By the end of my third week, the rigors of daily training were starting to take their toll on my body. I had mostly just been doing Xingyi quan, but the stances and stomping were leaving my ankle and bad knees hurting more and more everyday. I really noticed it that first time out the door and down the stairs to go running at the track at 6am. Finally I decided to give the medical facilities at the school a try.
|The circles are to point out the location of the needles. Those white things on the arms are the heat lamps. I didn't really get any needles in my wrist, the doctor thought it would look cooler when I asked him if he would pose for a picture.|
It wasn't painful, the only problem is that you can't move with these big old needles thrust into your joints. Along with the needles you also get a little heat therapy. The doctor sticks a heatlamp a few inches from the injured area. Which is fine, til about 20 minutes into it when the heatlamp starts really heating up and you can't move! Then you notice that the doctor is back in his office and the nurse is across the hall.
But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was when that one really annoying guy on the Taekwondo team was in there icing his leg. Man that guy never shut up. Even bringing my CD player could not drown out his annoying antics. Amongst other things he took an extra doctor's coat and appointed himself doctor one day, trying to administer extra needles
to his poor teammate who was already immobilized with a couple in her legs. But him aside, I felt like the treatments helped, after the treatments I could handle working out again.
Which was good, because by now I was learning a new three section staff form from Jian Zhen Jiao. It was cool to finally get into learning some 3 section. And Jian Zeng Jiao was definitely a good person to learn it from. It was cool to learn a "new style" 3 section form, you know what I'm talking about, lots and lots of banging on the floor. Cool! It was also good to have someone coaching you who didn't smoke a cigarette every 10 minutes (like my Xingyi coach and almost all the other coaches for that matter). Who knows, maybe Jian Zeng Jiao would be smoking too if his hands weren't full with the weapon.
The whole time I was there, one thing I enjoyed doing in the afternoons after my workout was chatting with Zhu Gui Jun. You may remember her as the former Beijing Wushu Team member who was the superbuff womens nan quan champion back when the Team came to the US back in '95. She had retired the year after and had gone into coaching. She spent some time in the Hong Kong and Singapore coaching, then ended up back in Beijing. When I first saw her I couldn't believe it was the same person. She seemed to have lost about 10 or 15 pounds of the muscle she had a ton of back in '95. Back then she was really really buff and looked like she could bench more than any man on the team. Now she had shrunken down to "normal" size. Despite not having seen me in over 4 years, she remembered me as that American kid who had driven them around while in San Francisco. She was coaching a really small class of middle sized kids. There was a class of teenagers and a class of really small kids, and Zhu Gui Jun seemed to have the inbetween ones. And I have to say she pushed them REALLY hard. One student that really stood out was the female student, she was super clean and really fast.
Now that the athletes' competitions were over I got a chance to spend more time with them. It was really frustrating that I was leaving so soon! But I tried to make the most of it. By now I had been in China for a while and my Chinese had improved a lot. I was able to converse more fluently with the athletes and tried to make the most of my short time left. As I was preparing to pack up, I made sure to distribute the remainder of the goodies I had brought, most notably my 50 pack of Skittles. Before coming I was unsure how much I'd like the food at the cafeteria, so I had also brought of my favorite travelling companion, peanut butter! Luckily for me, the food turned out to be quite edible, and sandwich bread turned out to be kind of difficult to get your hands on (but not impossible), so I didn't up eating much of my peanut butter. Luckily one of the athletes (who will remain nameless) had developed an affinity for the PB on their last trip to the US, who was more than willing to take it off my hands.
|Downstairs from the Wushu Guan was the Gymnastics room. These really tiny kids would workout for several hours a day everyday. Maybe one of these kids will be in the Olympics someday.|
My last day was pretty special. I worked out a little bit in the morning, finishing up the three section staff set and then just hung out and used up some film in my camera. I tried to capture all the things I found memorable about the school. The wushu room, the doctors office, the gymnastics room, with the little gymnastics kids, the beloved cafeteria. Mike and his girlfriend came to visit to check out the practice and see me one last time before I left. They also wanted to meet the Slovakian Ping Pong kid that was also staying in our dorm along with his coach. I haven't mentioned these two because I'm trying to forget them. The kid was weird, the only thing he would eat from the cafeteria was chicken. He ate a LOT of it... how long can a kid last on a diet of coke and chicken? His coach was even weirder. The guy seemed to be macking on everything in site. When I introduced Mike and his girlfriend, who was an exchange student from Russia also studying at Bei Da, this guy was all like "oh yeah, I can speak Russian..." and then (according to her) he started speaking in Slovakian except inserting random Russian words in the wrong places. It would have been funny, except he kept trying to get her phone number. Creepy!
But it wasn't til the evening all my wushu dreams came true! Well, sort of. So I had asked Liu Juan if any of the women had wanted to go out to dinner since it was my last night. So they came and grabbed me at dinner time except it turned out it wasn't just a couple athletes, it was the entire women's team. We walked to a nearby restaurant right on the Shi Cha Hai lake. It was pretty swanky by China standards. Why? Why does the most fun have to occur on the last day? Damn, can't wait to go back now!
|Known as a 'Mian Di' this is the Chinese equivalent of the Sherpamobile. This is the street with all my favorite CD shops and the local McDonalds.|
The next day I sadly bid fairwell to the team and made my way to the airport. It was pretty hectic, but once I checked in, I had some time to catch my breath and reflect. I was really sad to be leaving. Like my trip to Armenia back in '92, his trip is definitely something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life. One thing I regret is that I stayed in Beijing the whole time. I really want to go back and see more of the rest of China. If you've never been, I suggest you try to go soon before it changes too much. It is modernizing very quickly and soon the things that make China really interesting (to me at least) are being replaced with KFCs and Video stores. But to be fair, I enjoyed those parts of China too -- Getting movies for less than two dollars, exacting my revenge on those American record companies, with their outrageous CD prices, ordering an extra value meal in Chinese, seeing The Colonel speaking Chinese in KFC commercials.
Well if everything works out, at least a little bit of Beijing (the Wushu Team) will be in the US in a few months. I don't know about you, but I can't wait.
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