China Ageing

My first morning in China, and I wake at 5.30am

to a bright cloudy sky. I sneak out of the dorm and head right. I have a good feeling for right. The dark grey and reds of the single story ancient hutong, the communal housing around courtyards, and quiet alleys that have been the mainstay of living for the Chinese for millenniums surround me in a maze. I am following tree peaks and fluffy puffy dogs, small and exotic and so hairy. Someone has swept up all my yellow blossoms, the cobblestones stretch away and hide beneath the houses. I awe at the toilets – communal blocks that so many could live packed around and upon, and have to wander so far just for a wee! WOW.

I am being laughed and gawked at. One elder with his pekinese finds me hilarious. I pass a gym on the side of the alley and I join in with everyone else, mobilizing my body on the yellow and blue wheels. I think morning is the best time to wander, to wonder.

I find a lake and gardens, I smoke, my western way, as they exercise and walk. Swinging their arms and hands in a way so ‘not appropriate’ in my culture.

I love the Chinese all of a sudden. Truly a country of feeling and not seeing. Somewhere deep inside I understand them, because finally I just know that I don’t. And I become my five year old self, in love with what I’ve yet to learn and how mind boggling it is, and yet I still want it, want to understand.

They all move so calm, like they’ve already surrendered their will, and past that was the grace of letting go. Effort became effortless as they fish invisible fish, smell each odourless blossom, respect each colour and strengthen invisible, withered, aged muscles. I think and feel, as they show me how to use each piece of gym equipment correctly, to subtly enhance each movement, how fine they are.

They pull me out to join them as they group together, the ageless aged, to follow them into tai chi and fan dancing, by the lake. Moving softly, like trail riding horses. And I follow with the mechanical urgency of getting it right, but I am the youngest person I have seen this morning, not another has been a day under fifty. And they forgive my youth, my misunderstanding of the movements of my own body. How Beautiful, and they give me space. They let me age gracefully the way the western world never can.

Image here, is what you do, not how you look, and it’s a fantastic way to open your eyes upon a new country, but I squint beneath the pollution.

Beijing never showed me the sun

in the sky, it only ever let me see it in the light of those mornings, with the elders in their grace.

-By Carmen Major

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