Meet Madam Han Yu Ying, my instructor for my Mulan Boxing Tai Chi Fan Form dance class, a sprightly Shanghai resident, in her 60's with over 30 years of experience and winner of numerous competitions.
“Mulan was a famous, female warrior from ancient Chinese history and is remembered today by modern female martial arts practitioners, who practice “Mulan Boxing” as a way to promote health, longevity and relaxation. Mulan Fan Form is an ancient form of martial arts, but is now practiced widely as an exercise and dance form, because of its flowing, graceful actions. It is regularly seen being performed in China’s parks and recreational areas and enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels.”
We spent over 20 minutes just learning the basic hand movements of the fan dance
This was a complicated movement that involved twisting the hands around each other in several different ways while holding the fan and trying to "look lovely and feminine." I finally figured it out when one of the men standing by broke it down into less "flowing" steps for me. I had to wonder though, how did a man know how to do what seemed to be a woman's dance?
We then started learning a move called "swimming goldfish" or something along those lines. As you would expect, the arm moves up and down in a "swimming" motion, but at one point your right hip gets into the action with a cute little hip bump. This move was nearly identical to one I did in a belly dancing class two years ago at 171 Cedar--isn't that funny?
After the fish swims in toward your chest, you push it away.
This move required us to turn and go up on our toes
And then we turned back into this crouch. Apparently it was named "something, something concubine" but I didn't quite catch it as all the spinning around on our toes required my upmost concentration to keep me from becoming a pile on the floor.
Now the dance became more militaristic looking with some leg kicks
A kick on the opposite leg is going to eventually pivot us 180 degrees around. I'm not sure what the rest of these moves were called as I was getting a lot of "individual instruction" by this point, usually in the form of two different people grabbing each of my feet at the same time and pulling in different directions to place them in the correct position!
Here we are facing the other way, shifting our weight left and right a couple of times before...
The grand finale: everyone opening their fans with a loud satisfying snap at the same time! Well, maybe. It's actually pretty hard to get the fans to open if they aren't in exactly the correct position, which isn't easy when you've been kicking and goldfish-ing and concubine-ing.
She impressed us all by doing a split for our final picture!
The community center had generously provide us with beautiful cakes and tea which were a bit much for so early in the morning unfortunately and mostly went uneaten. But this was one item that I had to bring home just to see what Grouted Yolk Pie was. It was the ultimate in processed food--truly nasty tasting. No, it did not taste like grout 🙂 but very artificial blueberry. Perhaps grout is somewhat synonymous with filled, as in "to grout"?
Friday was a truly awful day weather-wise: cold, rainy and windy. Right before I left the building, I heard children's voices. Drawn to the window, I looked out and saw a school playground and kid's having recess in the cold, windy rain, a sight you would never see in the US.
Saturday night we had to go to a fancy "do" fundraiser auction at Meredith's school.
We left relatively early as bidding for each item was taking an excessively long time and when Meredith told us we couldn’t bid on the “Student Principal for the Day” item, what was the point in staying? Instead since we for once didn’t look like we had just come in from the fields picking cotton, we decided to go up to the Ritz Bar when we got home and listen to the band and have some snacks. We made friends with the saxophonist during the break, who comes from Los Angeles, California and is here for a 6 month gig.
It’s interesting how different people have different perspectives and approaches to their experience here. George apparently doesn’t get out much and doesn’t seem to have that much desire to, because he says he’s been up and down Nanjing Rd (our street) a few times and says it all just looks the same, the implication being what was the point in looking further. Then there was the woman I met the first week we were here. This is her last year here, after a 4 year stint and I asked her what she was going to miss. There was a long silence and finally she said, “I really feel that my life has been on hold since I’ve been here.”
Sunday was a gorgeous day-about 60 or so and sunny. We came across this magnificent field of pansies and guess what? You get this many pansies together and you can smell them!
The wife of one of my favorite recycling couples was taking the opportunity to do a little sunbathing on top of their cart.
And a little girl was showing off her skills in front of our lobby door.
This picture is an interesting study in contrasts.
The ads are depictions and advertisements for the Jing An Shangri-la Kerry Center, a huge, entire block (maybe it’s 2 blocks) complex of apartments, stores, restaurants, and a hotel that is going in catty corner to Shanghai Center and has everyone here very nervous that we’re all going to move out and move over there.
You can see from the picture that it’s meant to be everyone’s dream location. Not quite sure what the creepy plastic-y cows that have been photo-shopped into the picture on the right are doing in the middle of a city picture, but…
I think the glass building rising up in the back is some of the completed Kerry Center and the other uncompleted building behind the structure with the red roof is the newest part going up. That building with the red roof and the clothes hanging out front? That’s where the workers live. Undoubtedly, not their Shangri-la, but they do have a quick commute to work. (Thankfully, yes there are windows in the back.)
Next time maybe I'll tell you the bird story that happened to us this weekend that goes with this envelope. Stay tuned 🙂