Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

Never thought I would take part in the Weekly Photo Challenge, however when I read the theme of the week I thought of this photo immediately.

I took this picture earlier the year when visiting Dujiangyan, a city located in southwest of China. Dujiangyan has a history of over 2000 years, it is famous for the irrigation works built in 256BC in Qin Dynasty, the oldest and the biggest of its kind in the world; the city also survived an earthquake of 8.1 in Richter scale in 2008.

What captured in the photo is the escalator that takes tourists up to the temple on the top of the hill where Li Bin, the mastermind of the Dujiangyan Irrigation Works, is worshiped over the past centuries. The escalator is one of the city’s many measures to revive tourism after the earthquake. Missed out the last run of the escalator, it took me 2 hours went up and down the hill, although tired, I was impressed by both the natural beauty and the effort people made to preserve the heritage.

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You May Be Better Off Without Me But I Won’t Be…

They say expat life is like living in bubbles, it’s not a real life, it’s a cruise ship life, sailing through an exotic land of language, culture, diet, sartorial choices, and many other foreign trivial excitements… you name it. Most of the time it is a nice life, at least on the material front, it is a life that usually either more affordable than the one back home, or it’s better. You get to meet different people, all nationalities, all ethnicities, all level of educations, in short – all walks of life. You see them in restaurants, bars, pubs, chambers balls, charity functions, and family fun fairs. Until one day, one day you receive a notice from the corporate headquarter about a re-assignment, the cruise is over; until one day, one day your trailing spouse fed up with packing and unpacking, moving and relocating, and decided to go home, the bubble bursts… then you are hit by the harsh realities of the real life, a life where people do feel sad, helpless, powerless, and useless, where you say as many goodbyes as hellos.

One of my very close friends is about to say goodbye for the second time this month to someone he holds dearly to his heart. Two weeks ago he saw his wife off at airport and this weekend will be his dog… For a lot of reasons, parting with the latter is more heart wrenching…

Not an animal lover myself but I have seen him with the dog, like the scenes in those heartwarming human-animal pictures, he and his dog brought the best side of each other. Seeing him depressed about the dog’s forthcoming departure, knowing I may cross the line of getting involved in his domestic affairs, I said – “keep him”.

Obviously my friend can’t. He has a long list of reasons why the dog has to travel thousands of miles away to another country it has never been before. Altogether, “he’s better off to leave than be with me”, my friend said, sad.

Selfless love is at the forefront of my mind, yet I was stunned. I realized how much I don’t like the sound of that sentence.

I don’t know about most of you, but in my opinion there are only few years in our lives that we really get to live for ourselves: When we were young we lived off our parents’ dreams and strived to make them proud; when we get old enough or matured, we then take on the responsibilities for raising children, taking care of parents, providing for the loved ones; later the years when we grow old, slowly, but inevitably… we do our best not to trouble anyone else in the family, or friends -we prefer to go away quietly, dignified.

It may be just about everyone’s life but it actually is more acutely true for expats. Here when you are half the world away from family and friends, where your life is not all about drinking campaigns at Sunday brunches in five star hotels like everyone thought was; where the newly established friendship or companionship could be transient; where you can only follow the weekend footy through online streaming; mom’s comforting meal is literally a distant yearning when falling ill… doesn’t it make you want to be selfish just for once?

Keep the dog, he may be as happy afar as he’s here with you, but he won’t be better off without you, however for sure, you will be much happier with him staying.

Keep the dog, for heaven’s sake.

I may have crossed the line again. I know.

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The Mystery of Walking Backwards and Ear Flicking

April is probably the best time of the year in Shanghai, sun shines in blue sky, birds chirping behind leafy trees, flowers blossoming, wind blows gently, and fashionable girls and boys can’t wait to take off the heavy winter coats to show off the well toned limbs. In the mornings and evenings, parks transformed into centres of recreational activities, taichi, sword dance, line dance, and percussion drums, just to name a few. You’d see people jogging, walking, and practicing peking operas. Everyone minds his own business in any way he likes as if there’s no one watching. It could be noisy at times when all the activities take place at the same time with different background music, but it’s the best noise for me in the world, the sound of spring, the sound of life, the sound of enjoying life. It is the time of the year I spend more hours sitting on a cool park bench than my big leather office chair, I let my eyes stray and my mind wander.

I don’t know if you have seen people walking backwards in parks, and/or flicking ears in public anywhere else in the world, I haven’t. I asked my well travelled colleagues, they consider these can be well categorized as the few “Only-in-China Phenomena”, and “weird”.

Confucius once said he would have no regret to die in the evening if he had learnt the truth in the morning. Although I don’t want to die yet, it will certainly make the bench sitting days worthwhile if I could take a stab at unveiling the mystery.

They say sharing is caring, here’s what I found.

Walking Backwards – First of all, it has nothing to do with superstitions, in contrary, it is a recommended exercise for the elderly and the adolescents, provided doing it right – no bending knees, walk backwards steady and slowly, fingers closed, arms moving forward and backward gently, keep back straight and breath rhythmically.

The benefits of walking backwards are: strengthen spine and muscles on the lower back, good for “chi” and blood circulations on the back, relieve fatigue and pain in the area, especially for the seniors who suffer from the chronic pain of lower back.

The theory is: when moving backwards, different muscles and tendons on the lower back, around knees and ankles are used than walking forward, and extra pressure will apply while keeping legs straight, hence the foresaid would be strengthened and reinforced. Also it requires more balancing technique when step backwards, it stimulates cerebellum as well.

I am no physiotherapist so I am not going to bore you with technical details. I promise this is no prank, so you should be able to feel the difference if you stand up and experiment yourself (ok, maybe not the cerebellum as that’s hard to measure, but you will definitely fall if not focused).

For the adolescents, walking backwards is in a similar vein as walking with a book above one’s head – to prevent bad postures.

Walking backwards is a gentle workout, as a result it is recommended to those who are not suitable for strenuous exercises.

Ear Flicking – as weird as it sounds, ear flicking is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has a history of more than two thousand years. According to TCM, ears are miniatures of a human body, and the acupoints on ears reflect status of various organs, therefore stimulating the pressure points would help to restore the strength of body parts. It is said about over 190 chronic illnesses range from internal to dermatology can be treated through massaging, acupuncturing, pressing, and other ways of sensitizing the ear acupoints. Yes, exactly the same concept of foot reflexology.

Speak of that, I reckon my effort just earned me a pampering foot massage on this beautiful Friday evening. Bye for now dear readers, wish you all a happy weekend!

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