It’s been great fun to take you on my research trip to China. In my last post from Shaolin Temple I had just surrendered to the program. You can read about it here. I ended up staying a total of ten, yes, count ’em, TEN days at the Shaolin Monastery, and really learned some Kung Fu.That’s not me. But I wish it were!
Okay, this is more like me:It doesn’t look like much, but I assure you, it’s a hidden dragon:I can’t do that second part yet, but getting that first part right is half the battle, and I’ve got that down pat!
More importantly, I’ve learned that life is a sequence of surprises. And in turn, research and books are too. It takes a lot of courage and curiosity to write a book. And when you’re an author you must have a sense of fearlessness and nimbleness. You must be able to change direction, do something completely unexpected, adapt to newness and improvise.
When my stay became extended, I moved into a family hotel in the village (a family who is friendly to the monks rented me a room and cooked my meals). One morning, I took a very unusual shower that involved using this:and this:And that’s when I knew I had become a REAL villager.
Two months later now, I am unbelievably grateful for running water and every hot shower I take. And I’m continuing to practice my Kung Fu routine, which I LOVE!!! My workout takes about two-and-a-half hours from beginning to end. It’s violent and aggressive and kicks me wide awake. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done and adds a real jolt to my day.
And though I flunked the Zen meditation lesson at Shaolin (I fell asleep as soon as my monk left the room — and got lectured about it later), I try my best to meditate everyday now too. It helps with the pain (from the workout).
I had many more adventures at the monastery and in the village, but I’m afraid that I can’t tell you any more about them. The deadline for my next Alvin book is fast-approaching, and I must focus on my writing. Besides, there’s something to be said about not giving everything away. What’s the fun in reading a book when you already know every detail? So you’ll have to wait to see what happens in the book!
Here are some parting shots of the village I called home for ten days: This was the way home everyday:Do you see that break in the edging on the side of the road on the left? That’s a shortcut! For brave warriors only! Use at your own risk!
Here we are coming out of the shortcut, at the upper edge where the village begins:Next you continue uphill along the dried-up stream bed:At the first bridge, you get a view of the other side:None of the streets lights in the village or leading up to the village work, by the way. I found out the hard way the night I came back from playing hooky. The entire place is pitch-black at night. The monks find their way by memorization. I found my way by my flashlight app.
is my street: This is where I lived:This was my last supper there:Three of the fiercest Shaolin warriors, including my Kung Fu master, came and treated me to dinner. And when there are that many pairs of chopsticks, and that many cups of baijiu, you gotta eat FAST or not eat at all! Trying to take pictures while eating at warrior-speed did not work too well!
Here a pair of lethal hands (I kid you not); a cup of vinegar (top) and a cup of baijiu (bottom):First you drink the baijiu. It’s crazy strong and kills all bacteria from head to toe, you can feel it Kung-Fuing your innards! Then you drink the vinegar after your meal. It’s courage juice for the warrior — it puts fire in your belly and smoke in your nose. In other words, it puts the good bacteria back.
Here my host mother is showing off her homemade vinegar made from a sqillion-year-old culture, in a recycled water bottle of unknown vintage, from which she had just served us:I wished she hadn’t shown it to us. I was happy to drink it without knowing where it came from.
I have an iron stomach.
But weak knees.