So, having sent an email that ended with the sentence
“thankfully there hasn’t been another drinking session…” what happens?! Unbeknown to me when I wrote that sentence,
the 1st of May was the school’s birthday, and when we turned up at
the kitchen for lunch, three tables had been put outside, and a crate of beer
and Chinese alcohol was lined up along a wall.
The cook had been very busy in the four hours since breakfast. There was a chicken casserole, some peanuts,
green vegetables, salty fish, seaweed, pork, tofu noodles (which are not
dissimilar to tagliatelli), and a plate of unidentifiable meat.
Before we could eat anything we had to have a toast, which
meant having a drink. I’d really rather
have had a beer, it was a hot day today and I didn’t want strong alcohol, but
my glass was filled up before I could do anything about it and off everyone
went saying ‘gambe!’ and knocking it back. These days I’m very wary of Chinese casseroles. There’s always a chicken foot floating in
there somewhere, and often a head too, so I usually just eat the potatoes. I don’t like fish so much, and the plate of
meat looked suspicious so I avoided that (I later found out it was donkey meat! Mmmm, yum!).
In other words, there wasn’t much there to soak up the booze. I drank as slowly as I could, and was nearing
the end of my glass and looking forwards to having a beer instead when
Grandmaster Chen came along and refilled everyone’s glass for them. To the brim.
By one o’clock everyone was completely pissed. Sha
Wei had been virtually force-feeding one student with alcohol and he was in a
sorry state, head resting on the table, bright pink face and very watery eyes. By one thirty I was in bed, and it was a very
On Sunday and Monday there was a tai chi competition in a very
grubby tai chi school in Wen Xian.
Sometimes the sheer scale of filth and rubbish in China still has the
capacity to surprise me. If you had a
tai chi school and were holding a competition there, wouldn’t you sweep the
floor? Maybe check under the seats to
make sure there were no large piles of sunflower seed shells and fag ends? Yes, you would, and so would I, but clearly
the people who ran that school didn’t have time to worry about a trifle like
that, and the place was dirty. Some students
from my school entered (not me), so I went along on Sunday to have a look,
partly so I could take an afternoon off because I was feeling very tired!
I’d never been to a tai chi competition before so I was
curious to see what it was all about. A
large part of it seemed to be all about tai chi suits. I did not know there was such a range of
styles and colours! There were black
ones, blue ones, turquoise ones, pale pink ones, bright pink ones, white ones,
grey ones and mustard yellow ones. Some
were shiny, some were matt or, even more exciting, a matt background with shiny
dragons embossed on it. Obviously no-one
wants to look unimaginative when there is so much competition around, so there were
a lot of suits embroidered with dragons, mountain scenes or flowers (very
popular with the ladies), and there were others edged with silver or gold. Two particularly eye-catching teenage boys
had matching white and turquoise suits and bouffant hair styles. Tin Tin and Ma Dong, who are best of friends
and often sneak off for a fag when they’ve had enough of tai chi, had matching blue suits trimmed with white. Yan Fei’s was white and embroidered with
flowers. Ming had a totally plain,
un-shiny black suit. I told her I liked it. She told me someone said it was too plain and
she should have worn some flowers with it.
Apart from admiring the fashion, you could watch people
doing some tai chi, though it was hard to concentrate with all the people
running about bawling into mobile phones, smoking fags, coughing, burping, videoing
their kids/ husbands/ friends and generally being quite distracting. It was also difficult to focus on one person
because at any one time there were eight people doing tai chi and watching an
individual was tricky because the other people kept getting in the way. To be honest I was quite happy just sitting
down having a rest while admiring the tai chi clothes.
And that’s it!
Six weeks left and I have such mixed feelings. I swing between really wanting to see my niece and nephew (and a few other people J) and not wanting to leave at all. Time is definitely accelerating and I know
the next few weeks are going to shoot by.
I’m not sure what the plan is when it comes to training. A new girl has come and is learning the sword
form which is great as it means going through it again from the beginning and
getting some more details, but it’s possible that I’ll be able to look at
something else before I leave. I’d
really like to look at push-hands, but if not, there’s always next time…..