Monthly Archives: August 2013

Winding Paths of Zheng-feng Park

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On the way home from Waka, I was looking intently out the side window since looking out the front window was too scary.  We passed over a bridge with a huge lake and a pagoda floating in the center.  I wanted to find out what that was!

The next morning, I got up and got to the dining hall in time for breakfast (its only served from 7 – 8am), then decided I wanted to go walk around town a little bit before it got too hot to move around. I don’t even think it was a full block from campus, I saw a sign across the street for the Zheng-feng park.  I looked down the street and saw the bridge, so I crossed over and entered. The street was gutted and full of potholes, with small shops in various states of repair (or not), but there was a gate ahead with roses growing to the left of it.  The gate was tall and wide, but the entrance was off to the side.

gate with roses tall and wide
There are sheer drops off both sides of the walkway almost immediately, with a classic humped bridge directly ahead.  You won’t believe me when I tell you this, but I’m not kidding- I saw the bridge and heard “It’s a Small World” playing.  Found out later on my walk that there’s a children’s carnival area in the park, but you have to laugh.

Classic humped bridge has engravings at its peak.  At night it lights up like a carnival ride.

Classic humped bridge has engravings at its peak. At night it lights up like a carnival ride.

On one side, is the lake with the pagoda I’d seen the day before from the cab window as I tried not to pee pants in fear of my life.

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On the other, is the “lotus village”, just full of the biggest lily pads you’ve ever seen.

The lotus field was off to the left.  A man and child were fishing at the edge of it.

The lotus field was off to the left. A man and child were fishing at the edge of it.

I decided to go down the steps to the left instead of head on the flat path that went forward.  I found out tonight that the flat path loops back around to where I’d ended up.  I do believe I’ll take that way when I go tomorrow.  All the stairs are absolutely killing me.

Oy! My sciatica!

Oy! My sciatica!

As I descended these bad boys, there was a first, then a second older couple climbing the stairs. One of the men- he had to be in his 80s- was climbing the stairs lifting his legs to hip height as he ascended.  He had this impish look to him, and reminded me of J’s Uncle Peter.  The lotus fields were off to the left, but I went right and began to walk along the water.  Not too far in to the path, a tree threw a branch down in front of me.  I accepted the invitation and saw a ledge to sit on between it and another tree. The cicadas were working themselves into a pitch, but I didn’t mind as they covered up the sound of the children’s carnival on the other side of the lotus field.  I enjoyed my screaming cathedral for quite a spell as the trees calibrated me and helped me ground myself.

My screaming cathedral.

My screaming cathedral.

As I was enjoying the feeling of the trees and soaking in the smells of the rich, musty forest floor, the green of the leaves, the wafting perfume of the flowers nearby, I wondered why there had to be so many damn insects in places where its so lush.  I miss the trees so much- but I don’t miss the bugs.  Why can’t I have both? Trees and no bugs.  My new tree friend clued me in.  We had a little talk about the bugs, and she helped me understand how the bugs are necessary to maintain the growth.  They spread the pollen and the seeds, as well as breaking up the fallen leaves, and other decay and debris that is the inevitable result of growth and seasons.  We don’t have that many bugs in Arizona because there’s just not as much for them to do.  Here, they have lots of work, so there are lots of bugs.

I don’t know if I’ll like bugs any more than I do as a result of this little talk, but I’ll certainly respect them more.

I did a few yoga poses to wrap up my sanctuary time, then headed along the path.  The path wound around water, with feasts for the eyes at every turn, bend, nook and cranny.  I saw my first lotus bloom at the foot of a statue of a woman with a lotus in her hair.  I asked one of the students about her tonight when we went on a walk through the garden and began to get the story, but she was distracted and I didn’t get to hear the end.  I’ll find out more and do a post on her.  The Henan region is considered the birthplace of the Chinese people and culture, and Xinzheng is sometimes referred to as an “open-air museum”.  A woman’s statue in the middle of such a park must have quite a story behind it.

She has a lotus in her hair, and there is a lotus blooming in the direction she’s looking.  I love it when that happens.

She has a lotus in her hair, and there is a lotus blooming in the direction she’s looking. I love it when that happens.

The park winds on seemingly forever. I’m sure I’ll be able to take a walk in it every day while I’m here and discover new parts of it every time.

The little girl in me just *loves* all the windy-windy-ness of the paths.

The little girl in me just *loves* all the windy-windy-ness of the paths.

There are several structures located throughout, and I only saw a couple.  This one was full of pots and stands when I got to the other side of it.  I didn’t go all the way around it- perhaps there’s more going on.

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The park is full of families and children.  I had several little ones run up to me and say “HELLO!” then run away giggling.  I would answer “Hello and Nihao!” Which make them that much happier.  Cute enough to make your head explode, I tell you.  If I hadn’t already been intoxicated with the trees and the smells and seeing real lotus flowers for the first time, the uberadorbs of the lil’uns would certainly have gotten me there just on their own.

I began to make my way back towards the entrance to the lotus field.  I really wanted to see this up close.

Pagodas and lily pads. If this isn’t some sort of big-life-event-photo-shoot screaming to happen, I don’t know what is.

Pagodas and lily pads. If this isn’t some sort of big-life-event-photo-shoot screaming to happen, I don’t know what is.

Got some pretty awesome shots of lotus flowers throughout the morning.  Some good ones of dragonflies too.

Got some pretty awesome shots of lotus flowers throughout the morning. Some good ones of dragonflies too.

There were people fishing all over the place.  Men by themselves, families, boys.  Most didn’t fish with a pole- just had a line going in to the water. When I first entered the park, there was a man and child leaving. The child was carrying a net and the man had a heavy plastic bag in one hand and a canvas bag in the other.

I’d just passed two young hipster-looking dudes to snap this shot of the humped bridge.  They had their line right down amongst the lily pads.

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As I came across the pond, there was this building.  I thought it was some kind of temple or something.

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There were a couple of people inside, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful, so I’d hung back a little bit and just took a few shots.

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When we walked back through the same spot tonight, I saw that it is a roller rink.  One of our group had never been roller skating before, so expect some tales of our grown-ups on wheels while being gawked at…

By 10 it started getting really hot.  The humidity is New Orleans level at least, and this desert rat doesn’t deal with it well at all.  There’s no way to get back into campus without climbing and descending mountains of stairs, and by the time I got back to Peter Hall I was as red as a tomato.  Students I hadn’t met struck up conversations with me about how hard the weather is. Others warned me to get into the air conditioning.  I wasn’t about to argue with them.

Waka Waka

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There are no words to describe how happy I was to see all the vegetables on the buffet in the faculty dining room.  After eating nothing but protein bars and craisins my entire journey, I was terrified that I’d be greeted with “western food” and see things like canned sphagetti, frozen pizza, and dried up hamburger patties.  I did not.  Nor did I see all meat dishes with one or two vegetables as is common at Chinese buffets in the states.  There were one or two meat dishes, and the rest was vegetables.  Beans and sprouts and bok choy, oh my!  I think I wiggled the happy dance in my seat all the way through lunch.

It’s a little blurry.  I was shaking with delight. Don’t judge. Plusandalso, I was holding the camera at a strange angle trying to show how swank the dining hall is.

It’s a little blurry. I was shaking with delight. Don’t judge. Plusandalso, I was holding the camera at a strange angle trying to show how swank the dining hall is.

During the course of the morning, I met two more World Academy students and they’d offered to take me shopping for some household goods.  We agreed to go after lunch.  The lunch hour was spent with introductions to many of the academy members Kristine had made during her brief stint in March.  The students are amazing.  I remember during the facilitator training, everyone kept talking about how incredible the students were.  It got to the point where I became a little suspicious~ was it hype?  Who were they trying to convince, anyway? Its not hype.  The students are amazing.  They’re warm, engaging, curious, open, and eager to get to know you and help you.

It feels fantastic to say that I’m here with the World Academy for the Future of Women and to see student & faculty faces alike light up.   Students have stories of their time in the academy, faculty speak of the high caliber of WAFW students. “You can always tell Academy members in the classroom.  They’re very focused and seem to take their education much more seriously than their classmates.”

Generally speaking, folks are very friendly on campus.  There are lots of introductions in hallways and elevators as well as enthusiastic waves on campus once you’ve met.  Apparently I still smell like an English teacher.  I’ve been asked several times if I’m the Oral English teacher they’re waiting on.

As I walked out of the dining hall, Slyvia and Olivia were waiting there.  We made our way through the administration office to get a taxi to the department store, Waka.

The campus-side of the administration building is done in a western style, and the town-side is done in a Chinese style.

The campus-side of the administration building is done in a western style, and the town-side is done in a Chinese style.

What the admin building looks like on the town side.

What the admin building looks like on the town side.

Hailing a cab is easy.  Not crapping your pants while in one is not.  Its freaking terrifying. I’ve heard stories- we’ve all heard stories, but there is something quite different from shaking your head in disbelief saying “man, that is craaaa-zeeeee” at someone else’s cab stories and being in car that is going into oncoming traffic to swerve around someone (vehicle or pedestrian) they don’t think is going fast enough.  There is no turn lane.  There are 6 lanes of traffic- 4 for cars, and the outer lanes for bicycles and mopeds- though the lines are merely suggestions.  Not rules to be strictly followed.   I made noises a few times.  On the ride home, I decided it was best that I didn’t look out the front window, but to focus out the side windows and take in the scenery, not the traffic. Or high-speed games of chicken. Whatever you want to call it.

The ride downtown was 5¥. Not even a dollar.  I was greeted with rows of mopeds that reminded me of the rows and rows of bicycles you’ll see everywhere in Holland.

I hear that more Chinese are abandoning their cycles for cars, but mopeds seem to still be quite popular…

I hear that more Chinese are abandoning their cycles for cars, but mopeds seem to still be quite popular…

Once in the store, we had to put our purses in lockers.  No bags are allowed inside.  Suddenly, the teeny little purses I see so many girls with are more practical than I’d thought.  I also now understand why my wallet has a wrist loop on it. I didn’t think to use it since I always just keep it tucked inside, but I will the next time I go out.  The supermarkets here seem to work very similar to ones I’d been to in Europe.  True to market form, you pay for the goods from each section in that section.  China is a cash-based society.  There were no credit/debit machines at any of the registers, and every ATM I’ve seen always has a long line behind it.

Downstairs, we were looking for a flat sheet and a light blanket.  All I had on my bed was a heavy comforter in a duvet.  After 24 hours of no sleep, I’d woken up after just 6 ½ hours in a pool of sweat. I didn’t want to repeat that.  Many people don’t have air conditioning, despite the incredibly hot and humid weather, so I was really surprised to find no light blankets.  We finally found some textiles that were more thick sheets rather than blankets, but if I had a flat sheet with it, I’d be fine. I didn’t see the sense in paying a lot of money for something that wasn’t really what I was looking for and that I’d only be using for a month.  “You’re a good wife.” I was told.  And here I was thinking I just didn’t want to waste money on things that aren’t that important.

Not able to find a flat sheet I liked that wasn’t (comparatively) stupid expensive, I was directed to the corner of the bedding section where pieces of fabric hung from the ceiling. It would be cheaper to just have the sheet made, I was told.  So I picked out some fabric, and we were told to finish our shopping while the sheet was made.  There was much discussion around the whole thing.  It didn’t seem that complicated to me, but perhaps attempts to bargain were made. The Chinese are master negotiators. Never accept the initial price, I’m told.

We paid for the sheet, blanket, and towels I’d picked out, then headed upstairs.  There is a conveyor belt that looks like the moving sidewalks in airports that goes up an incline.  It has rubber to keep the cart from rolling backwards.

The cosmetics and skin-care section in China is just as annoying to get through as it is in the states.  As if being pelted with hundreds of images and messages every day about how we’re all inferior and need hundreds of dollars of products to beat back our innate disgustingness isn’t enough, we have to be assaulted by spray girls and blush hawkers on our way somewhere else.  It feels like walking down the strip in Vegas- whatever you do, don’t look!  Don’t acknowledge any noise they make or they’ll shove something in your hand or dowse you with something!

We found most of what we came for, then took a stroll through the food section.  Sylvia got good use out of her translator app.

Dragonfruit! And me. Looking VERY jet-lagged and humidified.

Dragonfruit! And me. Looking VERY jet-lagged and humidified.

Deli. Only way prettier.

Deli. Only way prettier.

On the way home, Sylvia told me that she wanted to tell me her Chinese name.  I was honored.  I didn’t even butcher it.  It means “Good”.  I want to find out what “Sylvia” means, but any search I do comes up with Chinese characters instead of English….

Shanghai Shennanigans

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SHANGHAI PUDONG AIRPORT

If I’d had any fantasies of me being the casually style-full experienced and cool world traveler able to manage foreign systems with grace, it was blown to smithereens within an hour of landing in Shanghai’s Pudong airport.

By the time I got on my plane, I was a sweat-soaked hot mess (literally) teetering on the verge of tears.

I blame American Airlines.  First, they didn’t have a gluten-free meal for me.  Despite my ordering it when I booked the ticket AND calling to make sure there would be one for me.  There was not one thing I could eat.  So all I’d eaten from the time I left LAX was protein bars and a box of craisins I had in my purse.

My seat mate on the LAX-Shanghai leg was a lovely young lady that’d recently graduated from college and had just completed a 2-week tour of 5 American cities.  Nice to know that American tourists aren’t the only ones that do such insane tours of other countries.  Understandably, she was exhausted, and very excited at the prospect of sleeping in her own bed that night. She was to have difficulty sleeping on the plane- we both would—for there was a completely unreasonable older woman behind us that insisted that we had no right to put our seats back.  My seat mate tried to reason with her, to no avail, so the cabin staff came over to explain that if she didn’t want to be eating the head-rest of the chair in front her, she should be in business- or first-class.

For the first 7 hours of the flight, I did some work on my computer, though it was very hard to see the screen since I didn’t have the room to open it completely as the two Brazilian fellows in front of us put their seats back immediately.   I had my seat back a bit, but not much. Around the 7 hour mark, I was exhausted, having only had 3 and half hours sleep the night before, and leaned my seat back a little bit more.  I was not all the way back, mind you, but this was enough to incite the darling little wretch behind me to alternate kneeing the back of my seat or wrinkling a plastic bag right under my ear.  Some times she made a Stomp-like symphony coordinating the two.  This continued pretty much non-stop the remaining 6.5 hours of the flight.

Immigration lines at Pudong. Could you think of a better welcome?

Immigration lines at Pudong. Could you think of a better welcome?

Once we got into Pudong, I realized that the cabin staff hadn’t made any announcements about connecting flights and navigating the airport.  Signage was rare, so I followed the herd towards immigration.  I was flustered that I hadn’t been given any information about how to get my connecting flight to Zhengzou. Whenever I asked where I should go to get my boarding pass, I was waved “just over there”, the apparent equivalent of “over yonder”, and equally locatable. When I checked in in Phoenix, I had been told that I didn’t need to pick up my baggage in Shanghai- that it would go straight through, so I walked around baggage claim looking for someone to tell me how I was to proceed, as I could tell that exiting baggage claim would put on the other side of security.  Finally, someone seemed to know what I was looking for before they waved me “over there”.  I felt more confident, so I left baggage claim.

After going through the tunnel of hotel sign waving agents looking to get customers, I headed in the general direction of the hand wave I’d gotten at the desk.  No ticket counters.  I walked all the way back to the other end: no ticket counters.  There was a “North Path”, “Center Path” and “South Path”, but I wanted to know which one I needed before heading down any of them.  I looked at a map. Nothing.  I looked at another map.  Nothing.   I looked at my itinerary again- it said I was leaving from Terminal 2.  I’d just come out of Terminal 2.  About the third time I passed through, a man in a uniform asked me if I was looking for something.  I told him that I needed to get my boarding pass with China Southern but didn’t know where to go.  He told me I needed to go upstairs.

Yes!  Directions!

So I get on to the elevator upstairs, and find a directory of the airlines.  CZ is at desks D, L it says.

I did not take these pictures.  I was too busy having a nervous breakdown to take pictures.

I did not take these pictures. I was too busy having a nervous breakdown to take pictures.

D and L are on opposite sides of the hall. It is a very large hall.  I begin to head towards D as it looks a bit closer.  There’s a HUGE line snaking its way all the way to the back of the hall coming out of D.  I decide I should go to the bathroom before I get in it.  The bathroom is back where I’d come from, so I turn around.

I’ve heard horror stories about Chinese bathrooms.  I am quite pleased to report that the ones in Pudong are quite clean.

I go back to the D counters, afraid that I’ll stand in this line only to realize that I’m in the wrong line. I see signs for Lufthansa.  I don’t see signs for CZ.  I decide to try the L counter.

So I walk allllll the way to the L counter and stand in line.  When I get to the counter, I ask to make sure that my luggage will make the connection.  I am told that they don’t have transfer service in Pudong. I need to go downstairs to get my luggage, then come back.

Yes, downstairs.  Not only downstairs, but past guards that stand sentinel at each door.

Back on the elevator I go. I go to door number 1. I’m told I can’t enter there- I need to go to the “next door”.  At the next door, I’m sent to the next door. “Just breathe, sweetheart.  Just breathe.” I’d repeat to myself every time the tears welled up.  I remind myself that I haven’t had much sleep, that I haven’t eaten properly.  That I’m thirsty.  Everything feels awful in that place.  Its going to work out.  Thousands make their way to flights in this every day.  It’ll be okay. Stay calm. Breathe.

I realize I’m not going to get to eat. I’m scared I won’t make my flight.  I don’t have phone numbers for any one.  I don’t even know who’s picking me up. How did we live before cell phones??

When I arrive at the very end of the hall, I’m sent through security, frisked, asked to remove things from my bag.  My frustration and desperation is dripping from me as quickly as the sweat I’ve lathered up.  I’m trying to explain that I need to go get my bag.  I’m told I can’t go in, that they’ll call an airline employee to get my bag for me.  “Why couldn’t we have done that upstairs?” I think.  A fellow rounds the corner and looks surprised/scared to see me.  I’m that situation his English teacher always warned him he’d have to deal with, I’m sure.   We finally ascertain that he can’t help me as I’m looking for the bag from an international flight, and I’m in the domestic security office.  Fantastic.

“Go to Burger King” he tells me.

?

“Burger King”

So I leave and walk down to the other side of the airport.  The last entrance to baggage has a Burger King just beyond it, so I navigate (poorly) the maze leading in to it.  I got stuck in a dead-end at one point.  Humiliations like this are so much sweeter when all eyes are on you as the mountain-woman blonde foreigner.  I’m told by the guard that I need to go further down.  “Burger King”.  So I go through the maze again, and when I’ve almost arrived at Burger King, I see a small staff door.  Back through security, back through getting frisked, back going through my bags.  I’m told I can go in- but through another door.

If you’re picking up the theme of this Pudong pursuit, you already know that the lost baggage is- you guessed it- on the other side of the baggage claim area from where I was allowed to enter.  I’m ecstatic to report that I received absolutely no hassle from the baggage folks, however.  My bag was right out front.  “Oh, you’re a transfer!  Yes.  We don’t do transfer.”   Now I’m told this. Now I’m told this.  CURSES ON YOUR HEAD AMERICAN AIRLINES!

Happily reunited with my bag, I get back upstairs, and trek across the hall to the CZ desk and get checked in.  She tells me I’m departing from gate C55.  Its already 9:00.  My flight leaves at 10.  Even though I’ve only had protein bars my entire trip and had *so* looked forward to getting a good meal in the Shanghai airport, I’m scared I’ll run out of time, so I go straight through security.

C50 – C75 à  Wonderful.  I’ll be right at the beginning.  Maybe I will have time to go grab something to eat.  What? Its starting at C75 and getting smaller?   Crap.  So I push my cart as fast as I can down the entire terminal length, to arrive to yet another scene of someone yelling at the top of their lungs.  This is the 3rd episode I’ve encountered on this trip.  I thought Chinese culture was all about saving face? Why are all these people yelling at someone else? Is this something that happens on TV shows all the time or something?  Folks sick of being nice just popping?  I see a red light on the board at the gate.  There’s been a gate change for one of the 3 flights listed that are all apparently leaving from there within 5 minutes of one another.

Yup, you guessed it. It’s my flight.  Now at gate C220.

Back down the terminal.  Apparently my bag is as sick of all this walking as I am, it fell off the cart twice in protest. It got its way, as C220 is downstairs, so I had to carry everything.

I wasn’t sitting long enough to eat yet another protein bar and a box of craisins before we started loading.  On a bus.  Some 19 year old in stilletos took the last of the few seats on the bus, so I’m stuck standing.  My left side is absolutely killing me. “I swear, if we get out on the tarmack and I have to lug things up stairs, I’m just gonna die.”

But I didn’t.  I just went slow and grunted a lot. I focused on the gratitude I had that I actually made my flight.  I was so scared that I wouldn’t- even though I’d had more than 3 hours in the layover.  Students were coming out after midnight to pick me up, and I didn’t have a number to call if I missed my flight.

The cabin crew was eager to try their English.  I was greeted as “madam” by one young lady. It made me smile. I didn’t feel like a “madam” at all. I felt (and likely looked) like a wet sock. My seat was second row from the back.  In front of a toddler that would spend the entirety of the flight screaming.  At first, I was comforted that other passengers were openly telling her to be quiet, their disapproval actually caused spurts of actual crying instead of the fake wailing she maintained in such constant pace I wondered if she didn’t have a vocal system similar to the mechanism that cats use to purr. No hope of getting a little nap in, then.

The snack box was filled with cakes.  I gave it back.

By the time we got to Zhengzou, my clothes were still wet, but baggage was rolling through before I was back with a cart, and my bag was one of the first. Glorious. Was my luck turning?

I walked out of baggage claim and saw two bright young ladies faces beaming at me- “Jack-lynn, right?”  Yes, I nodded.  They pressed forward with a beautifully wrapped orchid and instantly hugged me.

They were even more artfully wrapped when I got them.  I recreated it as best I could around the water bottle I’m using as a vase, cuz I'm klassy like that.

They were even more artfully wrapped when I got them. I recreated it as best I could around the water bottle I’m using as a vase, cuz I’m klassy like that.

Monday, who I’d heard so much about.  She’s known as a bolt of lightning.  Think it and she’s done it before you can polish the thought.  Carol, who I’d had some email correspondence with was with her.  Sonny, another student, had come along, and the music teacher, Dale joined us from Chicago. The giggling of the students was like salve.  We had a giddy ride back to the foreign faculty hall.

Getting to Xinzheng and into my room was as easy and quick as the Shanghai shenanigans were convoluted and arduous.

Views of the entryway to Peter Hall, the foreign faculty residences, taken from the 5th floor balcony.  There is a little café in the lobby with “very good european coffee”.  Haven’t tried it yet, but its lovely during the daytime with all the light.

Views of the entryway to Peter Hall, the foreign faculty residences, taken from the 5th floor balcony. There is a little café in the lobby with “very good european coffee”. Haven’t tried it yet, but its lovely during the daytime with all the light.

Sonny knew the code to the locked hall, there was someone at the desk to give us our keys, Monday and Carol helped me carry my bags to my room and gave me bananas and a bottle of water.  It reminded me of my time in the Czech republic. The ceilings are very tall, the closet large, the bathroom equipped with a western toilet, a lovely counter in the passageway from the living room to the bedroom has plenty of storage space, and happiest of all, the bed didn’t actually feel like a piece of wood as I was told it would.  I didn’t sleep long- only a bit over 6 hours—but I slept well, despite being sweaty under the heavy duvet.

The living space. Two thumbs up for chairs with arms perfect for resting a mouse on.

The living space. Two thumbs up for chairs with arms perfect for resting a mouse on.

My fellow WAFW facilitator was envious of my counter. Reminds me- I need to tell Monday I don’t need another room to be next door to Kristine.  I’m fine right here, thank you.

My fellow WAFW facilitator was envious of my counter. Reminds me- I need to tell Monday I don’t need another room to be next door to Kristine. I’m fine right here, thank you.

Caption: Bed with the sheet and blanket I got today.  More on that next post.

Caption: Bed with the sheet and blanket I got today. More on that next post.


Slow [plane] to China

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8/26/13

LAX

If you’re pondering being fully connected to your body, toddlers are wonderful teachers.  Sitting on the floor in terminal 4 in LAX, I was watching people walk by.  Noting how they hurl their bodies forward, drive it ever onward, lay back in it and see where it goes, hold on to every fiber…  in my musing about the way people sit in their frames and drive them around, a stroller-clad mother sat down in the chair in front of me, and her toddler-aged son immediately took charge of the open space at the end of the chair cluster.  His body needed to *move* and he obliged it gladly.  He wiggled his hips. He stood on his toes. He jumped.  He dropped into a plank. He swayed on his spiderman sneakers while in plank.  He dropped to his belly and arched his back.  He sprung back up and began walking around in deep squats.

He did a toddler version of the yoga tape that I often start my day with- exercises intended to wake up the organs and get circulation moving.

How marvelously wise the body is!  How naturally it leads us to what is good for us if we listen to it…

NEED TO PLUG IN?

After doing a few stretching exercises, I found a spot against the wall in the terminal so I could stretch my legs out.  They’d be hanging below me for 13+ hours, so I thought it wise to take advantage of the opportunity.

Situation between the corridor to the phones and restrooms and one of the meager charging stations, I don’t know how many people I saw, cord in hand, desperately looking for an outlet to plug in to.

After my conversation on the commuter flight from Phoenix to LA with a woman about juggling multiple projects, living between the East Coast and West Coast, and doing caregiving for her grandfather, I was struck by the metaphor of how many people were frantic to find an outlet—how many needed to plug-in.

Somewhere in the early ‘00s, I was at a friend’s house for dinner in a southern province in The Netherlands.  The conversation had turned to the way that technology was moving into more and more sectors of our lives.  The discussion was about whether that was a movement that would bring us closer together, or a wedge to drive us further apart.   My friend posited that the technology we were seeing take full grip- mobile phones and SMS—were reflections of our own capacity.  “If we didn’t have the capacity to do it ourselves, we wouldn’t dream it, no? How can we imagine what is not in us?”

The conversation moved quickly on, but I hung in that space for a while.  I wanted to savor the glorious possibility she stated so matter-of-factly.

What a metaphor for our times: dazed and desperate travelers seeking an outlet in the short time they have before jetting off to the next bullet point in their itinerary.  Though they’d all likely gotten the large overnight charge, they now needed a pick-me-up.  An extra bump to get them through the next transition until there would be more outlets to charge more fully.   The occasional text or FB message makes it easy enough to stay charged through the day, but logging on to check flights, reading books, watching movies, listening to music and otherwise tapping more of the phone’s features than normal wears the battery down much quicker than the more typical use does.

And so it is with life.

The idea that you have to live in a quiet retreat in order to nourish your body and mind is as unrealistic as it is undesirable.  Retreating to peel back layers, get new perspective, and take self-care to a more profound level is important, but if it’s the only time you’re pluggin in, you’re going to be met with a blank screen when you need functionality the most.

If you’re running lots of programs, its that much more important that you plug-in more frequently- even if its not for a full-charge.   What are your outlets? Where can you plug-in?

What is the thing that you say you love but claim you don’t have time for?  How can you get a sip instead of waiting until you can finish a full gallon in one sitting?

Nature helps me put things into perspective.  It refreshes and energizes me.  So does dancing. And color. I only need to dip into any of these things for a few minutes and I feel “like myself again”.  When I last worked for someone else, I would spend the last 10 minutes of my lunch break outside against a tree with my toes in the grass. Dropping fully into my breath, I would ground myself there and let anything that I was holding on to just melt away into the tree, the grass, the earth.  Five minutes was good, and 10 was more than enough to feel completely refreshed and ready to take on the afternoon.  I couldn’t wait until I had a 3-day weekend to get to a place where there’s beautiful trails and phenomenal vistas to release and cultivate gratitude and awe.  I needed it now. So I found a patch of grass and a tree.  If you weren’t waiting for the perfect all-in-amazing picture-book version to come along before you charged, what could you do? Where are those pockets you can drop in to?  Please share in the comments so we can get ideas!

BOARDING IS COMPLETE

Boarding the plane for Shanghai was like being in New York City.  Everyone is milling around, loud, animated, and passionately discussing the arrangement of luggage in the overhead compartment.  When the pilot announced that boarding was complete, the plane felt like a Saturday at the market.  The idea that boarding was complete and we were ready to start moving made me smile- but as chaotic as the process was to get on to the plane, everyone took their seats swiftly and gracefully. In a scant handful of minutes, everyone was seated and buckled in, ready for the cabin crew’s inspection.

Something tells me that this is how China moves.  Its m.o. has already been working its mojo in my life getting ready for this trip—now its time to fully relax into it and know that it will all work out in the end- and much swifter than I would have thought possible.

Bye-bye Cali! Time to visit skies much more polluted than yours.

Bye-bye Cali! Time to visit skies much more polluted than yours.

Getting to the root of it

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Last night during my weekly Mood Management Mondays class, we worked with Patchouli, an oil that addresses body shame and body judgment.  Considering the WASP body-shame culture the hippies emerged from, it makes sense that they relied heavily on patchouli to shake off ideas that the body is evil, sinful, and disgusting.  In many ways, we haven’t shaken this idea off as a culture.  Though we now use the language of fitness/image/beauty instead of religion, the puritanical emotional m.o. is the same.  (Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth draws this metaphor out exquisitely)

Even though I’ve done research for the class and had my own experiences with the herbs/oils we’ll be working with, I’m always struck with the power of doing a plant meditation in a group and sharing our experiences with one another. Last night was no exception.

Though patchouli is a low bush, everyone had visions of the forest.  Of eating the forest, of being the forest, of being a tree, branches held high to the sky. Root Chakra GoddessWhy would an oil that addresses body shame and body judgment have us turning into trees?  What is it that trees understand that we need to learn?

When I was living in Utrecht, I kept getting these images in my meditation of trees spinning around because they weren’t grounded.  The roots had no soil, and they were in a spin- not knowing where to build out to gather sunshine or bear fruit.

Last night, I really connected to the awareness that if I wasn’t in my body, I wouldn’t be able to keep my heart open.  If my heart is not open, I’m not going to be able to bear fruit in my life.  Contentment will be hollow and short-lived. Relationships will visit authenticity, but not live there.

Patchouli supports the root chakra.  If the root chakra is unbalanced, it can result in financial insecurity issues.   Affirmations for the root chakra are “I have a right to be here.” and “I have a right to my needs.”  It makes sense that if we can’t receive the truth of these statements fully, manifestation will be blocked, money problems will seem to always surface, and feelings of connection and belonging will be elusive.

As we moved deeper into conversation with the oil, the grounding feelings intensified.  I was reminded of an experience I had at a 5 Rhythms workshop earlier this summer on Yes & No in the body where  I realized that I had been experiencing grounding feelings as sadness.  The doTERRA book I have on Emotions and Essential Oils describes patchouli as “balanc[ing] those who…seek to escape the body through spiritual pursuits.”   Up until about 4 years ago, my spirituality –regardless of what house it practiced in–had been about trying to find the escape hatch out of my body.  Not surprising for someone that has experienced physical and sexual abuse, but last night I became acutely aware of how bracing myself against my body was also preventing me from letting that unconditional, transcendent Love that every religion preaches truly flow through me.

After the plant meditation, we did a writing exercise that puts you in touch with the voice of the body.  I am always amazed at how loving the voice of the body is. It is not harsh and judgmental.  It does not criticize.  It does not shame- even in areas and about issues you’d think it would.  It speaks of my neglect and mistreatment of it in the most compassionate and kind way you could ever imagine.  When it shows me how I’ve taken advantage of it, it is not in the resentful voice of the victim, but simply showing me how I’m hurting myself by doing so.  It shows me these things by praising the thing- no matter how small- that I’m doing right.  The way it lifts me up is so humbling. It is an amazing, miraculous role model for agape. It really honestly only wants what’s best for me.  its job is to support me and it does so  gladly.

Most of my life, I’ve braced myself against fully entering my body.  I didn’t trust it.  Grounding felt heavy and sad to me and I wanted to feel light and floaty.  What was I bracing myself against?  I asked myself last night. Why was I afraid?

I didn’t trust being in my body.  I didn’t trust what would happen there or how it would make me feel.  My conditioning, both religious and cultural, told me that the body is not to be trusted and listened to, but to be held suspect and denied.

Why?  What has it ever done to me?  I’ve done much to it, but what has it ever done to me?

I’m reminded of moments when I felt betrayal- when it responded to things that were abhorrent to me or even traumatizing psychologically.  I can count these moments on one hand. Why do I weight them more heavily than the millions of times that my body supports me through every day moments or even times when I’ve pushed it to the edge? Why do I forget all the ways it tried to warn me of danger and I didn’t listen? Why don’t those times count for anything? If I was in a relationship with someone that brushed past the things I did for them every minute of every day to hold on to isolated incidences, what would that feel like? If I was being blamed for something happening that I tried to stop, how would I respond? How cruel is that?

I still have healing to do.  Everyone does. I need my body to be able to do that.  I need to be in my body to keep my Heart open enough to let the blood flow and cleanse and nourish.  All the incessant circling in the sky above my body just landed me from one frying pan into another fire.  Its been coming in to my body that’s gotten me as far as I’ve come.  Its time to fully step in now and chant “There’s no place like home.”Dorothy's red slippersJoin us for Mood Management Mondays every Monday in NC Mesa.  More information and tickets are available on my website at http://www.lifelinedevelopmentcoaching.com/mood-management-mondays1.html

The antidote to crazy

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This isn’t just about talking down crazy, as those on comment threads would say to diminish this as an alternative path to arming ourselves to the teeth.  This is about connecting with another human being and not only not being afraid of the depth of their pain, desperation, and despair, but being courageous enough to share it with them.

Isn’t that the only thing that makes any of us crazy? Disconnect and pain and how no one wants to really face it, let alone connect to it?  Yet, facing it and connecting to it is the only cure for crazy.  Being allowed to be fully human.  Being loved through all the beauty and the agony that is being human.

video interview: Woman talks down gunman

That this happened in Atlanta, Georgia and that Antoinette is a black woman and the gunman a white man takes the depth of this beauty and courage to an even more expansive place.  It is  powerful testimony to the power of embracing our own shadow so that we’re not scared of others’–even those that persecute us, that see us as the enemy and treat us as such.

I can only imagine that her tale was one of betrayal, heartbreak, bad luck, disappointment, and the forgiveness that inevitably followed, the hope that strung each event together and kept her life from completely unraveling in those places where there didn’t seem to be any options or chance of the future being any different…