Nothing here is really what I expected it to be. There have been some long days, some short, useful and boring. There are people I see in a new light, and ones who are exactly what I remember. I’ve found myself to be oddly social at times, saying things in the moment that I question, feeling things that I didn’t expect to feel. Nothing really bad, but unfamiliar.
I spent the first few days getting used to the training again, long days in a chair, trying to find creative new ways to stay focused. There is a lot of variety, and some things that are required. I could find sessions that fit what I needed to learn, but the anchor of being part of a larger organization is still here. Safety and policy fill part of our time, but nothing too extensive.
Most of the sessions I went to had to do with the lower levels of English I found in Lanzhou. A medical university has use for the language, but there are plenty of students who can write far better than they can speak. There were a few people with similar situations I was able to talk to, teachers with very different styles from mine. I am glad we had this time, even if the days were much longer than I would have liked.
I’ve gone out of my way to spend time with as many different people as possible. Lunches, dinners, groups, board games, whatever. There are a few people I have never really had the chance to speak with before now, or at least I never got around to it. It’s strange how so few interactions can change my perspective of a person, or reinforce it. I never stop analyzing behavior, mine or everyone else’s. I don’t know how much of what has happened is because I changed, or something else.
I don’t interact with the volunteers as much as some other people up north, but down here it’s like I found something I didn’t know I missed. Not just the contact, but the contact with people I haven’t heard of for so long. Up north, there is always something going on, and even avoiding the event still requires knowing it happened. A lot of the people here I have thought of since training, but I never had a chance to see.
I went to see my host family on Sunday, for lunch and kung fu. I missed the style here, the formlessness of it. Gege, my host father, started going with me before I left. Now he practices every day, multiple times. His walk has changed, his stance. For me, it’s like looking at an entirely different person.
Before I left there was a boyishness to his movements, a lightly chaotic energy like a teenager. Now he walks with fluidity, and he’s beginning to get that look of a spring, poised on the edge of motion. He talks about the movements, the culture, the medicine of the style. Even if I do nothing else here in China, I hope that I was able to really help him reconnect with something amazing, something he can love.
There are new things here too, among the old. I went to juijitsu and met a Wing Chun practitioner. We rolled mostly, but he is a much better fighter than I am. Fortunately my size gives me some advantage. He reminded me of what I loved about Wing Chun, the simple beauty of it. I think the flow of Taiji is better suited to me as I get older, but I would have loved to truly learn Wing Chun.
For me, this place has been what it is designed to be, personally as much as for my teaching. A look forward at what could be, a look back at the past. Reconnection, rest, exhaustion, pain, joy. A brief moment of a different life, outside the cold of Lanzhou. There is more I have seen, but there are still so many places to go.