Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mei, Guy and me with Liu Lihong and our students in Nanning April 2013

Here is the photo of all our lovely students in front of the Tong You San He Centre in Nanning.  I hope you can see what a happy group we all made - and this was just on our first day! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Back from my fourth visit to Nanning

What to say about this fourth visit?  Each has been so different and each has added a further layer to the foundation of five element acupuncture which we are gradually building on Chinese soil.  We have now reached the point where some of our first students are themselves feeling confident enough to start giving some simple introductory classes to new groups of acupuncturists. Altogether we had a total of just over 60 students, of whom about 25 had come to previous seminars.  I will try and download the group photo of all of us in front of the Nanning Centre.

This was the first time I had two other tutors with me, Mei Long and Guy Caplan.  I was happy to hand over the more structured teaching of five element clinical skills to Guy, which left Mei and me more time to concentrate on looking after the many people who wanted treatment.

Mei had already sent over her translation of my Teach Yourself Five Element Acupuncture manual.  This was printed during our visit, and copies given to each class member.  The manual contains 16 lessons based upon my Handbook of Five Element Practice, and offers a step-by-step introduction to five element diagnosis and treatment protocols.  This will be a great help for those students who have no access whatsoever to any five element teaching apart from their brief few weeks with us.

We have decided that at our next seminar in the autumn we will concentrate on the group of practitioners who are already practising five element acupuncture to help them become more confident in their skills.  It is intended that this group will form the basis of a future five element teaching team spread across China, the declared aim of Liu Lihong, our host and the director of the Nanning Centre.

I had felt rather discouraged about my Mandarin studies before I left for China, but to my surprise, I discovered that I must be learning more than I realise.  I could perceive sentence structures better, although I definitely haven’t yet got a large enough vocabulary to make myself understood.  I found myself, though, fumbling around for a few words, and, with much sign language and smiles, I managed occasionally to make myself understood.  So that is at least a tiny step forward.  Gratifyingly, many of the students are determined to learn more English so that they can talk to us, and certainly their English has much improved.  So I will go back to my Mandarin classes with greater enthusiasm now.

Finally, Guy and I had our own mini-adventure during an overnight stay in Chengdu on the way back.  We were caught up in the after-shock of the Sichuan earthquake as we had our breakfast on the 30th floor of the hotel.  The restaurant shook violently for a moment or so, and the guests looked around at each other unsure what to do.  Eventually, a door to the emergency stairs was opened, and we started to climb down steep, narrow concrete steps in pitch darkness.  We were later told that the hotel staff should have told us just to wait for the tremors to stop, which is what those in Chengdu do, since they are used to these shocks and take no notice of them.

Luckily Guy had a torch on his i-phone and lighted the way for me as I stumbled down step after step from the 30th to the 21st floor.  There, to our amusement, we discovered that there had been no emergency in the rest of the hotel.  All was as normal, as we emerged onto the hotel corridor to find other guests going quietly about their business unaware of the adventure we had been through.  We went to our rooms, leaving behind the other people in our group presumably still stumbling on down the concrete well for a further 21 flights to the ground floor.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A cheery note on which to sign off before I leave for China again

I just have time to sign off for a couple of weeks with a slightly more frivolous blog.  As part of my never-ending search for new coffee houses in which to do my writing and reading, I have discovered in one week two contrasting places at opposite ends of the wide spectrum of those available all over London.  One is a very modest café in the Pentonville Road, the other, a very luxurious coffee house (the old-fashioned word “posh” comes to mind) in Regent Street.  However different they are from one another in price they have in common a warm atmosphere, pleasant service and good coffee.

First to Islington, to the Amana Café, at 110 Pentonville Road, where I had a peaceful espresso (my favourite drink, as much for its smell as for its taste) in a tiny little café with a few tables and some welcoming armchairs and with, I gather, its own bookshop upstairs.  And then, not long after this, I searched out the Café Royal at 68 Regent Street, part of the 5-star luxury hotel complex they have just opened there.  I was drawn to it before it opened by the beautiful display of Gugelhupf cakes lining the windows.  This is a cake which my Austrian mother always baked for us, and whose battered, much-used cake tin, with its curving sides and hole in the middle, I have only just handed over to a daughter-in-law, cake-making being one of the cooking skills I now feel I can at last discard with relief.

The version of the Gugelhupf we baked was made half of plain and half of chocolate cake mixture, so that it came out of the oven in a beautiful marbled pattern with its characteristic hole in the middle.  I shared with the Austrian manager of the café a few nostalgic memories of Viennese Kaffeehaüser (coffee houses), with their Stammtische (tables reserved for regular guests) and newspapers on wooden poles, which entranced me when I visited Vienna for the first time in my late teens.  It was my first encounter with one of these which bred in me my curious delight in such places which I indulge in now to my heart’s content in London.

I will include these two cafés in the new blog I have talked about writing for a long time, but never quite got round to actually doing anything about, except, recently, finding a name for it, LondoncoffeeshopsIhave known.  When I get back from China, I have arranged for Emily Benet to help me set the blog up properly.  Emily ran an excellent Blogging for Beginners workshop I went to (see her website for details). I feel I now need a further push to expand my blogging skills, particularly as I am not quite sure how to include pictures in the blog, such as the row of succulent Gugelhupfs you can see if you look on Google.  I hope this new blog will give both my readers and me an extra spice of light relief from my five element blogs.

So off I fly again to China to a group of 60 students, of whom 40 are some of my old students and 20 are completely new to me.  It will be good to have Guy as well as Mei to share the teaching load, and also to share the joy I always feel when I am with my Chinese students, such is their enthusiasm.  I will resurface here after 21 April, warmed in body and soul, emotionally by the welcome I always receive and physically by the climate.  It is 29°C in Nanning today!