Shanghai. Nov 3, 2018
One of my all time favourite parts of travelling hands down is the opportunity to connect with new people. I’m here in Shanghai for the first time, and although Asia is not foreign to me, each city I visit is a new playground to explore. The culture, the landscape, the people and of course the food!
What I love to do most when abroad is wander. Passing a few parks on my way to work each morning here in Shanghai have me stopping to take in the groups of people gathered together to move their bodies. One group slowly moving through a beautiful Tai Chi routine, another group of ladies dancing to music and even a group of couples dancing with each other. What the Chinese culture does so well is follow the simple rules/laws of nature… move your body, get outside, feed your bodies with food that is in season, and of course, connect with community. No need for fancy gyms, just a few people, some park space, music and a nice day.
I’m convinced that it’s about more than just a healthy diet (although a huge important piece) and exercising everyday (another big one) but the smiles on the faces of these groups when leaving together tells me it’s about more than that, it’s about connection. Connection to community and purpose. The same kind of smile you see and feel after having a long soul fulfilling catch up with friends. The same feeling of satisfaction after extending a kind act of service. Nurturing the body, nurturing the mind and nurturing the soul.
As the pilates Instructor Trainer, usually I am the teacher. In places like China, Korea and Japan, the teacher is always held in the highest regard. But we are all students, and for all that I have learned (and continue to learn) from every student I work with and person that I meet, I am grateful for each and every one of them as we are all here to learn from each other.
What may start off as a regular evening over dinner has so often turned out to be unforgettable nights with such deep stories shared over dumplings and noodles. Much like watching a foreign movie and forgetting that the subtitles exist, the stories and experiences shared are sometimes so deep and touching, you don’t even notice they’re being shared through a translator.
I leave these magical evenings humbled and feeling blessed beyond belief that these strangers are willing to share such personal stories with me, their teacher and new friend. The story of a boy in Beijing growing up in a generation of no siblings, but sharing the details of his special relationship with his Grandmother, a woman who despite not being able to recall anyone one elses name in the family is reduced to tears at hearing the name of her grandson. Another story of a young man, the son of brilliant accomplished scientists trying to figure out his lifelong struggle of gaining his parents approval and love. Never experiencing a parent’s hug/embrace or simply never being told he is loved. Or the personal story shared of another who’s parents paid the price of his being born, the forbidden second child in the family. Money paid to the government, as well as the price of the removal of his mother’s ovaries to ensure another “accident” would not happen again. I’m amazed and in awe at how raw they allow themselves to be in my presence and how each of these stories and experiences stays with me, shapes me and changes me.
For all that is heavy, there is also a lot of fun. Although my students in Asia are the most dedicated when in comes to their studies, they have an incredible ability to make it fun at the same time. The classroom giggle when someone does something embarrassing is meant to sooth each other and make it light. The support given to each other is unlike anything I’ve seen.
Of course my travels have given me so much when it comes to seeing the world and meeting new people. What makes Shanghai at the top of the list for me is the care and generosity of the the two incredible owners of The Orange Room. Patricia and Anita, two mothers, friends, entrepreneurs, leaders, originally my students who are now taking care of me. I have rarely had the opportunity to meet such caring, generous, fun and confident strong women whom I now can call dear friends. Looking forward to my return to this incredible place.