Tag Archives: travel

Squatty Potties

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Since I spent class tonight demonstrating why certain digestive ailments are called “the runs”, I thought this was as good a night as any to do the potty post.

Westerners make a big deal about squatty potties.  Especially women.  I don’t know why.  We all know that every public toilet in America is technically a squatty potty- only requiring far more strength and balance to maneuver than the ones here.  As one of the faculty said tonight at dinner, “If I’m in a public bathroom that’s gonna be grimy anyway, I’d take a squatty potty over a western restroom ANY day.” We all nodded in knowing agreement.  You don’t have to worry about coming in to contact with anything.  I know one of my pet peeves is how small the stalls are in the states.  Too often, I have to lean against the toilet just to shut the door.   Not so in a squatty.  There’s nothing to have to move around.  And you don’t have to have ninja moves and amazing balance to be able to flush without touching anything- the flushing mechanism is usually a foot pedal.  Additionally, squatty potties are much MUCH better for your pelvic floor than a sitting toilet is.  Ask any Physical Therapist.

squatty potty

I’ve been to several places with squatty potties.  My first was Japan.  Theirs were cool- often on a sort of step-up thing where you could put a seat down and sit if you wanted to, or put your feet into the little feet grooves and squat.  Turkey also has squatties.  Like all Muslim countries, there are water spigot/hoses in every bathroom to clean yourself off with.  Loved those.   I also ran into them in a few Eastern European countries.  I want to say Romania had them.  I think Hungary did in some places too…  So the idea of squatties didn’t bother me- until I started hearing horror stories about some of the public girls’ toilets on campus.

Just so you know- the Chinese think sitting toilets are disgusting- and their logic isn’t something I can argue with.  The idea that we would sit down naked on a place where other people sit down naked –even people we know– grosses them out completely.   I get it.  I’m used to it- but I get how that’s foul, foul, foul.  Used to totally freak me out in the Czech Republic that the girls would wear such short skirts with thongs – so their bare butts are sitting on the chairs.  Didn’t know how anyone could wear shorts—let alone thong underwear—when you know the seat you’re sitting on has had bare butts on it all day long.  One of the things I’ve learned travelling is that we’re ALL gross, really.  Which is probably why foreign faculty is totally comfortable having potty-talk at the dinner table.  It all started with talking about the toilet-training toddlers with their split pants that will just squat and go wherever.  I saw a little girl squat and pee in the middle of European Square the afternoon before.  It’s shocking to the Western eye, but in watching some of my friends struggle with potty training, I recognize it’s a brilliant tactic to raise awareness for the child.  There’s no lying when asked “Do you need to potty?” when the kid’s got pee (or worse) going down their leg.

But all that said, I’ve been amazed at my body’s ability to hold on and get me back to my room most times.  I’ve got all kinds of issues and am one of those people that can easily go every 30 minutes.  It’s annoying.  It was one of my many many fears about coming here… and all the horror stories I’d heard about how dirty the toilets are didn’t help.  I’ve been amazed and grateful for my body’s sudden ability to hold on.   Tonight was one of the nights when I had to run in the middle of class, though.  My stomach is just NOT okay here. I don’t know what the deal is.  I’ve even had upsets with the food I’ve personally cooked.  Is there wheat in the ground fennel? The ground cumin?  Because everything else I’m using is totally fresh veg and herbs.  It’s got me living in fear, I tell you.  Living in fear.

The bathrooms do smell horrific.  The odor will knock you over.  But its not because they’re dirty.  Its because the plumbing can’t handle tissue, so you have to put your tissue in the bin there in the stall.  You know how people are.   If it was covered, it’d be all over the floor—which really is gross.   So in public bathrooms, the bins are open.  It doesn’t take long for it to smell like a diaper pail.  I don’t know how often they empty the bins, but I don’t know that it would make that much difference.  The one in my room has a foot-pedal lid.  I empty it often, but it is a daily battle with the smell. I keep a spritzer bottle with doTERRA Purify there on the bathroom counter.

Once I realized the smell is coming from the tissue bins and not because of filth, I was fine.  Glad I had this awareness early on.  It’s made life easier.   And spared me the humiliation of being that obnoxious American shrieking and freaking out in the bathroom (which I have run into a few times).  Just make sure you keep a package of face tissue in your bag at all times, and don’t forget your hand sanitizer—Not all places have soap and water…

Like an American campus? Really?

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The SIAS campus is expansive and beautiful.  Many people told me that it was like an American campus—apparently most Chinese universities are just a collection of high-rises.  But I’ve never seen an American campus like this before.  There are several “regional villages” that are like walking through the world village at Epcot.  Right here behind Peter Hall, there is “European Street”… but first let me show you Peter Hall

This is the outside of Peter Hall, the foreign faculty dorms.

This is the outside of Peter Hall, the foreign faculty dorms.

The lobby manages to be expansive and cozy. The Bridge Cafe has European coffee- that costs as much as a meal does down the street. They put TONS of fresh ginger in their ginger tea.

The lobby manages to be expansive and cozy. The Bridge Cafe has European coffee- that costs as much as a meal does down the street. They put TONS of fresh ginger in their ginger tea.

Reasonable enough.  This looks like an American campus, true.  The streets are lined with trees and it’s clear that the gardening staff is plentiful and takes great pride in their work.

Taken from Peter Hall towards the Administration building

Taken from Peter Hall towards the Administration building

This is looking back at Peter Hall on the way to the Administration Building

This is looking back at Peter Hall on the way to the Administration Building

All very campus-like.  Even the Administration building- with its classic Western architecture on one side and Chinese on the other wouldn’t be too extraordinary on an American campus.  Very nice, but not completely out of the ordinary.

The campus side of the administration building

The campus side of the administration building

There is an ampitheatre

Ampitheatre

Basketball courts and recreational space that is absolutely busting at the seams in the evening

Basketball courts

There’s a pagoda on the hill that I would expect to see on a Chinese campus

The steps are killing me. Seriously.

The steps are killing me. Seriously.

You can see the pagoda lights in the basketball picture above.  Many features have dramatic night lighting.  With the summer being as hot and muggy as it is, when the sun goes down, life begins—and the city and campus reflect that.

There are a few ponds on campus. This one is just to the left of the Administration building.  Having a pond really takes the campus to a new level- more like a park.

Gazebo

Then there’s the waterfall in the stairs leading down to European street.  Now we’re moving beyond park to something quite different.  Very nice office complexes sometimes have features like this.  It makes me wish stairs weren’t such a place of torture for me right now.

Waterfall

Once you’re at the bottom of the stairs, you find yourself in the middle of a European-style piazza

Piazza

Where businesses and students have set up shop in the piazza as well as in the spaces in the lower level of the buildings themselves.

Lower level buildings

The first piazza goes under a breezeway and lets out into European Street

European street

Which lets out into another section of street.  Again, there are shops and restaurants in the lower level.  Student housing is above.

Student housing above

Shops and restaurants

At one end of European Street, there is a university gate and the city of Xinzheng is just beyond.  On the other side of European street, there is SIAS Castle.

SIAS castle

There’s a food court in the lower level of the castle.  Again, student housing is above.  Its lit up magnificently at night.

Turning to your left, there’s this:

Cliff with stairs

Cliff waterfall

And this

Rocks

And in the distance past the stadium…

Past stadium

Which looks like this closer up

Closer up

Which has another piazza, more water features, and a fountain like I have never seen on a college campus.

Fountain

Following the water feature down, there are more student dorms and classrooms

Student dorms and classrooms

Did a panorama of the piazza

Did a panorama of the piazza

Color me mind blown.  Standing in this piazza as the sun rose up, I was absolutely amazed at the vision of the SIAS President.  This was just an idea once.  He built this.  He had this vision of a campus, and this is what he built.  He had to have had people tell him he was insane.  How did he even get people to know what he was talking about?  I suppose its not that different than what I’m doing now in my classes, or what I do with my coaching and training work, I suppose… but this feels so… incredible.  Literally incredible.  If someone told me about a guy having an idea to build something like this, I’d LOVE it, but I don’t know that I’d believe he’d ever get backing for it.

But he did.  I’m standing here.  And there’s still so much more… there’s the opera building, a few other little burros. Classrooms, the library- I haven’t even shown you half of it, and they’re still building! The air was thick with dust tonight that the breeze kicked up.  SIAS is celebrating its 15th anniversary this May, so there’s all the frenzy to get ready that you’d expect of a new campus.

It has to be incredibly inspiring to study business on a campus like this.  To study anything on a campus like this— talk about the medium IS the message… and the message is “Dream Big”

Opening Possibilities

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Tonight was the Opening Ceremony for the World Academy for the Future of Women.  The ceremony is completely student-organized and student-driven.  If new members aren’t present at this ceremony, they are booted from the Academy and their space is opened up for in-coming freshman to apply.  Academy members are encouraged to bring faculty and family members to the ceremony so they can learn a bit more about what WAFW and the UN Millennium Goals are all about. Though there was a BBQ on campus as well as several student meetings, the auditorium in the Administration Building was quite full.

The Advanced Academy members, those that have completed their first year in the academy, took the stage in the uniforms they received upon completing their first year and conducted the ceremony in English.  Speaking to an auditorium full of people is a daunting task in your own language, let alone a foreign one.

Suzanne, Jerrie, Monday, and Jackie lead the auditorium in the World Academy for the Future of Women’s oath.

Suzanne, Jerrie, Monday, and Jackie lead the auditorium in the World Academy for the Future of Women’s oath.

I’d spent all day in meetings with the WAFW’s leadership yesterday.  The day started at 10am with the Project Leaders.

Jerrie drives home the message of “Must Be Present to Win” for this year’s Academy

Jerrie drives home the message of “Must Be Present to Win” for this year’s Academy

Each WAFW member (both from the Women’s Academy and the Men’s Academy for the Future of Women) must be involved in a project that focuses on one of the eight UN Millennium Goals.  Our first meeting of the day began with those that have taken the reigns for these projects that were started by previous WAFW members.  There was even one young woman that is a first year academy member, but had volunteered on a project last year.  She applied to WAFW, and is now the leader for the project she’d worked on.  It was remarkable to see these women- women that I know a year ago would not have stood up and talked about their accomplishments at all, do so confidently and with voices that filled the room.

Cecilia stands to present on what her group that deals with HIV/AIDS prevention is working with.

Cecilia stands to present on what her group that deals with HIV/AIDS prevention is working with.

As the day progressed, we worked with the Advanced Academy Members, who’s understanding of their leadership was deeper and wider.  Their answers to Jerrie’s questions were full of insights and awakenings they’d had during their internships over the summer.  They not only took internships over the summer- while many of their friends went on holiday or returned to spend time with their much-missed families- they watched their bosses and fellow employees very closely.  “I learned that the key to leadership is to just be myself.  But really be myself” one of the members said.  The academy had given her the confidence to forge her own path and find students to tutor to get more pocket money when she found herself in a financial pinch.  “I wouldn’t have thought of those possibilities before the academy” she’d told me on a walk the day before.  “I would have stayed in that place where I wasn’t happy and wasn’t doing what was good for my future, just because I didn’t know that I could do something else. Now I know that.”

The next two-hour block belonged to the Academy in Action.  Jerrie seems absolutely tireless.  Kristine’d reached her limit by now.  I kept going.  I feel like I could just follow Jerrie around all the time and watch everything she does.  She’s totally who I want to be when I grow up.  When I met her during my facilitator’s training, I told my friends “I’ve met Baba Yaga!  And if I can complete the tasks she sets before me, I’ll have the Light of the Ancients!”  I still feel that way.  The students clearly feel the same.  They want to soak up everything she has to offer- and the students that have reached the level of Academy in Action show the fruits of doing just that.  They think deeply about their own development and what that means to their leadership—but the mark of their maturity as leaders is showing: they’re concerned about how to develop those around them.

By the 3rd year and the Academy in Action, the Men’s Academy and Women’s academy are combined.

By the 3rd year and the Academy in Action, the Men’s Academy and Women’s academy are combined.

The Advanced Academy meeting ended with a member opening the discussion of “What do we do about those Academy members that are not excellent? How will we treat this issue?”  Some answered that all should be excellent.  She persisted.  “Yes, we should all be excellent. So what do we do when people are not excellent?  If we do not have something to do when people are not excellent, we won’t get everyone to excellence.”  I loved that she persisted.  I love that these students have a place where they feel free to persist.  To not only speak up, but to continue to speak up when their point isn’t taken with the gravitas they know it deserves.  I asked them what they did with themselves in the moments when they weren’t excellent.  What was wrong that they weren’t performing their best?  What did they do about it?  If they thought about this, then they would have their answers on how to inspire their teammates to excellence when they weren’t living up to their potential.

To end the day, there was a meeting with the office staff.  These students have really stepped up and taken on tremendous responsibility.  These are volunteer positions.  Many of them have worked in the campus president’s office, or had other positions, and now they devote their time to WAFW.  Their level of commitment is inspiring.  The discussions we had a bout the different leadership styles as well as how you stand in your authority while simultaneously standing in another’s shoes made me so proud of them, and so honored to be here and be a part of this organization.

After each of the meetings, the students approached me requesting other meetings.

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Even with the pressure of putting on the opening ceremony this evening, I had meetings about translation, media plans, setting up newsletters.

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They also moved me into a new room in the guest wing of Peter Hall. I don’t know why I’d been so resistant to moving… the students were right- it is a much nicer room and much more comfortable and home-y.  Isn’t that so often the way it is? The thing we’re resisting is actually the thing we’re trying to create…

At the end of the ceremony tonight, the front was rushed as students looked to sign up with the projects they’d like to taste first.

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The first years will be working with a different project each month until December, when they’ll need to choose one.  The second years can stay in the project they’d been working with or try a new one.  All are encouraged to try on different things to find their passion.  And the message of the night was successfully delivered – a consistent thread in almost everyone that got on stage—change doesn’t come from others, it comes from you.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  The World Academy for the Future of Women is teaching both men and women to have that be the basis of their leadership.  How different would the world be if all those in leadership positions took this approach?

Fun Lovin’ Criminals are singing “Its you, its you, its always been you and its always been in you” as I write this.  Perfect ending to an amazing day—and we haven’t even started yet!

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.