keeping the middle

My new friend Yujia is teaching me Kung Fu.

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She is a foreign exchange student at the University of Victoria in Canada, and is in Peru now as a part of a month-long course at the Sachamama Center. She is one of 13 University of Victoria students learning with us here in the high Amazon during the month of May.

Yujia is from the Yunnan province of China, which borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. Her family all still lives there while she studies in Victoria, Canada. The soonest she could go back home may be in one year or two.

The Kung Fu exercises we practice test my concentration. My hands stray. Yujia gently redirects them toward the middle. Moving with swift grace, she attacks with the softest touch while channeling a deep reservoir of strength. It is an inspiration.

Did I mention she also sings Peking Opera?

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In seminar style discussions this May at the Sachamama Center, we are tackling questions of how to fit different ways of knowing into our predominant framework of western science and the language of scientism.

Our choice of words is crucial in opening up our minds to the possibilities that there are many bodies of knowledge, other than what we westerners perceive as ‘science’, that hold truth.

Tiempo means both time and weather in Spanish.

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This simple word is a window into an age when time was a weather dependent concept, contextualized within the seasons, deeply intertwined within our surroundings. Even in Spanish, language of the conquistadores, there are remnants of a non-linear reality imbedded into the vocabulary.

Time wasn’t always as straightforward of a concept as some might think it is today.

 

As I write, my friend Alex is on an eight day adventure on foot and by train, to New York City from his home in Florence, Massachusetts, equipped with a good pair of shoes and his sound recorder to interview people about their relationships to climate change along the way.

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For these eight days Alex understands time in the way that his own two feet can take him forward.

I wobble on one leg after I practice a side kick. ‘From the middle, the middle,’ Yujia corrects me patiently.

I can’t say I expected I would be learning Kung Fu in the jungle.

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