As we drove around the town for the third time it seemed like we were destined to stay in La Chaux-de-Fonds for a while longer than we had expected. Eventually though we found the right road and our two car convoy set off on its two hour journey to Mullhouse in Eastern France. We were off to do a series of workshops for Elizabeth Saetia, a good friend and fellow teacher, at her school in the aforementioned town. Bob had done something similar last year after Tai Ji Rhénan and had decided to repeat it again this year but this time to extend the workshops over a week.
We were fortunate enough to be able to see some of the stunning scenery on our journey as we wound our way up and down hilly, tree lined roads and past lakes with water as calm and reflective as glass before first the mist and then darkness eventually fell and obscured our views. Our journey took us leisurely first through the small French villages on the B roads and then onto the motorways and it seemed to take no time at all, but then I fell asleep for a while, and I’m sure the rest of us did once or twice too, which always helps to speed travelling up. Luckily Elizabeth didn’t as she was driving.
With the journey over we deposited our stuff in the various rooms Eli had allocated us and went out for a meal at the local Chinese restaurant followed by a wee dram back at the house. I was sharing a room with Bob but his bed was in easy reach of my foot and on past experience I know a swift kick (of the bed not him) can often stop the snoring.
We had the following day off and spent it doing very little, resting up after the Switzerland weekend and preparing ourselves for the workshops ahead. The week was set out as follows: Tuesday and Wednesday 20 step san shou; Thursday Daoyin, muscle and Bone set; Friday and Saturday Daoyin poem; Sunday fly back home.
It was a small class for the San shou which meant that we could go into quite a bit of detail and the participants picked it up quite quickly. The two solo forms were taught back to back then on the second day it was down to revision and putting them together. The weather had been perfect since we had arrived and remained so for the entire week and blue skies and sunshine allowed us to practice in one of the near by parks rather than sweltering in the studio.
On Thursday we ran through the Muscle and Bone Daoyin set. It was a good crowd of mixed abilities who were eager to learn the exercises. Some of the students were from Eli’s school and others had travelled from further afield to attend and all seemed to enjoy not only the physicality of the workshop but also the anatomy and acupoints lectures Bob usually adds to the proceedings. We had a few translators which also helped to make the process slightly easier, many thanks to them.
Friday and Saturday were devoted to the learning of the Daoyin Poem. Some of the participants had already attended the previous day whilst others that came were new to daoyin – and the poem is a great but tough introduction to Daoyinyangshengong! Marie and Monique had done the san-shou as well that week so well done to them for sticking it out. Their heads must have been spinning with trying to remember everything they had learnt over the week.
For lunch on the Saturday we and most of the participants from the workshop visited the Chinese restaurant for a slap up meal. The movements of the form in the afternoon session were a bit slower I thought as we all trundled around with full bellies…or was that just me?
Our evenings were spent eating, drinking, reading, socialising and playing guitars. Not a bad way to spend the time. A leisurely stroll to one of the bars for a beer or two followed by a hefty excellent meal cooked up by Eli, Marie or Monique (we were indeed spoiled and well looked after), or a visit to a restaurant to taste some of the regions specialities was the norm.
There were two guitars in the house and Bob and I both made good use of them. Our audience seemed appreciative but then they were constrained by the size of the house and could not escape so easily.
We even managed a fair bit of sightseeing. There are some beautiful old traditional villages and towns in the area full of squinty houses painted in pastel colours that contrast with the dark visible beams, narrow streets and sidewalks that contain all manors of shops and patisseries and massive ornate catholic churches and cathedrals.
We spent a few hours at an open air museum that has acres of buildings from many past ages including working farms (complete with authentic scruffy labourers) and livestock, castle turrets, train stations and houses of all shapes and sizes.
Soon enough, though, our time was up and we were being driven back to the airport to make our way home. Again we had another stop off in London during which we indulged in another English breakfast – even though it was 1 in the afternoon. It seemed fitting to finish the journey as we had started it 11 days ago.
Again I would like to express my thanks to Eli for being the perfect host for the entirety of our stay and to Monique and Marie for the language lessons, laughs and wonderful meals.