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.