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Tiffany's Adventures in China

An Epic Performance

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Last night's adventure was absolutely crazy-- from dinner with students of the "Small Dragon" Martial Arts School (formerly known as the actual Shaolin Martial Arts School) and warrior monks from the monastery to an all-out show with large groups from the school and monastery, we had some experiences I don't think I'll ever forget about.

Throughout yesterday's sweltering heat, we practiced our kung fu routine; luckily, the itinerary provided us quite a bit of time to rest and sleep. It was also pretty amusing to watch some of our Chinese guide staff members (who are technically now our buddies:) attempt to follow along-- some of them, actually, were pretty decent at it. Apprehension ran through some students as they heard there would be an examination to test how much they had learned and how well they had studied the routine (we had only learned the most basic one, and knowing that made the school's martial arts students seem even more skilled). The examination that afternoon was taken in pairs; I think my partner and I did pretty well. After all, we had had gone over the routine several times in the last few days. Our group received certificates of completion; I was (and still am) pretty proud of myself for accomplishing all that, really. The last few days spent at the monastery and martial arts school have been not just simply amazing-- it has been phenomenal. And last night definitely would be a huge highlight of this entire trip.

We set out to dinner at a pretty nice restaurant, but to all the girls' delight, a student at the kung fu school we call "Smiley" and three other companions of his came along on the bus with us. Before that, two monks from the Shaolin Monastery also boarded, but apparently, most people were more excited for "Smiley" since he almost never smiled--except when he did, it was such a thing that brightened up his face. All were excited for this-- I considered it an honor to be on the same bus with both groups of people. Apparently, they thought the same about us.

Dinner was particularly interesting, with some of my fellow students asking some very direct questions like "Do you have a girlfriend?" And teaching him how to say "I love you," which thoroughly embarrassed him, although he shyly laughed throughout the whole questioning session. Over at the other tables, our guests answered questions and had a great time. Then we headed off to the Shaolin Monastery, where the real performance took place.

The stage was more like a covered floor of a barn-type building within the monastery. Though it had no air conditioning system, a nice breeze occasionally came in through the windows (although during an act, a creepy, unshirted man started laughing hysterically and semi-insanely). They started off the program with songs; we sang "Shaolin, Shaolin" (which I thought we did pretty well) and the Chinese sang songs in English. Ironically, I didn't know any of the songs they sang last night. I guess it's a little old for me (and the other students); we're a bit modern with our music.

Still, it was overall a great experience, with each group contributing a part to the combined enjoyment of the whole. The highlights of the evening included some stunning kung fu performances in different animal styles and with rare types of weapons. A young girl also did her best to sing a few songs for us and Daniel Olson did a backflip, landing on his knees-- but the audience thought it was pretty good, and so did I. When the time came to say good bye (or "ZaiJian" in Chinese), we all regretfully did so, with the Discovery students all wishing they could stay a little longer in the great Shaolin Temple and nearby village.

All in all, these past few days we spent in and around the Shaolin Monastery and Small Dragon Martial Arts School have been so compelling, interesting, and most of all, incredibly fun. I know I will miss those places and forever cherish those treasured memories.

Next stop: Beijing. Now we are all on a five-hour train ride to the capital city of China. I watch the cornfields pass by and think of La Crescenta-- not because I am homesick (not at all), but because I am thinking about the hundreds of millions of people who call this country home.

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Martha said...

Congratulations, Tiffany! A job well done is definitely worth a satisfied feeling. I think you should have done the limbo for them, personally. THAT would have impressed them. Think you will do your martial arts demonstration at the talent show at CV? I think this trip is opening a part of you that hasn't had much of a chance to blossom what with the lack of opportunity and the structure of our lives. I am so happy for you.

Changing Connections said...

Tiffany, I can only echo Martha's pride in your accomplishments on this trip. You have definitely grown, and you will have a small piece of heaven in your heart that will always hold your time in China as a special part of your life.

I will miss reading your posts, and although I am happy to welcome you home, like you, I will miss the China that I saw through your eyes.

RJ Stangherlin
PA DEN LC Blog Coordinator

Karen Wells said...

I am especially drawn to your last sentence: "I watch the cornfields pass by and think of La Crescenta-- not because I am homesick (not at all), but because I am thinking about the hundreds of millions of people who call this country home." I think you are feeling what I was when I wrote the following in one of my DSA South Africa blogs: "As we drove through the townships, I decided that today I would put down my laptop and my ever increasing need to blog to really focus on the world outside the coach's window. The sheer number of the population came home. While some parts of the townships were orderly, far too many were not. It seemed to me that there were people everywhere. Women picking through the trash on the side of the road, children playing in the streets, and men standing around fires. With immigrants coming to Johannesburg because of the economy in outlying areas, there are too many people seeking jobs that are just not there. Government preference for help is being given to families with young children with more people here living on welfare than in any other country. On a positive note, education is free with no child being turned away because of an inability to pay school fees. Health care is also provided by the government, and there is a concentrated effort to see that all South African children are healthy and educated. They feel this is the only way to make sure that future generations of South Africa can overcome poverty. While the plan sounds like it will work, the people of South Africa know they will have to take ownership of their own personal lives and strive to work toward a more progressive South Africa." I felt such a connection to the people and their struggles. I think I sensed this some connection in your post. Thanks for sharing China with me.

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Essential Programs Details

Duration 15 days
When August 4th - 18th, 2009
Focus History/Culture
Martial Arts
Modern/Ancient Architecture