Sunday, 16 August 2009

Actual children’s answers to the question “what is love?”

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” - Billy, age 4

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” - Karl, age 5

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” - Chrissy, age 6

“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” - Terri, age 4

“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” - Danny, age 7

“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.” - Emily, age 8

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” - Bobby, age 7

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,” - Nikka, age 6

“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” - Noelle, age 7

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” - Tommy, age 6

“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” - Cindy, age 8

“My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.” - Clare, age 6

“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.” - Elaine, age 5

“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt.” - Chris, age 7

“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” - Mary Ann, age 4

“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” - Lauren, age 4

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” - Rebecca, age 8

“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” - Karen, age 7

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” - Jessica, age 8

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Middle Kingdom

Chinese don’t understand the concept of privacy, and I like it very much. The Chinese guy travelling beside me on the way to Beijing stares at the form I’m filling with the details of where I’m staying. “Wushu! Wushu!” He repeats loudly, nodding and smiling at me. He knows I’m going to a martial arts academy, and that’s kind of cool to the Chinese. 35˚ in Beijing, off we go to eat meat on a stick. It tastes great! The streets are very messy, dirty, colourful and poor looking, very much like some suburbs in Brazil. One of the streets was being redeveloped but we could walk around the building site just like the workers, the health and safety nightmare. Coming from England, you can imagine my euphoric happiness and the satisfaction I felt jumping on pipes and kicking bits of concrete in the middle of the street. Yes! Freedom! I can break my bones in peace now!

I feel at home, and they keep smiling at me. A family with 2 cute little Chinese girls with flags in their hands stop and ask (I guess) if they can take a picture with me. I’m loving it. I wish I could squeeze their cheeks but they take a picture and bounce away, giggling and waving their random flags in the hot air of Beijing. They all seem so happy! ☺

But I’m pretty disappointed. I was expecting little Chinese dressed in proper Chinese clothes and those triangular hats, planting rice everywhere, even on the squares and gardens, but NO! They dress like motherfucking westerners! Just like us! And they want to sell us everything, and they have huge supermarkets, three, four-storey full of herbs, pills and acupuncture. At least that fits in my stereotype box.

The next day we’re off to the village where we are going to live for the next 5 months. Everything looks simple, very poor, yet people seem quite content. I wash my clothes in buckets, eat with chopsticks and shit in holes on the ground. Little kids stumble around with their little pants open in the back. No nappies, they just squat and do it. Chinese farmers drive around in their little truck motorbikes, the truckcycles, carrying their harvest, bits and pieces, and lots, lots of sweet watermelons.

Training is great but I feel this horrible pain down my back and it’s been there for 2 weeks now, so Sifu takes me to village hospital for some real acupuncture. The hospital is as you would expect: simple, full of Chinese with no sense of privacy, many of them being treated in the same room with no sign of shyness or discomfort. They don’t seem to be aware of their individuality, and I quite like that, in a weird way. Sifu introduces me to the doctor, who seems to be an old friend of his, just like everyone else in the village, really. Doctor opens a metal box, takes a few needles, wipe them with cotton buds dipped in alcohol and without hesitation, sticks them needles 2 inches in. Ouch. Can’t describe how it is to feel all the nerves and channels connecting the points where he stuck them needles in. Never felt anything like that. That’s real acupuncture, not that wussy thing I had all my life. I feel the needle he stuck near my thumb in the back of my hand almost appearing in the palm of my hand. Do you get me? Yeah! He stuck it through my hand! He spins and turns the needles inside me, leave them for a few minutes, takes them out, and that’s it: I’m cured. That ended up being a little sample of what China is doing to me, a little illustration of what awaits me in this journey. Pain and cure. Miscommunication and connection.