When i get back from Xiamen Jasmine fills me in on the gossip that i've missed and the best news of all - Chef has finally walked out! Yes!
He has been replaced bya grim faced Chinese woman who stands and stares with her mouth in a line – then starts shouting at me incomprehensively. There is nothing as scary or indeed as loud as the sound of a Chinese woman shouting at you. Old timers know the drill already – they are seated before the gong has gone to get their share of rice and meat/veg that is put on sharing platters in the middle of the table. By the time I get there there is nothing left. Alison gives me some of her rice and I find some meat and veg eventually but nothing lasts very long around 30 or so hungry teenage boys.
And in other news the local villagers have moved from drying bamboo to drying toadstools and mushrooms on their wicker racks.
As much as i've loved (in a really perverse way) Shaolin – I know that i'm not going to get miraculously better and be able to do the acrobatics or the sparring this week and its not enough time to learn any more of the beautiful dance like forms that i've been taught as well. That being the case I think it would it be a cop out to do Tai Chi for my final three days. I chat to Nico about it and he says “I think you've already demonstrated quite a lot of discipline with what you've one so far at the school -and when are you going to get the chance to learn Tai Chi from a Chinese Master in China again any time soon...?" He's got a point so for my final few days Tai Chi it is.
Emily, Luke and Dana a jovial Native American with a soft accent and larger than life body and personality all do Tai Chi.
Tai Chi lessons are completley different. The teacher is a 4 fit nothing 60 something tanned little warrior with blackened teeth called Mao. - pronounced Miaow.
"He's like a cat as well" says Emily.
"Sometimes he just stares out the window and then suddenly gets up and starts tapping the dead leaves off the tree with his stick the way a cat might be staring into space then suddenly turn around and paw at an invisible insect."
A van arrives with vegetables for lunch. We look out the doorway and sure enough inquisitve little Miaow has gone to inspect it. He is standing in front of the van with both his arms on the bonnet interrogating them. We laugh and watch him for a while – his inspections satisfactorily complete he takes a huge gob and spits at the side of the road.
"The moment's gone” says Emily.
He only has four fingers on one hand – apparently he lost one in a factory accident which is a rather mundane truth as he is a Master in so many different martial arts skills I imagined it was some lethal butterfly knife fight – but no.
Mao does't speak any English but he shows well enough what do in his voice – which also sounds a bit like a siamese cat growling.
Once i've learnt 24 form which is incredibly gentle and relaxing – and the complete opposite to Shaolin -he starts growling at me.
“He wants you to relax more...sometimes he makes you smoke a cigaretteto relax if he thinks you are too tense” Emily informs me...
Ha i'd like to see him try. After the tobacco, carbs and booze binge fest of B.A I have not had a cigarette and am not about to start now.
We end every session with doing the 24 form to Chinese music. If I get any more relaxed I may fall asleep. Its absolutely beautiful. Because I feel so lazy I make myself run to the bridge and back twice and on wednesday I make myself do the mountain run...
My final two morning circuits. I'm so exhausted. Jasmine is in the habit of setting her alarm for 4.15am which wakes me up but not her – and then she doesn't get up until 5. But I make myself get out of bed and do the circuits telling myself that after this thursday it will be the last time I have to get up at 5am to do some rigorous exercise for a long time. Wednesday's circuit is holding plank positions, then press ups, hindus ( a kind of wiggly press up) , wheel barrows, handstand commandoes (basically you go into a handstand and a partner holdsyour legs up then you have to do a press up downwards – bending your arms – evil in other words.) Then handstands against the wall – if we can't hold it for 30 seconds we have to do bunny hops across the basket ball court if we can't hold it for a minute we have to do a lap of the school. Quite a few of us do the lap around the school but everyone including me manages to hold it for 30 seconds!
My final circuit on Thursday morning – and what a treat it is! We run up the mountain and then do bunny hops, frog leaps and duck crawls down it interspersed with sprinting. It's agonising – even Big Steve who runs the circuit -says “why did I say duck crawls back!” But as it's my last one I make myself do every last second of it. Feel the burn – yeah!
On Friday we all get a bus to Xiamen. I am flying out to Yunnan province the next day – i've decided the best way to make the most of my time in China is to just see one province well and Yunnan in the South West looks absolutely stunning. I'm acompanied by a group of the students who are joining Scott for a full moon beach party on the saturday in Xiamen. I think about going and then flying – but to be honest i'd rather just say my goodbyes and make the most of the time I have left with my onward journey.
We get a sleeper bus – which is a little strange as its the middle of the day. There is no toilet on board so we all dehydrate ourselves not drinking any water. It has a little booth you slot yourself into complete with pillow and duvet which makes me feel very snug – but I have some sympathy for all the 6ft plus boys trying to shoe horn themselves into position.
When we arrive I get ready to say my goodbyes and make my way to the hostel I stayed at before – but because i'm with YOUNG people who haven't booked accommodation they all just tag along with me. When we arrive I go into reception and say:
"H i'm back and oh I brought a few friends."
The girl looks through the door at the 10 people i have with me and whispers - “oh my god.”
We go for dinner at pizza hut and never in the history of man have I ever seen so many hungry and grateful 18 year olds – you'd think they'd died and gone to heaven. Afterwards we become the horrible annoying people at the hostel who keep everyone else awake with drinking games. YAt some point they all start taking off their clothes...then they do kung fu...then I start taking photos and Jasmine moons for the camera...Young People...having fun. The next morning after a few hours sleep they are all awake and bright eyed and bushy tailed. I remember that I never used to get hangovers until I turned 30. Damn them. I say my goodbyes hugging them each in turn as they head off to prepare for their beach party and get ready for my flight. Next stop Kunming – the capital of Yunnan province.