a child on christmas seeing a huge toy racetrack under the Christmas tree. My eyes lit up and lifted a big grin from my cheeks when I saw my racetrack under many christmas pines, some decked with snow. I knew this was the one place where I could have this kind of fun for so little money, and I remember flashing Vanessa some angry eyes above pursed lips when she suggested I shouldn't go.

The track had a conveyor belt that pulled the heavy plastic sleds straight up the hill (with you on it for an extra ten yuan). The sleds looked like a heavy duty black colored version of those colorful plastic racing sleds we had as kids. The ones that were rectangular with upward curving foot pads on the front corners, sleek racy curving side walls, raised center console that turned the lower sides where your legs go into two skis, and a little bucket seat in back. I remember we had two of these and they were solid, made of one piece of hard plastic, except for the two little hand brake levers on the side walls. You could grab one of those levers and pull it back as snow sprayed at your side and your sled would turn left or right. I'm pretty sure my brother and I actually first saw those two sleds under the tree on Christmas. I remember one was royal blue; the other, fire engine red. We always wanted the blue one until it got beat up and one hand brake stopped working. We would race or curve back and forth crossing and running into each other; jumping ramps and running into trees. It's no wonder these great childhood vehicles carried us until they fell apart, destroyed.

This vehicle had one hand break lever in the center and it might have had plastic or metal runners on the bottom, or even little wheels. I was so excited, I didn't care to look. I just hoped it wouldn't be slow and boring, so to make sure I hopped on the little hard plastic seat and, with the video camera in my lap, started pulling myself quickly down the slope. Luckily I got Vanessa to give me the extra sweater and had my hood and hat pulled tight because the cold wind was freezing a dried and cracked smile on my face and making my wide eyes water.

The ride was more than I bargained for. I started going quite fast already racing around a turn. On the next straight away I grabbed the video camera (instead of the brake: aren't I smart!) and started the video. I held the camera near my chest and watched the real world. I didn't want to use the break because I'm conditioned to the American lawsuit system that prohibits any mechanical ride that could be dangerous. But, you can strap on a snowboard and break your neck because it's harder to blame a hill or a snowboard.

This is not America. In China, it's survival of the fittest. If you're too stupid or crazy to know when you're about to crash and burn, then we don't need you. I start going really fast. The trees are zipping by now. As I round the bend, the sled slides up to the top of the sidewall. I'm having a blast. But, when the turn is done the side wall gets very short, and I'm going so fast that I come a little too close for comfort to the top of the low side wall. Sometimes the camera points up because I wanted to show the trees and sometimes I just lose control. I go ahead and pull the break just a little on the next turn as a flock of startled pigeons takes off in front of me. I probably saved myself from an ejection and an ugly tuck and roll through dead branches and rocks.

The ride was definitely the greatest entertainment I had on the entire China trip. It brought me back to Racing through the cool mountain air north of Sedona with no helmet; smiling eyes squinting and watering at the dream world of rock formations popping out of brilliant green forest; hugging the bike around insane curves with my face below the windshield.

I used to be a daredevil, but these are the only stunts that still impress. Roller-coasters are boring because they give the rider no control and the scenery is rarely great. They send you in circles and drop you where you began, instead of transporting you somewhere; taking you on a journey. In-line skating doesn't even take me there anymore. Even though I wrote a philosophical college paper on why that sport so exhilarated me as it freed me from fears and let me fly through the air. Now I enjoy most, the fast paced vehicles that transport me to the next level, through a wonderland of scenery. I enjoy being transient, but grounded. And most of all I like moving in curves.

Nisha:

When we met Joe at the large laying down Buddha,

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we got a call from Wei Ping telling us that he was ready to pick us up to go to lunch.

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He took us to the Zhang family's apartment. Lili wasn't there, but her father, mother, and brother were there, busy making us lunch. It was a little strange b/c we ate in their kitchen first, just Mr. Zhang, Me, Joe, Bing Qing and Master Yang.

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You cold tell that Joe wasn't very happy with the paparazzi.

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Wei Ping was also nice enough to video tape us eating as well with our video camera. When we found out he worked for the post office, we should have known he would be able to figure out how to use our video camera even though he doesn't know how to read english (engineers!)

Then whatever was left over the rest ate while we sat in their living room. Afterwards we took some more traditional Chinese pictures. They are really into posed photos to let you know that at one time, you were there, and you were there with them, but thats it. You see these kind of photos a lot with Kung Fu student's and their masters.

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Except w/o the arm around the shoulder, "Control yourself Joe!"

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There, much better. Now we just have to figure out that the Chinese put their arms at their sides or hold them behind the back.

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Okay, now Joe is picking up on things while I am still slow to start.

Then we headed across a park square to Mr. Zhang's office building. He used to work for this company doing engineering I believe (I can't remember), but now he is retired and they brought him back to the company simply to do calligraphy for them (like I said before, calligraphy is a really big deal in China). Here are photos of us being taken to meet his boss:

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And then we get to his workshop/ office, and we are asked to pick one word that means the most to us that we would like for Mr. Zhang to paint for us as a gift that is priceless, but if pressed for an exact amount (which we didn't do at the moment, but found out later on when filling out the postage information to mail to America), worth thousands! One word? Right now? Off the top of my head? Couldn't you give us a few days to really think this one over? Joe and I are both baffled.

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Can't someone else go first? (BTW all the paintings hung up are made by Mr. Zhang and or his teacher.)

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Ahhh! He's got the paper ready! The special read paper with the golden dragons and phoenix's circling each other on special rice paper that will last over 500 years!

I finally look at Joe and ask him "What about Dao?" This was it, this was the perfect word for Joe. Taoism/ Daoism is his philosophy, his passion, his inspiration. It was the perfect word to paint for him and he would have picked it if he had a few days to think on it as well. Then Master Yang gave me a heads up, "While he paints this, you think of what word you want on yours." What? We are each getting one? I... [my mind goes blank, like the calm before the race gun shoot, then "bam!" it starts racing through my life to find a single word that meant something to me and was fitting for the art form]

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Joe:

I was intensely interested; watching every detail of the way he stood, moved, and even the way he breathed. This lion was in his den showing grace in thought and movement. He was quite and respectable the entire time. This art has a very long history and it is deeply tied to Chinese martial arts, as well as philosophy and Daoism. The greatest caligraphers of the past knew the depth and meaning behind every stroke. Each word was a poem in itself; a story of its creation and its purpose. Painting the story brings out emotions as the master feels the connection of hard wood vibration, soft brush, and liquid flow. A mere glimmer of this feeling is transfered to the paper. However, you can recreate the feeling when you see it because everyone has had a time in their life when they felt the perfect flow; the connection. As master Yang said, "This has as much Gung Fu as any martial art."

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Nisha:

Now the heat was on me, but I was ready for it.

"Breath, Spirit, Chi." An all in one word that encompasses this unexplainable (in my opinion) energy of the universe that is linked to the Yoga Prana and Pranayama (something I feel a closer attachment than the Tai Chi and Chi Gong of Chinese breath energy practices). Prana is the natural and intelligent innate energy, and Pranayama is the practice of breathing associated with it.

I like to think that Chi does not belong to any one philosophy. I disagree with how some people who feel Chi and try to explain it to me as if it was some amazing thing that if I only knew what they knew... I just feel like this kind of talk is a way to empower yourself rather than the source that you feel empowered by. Chi is something that is universal across multiple paths of discovery. It is also individualistic, and it doesn't belong to anyone in particular, not to the masters of Chi Gong or the practitioners of White Magic. So for anyone who has ever who has ever done something like closed their eyes as a child let the wind and energy of the world guide where you walked not because someone told you that this was Chi, but because you thought it was something that could possibly work all on your own, let that feeling wash over you again, and know that here it is in the present (or recent past as this video was taken a few months ago at this point), for you to see, and possibly even feel, but only on a metaphysical plane, no fingerprints on this painting!

Joe:

Master Yang and I agreed that Nisha's caligraphy of "Chi" had the most Gung Fu (mastery). You can see the way every movement flows into the next. He put his breath, and his energy into the word. The brush smoothly rises and falls, creating waves of different thicknesses; from heavy pools of blackness, to that thin circular touch; a brush with nothingness. If you didn't catch that, try watching the previous video again in fullscreen and close your eyes and take a deep breath before you press play.

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Nisha:

Now he was onto Bing Qing's scroll where she asked him to write a quote from Confucius about the search for knowledge being separate from the desire for the corruptors of money and power.

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Then onto Master Yang's. He said he already has a few of these paintings hanging in his house from previous visits, but this time he, a man born in the year of the tiger, wanted to honor the new year (the year of the tiger) by getting the word "Tiger"

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Master Yang's father got the symbol for Happiness (I think, the same as at the banquet the other night) and a quote from his quote book written (I'm not sure which one he picked). He basically writes down quotes he hears that he likes from almost any source, as long as the philosophy is good.

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I liked his idea about the quote book, and I started having Bing Qing translate quotes for me because Mr. Zhang wanted to make Joe and I another painting, but this time a long quote scroll, and I was out of ideas. Joe was running around with Wei Ping trying to find the Tao Te Ching written by Lao-tzu while Master Yang got a quote scroll about how Kung Fu is all about training on the basics.

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When Joe had given up on finding the book that was supposedly somewhere, and Bing Qing read us the first quote on the new page, we both thought it was perfect... for me. It basically said that if you want be happy you must first learn to be independent. Joe kept messing around, saying that he wasn't sure, and maybe he wanted to try and get Bing Qing to translate into Chinese one of his own philosophies, but we were running out of time. Bing Qing quietly came up to Joe and finally said "This man, he is very famous, and it is not right to keep him waiting, so..." I had heard enough, and I told Joe he could either have the introduction of the Tao Te Ching or the quote from Master Yang's father's quote book. Joe was completely against using the introduction because it wasn't real philosophy, it was just saying "This book is about philosophy" essentially. So we went with the the quote book. This spanned 2 lines of Chinese, and so he made 2 vertical wall hangings that he said we must separate with something in between them, like the Chi or Tao scroll (but I think I want to buy a Chinese painting to use there instead, too many words otherwise).

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The, the token documentary photograph where you have no idea what we were doing together, but you know that we were, in fact, together.

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Then we headed back to Mr. Zhang's place and had some really great dinner.

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Posted by - Rain 00:24 Comments (1)

What Can You Do in China Travel Game!

I'd like to open this blog to the travel game: What Can You Do in China!
We are winding down to only being in China for a little over a week, so get your questions in!

Part 1

First of all I'd like to start out with a few of my own questions.

Can you google?
Yes, you can google anything you want. (I've tried) And Google has actually gotten more powerful because China's online banking now uses google tools. So when Google recently threatened to pull out of China if China continued making demands about blocking web sites, China backed down! (I heard this news from people living in China, not the news, so you'll have to research that one b/c your research is as good as mine)>

Can you google Tiananmen Square?
Yes, but any website you try to click on comes up with a browser error, just like if you try to watch porn at the office. The company gets to decide what is blocked on their own network. However, they can't block everything (hence why guys are still getting fired for waking off at work). I can see mini thumbs of pictures (I can't open any of their web sites), and after randomly clicking and failing on accessing web sites, I got into this one:
http://www.slideshare.net/jcrowder/chinese-protest-tiananmen-square
(Don't tell China)

Can you wikipedia?
It depends on where you are. In Jinan the answer was no. In Beijing, the answer was yes, and now in Wudang the answer is back to no.

Can you smoke marijuana?
Thats an interesting topic. A British lady told us its the death penalty, a Chinese teenager told us its only the death penalty if you are a drug dealer, but for just smoking you get a fine, and an Alaskan said that his friend who was also a foreigner was caught smoking marijuana and was simply deported without allowance back into the country.

Can you speak out against the country?
Yes. A Chinese guy almost yelled in a restaurant to our one friend (who is white, but was speaking with him in Chinese) that Mao was just as bad as Stalin with how many of his own people he killed. Everyone turned to them in shock, but nothing happened. Its frowned upon and brainwashed into children in schools to not dislike their government. One Chinese girl we met we watched the Southpark about Japanese killing dolphins and she kept screaming about how much she hates the Japanese! And when I asked her why, she told us that she really didn't know, but that they are taught in their schools to hate the Japanese and love, almost worship, their government. Many people now do worship Mao as if he was ordained by god like their emperors were.

Are there any authentic martial arts?
Yes. We met some of them, and learned from some of them. Chinese people agree that during the revolution against martial arts that it died out with it being made illegal. However, not even a decade later the people were already starting to practice again. Sure they were afraid if they saw a soldier coming by, so they would stop, but even the amount of solders faded, and so did the scare. There still isn't as much authentic marital arts as there is in Taiwan or America, but they are closing that moderate gap (or so we hope).

This is Joe's Xing Yi master who he learns from while in Jinan:

For those of you who still need to take my word for it, this is not Wushu.

But for those of you who aren't impressed by seeing an internal martial art, here is an external one. A similar form (if not the same) I actually saw my old school, Green Dragon, preform (not as impressibly). But I only on video b/c it was such a highly advanced form Mr. Allen only taught a select group.

I think I rest my case. China has some good martial arts. I have many more videos of martial arts that we got to see while in China, but for now, you will have to wait until I get to that part of our journey.

Part 2

Holy Crap! Corey emailed me a lot of questions while we were in Jinan and rather than just answering her, I thought I'd answer to anyone who maybe interested.

She emailed me about 2 weeks after Master Yang left Jinan, so we are flashing forward just a bit, and to top that off right now we are in Wudang, so I am answering questions from that perspective too. Confused yet? I hope so, b/c I'm really trying here.)

what are the schools like?
In Jinan we taught at 4 different schools (its crazy!) so we only got to see each class one day a week. The schools are mostly set up the same way. The kids always have recess right before our class, and they run around acting crazy on a concrete area between the 3 buildings of the schools, usually 3 - 5 floors, and then they have an electric gate run by a man in a police uniform. The gate is about shoulder high on me and is made like a metal accordion that collapses to let people in and extends to close off the school yard.

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strict?
No, not as far as I've seen.

are the kids really good students?
Sometimes. Mostly we teach 9 - 14 year old kids, and our first class we couldn't get to stop eating candy and passing around tea and having their own little tea party in sections of the room, and one girl who turned around in her seat skipped the second half of the class after our 10 min. break. The older kids are generally more behaved, and on the other side of the spectrum we had a class that loved every minute of class, and during the 10 min. break they made a mad dash to our table at the front of the room and shoved notebooks in our hands and had us sign our names. (So cute, and so creepy at the same time).

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are things similar to our schools?
Hard to tell considering I've never seen anyone teach except for Joe, and he teaches like an American teaching a class he has no idea how much they already know and are ready to learn.

do they encourage collective and work ethic a lot more like Montessori or family values like that newer Montessori (I forget the new method's name)?
What is Montessori? Okay, I looked it up on the internet, but didn't read it all the way through b/c like I said, I have no idea how the school is run when Joe and I aren't teaching.

Bin use to complain that the teachers in america sometimes corrected her in front of the students and that was never done over there... there was a lot of respect for teachers...
We've never been corrected by the teacher mostly because the teacher usually leaves or isn't there to begin with. I think we might be some sort of extra curricular class or something that doesn't have regular teachers sometimes. Others when the teacher stays she may come up to us at the end of class and tell us to go slower or faster or what the kids know or don't know, but that has actually only happened once in the 4 weeks we taught.

what do people think of America over there?
They almost wet themselves (the children) when they find out we are American. Most people who we've met who know English want to go to the USA to go to college or to do business. Also, for teaching English Americans are #1, Canadian #2, British #3, and Australian's are #4.

do they hate us?
They don't hate us, in fact the few who we've talked politics too feel bad for us. One girl thought it was terrible that the rich Americans don't want to give their money to the government to help their country, and that the rich Chinese are proud to help build their countries schools and other government run programs. She also said that she would rather have her leader picked for her than get to vote on the 2 guys who paid the most money to be in a position to run for election.
As for other foreigners, they hate us. We met a Slovakian, he hated America (especially me). We met a guy from Ireland who makes jokes that aren't funny, but evil spirited, about America so much that I started defending it! We met a guy from Turkey, he hates America and says he is from Turkey even though he was born in Texas, and lived in Georgia until he was 9 when his parents moved back to the country they are from, Turkey. I like to tell him to explain to people (he has been in China for a year, so he speaks Chinese) that I am from O'tel'ri'a (Australia), because I haven't lived in the USA for 8 months now and my citizenship is almost as much Australian as he is Turkish (he holds an American passport too).

how's the apartment?
Our apartment in Jinan was good once I doused the place in bleach. You don't have to clean the apartment when you leave, so there was still food in the bowls (apartments in China come furnished sometimes times, so we got one of those b/c we didn't want to buy a bed and all for only 3 weeks). Luckily one of the mom's we've been having take care of us gave us bleach, a mop, a dust pan, a broom, and all sorts of rags. We were staying at her father's apartment for a week while he was out of town, and I thought she brought those over for us to clean his apartment. But she said no no no, that she would clean his apartment for us with his stuff, and that she brought those for our apartment. We got the place for 60 rmb a night, which is less than $10, and we get internet and a kitchen with a fridge and a stove and a bathroom with a shower and a european toilet (yes, most of china has squatting toilets, they still are porcelain and flush, but they are like toilet bowls in the ground).

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are you in the city near the school or more in the country?
We are in the capital city of the Shangdong province (Jinan). It is cold here, usually in the 40's, so we wouldn't have stayed here so long but Master Yong set us up with so many people to help us out and hang out with us and teach us martial arts and places to work we had to stay here for a while. (There are so many people here! Its ridiculous! It is seriously the most crowded place I've ever been to, and you don't leave the city until you hit countryside. The suburbs are built up just like the city, so think of leaving downtown Chicago only when you hit open fields, and multiply the number of people in the city at least by 10. Also, there is usually too much pollution to see the sky, so we've only seen blue sky 2 times now in the month we've spent in China.

what do you like most about being over there?
Umm, the... I don't know! The currency exchange! Everything overhear is really really cheap except for places like McDonalds. Anything imported is imported prices. But if you want to buy a chinese meal at a restaurant, it usually cost us under $10 for the 2 of us. Also, there is no tipping in China, you just pay for your food.

the fresh food?
There is fresh food, but you aren't allowed to eat it. All their food has been heavily chemicalized in order to make sure that enough crops stay good to feed the ridiculous amounts of people, and they are transported in dirty cars and handled with dirty hands (soap doesn't exist outside of private residences, and there aren't too many bathrooms so toddlers here have holes in their pants so if they have to go, they just squat on the sidewalk where they are selling food and go). So all their food you have to wash really really well, and then boil. They gag when they see Joe and I eating raw veggies, and the scrunch up their nose when they see us eat fruit without skinning it first. I'm not a terrible fan of China actually. Their food usually makes my tummy bubbly or makes me not want to eat (come on, you had to see that one coming). I've become something of a vegetarian in China. Or so we tell people we meet. It just makes them less inclined to try to shove fish heads in my face or prod me to try chicken feet, "Just give it a try!" with a big smile. Yeah, I've been just giving strange food a try for the 2 weeks Master Yong was here, and I'm ready for some simple veggies and noodles now please.

did you eat a durian yet?
old answer: What is a durian? Okay, I just looked it up. No we haven't bought one yet, but Master Yong said that it is the best fruit in the world.
Now that we are in Wudang, I would like to correct this statement I made while in Jinan. I have had durian, and if it is too fresh (not ripe) it is like eating a fresh banana. Really fiberous and doesn't really taste or smell like anything. But if you let it ripen (think brown banana), then it is sweet gewy goodness that stinks like wet, sweaty socks. It is called the king of all fruits not because the taste is so good (I don't think its any better than a ripe banana or honeydew), but it is uber healthy for you with no negative side affects like access vitamins building up in your liver.

are you allowed to eat them in your apartment or is it too stinky?...
old answer: Again, haven't tried.
And, now that I'm in Wudang, yes, you can eat it in your apartment or hotel room. You can only smell the fruit once you hold it up to your face. If its in your lap, you can't smell it. However, once it hits your breath, and you start breathing with the taste in your mouth, its like turning on a fan. We had to open a window and air the place out. But its just like stinking up your kitchen with an aroma, it smells, and then goes away after a few minutes.

did you know they have a bunch of monkeys on really long leashes that pick tea and coconuts...
No, I did not.

you should buy monkey coconuts...did you try a bird's nest soup or aged egg?...
No to the soup, and no to the egg, and no to ever seeing either, and we've been exposed to a lot of Chinese food from spicy Sichuan to plain steamed buns.

I think I read those are really expensive...
I just looked them up on the internet, and they are really expensive, same thing with the monkeys, so most people in china wouldn't have had those either. But I would say that China is also not a Communist country, and so would most people in China. Sure, the government does some things that could be considered Communist like taking rich peoples homes and turning them into museums and stuff, but today most of the people never are touched by the Communist like society and live in a deeply Capitalistic society where they can be beggars or middle class citizens biased on how much they can make. Everything cost money here, and for most people what they make is theirs to become whatever they want, just like everywhere else.

are you learning the language?
Kinda, I mostly do all the reading, and Joe does all of the speaking.

is it hard?
YES! They will try to teach me to say something, and I'll say it back to them, and they always laugh! Then when they explain, no start high, then go down, then make the sound high again ( U ), and I'll correct my pronunciation to include the tone, and they will just laugh harder! There are only 4 tones, up-down-up: U , up (like a question in English) / , down \ , and flat --- (which i've understood to be 3 tones in itself: high pitched flat, normal flat, and low pitched flat... yeah, I hate this language). Then if you leave the north and head south, they speak Cantonese and not Mandarin, so nobody in the south would understand us northerners anyhow. Except for the town we started in in the south b/c its mostly filled with people under 30 (the city is only 30 years old), and most schools teach the kids Mandarin.

do you do warm ups in the morning with the groups that meet ( I think I see pictures of people meditating in the mornings as a group...I would love to have group meditation before work...
Yes and no. Joe does a meditative martial arts every morning 6 - 8 am in the park, and I do wu shu with Joe Sat. mornings in the park from 7:30-9:30, but thats about it. A lot people in China work the morning market (only open 5- 8 am) and then go to their day jobs, and then work the night market (only open 6 - 10 pm). Like I said, this place is really capitalistic now, so not as many people do morning group warmups like they used to. Those who don't have work in the mornings get together at parks real early (just about the same time Joe is at practice) and they do all sorts of exercises. Here are the top five warm ups I saw people do in the mornings the one morning I got my ass up to watch Joe practice. Number one is probably some sort of martial art. They have people learning Tai Chi, Tai Chi Sword, Ba Gua, Xing Yi, etc. Those are all internal styles, meaning there is a level of meditation and energy movement and attention to body movement beyond martial application. Number two is crazy middle aged women doing techno line dancing. Number three is probably the exercise equipment. They have tuns of stair master, cross country skiing, parallel bars, etc. all over the park that mostly old people play on doing all sorts of repetitive motions. Number four is badminton, they love that game! And number five is a slow moving hacky-sack with a bunch of feathers on the end to make it move slow.

Have anything else you would like me to test the waters with? Comment on the blog.

Posted by - Rain 08:48 Comments (5)

Confucius Says

This morning we had a hell of a time finding Master Yang for breakfast. He said to meet him on the 2nd floor, so we hit 2 on the elevator. We came out of the elevator, turned right, entered the breakfast area, and he is nowhere to be found. We headed back up the elevator, knocked on Master Yang's door, no answer. We went back to our room and tried calling him on his phone, no answer. We went back down to the 2nd floor, scarfed breakfast by ourselves, and then Joe headed back to the room to see if anyone would call us there, and I went down to the main lobby to see if they were waiting for us to leave. I found Bing Qing in the lobby. She was sent down there to wait for us (she couldn't eat breakfast anyways b/c she wasn't staying at the hotel). She and I walked up to the second floor and it was a completely different breakfast area, and Master Yang and his father were sitting at the first table when you waked in, just finishing up their breakfast with Wei Ping. I told them that we already ate, apparently on the 3rd floor, and that we were ready to leave when they are.

Master Yang said that he was going to spend the day with Master Wong going sword shopping, but that Joe and I were going to take a trip with Wei Ping and Bing Qing to Confucius's temple and grave site. He said that he has already been there 9 times, so he didn't want to go again, but we should defiantly visit it as one of the major places to go in China. But before we left breakfast Wei Ping handed me a large bag with a winter coat in it. "SheaShea" I told him, and I pulled out this long black jacket that reminded me of my old jacket from back home that Brittany now has in England (way to steal my warmth! Or purchase it from my apartment sale! Whichever!)

When we met back up with Joe and headed out we ran into Master Wong who came to Joe with a new, larger jacket for him to try on. This one fit really well, and Joe actually gave him a man hug (that pat on the back thing). Master Wong told us "No problem, no problem, you are my friend," and little did we know that even after only meeting this guy for one dinner, he actually was.

Wei Ping pulled his car around and Joe, Bing Qing and I pilled in for a rid I thought may take 20 minutes or so, but ended up taking hours! We drove and drove and drove, down these Chinese highways that were actually really nice. Rather than using those pillions to block opposing traffic head lights they used bushes and trees the entire way! Bing Qing explained that of coarse they would use trees in the medians because they are beautiful and they help produce oxygen to counteract all the car pollution. Makes sense to me.

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Then we finally made it to Confucius's town.

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Wei Ping dropped the 3 of us off and said that he would pick us up after we were finished. I felt a little bad that he drove us all this way and wasn't going to go inside the temples, but I guess he had some business he was going to attend to locally, so it was all okay. Tickets were like 100 yuen (only 75 for Bing Qing b/c she is a student), so we could see why he may not have wanted to go in.

After passing through the main gates to the temple we found ourselves surrounded by many pagoda like temples with huge turtles with scrolls on their backs. This, the largest turtle, they couldn't even fit inside a building:

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That last picture is of the golden dragon that circles above the turtles with the scrolls on their backs and is said to live at every major spiritual place, protecting and watching over everything.

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It was said that the emperor was very jealous that Confucius's temple had these dragon pillars that were made in better likeness than his own, so he had them covered up for years and years with cloth so no set of dragon pillars would rival his own at the Summer Palace (which everyone in China simply says is a terrible translation, and then leave it at that).

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That is a picture of the hall of alters dedicated to Confucius's student's and their fathers. Bing Qing told us that honoring the son without honoring their father isn't an honor at all. Joe asked if today people were less respectful to their parents, and she said maybe a little, but mostly no matter how shitty your father is, you generally obey and respect him anyways. She thought it was the craziest thing when I told her that it had been so long since I last spoke to my father (2, maybe 3 or 4 years?) that I couldn't remember. Then she told us a Chinese story. It starts out with a normal Chinese family that is suddenly struck with a disaster and they no longer have enough food to survive. So, out of great respect of his father (the grandfather of the story), he kills his youngest son and serves him to his father. Bing Qing said that many people in China revere this man as having a good sense of respect and honor for his father, but that she does not think he is so good because it is a father's duty to protect his children as well.

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That was Confucius's well where he (or maybe his servants) would get water everyday. Then after passing through maybe 20 temples, each one built by new emperors who wanted to show their people that they were good leaders by honoring Confucius, we made our way back to the front entrance and we had some snacks. Bing Qing thought it was really gross that Joe and I would eat raw carrots and that raw carrots are dog food (sound familiar? Corey?) Then we headed over to Confucius's family's temples.

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Here Bing Qing told us that Chinese people thing that straight things are not so beautiful, so this is why their bridges to pagodas are often zigzag shaped. In honor of the zigzag Joe will now preform some Xing Yi:

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(Everyone wants to take pictures with the laowie (nice way of saying foreigners, meaning foreigner, not ghost).)

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Then we headed out and walked about 30 min. to Confucius's grave yard.

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And for whatever reason, I can only find one picture from his graveyard! I don't know what happened to the rest. So to start off, we waked through about 3 huge gates with sayings from Confucius written on them before we made it to the main walled off area of the graveyard. Entering we passed though the graveyard on mini roads that had street signs to direct you though this massive graveyard. In China they don't always have headstones for every individual body, so to mark the graves they make these large mounds of dirt. Walking past these mounds all next to one another reminded me of looking at atoms on the microscopic level. Then there would be one large headstone indicating what family or who were part of the grouping of graves. These graves are for Confucius's disciples or students and their families. Over the bridge:

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Was the way to Confucius's tomb. Walking into the inner walled off area of the graveyard you pass a petrified tree inside a small, maybe 3 foot high pagoda. This tree was planted by one of Confucius's disciples. Then in a row on the right were all of these tall red pagodas with walls on every side and windows that were ornately screened with red carved wood. These pagodas were resting places for the emperors when they would come to pay their respects to Confucius. Each emperor had his own resting area separate from the previous emperor. On the left was a huge mound of dirt that was more like a hill than a grave. This hill was the tomb of Confucius's grandson. Once you walked past all the resting pagodas and the hill that is Confucius's grandson's tomb you came to a 90 degree turn around the grandson's grave, and a marker on your right indicated that this surprisingly smaller sized hill was Confucius's son's grave. Then, just past his grave, still with the grandson's grave on the left, was the grave on Confucius. Now his grave was slightly larger than the son's grave, but the grandson's grave spanned the with of both his father's and Confucius's graves combined! Anyways, just past Confucius's grave was a building that housed some of Confucius's most dedicated disciples who stayed with Confucius years after he died, only leaving his grave site to get food and water. They stayed with him and meditated every day. They were only supposed to stay with him a year or so after his death, but one disciple stayed 6 years!

Now a tour group was coming, so I was trying to get Joe to hurry up with his bowing before Confucius's grave, but then I thought it would be better to have all these Chinese people surround Joe while he prayed and get a video of all of them getting videos as well:

Thats Confucius's grave on the left, then I pan over to the grandson's grave on the right, then around to the building made for housing his disciples.

After this we drove the several hours back to Jinan, and both Joe and I fell asleep. In Jinan Wei Ping took us to a restaurant and bought us all stuffed dumplings for dinner at a restaurant near their football (soccer) stadium. This place was crazy big, the soccer stadium, it reminded me of Jacob's field but with neon lights everywhere. Jinan is into the neon lights. After dinner Wei Ping drove us around the city a bit and we got to see those fake trees with the lights for leaves and all the guard rails lit up with swirling rainbow colors and every building had some sort of neon light show streaming up the 4 corners or even between every window! Very beautiful city to see at night. Wei Ping drove past Baotu Springs and asked if we wanted to go in again to see the lights, but Joe and I were both exhausted. "My uncle said he can get us in for free, do you still not want to go?" Bing Qing asked. "No, I'm too tired. I've got flat feet!" Joe told her, and I think she may have just thought he was being polite.

The last thing we did that night was go to Wei Ping's office. It was right between where we ate lunch and dinner yesterday and our hotel, so right on the way. In his office he wanted us to download the photos we took that day so he could see what we got to do at Confucius's temple. While we did that he showed us a video taken by a news station about him! It was really neat to see Chinese news. They had a special documentary about Wei Ping that started off with a Chinese woman talking about Wei Ping as they showed slow motion footage of him waking down a crowded street in Jinan (so typical news documentary!) Then they showed him tinkering with all sorts of electronics and satellite dishes. It turns out that Wei Ping doesn't just work for the post office, but he is an engineer they hired to invent new technology to be used all across China! Joe was extremely impressed and gave Wei Ping a huge hand shake. I told Wei Ping (through Bing Qing) that Joe would like to be an inventor too when he grows up. Wei Ping smiled big at this and gave us the thumbs up, but then told us that he wasn't an inventor, but a tinker who tweaks things, but not as good as an inventor. Well he rewired their whole system from ATM machines (China Post is more than just mail, they have hotels, restaurants, ATM's, and probably a lot of other things we haven't been exposed to). Basically Wei Ping saved China Post millions of dollars with his "tinkering" and he has his own lab on a lower floor that he wished he could show us, but only his workmates and internship students have security clearance for the lab. Then he gave us pictures from last nights dinner (we didn't bring the cameras) and we were ready to go to sleep because we were sure that tomorrow was going to be another busy day, and Master Yang was on vacation, which meant no sleeping in!

Posted by - Rain 21:26 Comments (1)

Land Where Trees Grow in Row

Approximately 123 million pairs of wooden chopsticks are disposed of in China everyday

The next morning we rushed out the door (skipping my coveted second shower), and packed into a taxi to the train station (weren't we just here yesterday? -yes). Last night Wei Ping's friend picked us up from the airport and drove us to our 5* hotel, but today he had work.

Our only pictures of Beijing (so far):

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At the train station Master Yang already had our train tickets, so all we had to do was wait. He told us we had to leave so early because if we had left any later we would have hit Beijing rush hour, and it would have taken us 4 times as long to make it to the train station. This, even though I didn't get my second shower, I was grateful for. Then it hit Joe, "The crossbow!" Last night he discovered that it was much easier to carry the crossbow in 2 parts, the trigger and shaft section, and then the perpendicular string and bow section. He could fit the trigger section easily in the side water pouch of his backpack, but the bow part was too tall, so he took it out of the backpack to fit it into the trunk of the taxi. And when we got all of our stuff out of the taxi, he forgot to take out the bow section. "We should just throw the rest out." he told me. "NO! Not after we carried that thing halfway up the mountain!" I was really against getting rid of it, especially since Joe fell in love with the trigger section anyways. It was the only crossbow who's finger rest was made out of curved wood rather than the straight chops of wood used on all the rest. Plus, he convinced me that it was a present that he would like more than Nate since Nate is more into the antique looking old stuff that really isn't for fighting, and Joe likes newer and simpler weaponry that could be made out of balsa wood for all he cares as long as it functions. So, sorry Nate, we will try to replace the crossbow with something even better.

At the station we met Master Yang's father who swears he has met me before. At breakfast in the train station I asked Master Yang if his father ever came to Ohio to meet us before, and he said that his father thinks every white girl who is a student of his is the same person. This was surprising because then he added that his parents live in Las Vegas, so I would think he would get over that whole all white people look the same bit.

Wei Ping (as we are forced to become accustomed to in the following weeks) wouldn't let us chip in for our breakfast noodles, and he didn't speak any English, so it was very difficult for me to argue. (Damn you Chinese hospitality!) Then we caught our train to Jinan, the city where Master Yang's father is from which is also the capital of Shangdong province.

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Good bye Beijing.

As we are getting situated a woman ran up to Master Yang and gave him a huge hug and started speaking rapidly in Chinese to him. Master Yang returned the hug and started pointing to me, Joe, Wei Ping, and then to his father. Well, when his finger landed on his dad the woman actually let out a little scream. His father was already beaming, apparently prepared for her reaction, and she gave him one of those tight hugs that pulls the other person side to side for a bit. Master Yang explained that it was really random to run into her, but she used to interpret for him at his martial arts tournaments, making sure that his students knew when they were to go on the stage area, making sure everyone knew what was going on, etc. He told us that she came from a poorer family, so this was kind of a big chance for her to move up in life. It seemed to have worked because she (like so many other Chinese women) was dressed really stylishly with black tights, a black skirt and suit jacket combination with a silky orange blouse and black shinny high heels. She had a seat right behind Joe and I, but she managed to talk the person sitting next to Master Yang's dad into switching with her, so for the rest of the train ride the two of them gossiped like high school best friends. It was really one of the sweetest things I've seen.

I had my book out on the train and was ready to read, but I had a window seat that looked out at China during the day! So I watched out my window to see what China actually looked like. For a long while it seemed as if the apartment complexes would never end. I asked Master Yang if there was a lot of unemployment in China, but he said no. China just has tones of people, but they do almost everything by hand, so they need tones of workers. This became more apparent when we came to the fields. Now this wasn't a slow process, we pretty much when straight from dirty and rundown apartment complexes almost 20 stories high, to open fields. It looked exactly like the train ride to Beijing. Just open fields with the occasional small dirt hut community of field workers, and then more open fields. The only trees in these fields, as far as the eye could see, appeared random, but then when you hit them at the right angle, you realize that they are all planted in straight rows, and they are all the same height and shape. All the trees in China are planted! From the trees along the roads in the city (which are many more than in America), to the trees between cities (which are many less than in America). The outlook, however you want to interpret, was bleak at best. After an hour of wondering if we were really moving at all or if someone was just putting the same foggy image of tan fields with dots of snow and barren trees all in a row on a moving slide across my window; so I opened Steven King's The Gunslinger.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera out when we hit the stop at Jingwu. You wouldn't know by the Beijing look of the city (except this town had a huge ferris wheel!), but this was the hometown of Huo Yuan Jia (the character Jet Li played in Fearless). Joe told me it wasn't a big deal, and that I shouldn't be sad that I didn't have my camera ready b/c he'd rather forget that Hyo Yan Jia's hometown was now a huge city with a giant ferris wheel.

3 hours after we embarked on our journey though China we made it to Jinan. Here we met Wei Ping's nephew who's wife worked in the train station police and was the one who got us all of our tickets (otherwise we wouldn't have gotten the days we wanted to travel, or seats, so I've been told). But that was all I was told as we walked out of the train station and they spoke Chinese to each other (this happens a lot in China). We walked a few blocks over and then headed into the China Post Hotel. "Is this where we are staying?" I asked Master Yang. "No! Not here! Here we eat lunch!" Of course, why didn't I think of that? In the elevator he explained that Wei Ping worked for the China Post Office and that he can get banquet halls for lunch very cheep at their hotels. At the 3rd floor a beaming young girl with big eyes behind small, purple, rectangular glasses met us. She had on pink pajama pants and a tan Amelia Earhart jacket. (I liked her already. First Chinese girl I met not wearing stiletto boots and ridiculously stylish clothes. As a traveller, we thank you for not dolling up). Her name was LiLi (sp?), and she was Wei Ping's niece. When introducing ourselves everyone seemed to have a lot of trouble saying "Vanessa," no problems with "Joe," but my name was catching on everyones tongs. So I asked Lili to give me a Chinese name. So from now on I am no longer Vanessa, Ness, Van, Anesa, V, or Rain. But going back to my original nicknames (ones that sound like my real name), I now am called Nisha or Nissa (its hard to tell because I think its somewhere in between the two, so for all intents and purposes (or all intensive purposes if that saying rings a bell for you more... thats right, you're illiterate, learn to deal), I say and write Nisha.

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From left to right is Master Yang's father, Wei Ping, Master Yang, Joe, and then me, Nisha. The center of the table is typical in China where there is a spinning disk that they put dishes on, and then everyone spins it around and eats mostly from those central dishes. Most people don't seem to fill their personal plates, they just pick from the middle dishes and eat. We could use one of these at Thanksgiving.

Halfway through lunch a nervous sounding girl wearing a neon pink jacket and round frameless glasses came into the room, introduced herself as Bing Qing, told us that she is happy to meet us and to speak English to us, and that she was a biology major at Shangdong University, and she hopes to travel to America to continue her studies, and she is 20 years old. At first I was thinking, oh man, this kid knows no English at all, so when she sat next to me I just nodded at her and told her it was nice to meet her too. Then after lunch Master Yang took us to our newest 5* hotel. It was only a few blocks away, so we walked to it across the dangerous roundabout before the train station. We were told that we stay in all these 5* hotels for very cheep b/c Wei Ping has connections in Beijing and Jinan with hotel owners. So rather than paying around 500 or more yuen a night, we pay around 200 (about $30). He also said that a lot of these fancy hotels were only build in the last 3 or 4 years getting geared up for the Olympics, so many of these snazzy hotels are desperate to fill their vacancies. Our hotel for our duration in Jinan had Greek interior decoration with statues and paintings adorning the lobby.

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From left to right is Lili, Joe, Me, Bing Qing, Master Yang, Master Yang's dad, then Lili's brother's wife and her brother.

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Next Master Yang said that Bing Qing was going to take us shopping for winter clothes. I was extremely glad for this because it was frigid outside! There was a nasty wind that added to the already below freezing temperature, and everyone said that it was Master Yang's fault, because last week it was in the mid to upper teens. (Way to bring the cold back from Ohio with you!) Bing Qing explained to us that we were going to take the bus to an underground shopping mall, and I started to feel a little more comfortable with her english. But then on the bus while we rode for about 15 min. I was surprised to discover that she was actually really good at english and that her speech when she walked in the room wasn't just comprised of everything she knew how to say in english, but she was just that thorough of a person.

The underground shopping mall was actually in the heart of the city under the symbol of Jinan:

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Bing Qing said that it was the largest green square in all of China (Tiananmen square is the largest square in the world, according to the Chinese, I'm not sure if everyone else concurs). She said it is very beautiful in the spring and summer, but being that it was still winter it was a little not beautiful looking. Below the square was an actual shopping mall with actual shopping mall prices, so neither of us found anything. To top off what slow and pathetic shoppers Joe and I were, Bing Qing hated shopping, so it made the process even more grueling. I told her that I was more looking for an open market with disposable jacket prices since I wasn't planning on being cold for long enough to drop $40 (about 273 yuen) on a jacket. Joe needed to sit down after about an hour of bad shopping, so he chilled out in the McDonalds (they are everywhere!) while Bing Qing and I settled for going to the super market to at least buy some gloves. I got them for American prices, but they were only gloves, so it wasn't that much money. Then after we took Joe away from his red bean pies (there are no cherry or apple pies at Chinese McDonalds, you can have red bean, sweet taro (my favorite, and a really pretty color lavender), or pineapple), we headed across the square to Boutu Springs Park, the actual symbol of Jinan (the city of springs).

Going to the springs we didn't realize how big of a deal the place was, so we were kinda surprised when they charged 30 yuen to get in. This wasn't a problem b/c we hadn't had to spend any of our cash since Master Yang came in yesterday (hotels he takes us to accept visa). Most places in China don't accept Visa or any other kind of credit card. They only accept cold hard cash, so Joe and I have been having to carry around a lot of money since we came to China, and normally this would be alarming, but in China we haven't had a problem. Everyone has been scaring us half to death about people slicing our backpacks and bumping into us thereby stealing our wallets. But we haven't had any of that, and so I think that it just goes to show you that as long as you are careful, you really are quite safe in China. We haven't even seen a single beggar! Well, until right in front of this big city tourist attraction. It was really ruthless how we handed over what would be 30 dollars to this beggar just so we could see some temples and springs, and it only cost to us $4. We could have easily handed him over 30 yuen and it would have meant all the world, but we didn't. We guarded our cash and ran inside the place, worried that if we didn't hurry he would steal our identities. (Who? Us, still scarred? Nah... well, maybe.)

In any case, the place was pretty fantastic (if you consider that it was in the negatives outside, so no green on the trees) :

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This is China's answer to Japan's rock gardens (never tell a Chinese person I said that! They really do hate the Japanese). They have these huge holey rocks up on these pedestals arranged in organized chaos.

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And here are where the springs really bubble up:

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They have little bubbles coming up all over the park, but here they have actual fountains of water. Inside the nearest temple is a history of the springs, and it said that they get higher in the summer because the increase in rainfall causes an increase in water pressure. It also had a black and white photograph of a time when the spring shot up over 80 ft. high!

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These waterlines light up at night and generally aren't part of the park. All of the bright inflatable floats have been added to the park in celebration of the Chinese New Year (we are in the year of the Tiger if you haven't heard).

Bing Qing wanted to leave pretty early so we could go on a boat ride, but Joe and I agreed that we would like to see the whole park before we left since it was really nice (and we did pay for it... and we are cheap). Which I think it was a good thing we did because we got to see this amazing mansion.

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(Thats Joe and Bing Qing.)

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(And this is part of the mansion that the Communist government took from a family and turned it into a public museum. Bad for the family, but good for the tourists.)

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Now it was getting too cold for us to be outside anymore, so we headed back to our hotel. That night we had a huge banquet at the same location as lunch, but a much bigger room because we added about 3 times as many people.

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To the right of Master Yang is the doctor who didn't speak English, but Bing Qing translated that he thought Joe's stitches were fantastically done (thank god!)

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Lili's father, Master Zhang, is between Master Yang and Master Yang's dad. This is the position of honor, the "head of the table" if we weren't sitting Camelot style (coy word choice, I know, well it was until I pointed it out at least). He is a very famous master calligrapher in China, and the last disciple of one of the best calligraphers in China who said that Master Zhang's calligraphy was even better than his own (pretty cool). The woman on the very left of the photo is Master Yang's english translator for his tournaments (notice how she snagged the spot next to Master Yang's dad... he is quite the ladies man).

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Then she got bumped by the Chinese Opera singer (again, the closer you are to the "head" of the table, the cooler you are, and Opera singer beats english translator).

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During the dinner Master Zhang unveiled his newest calligraphy masterpiece. I believe it means happiness. It is the same symbol that is used on diamond shaped posters that adorn everyone's doors in China. I think it might be just for the new year, but I haven't gotten any direct answers on the subject. Everyone was very excited about the painting... but I admit I didn't quite get it (neither did Joe, that is, until he saw him actually paint, and then it was like a whole different ball game - bad idiom, I don't know why I couldn't' think of something better.)

One of Master Yang's Kung Fu brother's, Master Wong, came to dinner a bit late, and he was who was this hilarious bald man who would soon become a dear friend to us. Near the end of the meal (which I will get back to in a moment), both Master Wang and the opera singer preformed for us. First the woman sang a song I believe was a patriotic song about China (thanks to the occasional translation from Bing Qing), and she was amazing.

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Without any voice exercises or preparation, she stood up from the dinner table and belted out one of the most amazing songs I have ever heard in person. I hate opera singing, don't get me wrong, but I do admire anyone who can pull it off as a master of song, pitch, and lung endurance! Then right afterwards Master Wong stood up (apparently with a dish he broke in the hallway with a 2 finger strike, a sign of a true master not to show off to strangers) and started telling a sing song poem about a tiger.

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Like the running of horse hooves he clinked the 2 parts of the dish together in one hand, while the other gestured along with his tale. Very entertaining, very enthusiastic, and apparently very funny (I didn't get his jokes... maybe it was the language barrier).

Back to the dinner. Master Yang started it off with introducing us as his students, and then promptly saying, as they passed out individual bools with sea cucumbers inside, that Joe is a good guy who will eat anything. Then Joe proceeded to point out that I don't like seafood, which most of the room seemed to miss (no english) but Master Yang made it a point to continue the joke (at my expense) to everyone in chinese. The entire table (about 20 people: Wei Ping, his wife (the woman with the green long sleeve shirt who is not me), his close friend (man with the zip up gray jacket), the doctor, Master Yang's english translator for his tournaments, Lili and her brother and his wife and Master Zhang, Bing Qing, the opera singer, Master Wong, Master Yang and his dad, and maybe a few others I've forgotten) all started asking me in Chinese why I didn't eat seafood and how good it was for me. Yeah, this is a great way to start out a several hour banquet.

I ended up eating a lot of seafood this evening, due to the remarks about me not eating seafood, and I even called to Master Yang's attention as I took the finishing bite of my sea cucumber! It tasted like bland, squishy, wet jello. The appearance of eating an entire animal was what really got to me (the mouth with all its little feelers was the worst part). Then I made a point to show Master Yang that I had finished my sea cucumber, while Joe had only eaten half (me? vindictive? Nah... well, maybe). After eating everyone stuck around and smoked cigarets and gave "Gan bei!" to everyone around the table.

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When Wei Ping and his wife came over to give a "Cheers" to Joe and I his wife asked me if I would like one of her jackets to wear (Bing Qing translated). I told her that would be great, and then she wanted to know what style I liked (Chinese and their fashion), I told her I liked them warm.

The night ended with us walking back to our hotel with Master Yang and Master Wong who insisted that Joe take his jacket (literally right off his back). "No, no, no, no Master Wong, its okay, I don't need a jacket," Joe kept trying to tell him, but Master Wong wouldn't budge. Now, Master Wong was about my height, so Joe started using the excuse that the jacket wouldn't fit him. He kept asking Master Yang to step in and translate, but Master Yang said "I already told the guy," and left Joe to do the rest. Eventually Joe put on the jacket and showed Master Wong that the sleeves were too short, only coming halfway between his elbow and wrist. Master Wong nodded and said "Okay, okay, okay," followed by "Tomorrow..." then gesturing with his hand on his head, "I.." and then his hand shot up to as high as he could reach. "Ahh, taller, taller," Joe helped. Master Wong said "Yes, tomorrow, I taller... then," then gesturing putting a jacket onto Joe's back "here!" He finished with his token one word line, and there was no arguing.

Posted by - Rain 01:52 Comments (0)

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