Friday, April 27, 2012

Never rely on a damaged Kindle: a footnote to my blog of 28 March All About Books

I will never, ever, again only take a Kindle with me on holiday, with no back-up from what I call real books, as I stupidly did.  When I took the Kindle out on my first evening in China, I found that it had been damaged in transit inside my cabin bag.  And that was that!

Although my Chinese hosts took it to a Kindle store to try and get it repaired, it was beyond help.  This meant that I was left for 2 weeks without a book to read.   At some level this may have been good for my soul, because it forced me to do a lot of thinking and a lot of planning of lessons for my Chinese students.  Luckily, too, I had taken some of my Mandarin studies with me and that helped save my sanity when I woke, as I inevitably did, at 5 am in the hotel room.

But it was a warning to me never again to rely only upon electronic books.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Written before my return to London after my second visit to China

My second trip to China is now nearing its end and sitting here in the hotel room in Nanning, just gently thinking things through, I’m trying to summarize what I have taught my students and what the whole experience has taught me.

I have been listening to Mandarin spoken at full tilt and in great quantities by everybody around me, interspersed only with the pauses as the important parts were translated into English for me.  I found it interesting to note that more and more of the few simple words I had learnt at my classes in London seemed to leap out of the sentences at me, like carp leaping out of the lake I visited here.  And just for that moment the speech appeared to slow down as I recognised a word with some meaning I could attach to it, only for the remainder of the sentence to become submerged attain in an unintelligible jumble of sounds.  Although this was often confusing, as giving me only tiny glimpses of meaning, it was comforting to know that I had indeed started to learn something of the speech I heard around me.  But what a long way to go before I can engage in any real dialogue here!

At a more serious level, I come away delighted that the students have learnt so much more than at my first visit, and that we have put together some solid structures for future learning.  It is intended that I go over there twice a year, and Mei, who set in motion the whole train of five element acupuncture on its journey back to China, will probably go a further twice a year, as well as accompanying me.  Her next visit is scheduled for July, so the students will get more time to consolidate what they have just learnt before I return with her in the autumn.

The number of my students has increased by a further 5 or so, making abut 20 dedicated five element students.  There are now two main groups, one based here in Nanning and the other in Chengdu, with a lone student hoisting the five element flag in Beijing.  We will organize the website forum they have set up for me a little better, and they are arranging regular monthly meetings where they will help each other with their patients.

I call them my students, but they are all either fully practising acupuncturists or nearing qualification, so that their basic acupuncture knowledge is well established.  If anything they have a much more solid foundation than comparable practitioners here in the UK, since they are blessed from birth with a deep understanding of the elements as forming an integral part of their life, so that we already speak the same language.  This is so different from the UK, where I well remember one student, after about six months’ training, asking, “But how do we know that there really things like elements?”  Here, by contrast, the elements represent the symbols through which life expresses itself.

By the last few days of this fortnight, students had learnt some very fundamental components of five element practice, such as different needling and moxibustion techniques, how to carry out an AE drain, how to clear possession and treat a husband/wife imbalance.  Most important of all, I gave them a clear schedule of how to structure the first four treatments so that they feel confident that they know what to do at the start.

We saw together some 30 patients, and I treated at least another 25, because I gave each of the students a treatment.  I felt it was important for them to experience an AE drain and their element source points for themselves, as many of them had not had any five element treatment before.  Scheduling these treatments amidst the teaching sessions was a logistical puzzle which taxed my Small Intestine’s ability to sort to its limit, but I managed the last three treatments on almost the last day.  In doing this I only changed the element I had decided upon for one of the students, and I can only hope I am right with the others as I fly away to leave them to receive further treatment from their peers.

Each day was filled with treating patients, helping students treat patients, or helping them learn some of the five element skills they will need, such as testing for Akabane imbalance and learning how to apply moxa cones to salt for CV 8.  This proved to be an unexpected very local problem, because the climate is so damp and they usually only use rock salt, that not only did the grains of salt stick together in a tight mass but the thick grains allowed the heat through too quickly so that I’m afraid I may have burnt the first person’s umbilicus without realising it.  Being Chinese, she never complained of the pain and probably went away thinking that the pain was a necessary part of treatment.  After this we found some thinner grains of salt, and Wendy devised a way of putting rice grains in a little muslin bag to dry the salt out.

As usual, I learnt much from devising ways of teaching in such a limited and challenging timeframe.