Ben Shapiro just kicked Piers Morgan’s ass on CNN. Way to roast him Ben @CNN @BenShapiro
Ok that unknown location I mentioned in my last blog was a Tibetan Exposition at a big mall. After the cab ride I had to ask people for directions to the place Sabrina had texted me. Luckily everyone pointed to the same entrance so I knew I had luckily been dropped off at the right spot. Just before the rest of the group arrived two cute young Chinese girls approached me and asked if they could take my picture. They asked if they could give me a gift and they clipped on a little bottle of hand moisturizer onto my sword case. It was then that I realized I was about to become the evidence of their product being cool enough for waiguoren to use. After they took a couple photos the rest of the gang showed up and laughed at me posing with local girls we headed inside the mall. After we entered the mall Sabrina asked Nick (a friend of academic explorers who works for the Canadian Gov. distributing aid funds to NGOs all around China, especially Tibet [He’s there right now]) to explain what we were doing there today. He said we were going to learn about Tibetan Culture through their products. He explained that a big part of the Tibetan Economy is now handicrafts and natural or organic food products. We saw a myriad of Tibetan stuff there. We saw Buddhist Thanka scrolls (large scrolls) with pictures of Buddhas and Potala Palace, plenty of alms bowls, which we were only allowed to spin counter clockwise. I got a solar powered buddhist…thing: its the thing with tibetan on the outside that people spin counter clockwise to refresh their mind. I also got an incense pillow from Lhasa, specifically the place in Lhasa that Tibetan incense is from.
Side note: Lhasa is the sister city of Beijing, which means Beijing provides Lhasa with a crap ton of money every year. Every city in Tibet has a sister city from elsewhere China.
We saw tibetan paper (which can last 1,000 years apparently…) and the wooden blocks that are used to make the lil prayer flags. We saw the devices used to make tibetan tea: basically a milk churner, and bowls used to make tsampsa (probs misspelled): a tibetan mixture of yak butter, tea, and flour. Although I didnt get to try any tsampsa, I did get to try yak milk and barley, separately. I gotta say, the barley was better. I also tried barley cookies, which weren’t the best cookies on earth, and some Tibetan Tea. I ended up buying a couple little bricks of that tea for my sister when she visits. I already picked out her Zhu teapot at Pan Jia Yuan a couple weeks back.
The most interesting thing I saw was this one product that was extremely expensive. It was the product of an odd marriage between a parasite and a caterpillar. The parasite would grow out of the caterpillars anus and grow into a demonic grass like flower. I thought it was extremely interesting because in one season of harvesting these puppies, a poor tibetan could likely add about 40,000-100,000 RMB to their income in just a couple weeks.
Sorry its taken me soooo long to update this Tumblr; I’m rediculously busy.
I’m doing a crap ton of homework and learning a crap ton of Chinese, martial arts, and about Chinese culture in general.
TCM experience #1
I finally got to truly experience and learn traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Although my first experience with TCM was arguably the time I spent at the Koyfman institute in Atlanta, and my second experience was a massage I received from a half blind dude the second week I got here, the time I spent with Josh was pretty life changing. Josh wasn’t like the Koyfman’s in one major respect: he didn’t diss Western medicine. He talked about how his father was a “badass surgeon” and how western miracles of medicine, like steroids or antibiotics, are thankfully always a last resort.
Josh has climbed the ranks of TCM high enough to be invited to Beijing to speak at a prestigious hospital this week. I’m very thankful he had time to see me. He referred to me as his training brother, which was a big self confidence boost. The first thing he did was listen to my heart and check my tongue coating (exactly like a western doctor). He checked two places on each of my wrists to listen to the pulses connected to different organs including my colon, liver, heart, and stomach and spleen respectively. He used “technical terms” like “slippery” and “tight” to describe my pulses. One major plus was he said my liver pulse was surprisingly good. Next he took a look at my tongue, and like other doctors, exclaimed my tongue coating was surprisingly thick.
After the quick examination he asked for my permission to do some points. After explaining so much about what he was doing, I wasn’t the least bit apprehensive about receiving treatment from him. Plus, the fact he said he brought his needles with him from the states eased my mind even more. So he started placing needles in my feet, and after the first one went in I had this weird weird weird sensation. I can only describe it as the feeling you get when electrocuted: not quite pain, but certainly unpleasant and weird. After placing some needles in my feet and three along my inner tibia (he said they corresponded with digestive organs: colon, small intestine, stomach) he rubbed some oil that his girlfriend makes back in Boulder (I got to see her on skype that day, and at WangFuJing XueXiao the next week) on my stomach. He then began placing needles into my abdomen. I think there’s around 20-30 in me at this point, but it was hard to keep track (whenever I lifted up my leg to look at my feet it was pretty painful to keep in the air). He also placed one point in the crown of my head, saying it would help with hemorrhoids.
During the acupuncture, Josh explained to me that the reason he doesn’t diss Western medicine (other than his father being “a badass surgeon”) was because Western medicine supports what Chinese medicine has purported to be medical fact for millennia. We then spent a long time talking about colloquialisms like “he was so mad that he turned green” and “He’s always scared; what a yellow belly” etc. He said that one day he will write a book about how Western colloquialisms are supported by TCM. He then went on to say that even a low income, illiterate, and senile grandmother knows that “if you keep worrying, you’re gonna give yourself an ulcer”. I was very impressed with both the way he carried himself during this time because not only was he carefully placing and twisting needles into my body, he was both incredibly calming and informative through his conversation. After adding points to my hands and arms he asked if he could use moxa on me. Without knowing what he would do, I agreed.
He took out what looked like a large tampon and lit it on fire. After blowing on the flaming end to both blow out the flame and accelerate the burning of the stick he wafted some of the smoke above my body. Josh proceeded to move the stick of moxa, with the burning end closest to me, around each of the points. He focused on the points located in my stomach and my inner tibias. While he rotated the moxa around each point he talked about a major beef he had with Western medicine: that doctors view diseases as problems rather than opportunities. Josh went on to explain that Eastern tradition looks to diseases as karmic roles that we need to graduate from, and that if we just treat the symptoms, rather than overcoming the disease itself, our life experience will be lacking. What Josh said next profoundly impacted me. He said the classic analogy that life is a stage is really true, and that we are all born into our respective roles. Granted, being born with a disease, or developing a disease isn’t easy, it doesn’t necessarily “suck”. You have two options: you can view your part as the lame character who is helplessly laughed at by audience and actors alike, or you can rise to meet the challenge and make high art out of your role.
Our conversation then got pretty deep and personal. Josh remarked that my body was taking in a lot of Moxa and that most people would have said that the heat hurt too bad. I seriously hadn’t noticed, let alone been in enough pain to exclaim, “hot”. Josh then told me that the lesson was coming to a close as he removed the needles from my body. I stood up and told him I felt amazing. I grabbed my bag and headed out to catch a cab to meet the rest of the group at an unknown location.
I truly believe that Josh is right about the karmic roles bit, and that my digestive problems do serve a purpose in my life. When I overcome my issues, I will have accomplished something incredible, which will physically and mentally make everything else easier for me. Although I currently view that task as nearly impossible, I look forward to how I will view my difficulties after moving past digestive problems.
Taijitu (map of the ultimate)
Today was our first day on the new schedule. Straight up, I was not a huge fan of the new schedule before today… the 7:30 martial arts arts class has been moved from Ditan gongyuan to ritan gongyuan on Saturdays and Sundays. That means instead of leaving Hainan binguan at 7:10, we need to leave around 6:30-6:45 in order to catch the bus. Although I had to wake up a little earlier, I am very excited about having class at Ritan on the weekends now. Instead of Jing shifu teaching us (the deadly teddy bear) we are now getting some baguazhang (airbending; its what Aang [the last airbender] does) lessons from this tai chi master (he just got back from the states after winning gold in a competition). We call him Zhang lao shi. So a couple sweet things happened in todays lesson, aside from learning freaking airbending. First, a photographer for the China News Service took some photos of us in different poses. We even busted out our jians to look even more hardcore than we naturally are. Needless to say, wo zui shuai ;) What made today’s lessons awesome however was the mid-lesson break. During that time Zhang lao shi taught us about Chinese Martial arts, and its difference from kungfu. His Chinglish lecture was extremely informative. He covered the difference between martial arts and kung fu: basically that kung fu is the individual punches and strikes, while martial arts is more internally focused. Because mental energy (intention and focus) and qi are where one can draw physical power from they are the most important aspect of martial arts. Then he went into some of the Philosophy behind martial arts, starting with the taijitu. The Taijitu, commonly referred to as the yin yang symbol, has so many lessons to teach us. The lesson I took away from the diagram was the absence of absolutes. While one half of the diagram is designated yin or yang, it still has a tiny circle of the opposite side. This is true for all things, because nothing is totally good or bad. Our blocks need to be soft in order to handle a blow, but firm enough to remain in place. This is especially true in baguazhang which is also very heavily based on Chinese Philosophy.
Bagua means the eight divine symbols and is represented around a circle with eight distinct trigrams. These trigrams are from the I-Ching and each represent a different duality of nature: heaven and earth, fire and water, thunder and wind, and lake and mountain. These 8 trigrams each take up a 45 degree section of a circle, and the opposite elements sit directly across from one another. While we have just started learning baguazhang, when we begin circle walking we should always be thinking of this diagram.
After class I snagged some veggies from an outdoor buffet line (mushrooms, eggplant, green beans and tudousi) and headed to starbucks to bust out some homework. I got done with tinxia repetitions and corrections quickly because today I got 100% on my tinxia. Kung lao shi wrote feichanghao in big red characters on my quiz which is a first (hopefully of many). After getting done with homework i luckily caught two of my best friends on Skype: Russ and Alex about to enjoy the 3 AM New York atmosphere. Its always nice to see and hear from those two. I miss them a ton. Russ got some new kicks… about damn time! I approve of his Nike SB low dunk style choice, but I’m not so sure on the color scheme yet because the room was too dark for me to get a good look. Anyways it was great to see Alex and Russ together in the big apple. I told Alex about the Chess set I got him. I need to figure out what general’s armies the pieces are based on. Anyways I need to start on our project: we need to make a music video. I have to write out my lines in hanzi and pinyin. I have no idea what I will rap about, but I think the beat is gonna be by my good pal Max G, specifically the beat Hairflip (for Skeens).
I’d like to end this post with a Buddhist mind training slogan: “When everything goes wrong, treat disaster as chance to wake up”.
Wan Fan Fei Chang Hao!!!
Two words: Pure Lotus. Hidden away in a sketchy parking lot, there waits an oasis for vegetarians the world over. I’ve been to some fancy restaurants, but none can compare to Pure Lotus. This was not just a fine dinner, it was a memory worth writing home about… literally. As you walk through the parking lot, you will soon be greeted by monks carrying old school lanterns, who bless you while they guide you towards a giant yellow tent. Once one enters the restaurant through the large glass door with a golden Buddha palm door handle, another bloke dressed in monk garb squirts your hand with amazing smelling water (rosewater possibly) and says “have a blessed dinner”. On the inside, elegantly dressed waiters cater to your every whim, starting with the menu. These 4’ (yes, feet) by 10” (yes, inches) menus (meal and drink menu were separate) were very entertaining to flip through. They had photos of airborne monks performing shaolin and interesting quotes like “with good intentions come blessings. With strong vows come strength”. For dinner I ordered the happiness roll (a sushi hand roll) the terra-cotta warriors unearthed jaioze, the beijing mock roast duck, cumin deep fried, black bean shitake mushroom with pumpkin, mushroom flower offerings to Mahakashyapa, Jumping the dragon gate (mock fish with laver), and the eight renunciations of the affluent. Although the Fu wuan exclaimed “wo pa ni lai tai dua fan” after they heard our order, my two dinner dates and I ate every bite and still had room for the fruit fondue and mango honey rice for dessert. If anyone, anywhere wants to go, at any time, please let me know; I’ll join you. This meal was hands down the greatest vegetarian experience I have had. I can’t wait to take my sister here so she can catch a glimpse of what heaven is like. I must make reservations for next Tuesday ASAP. I still need to try the wild Chinese yam health drink for men, the Pineapple lemonade, and the silk melon, wild yam and wolf berries dish. Hopefully they will have the Holy feeling Mt. Wutai Mountain mushrooms in stock (they grow at 6,000 meters!) as well. As if the night hadn’t been watched over by Siddartha himself, upon exiting the restaurant, our party of three was given three tall and ridiculously fragrant blue lotuses. I gave mine to the fuwuan de hainan bingua (sup brownie points) after returning home full and satisfied. I believe the term for the feeling I had falling asleep that night is called “Nirvana”: a place without wind.
Much Needed Update
Finally, I have time to update this Tumblr. I have so many people telling me to update this thing, but no one wants this thing updated more than Walter. I have been so busy here lately; I’m talking five hours of homework some nights, which is too much when you spend that much time practicing martial arts. Luckily, Sabrina understands I want to be spending more time lian jian (sword wielding) and practicing the two qigong forms I’ve learned. Although I wish I had more time to practice my Chinese with the fuwuan at hainan bingua (Hai Inn: the Hostel where I stay), beggars can’t be choosers. We (meaning the four kids in the program) are lucky that Sabrina has lightened the homework load, so now we just spend around three hours on homework a night.
Anyways, there is much to write about. First of all I’d like to announce that someone very special to my family is now checking in on the blog, which means I’ll be making more of an effort to update regularly. Her family has and will continue to have on impact on my life, and checking my blog is one more way the T’s are helping the B’s. Speaking of their help, last week I was out to dinner with Sabrina and Peter (for the first time) and Sabrina asked what Lao Tzu’s job was. Because of a presentation I had given as a freshman for Mr. T, I knew he was a curator of the national archives, which helped him understand the natural order of the world. Sadly, I can’t remember what “the natural order of the world” is in Hanyu; I’ll make sure to ask Sabrina tonight and write it down.
Whats more interesting than a flashback to freshman year however is the event that prompted Daoism as a discussion topic that night at dinner: that morning a woman threw up on my shoes on the way to Kung fu. While I had the option of getting pissed off and being late to morning Shaolin class, I decided to laugh about the misfortune the rest of my day. I’m lucky to have grown up in an environment that made me smile after awful occurrences, and/or learn from them. That’s what life is all about IMO; every day is imperfect and you have the option of smiling or frowning about it, but it all comes down to your perspective.
Now I want to talk about food. I had zong si (most likely misspelled) for the first time with red bean and holy crap its amazing. When I got back to Hainan Bingua the fuwuan taught me about the Chinese poet (something Yuen?) who committed suicide in the river and threw a bunch of these sticky rice balls in with him so the fish wouldn’t eat his body. Now during the dragon boat festival people eat these delicious rice triangles with different insides: chinese dates, red bean, and beef and egg.
Also on the topic of food: I can’t wait to take my family out to Chinese zao fan and wan fan (breakfast and dinner). I had Jian Bing for the first time today, and I’m addicted. Sadly, there is no Jian Bing place that I know of close to my hostel for zao fan, but there is one wicked close to the Regent, where I believe my family will be staying Thanksgiving week. Also there’s this Korean restaurant where Sabrina and I just ate for our one on one and it’s amazing. Apparently, I’m the first student to get her to take a student to a non Chinese meal (chyeuppp). I can’t wait to take my family there for a meal too. My mom’s second package arrived and it’s sitting on the starbucks table next to my iPad right now. I love and miss my family a lot, not to mention I’m incredibly thankful to have their support in all I do. They really are life savers. I hope to impress them when they come. Oh ya how could I forget PURE LOTUS. Single handedly the greatest meal experience I’ve had thus far. I’m gonna make reservations for tomorrow night, and possibly every tuesday night from now on. It was insane. That’s where I took Sabrina and Peter a couple days ago, and it’s gonna blow my sister’s mind. She’s gonna go psycho, nuts, and absolutely boinkers when she eats at this place.
Last food topic: I’ve finally set up a solid connection with an organic farm that delivers food. I tried the pears and I couldn’t have been more pleased. It’s nice to have fruit that I don’t have to be scared of to eat. I read an article the other night about exploding watermelons being a major problem in China, so I can only imagine what problems all the other fruits have. I’m sticking to hua long guas and hami guas until I get an organic stockpile going here. Next week I’m gonna get a box of the pears and some small apples; that should hold me over for a while. I’m also trying out their organic spinach, and pumpkin noodles.
One random topic: efficiency. After a week of being in Beijing the ferrari dealership next to this starbucks started construction on a new wing, and just three days ago they finished. That was a complete turn around of less than three weeks; these people are insanely fast. I saw the workers taking naps on the inside and thought wow that would never happen in America, but now I realize they had probably been working for 12+ hours and were just napping for a minute. It took Kansas City a couple months to fix a break in the water line next to my school, but China builds something like 7 new ghost cities every year (google chinese ghost cities; it’s wild).
PS everyone I speak to now asks me how long I’ve been in Beijing and after I answer they all say my Chinese is Bu Coi (not bad). After I say Nali they laugh, but I really do think I’m starting to impress the people I interact with. Bottom line: I’m very impressed with how much Zhongwen I’ve learnt, and I’m excited for what people back home will think, especially one bro named Benny. Speaking with him is my unofficial final exam.
Ok I’m gonna upload my experience at Pure Lotus now; Kai, get ready to love this place.
Ok it’s 7:50 and I have little time before shaolin ke
Yesterday I tried to get a yue piao (month pass) for the park but the lady wouldn’t let me. She wouldn’t let Peter who tried earlier too…. Freaking jerk.
Later I discovered the best street food available: di gua fan (sweet potatoes). They’re freaking great.
Last night at wushu class we practiced the Jian again and were learning how to twirl it now. I can’t wait until I can impress a few nerds back home with sword wielding skills
Billiards with Allen, Bob, and Peter one day, qi gong with Sabrina the next.
So last night Peter took me out wo meet his friend who lives in Beijing. They met on an exchange program their sophomore year. Peter goes to Harvard, while Allen goes to the Harvard of Beijing (PS there was a Skullcandy headphone stand in the wang fu jing mall that totally had USC Trojan headphones… sadly the woman running the stand wouldn’t let me take a pic; she lost some business that day). Allen has a few days off from Qinhua (hopefully thats right, my pinyin still sucks) so he took us out to dinner and to a billiards club. At dinner he taught me what the golden needle mushroom dish is called that I like so much, but never learnt the name of (the pinyin is in my lil’ handy dandy notebook with foodstuffs), plus chao fan. I’m so happy I’ve tried legit Chinese stir fried rice, because now I can walk in pretty much anywhere and say dan chao fan and get some dank fried rice… plus some jiang yo on the side. Ok, the billiards club was sick. We took plenty of photos which rocks, because Allen took a great one of me on his phone that will soon become my new profile picture on FB. Allen is hella good at pool. His cousin Bob, who’s 13, was so freaking polite and shy, but he really got into the billiards game which was cool to see. It was like a progression from super shy *I’m not gonna look into your eyes as I introduce myself to you* to *I’m gonna jump up and down when my shitty meiguoren teammate Walter misses an easy shot and then scratches to set Allen up for the winning shot*. After 4 games we went back to one of Allen’s apartments (his family is extremely wealthy: his mom was on business in America, while his dad was on business in Europe) to watch some Chinese TV. There were so many cultural lessons that night, like how the Chinese don’t give two craps about super power status, but focus on how standards of living have increased since the communist party assumed power, and how communism isn’t as big a deal as the history of fighting the Japanese is.
We took a cab home around 12:30 after watching a Chinese dating show with Hanzi subtitles (I was happy to recognize a couple in every 20 characters). Oh ya, on the way into his apartment there were two lighted characters outside the building and he asked us what they were and I totally beat Peter (the guy who speaks some Chinese on our program) in saying guo first. The second character was “celebration” and they were put up for National Day.
This morning I was the only guy to go to Sabrina’s optional Qi Gong lesson. It was an hour and a half long, which is a long time when doing nothing but breathing, but absolutely worth it. After 30 minutes of doing the simple Qi Gong my hands started sweating, which was freaky but really cool. I felt super alert and warm after the last 10 minute session, so I’m definitely gonna keep up the Qi Gong throughout the program, in hopes that Sabrina teaches me some more advanced ones. I also felt weird pressure in my gut, but that could have been the baozi this morning (GOD I LOVE CHINESE FOOD, I’M ABOUT TO GO EAT MORE). After Qi Gong, Sabrina took me to a foreign grocery store, granted everything was freaking expensive, they did have this freshly squeezed pineapple mango juice that was incredibly good. I promised someone I would try moon cake, so I am gonna get one today at a quickie mart thing… just one though, because they look unhealthy/couldsurviveanuclearwinterandthensome.
Peter and I might go to Bai Hai park later today because its gorgeous out, but I hope we leave soon. Until then, I’ll practicing my nunchucks.
One note I’d like to end on: God bless the disabled Chinese, for they provide public restrooms with at least one toilet.