This afternoon, I left Shanghai in a rush, my heart and mind all messed up with all kinds of mixed feelings from the past few days. I was almost about to miss my flight, but the perspective of being stuck for another day in the city and my own anxiety gave me what it takes to make it happen. It was a relief to sit on that plane, leave everything behind and just worry about how hard (good) the Tai Chi training will be tomorrow.
I left a sunny 21°C Shanghai and arrive in a rainy grey Yangshuo. The cold reminds me of that terrible first winter I had here in 2011. The bus leaves me at an unknown place. I triple check with the driver, another passenger and the first person I bump into at the station. Yes, I’ve arrived in Yangshuo. They moved the bus station last December. Waiting for Master Fu to come pick me up, I find refuge from the rain in a small noodles shop where I start chatting with the laoban. I realize my speech is a bit faltering. It’s not only Tai Chi that I haven’t practiced in the past months. My Chinese too, is far from being at its best. But after a few minutes of observing around me and allowing myself to become a part of my environment, I crack a joke with the customer sitting at the other table and this is when I know that I’m back home. Even the local specialty pickles’ stinky smell which sticks to your hair feels likeable. Like Proust’s madeleine, it reminds me of some good old times. Master Fu finds me quickly and I’m glad to sit next to the fatherly figure again.
As I pass the threshold of room A303, the first thing I do is look for my phone. I want to send a Wechat message to my coach Lao Wu to tell him that I’ve just arrived. I’m amazed when I realize that I still remember the wifi password, while I forget every second day the door code of my building in Shanghai. As soon as I’m connected, my phone vibrates. A message from Lao Wu. He had the same idea, only he was faster. And here we are, sending messages to each other, while we’re just next door now. I can’t wait to see the look on his face and hear his voice saying, “What happened to your Tai Chi?!” tomorrow morning when he’ll realize horrified that I haven’t trained for almost six months. Of course I’ll feel bad and horrible to admit that I left my Tai Chi in a no man’s land for so long. But this place, Master Fu’s school, its people, and the way they make me feel home, are worth the trouble.