China is not like home, if it was, what would be the point of going here? China, the academy and the lifestyle here is so tremendously different from back home, it’s not worse or better, its different and different sometimes takes some getting used to.
Life is simple here in a way that is not possible at home, it gives you the opportunity to enjoy the little things in life. Like looking at the scenery and enjoying the weather when you are on your 15-20 minutes’ walk to the bus. The fields here are a lot nicer than the concrete buildings in my block.
The internet is not very good, there is only one hot shower, the food is monotonous, the washing machine is only with cold water and sometimes the power goes out for hours or even a day. You do not consider coming here for the luxurious accommodation, then you are better suited for just staying home or go on yet another all-inclusive beach holiday for an entire different price as well. What you are most likely to want from this stay is an experience of Chinese culture, an adventure for life and lots of kung fu training and that is exactly what you will get and it is amazing.
People are here for very different reasons and there is room for everybody. There is an age span of 25 years and still people get along across almost generations because of the common interest for kung fu. Some are here just because it sounded fun to do for a short period of time, some are here for a very long time in order to be so good that they can open a kung fu school back home or use it for other educational matters, some just for personal interest in martial arts, some because they needed a break from home and some because they are searching for both a question and an answer. The school itself does not have any answers, they just provide the settings, the atmosphere and the opportunity to sit down and ponder and come up with the answers on your own.
There are good days and bad days down here or sometimes you can have a perfect culture shock switch from hating everything to realize that it is not all that bad at all within a single day. I had one after a few weeks. “I feel miserable, my back hurts, I hate china and I am out of chocolate” that was the first part of the day. In the afternoon we went to Wongchon, ate dumplings, went shopping, I got compliments for my Chinese when I bought chicken (major win), went to the supermarket and then ate a pile of junk food. Then suddenly I didn’t feel so blue and went to bed happy about China and life again.
When I am at home I am one of those business people, always looking immaculate with the perfect clothes and makeup (that’s what I am aiming for at least), here I have been wearing makeup and regular clothes 4 times in 6 weeks and then still very relaxed. Even though I am not one of the worst persons (considering that I am a girl) it is still somehow liberating to just get up put a little water in your face, put on your slightly smelling, despite that they have been washed, training cloths and just go downstairs and start training. I never thought I would get used to that, but even the constant slight smell of sweat from myself or the others has become normal (even though that took a little longer to get used to).
On occasion the only thing you can hear is the wind and bugs summing, most of the time though there is cacophony of sounds from the life at the school. Someone playing music, a door smacking, the pet cat, Mimi, meowing like someone is torturing her (her way of saying “give me attention”), the dogs barking the ducks/chickens/geese quacking or the time confused rooster that often thinks 3 AM is sunrise. Those are the sounds from within the school. From the outside you can hear the farmers on their scooters on their way to their fields, the cows and more chickens. In my world, that beats the sound of constant car noises or construction work in my street at home. I would not mind the rooster moving away though, or just getting a sense of time.
When we are running you can be assured to get a smile, a wave or (I hope it is) an encouraging comment in Chinese on the way. When it was peanut harvest season they would not seldom offer you a handful of strings full of peanuts. This is the first time I have seen ( or even thought of) how peanuts are grown and harvested. They work kind of like potatoes, it’s a small bush like plant you dig up and then there are small strings with the peanuts attached. They are being pulled from the ground, then picked and laid to dry in the sun. The plants are also being dried in order to later be grinded up for feeding for the chickens in winter, no waste. Everything is done by hand and in a cozy no stress manner, they are just sitting in their fields and talking while they work. Fresh peanuts tastes so much better than the dried ones we get at home, they taste more fresh, juicier and crisp.
Behind the academy there is a small land area, it is the plan that in the future it should be turned into a small forest park for training but right now it is used for farming, all sorts of things but all something used in the food here at the school. When I came the watermelon season had just finished in the garden. They all got a dreaming look on their face when they explained how Mama Bao would come in during dinner/lunch with a bowl full of ice cold juicy cut watermelon on those extremely hot summer days.
When there is no training there are three things people are spending their time on (when they are not sleeping or eating).
1. Watching movies/series. Most students with respect for themselves have an external hard drive with enough hours to last the next three years.
2. Cross-stitching; never have I ever seen so many guys go crazy in a shop of cross-stitching embroidery, seriously, they can spend hours in there! Much worse than when I am looking at bags.
3. Pondering over the big things in life, but mostly about “how on earth did that giant bug come in to my room when the window is closed” or “how can we teach the cat to stop meowing constantly”.
When students talk together there is one subject we keep coming back to over and over again and that is food. It is the main reason for going anywhere, super market is the second reason (and that’s food too), and we can start discussing already Sunday/Monday what and where we are going to eat in the coming weekend. Another famous question around the same subject is “what is the first thing you are going to eat when you get home?” when I got that questions in my first days I was taken a bit back by it, I had just gotten here, I wanted Chinese food! It took my only a week until I started joining those conversations about steak, gravy, potatoes, ice cream, pancakes, nachos, waffles and what not.
The school has a bookshelf full of all sorts of books. They are brought here by the students and then left for future students to enjoy (and make space in their suitcases for souvenirs) there is a great mix of both languages and subjects, enough for many hours of fun when you get tired of cross-stitching (I still haven’t understood that, must be a guy thing).
There is no place like home, but china is pretty awesome too.