If we really want to get rid of suffering, completely and totally, then clinging has to go. The spiritual path is never one of achievement; it is always one of letting go. The more we let go, the more there is empty and open space for us to see reality. Because what we let go of is no longer there, there is the possibility of just moving without clinging to the results of the movement. As long as we cling to the results of what we do, as long as we cling to the results of what we think, we are bound, we are hemmed in. Meditating on No-Self: A Dhamma Talk (Edited for Bodhi Leaves), by Sister Khema(1994)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

7 days in China, or how the Censor didn't let me blog

The Reason:

My parent company, International House World Organization, asked me to inspect two schools in China, IH Xi'an and IH Hangzhou.  They paid, I went.

The Travel:

Back again, its 23.09.12.  I've been in China.  I left on the 15th after a very nice 15k run in the morning.  I flew from Kyiv to Beijing, arriving Sunday, 16.09.12 at 4:45 a.m. (there is a 5 hour time difference).  I then flew at 8:00 a.m. to Xi'an, China where I spent Sunday through late Wednesday 19.09.12.  Late that evening I flew to Hangzhou, China and arrived after midnight on 20.09.12 and left Saturday at 8:50 p.m., arriving in Beijing at midnight, and spending 5:30  hours in the airport in Beijing waiting for the return flight to Kyiv, arriving in Kyiv at 10:15 a.m. Kyiv time on Sunday 23.09.12.

The running:

Really bizarre unfortunately.  I didn't run Sunday due to the jetlag that I thought I would have, I was right not, to as I wasn't taken to my hotel until almost 7 hours after I arrived.  After arriving in Xi'an I was taken to see the terra cotta warriors which was amazing.  But there was certainly no running.  I intended to run every day of the week about 15k.  Didn't happen.

The first run was probably the most fascinating, though in each way all the runs were interesting and enlightening in so many different areas.  I had used my Google Earth, which you can use, mostly, in China to map out from my hotel to the "city" which is guarded by the oldest intact wall in China.  This wall is about 16km in total circumference and makes a perfect square.  While Xi'an is a city of 8 million people this inner area is considered the city.

Woke up at 6:00 a.m., had a cup of coffee, and started running at 6:30 a.m.   It was daylight and about 19 C outside.  There wasn't much traffic but there was some, the first 6 minutes was uneventful but then I turned onto a street that was full of people cooking food outside, various people cooking various foods all of it cultural of course.  I then went down another street and this one was almost empty except for the people setting up their sections to provide the fresh food for the day for people.  These people, when I ran back would spent most of the morning selling various regional food, that had yet to be cooked (interestingly, no raw meat, which is different from Kyiv street sellers, because certainly they eat a lot meat in this city) and then I turned on to a major road which was tree lined.

Both Xi'an and Hangzhou have two sets of streets plus a sidewalk.  The sidewalks were wide and accomodating and certainly much better than the ones I run on in Kyiv in terms of how they were constructed and how they felt to run on.  The first street is the street for mopeds, bicycles and buses, and the the third street is the street for traffic.  I rarely ran on the third street.  I bet you can guess how man mopeds and bicycles were actually on the sidewalks.  But at this point in this run there were not a lot of people out, it was still only about 6:45.

My intention was to run 40 minutes out and 40 minutes back. At about 20 minutes I reached the city Wall.  I crossed over and headed around the outside of it which has a walking path around the entire thing.  Man was it busy.  Incredible amount of exercise going on.  The first thing I see when I turn the first corner is a line of about 30 ping pong tables and every one of them has a match going on. These weren't young people they were easily 20 years older than me, one match was so incredible that the women on my side of the table was 3 meters off the table in the path hitting back ripping forehands to her competitor.  It was loud and lots of people were watching and their were ping pong balls flying everywhere.  But that was just the beginning.

Around the next corner was a group of people doing exercises of their own creating but they all involved striking a part of the body hard with loud grunting.  Next area was fixed equipment, much chinese morning exercise must be to stimulate blood flow because almost every machine involved but movement and some sort of slapping on the body somewhere.

as I continue to run and have my head on a swivel, my mindfulness was not the best, but it was very interesting.  It got real quiet I turned the corner and there were literally 500 people lined up on each side of the path doing morning stretches and exercises, there was a fog here off the moat water as well, it looked like something off the discovery channel, i was struck by how fascinating it was and how lucky i was.  My run repeated like this for 40 minutes out and then i turned around and at about 59 minutes I headed back on to the street.

Small problem it was now about 7:30 a.m. and this road was packed, there were bodies everywhere.  These mopeds go against the traffic, same with the bikes, and horns everywhere, everywhere a horn.  Finally got off that road and up the road with the fresh food being sold.  Unfortunately it gets a bit hazy here.

For some reason I missed a turn and at 1:19:38 I stopped the watch and looked around and I had no idea where I was.  Really bizarre, so I started to to try to find building landmarks and started running again.  The problem was for me that there was no one who could speak any English and I had forgottena bout he hotel card which could have helped me.  I ran and I ran, felt like in circles, at one point I had to cross a major highway, I didn't feel so bad though since about 10 other people were doing it.

I found an Intercontinental Hotel!  I walked in there and found someone who could barely speak English and managed to get one of their maps.  Looked like I was about 1.5 kms from where I wanted to be after about 20 minutes of running lightly.  So I started on my way and stopped twice to ask people where to go by pointing to my hotel card.  This helped.  I managed to get home after running for close to two hours.

I called it 20km.  The running itself was wonderful.  The trisp around the outer wall was soooo cool.   the sheer humanity of the people was almost too much.

On Tuesday, I rose early again, did the same thing but I went 27 minutes out and back, but did not get lost this time.  I intended to do 10k because I had gone farther they day before.  This was a very nice run, but still alot of people.  The other thing was I was already beginning to feel real fatigued.

I think some of this was from the diet of Xi'an Chinese food which clearly I was not used to.  Also, the work was exhausting.  On Tuesday I spent a large part of the day on buses and out in the sun presenting plagues to communist party officials opening cultural centers in the name of IH Xi'an, while strange, it was all very tiring.  All also did not anticipate how the tremendous language barrier would exhaust me.

On Wednesday I just rolled over and went back to sleep.  I couldn't do it.  But I had the same thing with the outside and the cutlure presentations as well.  Also I had to fly to Hangzhou and did not get there until after 1:00 p.m. and did not go to bed till after 2:30 p.m.  As a result

No morning run on Thursday. I also was really tired by the end of the day.  But in the end I put the shoes on and run for about 45 minutes in the dark. I found a great little trail along one of the rivers and then ran in the city in some back alleys and streets and managed to work my way back.  Again, a lot of people  but I was running and that felt very good.  This run was really slow.

On Friday, nothing, even worse on Saturday, pure exhaustion, on Sunday I was on an airplane and hopefully I can start again on Monday.

In terms of Mindfulness:  the main action was in focusing on where I was at all times so as not to get too lost at any one place.  I also focused on the foot steps and the fact that I did this seems to be a good sign that I am staying on this area a lot.

All in all it is a fascinating place.  But tough to get runs in if you just jump off the plane, go straight to work, and still think you will get 15km a day in.

Why didn't I write all week?  The censor wouldn't let me near the blog.  Too bad, it would have been a better entry, or series of entries if it had.

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