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【My China story】In Yangshuo for 4 years

中国日报网 2013-06-20 17:51




The author does tai chi in Yangshuo in undated photo. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn/


My whole life I've been interested in martial arts. I studied judo as a child, then karate. But itwas only when I moved to another city in Belgium where there was a kungfu club, that I reallyenjoyed it and fully understood why they call it an art. It is fighting and defending yourself, butit's also understanding your body more, making it stronger and healthier. Kungfu is a wholephilosophy and is a big part of Chinese culture. I have always watched kungfu movies (whodoesn't know Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Jet Li?), because I loved their movements. When Istarted to practice kungfu, I realized how difficult it was and a simple kick or punch demandedmonths of practice. But I loved it! A whole new world was opening to me.

After I practiced 4 years of kungfu in Belgium, I wanted to go to the country where this martialart originated from. I went to China with a travel organization. It was a trip that included somekungfu and taichi lessons. It was an international group, so there were people from all over theworld. We went from Hong Kong to Guilin, Yangshuo, Xi'an, Luoyang and Shaolin and finallyBeijing. We did 2 kungfu lessons in Yangshuo with the brothers Gao, who had a family stylecalled BuDiZhen. We did 1 taichi lesson in Xi'an and 2 more kungfu lessons in Shaolin. I wasimpressed by Yangshuo and the Gao brothers. Yangshuo is a beautiful little town in the middleof karst mountains and near the Li river. The Gao brothers' family style was close to the style Iwas practicing in Belgium. I could only dream of my next trip to China.

The next year, my dream became true: I went to China again, together with some friends of mykungfu club. We stayed 1 month in Yangshuo, just to practice kungfu. I didn't do anything of thetouristic attractions that Yangshuo has (and Yangshuo has much to offer), but did more than 4hours of kungfu every day, the rest of the time, I rested or spent in the bar. I met a lot ofpeople, foreigners, that stayed in Yangshuo for a long time, several months to several yearsand they all told me that it's easy to live here as a foreigner.

Back in Belgium, the only thing I could think about was: what's the fastest way to go back toYangshuo and live there for a longer period? I was working in a bank and in Belgium you havethe possibility to take a sabbatical year. After that, you can just return to your job again. Afterall the formalities, I returned back to Yangshuo at the end of that year. That was in december2008.

It felt like living in a dream: although it was really cold at that time in Yangshuo, I didn't care. Ipracticed kungfu for more than 6 hours a day, went to the bar to keep warm (there is no properheating, so in winter we have to wear more than 5 layers of clothes and keep next to a smallelectric heater or some heated coals to stay warm). After 3 months of intense training, I decidedto teach English as well. Yangshuo has a lot of English schools where Chinese adults want toimprove their English. I made a lot of friends from all different countries and we had a lot offun!! I decided not to go back to Belgium. After my sabbatical, I just sent an email to my formeremployer that I stayed in China and that was it. Life here was too relaxing and too beautiful togive it up.

In the summer of 2010, CCTV4 came here to film for a travel program and they wanted to followa foreigner for 1 day to see the life of a foreigner in Yangshuo. They chose me and filmed mewhile practicing kungfu and asked me about my life here.

In autumn of that same year, my life changed for the better. I was still teaching English and 1day I went to school and everyone was telling me that there was a taichi master in the school,who wanted to learn English. He had won a lot of gold medals already and was teachingChinese, but he wanted to learn English to teach foreigners as well. His name is Wu YuPingand he was a student in my class. I immediately became his tai chi student as well. We becamegood friends, went to the bar together, but even though we went out till 3am, we got up at 6amagain to practice tai chi in the park. I loved it, practicing in the park that early has somethingmagical. After a few weeks, we couldn't hide our feelings anymore: we were in love with eachother. There was only 1 problem: Students and teachers couldn't have a relationship with eachother, so we had to keep it a secret. But Yangshuo is such a small town, so people knew veryquickly that something was going on. I didn't want to get fired, so I quit my job and wentteaching in another school. Then, we didn't have to hide anything anymore and could tell allour friends. With Ping, my life in China has finally more meaning and is full. He can teach me somuch about the rich culture of this country and make me understand more of it.

We are more than 2 years later and our relationship is still strong. We already live together formore than 1 year. Ping has his own tai chi school here in Yangshuo and is teaching foreigners,his dream, and I have a coffeeshop and chocolateshop now. I am selling Belgian chocolate andbeer, together with good coffee and breakfast. We keep on practicing tai chi together, althoughnot at 6am anymore.

I must say that I never experienced a culture shock here. My life is going really well and yes, Ican get annoyed by Chinese people that stare at me or take pictures, but I try not to think toomuch of it. I sometimes get annoyed by people's behavior in my country as well. My life is inChina. Every 2 years I go back to Belgium to visit my family and I encounter a bigger cultureshock there, because I stepped out of that life and I am not familiar anymore with the stressy,rushing lifestyle there.































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