Journey East pt. 2

Travelogue pt. 2

As a child I was  deeply claustrophobic. My family took many car trips every year, but we’d always take advantage of the many rest stops along the way. Airplane trips were even less desirable. Being shoulder to shoulder with someone I never met, and who I knew I’d eventually have to make conversation with wasn’t my idea of a good time. I was that kid who avoided most dances gatherings, and preferred to be alone (even hugging was an issue for me.)

Once I got more into meditation, my claustrophobia vanished. After I’d sink into my mantra, a profound sense of expansion would overcome me. I’d giggle at how small all my issues seemed, and I would forget that I ever despised cramped spaces. I started going to more social events, and even got back into hugging.

The flight was more than equipped for our 13+ hours of airborne travel. As the engines whirred on, I could feel the power surging around me, as if to say “You’re going to be here a while, so might as well enjoy it.”

The stewardess brought us our vegan meals with the a piece of fruit and raw kale salad.  I don’t care much for airplane food, so I opted to fast, and passed my prepackaged plane fare over to Teddy & Felipe.

After about four hours I wandered towards the back of the plane to stretch my legs. Two airline attendants were gabbing, one was cutting a baked potato with a plastic fork and knife.

After we landed at the Beijing Airport, and rounded up our bags at the carousel we went to meet up with Liya, Jennifer’s mom. Liya is an acclaimed author, public speaker, financial consultant, and creator of the WealthLand Game (among many other innovative projects.)

At the airport, I could almost see my face in the polished pink marble floors. Massively arched ceilings with steel girders loomed overhead, and LED screens displayed the latest & greatest Chinese products. This was a marvelous piece of architecture, and I wondered how many workers there were to keep this place clean.

Despite Beijing being the wonderfully modern city it was, we definitely got more looks than the average 老外 lǎowài (foreigner.) And who can blame them, when our crew looks this fine?

beijing-airport-crew-1At the Collab we encourage cultural diversity, collaboration, next-gen educational models and offer progressive trends in spirituality & sustainability.

Last time I was in Beijing it was 2008. I remember the streets were mostly dirt roads. Piles of steaming garbage were everywhere, and the air always smelled like burning plastic. Since then a LOT has changed.

When we got to our hotel, the room, floor and was super clean, modern and I could see how much progress had been implemented in Beijing. Thousands of skyscrapers pierced the heavens, all monoliths of shiny glass, concrete and steel. I now knew why the “Wo Ai Beijing,” song is so popular.

guang-yao-cThough I had meditated for 6 hours, I felt the draw of Jet Lag weighing me down. For our first Beijing meeting, we began planning our PPT for a major meeting with our Chinese peers about development of an Eco Village.

During our meeting there was definitely some friction. We had been experimenting with Flat Management since the Collab’s inception, but it can be challenging when people can’t come to an agreement. Especially for us spiritually minded folk. When unresolved patterns enter the mix, emotions can escalate and we can get distracted from the matter at hand.

My being a pacifist, I’ve suggested conscious communication in the past. I tend to go silent if there is a heated debate. Maybe it’s all the Yoga I’ve done, or maybe I’m scared to voice my opinion, but as our meeting became more heated, I found myself pulling back, and shutting down.

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I wanted to find as many strategies to prevent us from burning out. I opted to start implementing Conscious Communication, Yes Sessions (inspired by one of Pixar’s innovative idea-generating methods) breathing techniques, and make sure we stayed on our meditation game.

After our first draft was ready for the Eastern Eco Village presentation (along with our brand new Logo,) . 2016 was the year of the Fire Monkey, and it was rapidly coming to a head. It was one of the busiest and best years of my life, but as we sat down to clear the air and meditate, I made a silent promise to make sure none of my team would burn out.

Journey to the East

China. The Middle Kingdom. Zhongguo (中國/中国.) A land of 1.3 billion people. One of the oldest nations on the planet. ‘China’ possibly comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Chinasthana’ (the country East of India.) Or from the Qin (‘Chin’) kingdom. Either way the name has been around for thousands of years, long before the First Qin Emperor (259 – 210 BCE) unified China.

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It’s been 10 years since I’ve been in the Middle Kingdom, and I’m sure what to expect. My last trip was deeply humbling. Back then most of the time I was travelling alone, and although I stayed at hostels, ate street food, and bought little, I felt I didn’t really to get see what China had to offer.

I was younger than. My entertainment was wandering through parks and public areas, watching elder women do Tai Chi in the tiny patches of grass at 4:30am. Hanging with the calligraphy master who painted detailed characters with a water brush on the pavement, which evaporated as the sun rose over the dusty Beijing streets. I always took that strange-looking alley, or wandered into the noodle shop that appeared to be in the back of someone’s ramshackle home. I also kept a sketchbook, and camera handy.

Between trying to learn enough Mandarin phrases to order vegetarian food, doing sword Tai Chi in the parks in Shanghai, wandering the choked dusty, bustling streets of Beijing, teaching Art History to a class of 75 students (many who barely spoke English,) and meeting renowned calligraphy artists in HangZhou, and taking hundreds of photos along the way it was a great tour of what a developing country could be. As I drew and documented my trip, I began to feel lonely. So much so that at one point I completely cut myself off from everyone back home. I wound up getting Shanghai’d (literally stranded in a seedy town, where I ran out of money and lost my more expensive possessions, including my camera.) But I learned at that time to trust in nature, and once I made it back home, I decided my relationships were far more valuable than I’d accepted.

I had no idea what my return to china would look like. But one thing was for certain, I know this time it will be amazing. This time I have good friends. This time I have a team who has my back.

wl-collab-headshots

Meet the team. From the left is Jennifer Kumer, Hong Kong native-millennial-vegan-chef-designer-founder and my girlfriend. Then myself. Next is MarQ Chavez, Entrepreneurial-visionary-hippie-traveler and yogic scientist. Then finally is the jewelry-making-songstress-tarot-reading-love-advocate, Jenny Sammons. Together we form the WealthLand Collab. We share a vision of empowering like-minded individuals to engage, collaborate, and assist one another in achieving fulfillment in all business, leisure, and spiritual aspects of life.

Now I’m the not type to make promises, but I did promised that on this trip, I would support my team as best I can. If I get overwhelmed, I can always blog about it here, where at least my thoughts will be free from my skull.

So after saying goodbye to our humble home base, we crammed our 50lbs suitcases, extra warm clothes, and plenty of dried fruit (score +1 costco abundance) for gifts to our Chinese allies, and hit the road.

wl-crew-car-ride-fun

Burlington Regional Airport is in arguably the best and cheapest way to get to Chicago from Fairfield, IA. The airline employees are efficient, accomadating, and never seem to put up a fuss for all the weirdness that us holistic life practicioners put them through (ever try to bring Ghee on a plane? Don’t.)

This time was no different as the flight security officers were fascinated by our faraway destination. The tone became serious once they saw the 12 large suitcases waiting to be weighed. After doing some yoga (triangle poses + yoga squats,) I rejoined the crew, and was ready to board. We walked towards the little airline on the runway, and I had a feeling that we were a band getting ready for an international tour.

crew-burlington-airport

The flight was smooth as silk. We all got some good meditation in, and kept mostly to ourselves for the duration of the trip. To me traveling is like good food, you have to really pay attention to each moment, or you won’t properly digest it. Our pilot mentioned his son was living in China, and wished us well on our epic journey. We exited the little cab of the plane onto the windswept runway of O’Hare.

O’Hare Airport. Once known as the busiest airport in the world and voted “Best Airport in North America” for 10 years running. It’s also one of the most diverse airports I’ve even been through. I often get some of my best people sketching, catching them as they catch naps, jack into their devices, or chat away with their travel companions. Plus there’s a sweet Yoga room, (located at the Mezzanine Level of the Terminal 3 Rotunda, near the Urban garden sanctuary.)

After a strange encounter with a lost Hong Kong residency card, we tried to come up with alternate solutions. Strangely the liason took the card without realizing it. So much for our free time. Luckily the security checkpoint was less eventful. With only a half hour before our flight arrived, we’d have to hustle to grab whatever foodstuffs we could find. Since I begame a vegan in 2012, I’ve found surprising amount of food options in airports. I usually go for the fruit, protein bars, or hot oatmeal (if available,) but I’ve lately been surprised by the emerging green restaraunts that support my dietary needs.

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Note: Make sure to check out the Argo Tea at the Terminal 3 rotunda, and try the matcha latte with coconut milk. I highly recommend the spiced raw ginger bar thingy (So nice! So spice!)

health-code

After we were well fed, we met up with the remaining members of our crew. Teddy, our Mandarin-speaking-guitar-slinging-entertainer-extraordinaire, and Felipe Gentle, eco-philosopher, ecologist, and bandjo-weilding-musician. After breaking the ice with some introductions, we joined the extensive cue for our Beijing-bound flight. I was nervous about the extensive 13 hours sitting down, and was in no hurry to board so I led a brief Yoga class (wrist rolls + yoga hops + cross crawls) with our team.

china-all-aboard

The airline was full, but after seeing the faces of the airline attendants, and how people were already beginning to settle in, I relaxed a bit. After all we were off to a distant land, where you can taste the strangest foods, learn to speak one of the most difficult languages, smell the aroma of the pine forest, or the burning sewage of the big city, see the skyline change each day and experience 1.3 billion people living, working and playing together. I’m ready to experience a brand new China.

wl-core-chicago-to-peking

WL Collab Mission: To live, work and play together.

“Let us be together, let us eat together, let us be radiating truth, radiating the light of life, never shall we denounce anyone, never entertain negativity.” – The Upanishads