The bitter and the sweet. The seven coffins come to an end


I was in dread as Nigel Sutton took us round to the garden area where there is a punch bag and a metal training dummy. I envisaged a grueling set of fights or standing in the sun all day long.

“Cut the grass”. Nigel told us and he walked away. Vin, Lian and I exchanged looks and quickly set about the grass with scissors from the kitchen. After an easy grass cutting Nigel informed us that our last test lay outside the training center.

This also made me scared. Could we be going to fight? It was the morning now and being out of the Zhong ding training center for the first time in days was quiet refreshing. We walked towards the café and instantly I knew what we were going to do ‘’we are going to drink aren’t we?’’ I said possibly quiet hysterical. Nigel didn’t say anything. Instead of fighting we went to the bar and Nigel ordered us each a pint of strong black sugarless coffee and a big can of 12% beer.
Before we drank Nigel explained the coffee represents the bitterness and hardship of training and the beer represented the sweetness of reward from hard work. So we had to drink the coffee first before the beer. With these two powerful drugs inside me I felt sick with the caffeine but soothed by the beer.
After this we went back to the Zhong Ding training center and Nigel told us that the 7 coffins was over and that we had a few days rest until our ordeal with Guru Zainal Abidin and his students which would then be followed by on all night Khatami grading. The ordeal was not specified but it would involve Thai boxing and Silat fighting as well. Guru Zainal teaches Silat Tua and Krabi Krabong as well as white tiger Thai boxing. We have never met Guru Zainal before but from what Nigel says he is a very serious martial artist. His students also like fighting a lot. In training and on the street.

The next couple of days Vin and I rested as Nigel and Lian had gone back to the condo. We had to prepare something’s for the Khatami grading. Nigel Sutton gave us a list of things for the ceremony. We needed:
A holy book. Vin and I went to a nearbye town and bought two Qurans.

One knife. I bought a machete.

5, 4 inch nails which I thought was strange, Vin and I went to a hardware shop and got the nails.

7 limes and honey, we got them from the supermarket.

Shoes, a sarong, T shirt and hat. We got them all from a cloths shop nearby.

7 different kinds of flower petals. We were quiet resourceful on this one and went out onto the road side and picked some flower and then went to a town to buy a few more kinds. We took all the petals off and stored them in the fridge.

Lastly we had to give 7:50 ringet in coin form. Nigel Sutton informed us that he had to give 750 ringet when he did his Khatami so I was glad our amount was much less.

We didn’t know why we needed all these things and it was a little like being in a computer game trying to get everything. I was very relieved when we had done so and I could relax a little although the Khatami and ordeal was playing on my mind.

The anticipation was brutal, I had diarrhea for 3 days before and on the day Guru Zainal arrived for the ordeal I could barely eat.

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Meeting Antonio Graceffo in Kuala Lumpur


A few days after our demonstration in Kuala Lumpur and Vin, Lian and myself are now staying with Guru Azlan in his house. We train with him daily as he conducts his many classes around Kuala Lumpur. One lesson took place in a squash court in an airport. Guru Azlan told us to teach the class and even though all the students there had been practicing Seniman tua Silat for longer than us we still taught.

All this exposure to teaching has made me more confident in a classroom. I am not as nervous as when I first started teaching. Another class was held in Guru Azlan’s office/ Galanggang (training hall). Most of his dedicated students were there and we practiced for hours. Even though it was the evening it was still humid and hot. We went over locks and stick striking drills. We were introduced to some of the more advanced forms of Guru Azlan’s Silat and we practiced with the kris knife.

Guru Azlan told me to apply any lock to him and I put him in a decent head lock and he managed in quiet a relaxed manner to get free. I was impressed. I was not so impressed when he tried to show us how to make your arms longer. He pulled his shoulders back and lined his arms out in front so they were the same length. Then he moved one shoulder forward and so it looked like one of his arms was longer than the other.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4utnjmTY0b8&feature=player_embedded click on this link to see the video

The training was more intense to what we have been used to with Guru Azlan and after a few hours of training I was beyond parched. You must remember that Guru Azlan doesn’t allow drinking in his class. So after the class Vin and I frantically walked the streets of Kuala Lumpur looking for water. It was surprisingly hard to find. Most of the street vendors where selling food and only soft drink which would have done little to hydrate us. Thankfully we found a shop which sold big bottles of water. We got one each and I think we pretty much drained the 2 liters in one go.

The next day Guru Azlan took us to a huge mall where he said he was meeting a man called Antonio Graceffo who wanted to shoot a video of one of his classes. We met Antonion in a small restaurant beside one of the malls many supermarkets. We sat and chatted for a while. Antonio comes from America but has spent many years in Asian studying martial arts.

After a sit down Guru Azlan took us to the malls gym where the lesson would take place. Here is the video which Antonio Graceffo took of the lesson. Occasionally you can see Vin and myself in the back ground practicing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtKdqKAlkQk  Click on this link to see video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qRZwAnX7ZU&feature=relmfu click on this link to see the video

So after a few days of training with Guru Azlan and pushing the boundaries of dehydration Vin, Lian and myself took the overnight bus back to Penang island to continue our training at the Zhong Ding center.

Our Khatami grading is coming very soon. Next week we will start the 7 coffins training. Nigel Sutton has had a novel idea that instead of doing the 7 coffins over 7 days we will condense them in to 4 days. This will mean almost none stop training with only a few hours left for napping and eating.

Nigel has also told us that before the Khatami that Guru Zainal Abidin one of Nigel Suttons Silat teacher will be visiting the Zhong Ding training center with a large group of his students to fight us. Vin is also doing a grading for Krabi krabong so he will have to do sword fighting. I will have some Thai boxing fights and Silat fights as well. It’s all quiet vague now but on my next post I will be able to tell you more. Next week the 7 coffins begin.

Teaching a Silat seminar in Kuala Lumpur


After the demo was over we helped Guru Azlan out in one of his seminars. It was only a few minutes’ walk from the mall. The seminar was held in a theatre. In the lobby there was a stair case leading up to different door. Through one of these doors and on a big stage a Silat seminar was taking place.

 

It turned out that it wasn’t actually Guru Azlans seminar. As we walked in we saw an elderly Malay man on the stage showing a few people some moves with the sai weapon. There was about 30 students most of them were dispersed and talking or looking around in a confused manner. It would seem that Guru Azlan was asked to rescue this failing class.

 

As we watched the class for a moment by the seats surrounding the stage one of the old Silat Guru’s students came up to Lian and myself and told us with utter seriousness that the old master was 135 years old. I could not help myself and I had a little laugh and Told Lian that they should contact the Guinness book of world records. I was in no mood to indulge in Guru worshiping that day.

This sort of lying where a martial arts master is turned into a god like person is not only found in Malaysia. I have found over the years of studying Taiji that there are teachers who claim to have special powers. For instance to be able to use their chi energy to throw someone across the room or even to control their body’s with telekinesis. I don’t find this sort of god making unusual from the point of view of the person telling the lies but I do find it fascinating that so many people go along with it. I think it’s a case of the emperor’s new clothes.

 

‘’the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed’’ (Joseph Goebbels)

 

Maybe that why religion has done so well.

 

 

It’s the same with corrupt governments, there is a view that we are the poor abused who are controlled and exploited by a faceless devil. But didn’t we as people allow our world to be as it is? I am not proud that I am English and that our past is so shameful and full of blood shed but wouldn’t any other country have done the same if they had the means at that time?

We are our own worst enemy and we either encourage or simply do not fight against those who which to control and cheat us. We are those people as well. If you were given the opportunity to become successful by cheating or using others are you sure you would turn it away?

 

‘’Let the people have no cunning and no greed
so those who scheme will not dare to meddle’’

 

 

(From the Tao Te Ching, Derek Lin translation, chapter 3)

 

 

On top of being tired and hot I was also in very smelly wet old Silat uniform. Seeing as we had done the demo 2 days in a row. My cloths had been left in a plastic bag to fester and rot over night then the next day I had to put them on again. There was no time to wash them and dry them.

On top of being tired and hot I was also in very smelly wet old Silat uniform. Seeing as we had done the demo 2 days in a row. My cloths had been left in a plastic bag to fester and rot over night then the next day I had to put them on again. There was no time to wash them and dry them.

Soon Guru Azlan beckoned myself Vin and Lian up to the stage and he organized the students into rows and we began to teach them the Lok 1 form from Guru Azlans Silat. I enjoyed teaching even though a few of the Malay people did give me funny looks as if to say ‘’why is a white person teaching me a Malay person my own native martial art?’’

PART14. Gunung Ledang mountain


Gurang Ledang mountain.

Nigel and Fong took us down to Malacca to climb a mystical mountain. Malacca is further South than Penang island and on the west coast. Mount Ophir or by it Malaysian name Gunung Ledang  situated in the Gunung Ledang national park which is in Ledang district, northwest Johor Malaysia.

We took another chilly air conditioned night bus from Penang to Kuala Lumpur and then to Gunung ledang mountain. We arrived at the base of the mountain in the afternoon and booked a room in the Gunung Ledang resort. A small hotel with a swimming pool. Vin, Lian and myself shared a room together. We unloaded our luggage and went to ascend the mountain.

Gunang Ledang resort

It had tropical forest as we walked up the steep path. Vines and trees, insects clicking and buzzing incessantly. The stone steps became incredibly steep and short and the climb became harder. I was glad for the hand railing.

Nigel Sutton and Lian Sutton by the waterfall

We finally arrived at a pool with a waterfall . The waterfall went as far as the eye could see, up the mountain. We had bought our swimming trunks with us and we all changed and got in. Both Nigel Sutton and Lian took their kris knives out and dipped them in the water.

Lian Sutton washing his kris in the pool.

Gunung Ledang has a legend attached to it about a princess with magical powers who was wooed by the sultan of Malacca; she agreed to marry him only if he could complete 7 impossible tasks. This is when it gets murky; some say he managed only to complete the first 6. The 7th task was to bring the magical princess a bowl of blood from his young son. Others say he was about to cut his son when an image of the princess appeared and told him she could never marry a man who would hurt his own son. Then she disappears forever.

Although there are different versions the point of the story is to illustrate the Sultans pride and how it blinded him to the real reason why the princess gave him the challenges. The reason being she really didn’t want to marry him.

Bathing in the pool or dipping your kris in the pool may be a way of imbuing yourself with the Princesses magical powers.

The pool wasn’t deep and the water was clear and fresh. Tiny fish began to nip and nibble our feet trying to eat the dead skin. It was almost unbearably ticklish.

Tim, Lian, Vin

 After I had swum a while I climbed up the rocks and followed the waterfall up the mountain. Passing the ‘’DO NOT PASS’’ sign and leaping from rock to rock. The waterfall crashing down beside me, thick forest on either side. I kept climbing up and up until I reached a grand bolder which I wasn’t prepared to climb. I sat for a while on the warm rocks watching the water crash down over the rocks. I meditated and focused on the spirit of the tiger. I rose to my feet and made my way back down to the others by the pool.

On the way down Nigel Sutton put a small rock in his pocket, apparently many people try and take items away from the mountain and the authorities have been trying to deter them. ‘’do not take anything off the mountain and you’re not allowed to take machine guns up the mountain’’ A sign warned at the base. Seriously it actually said ‘’no machine guns’’

Vin and I found an old tree which had fallen over on our journey down and we mounted it and practiced our Lian padukan sparring to try and topple each other off. Like so many journeys which have been built up or have significance you should grasp this one failed to take a hold on me. I didn’t feel anything special like many have claimed to. I didn’t see any strange animals or ghosts. We arrived back at the Gunung Ledang resort and had another swim in the pool.

Some people have revealing dreams after visiting Gunung Ledang. I desperately wanted to have some sort of spiritual encounter that evening but I didn’t and I woke up the next day disappointed and with no memory of my dream. Vin did mention that I sat up in bed late at night and said ‘’Vegetables’’ but I am yet to decipher its meaning.

PART13. A little red car (dont hitch hike in Malaysia part 2)


Unfortunately due to money shortage I must cut my trip short. I am planning to go back to China on the 2nd of September. At first I was very sad that I had to go. I have been planning to train here for years and now it has to be cut short. On the other hand I hate having to worry about money and also having to borrow money and it was really playing on my mind all the time so it tainted my trip slightly. I had hoped that Sarah could stay here as well but that didn’t work out so she had to go back to China. I miss her a lot. I always think about the next time I can see her and I wait every night for her phone call.

I am glad that I will see her soon and I will be going back to Shanxi to practice wrestling again.

Later on that week I planned to go to Balik Pulau to shop. As soon as I stepped out of the Zhong Ding training center a man purred up on a motor bike and asked if I wanted a lift, he drove me to the bus stop where promptly a car pulled up and a man popped his head out and asked where I was going. ‘’ Balik Pulau how much is it?’’ I asked ‘’no money no money’’ he replied.

 I got in and as he took me to Balik Pulau he told me that he was a school teacher we talked about religion and faith.  

 

The next day again I  wanted to go to Balic Pulau and I set off walking in high hopes that I would have the same luck as yesterday. My faith in the universe was strong.

 

Shortly after setting out a red car came up and stopped in front of me. “Where you going?” said the driver. “Balik Pulau how much?”. “Ah it’s ok, for free”. Just as planned. As we drove along I found out that the skinny older man was a factory worker. His car was blissfully air conditioned. Cold enough so that for the first 5 minutes it was very pleasant then after that it started to get uncomfortable, it was also pleasantly fragrant. We came up to the last turn to Balik pulau but he turned right.

“Hay it’s the other way”, I said

“oh I thought I show you around Balik Pulau a bit is ok?”. He replied casualy

 

 “Ok” I said,

 

 I didn’t have anything else to do. We passed a nice looking estate with large beautiful houses with balcony’s and large gates, “oh nice houses very big” I said. “You like?” he asked. He then slithered his left hand across my shorts and grabbed my groin.

 

” WOW! No, don’t do that” I said,

 

“you like?”, he said with a little giggle looking deep into my eyes as he drove.

 

 “No I don’t like I have a wife”, I replied as I batted his hand away

 “Oh some English have wife but they like it also”. He said still looking me dead in the eye. I noticed how thin and spidery his fingers were.

 

 “I don’t like it”. I said firmly

 

 We then had a few minutes of silence where I was trying to comprehend what just happened. I was not scared but I was wary. He was smaller than me and I had a knife on me but maybe he did as well, maybe he had friends nearby and things might go beyond my control. I decided that if he turned off the main road I would jump out of the car immediately.

 

For some reason I was still in the car acting like nothing happened. How English I thought. Or maybe I was just lazy; I still wanted a free lift to Balik Pulau.

 “Sorry you are angry with me” he said.

 

 “No I am not angry I am just shocked” I said. And now I was trying to make him feel better!

 

 Then he tried it again!. This time more forcefully. He grabbed my groin and lent over towards me. I parried his hand away. “Let me see it? I just want to see it”. He pleaded.

 

 “No! And I am going to get angry in a minuet if you try that again”. I shouted, suddenly angry, I wanted to punch him in the face.

 

“oh ok” he said and kept driving. I told him to take me to Balik Pulau immediately and he turned the car around and did so.

 

He started to turn off again just before the roundabout in Balik Pulau so a told him I was getting out. He apologized and I had to stop myself from saying something to console him. It’s just such a knee jerk reaction for me to be polite, most of the time I think it’s a good thing but sometimes I cannot stop myself and afterwards I regret not standing up for myself more. I controlled myself and said in a neutral tone “thanks for the lift” as I got out of the car.

 

After shopping and returning to the Zhong Ding training center via the bus I thought about my hitch hiking experience. I thought about Malaysia. My experience so far is that it has a noticeable seedy feeling in certain places. A few times when Sarah was here I noticed Malay men staring at her in a very creepy manner. On one bus trip an older man sat beside her and kept looking at her and had his hands by his groin. She got up and we swapped places and I sat beside the man and returned his gaze until he got off the bus.

 

After a short ponder I decided never to hitch hike in Malaysia again.

 

 

Has anyone else ever got in a little red car and regretted it? What would you have done?

PART12 My new love of weapons


 

Today we did some sparring and sword fighting. Putting on the fencing masks and using tonfa and bamboo swords to fight.

Tonfa, we use this as a forearm shield when we spar sometimes

the type of sword we use for sparring. made from segments of bamboo. Pictures from Wikapedia

 I fought Vin at first. Immediately he hit my finger, at the time it was not painful but even now a week later it bloody hurts. He basically beat me. He kept on coming in after I attacked and closed me down. He was very good. With lian it was a bit different. Because I am taller I had a better reach and I kept my distance and stayed out of his range and got him a fair amount with some good leg shoots and head shots. He didn’t move in much so it was easier than with Vin who would not play my game.

 Lian gave me a really good strike to the knee which left an impressive red and white mark. I find this sword fighting so fun. I want to do more of it and if and when I ever set up a club I hope to do a lot of it. Nigel says it’s not that important to do often but it’s fun and that’s enough for me.

One of Nigel Suttons teachers says that sparring altogether is a bad idea. That when you spar you are playing a game and that your not actualy trying to kill your opponent. So that if and when your life is really in danger you will not be able to react properly. This is said by a man who lives in a dangerous country where machete fights and murder are common. From what I understand this man has also been in many real fights himself. So maybe in that situation sparring isnt as important.

 On another note I am very pleased with my training at the moment. Before I came to Malaysia I wasn’t at all interested in weapons. My experience had been minimal and all I had learnt was Taiji sword and staff forms and also some nunchuck and sai forms from doing Okinawan Te. But I feel that the weapons training in Chen Taiji is incompleat compared with what I am doing now.

Now that Nigel Sutton has introduced me to a more compleat weapon arts like Krabi krabong, Eskrima and Silat I feel that a love for weapons has been awakened. I am very attached to my boken (wooden sword) and I try my best to carry it everywhere around the Zhong Ding training centre. As Nigel told us to.

Boken, hard wooden sword.

 

My waking dreams and sleep walking has now reached a most active point. Only last night I opened my eyes and knew there was an enemy behind the door trying to get in. I ducked under my mosquito net while wrapping my thin bed sheet around my left arm to make a shield, I then grabbed the machety which was propped up by my bed and stood in front of my door waiting for an attack to come. I kept waiting until the illusion faded and I realised it was only a waking dream. I was standing in the Krabi krabong stance with my left forearm in front to protect and my right hand holding the machete was above my head ready to generate a powerful strike.

 

Does anyone reading this sleep walk? I would be interested to hear some stories. Do you think sleep walking is a negative thing?

PART11. Hysteria and hallucination while learning Silat


Later in the week Guru Azlan took us and the harimau group into Quantan. We parked by the huge mosque where people were going for afternoon prayer. Hundreds of people walking up to the mosque the call to prayer booming over a loud-speaker. I have become very fond of this call as it gives your day some structure. Especially in the morning when you hear that haunting voice speaking a foreign language. It reminds me which chapter of the day I am in.

Quantan state mosque

 

We were going to visit the Malaysian cultural office. Guru Azlan took us into a building and up the stairs into a long conference room with a table and chairs. We sat down and were brought a curry meal and fruit. After eating a projection screen was put up beside us and a young Malay man stood up looking very nerves and he was sweating profusely. The young man began to narrate the slide show which was shown on the projector. The pictures were of old Malaysian paintings, artifacts, temples and people doing Silat. Unfortunately his English was very poor and none of us could understand what he was saying.

 

I was suddenly overcome by the unstoppable giggles. The visit to the Malaysian cultural office had been unexpected and everyone was so austere and formal. The young man kept speaking is a shaking voice with abominable pronunciation. The harimau group didn’t know what was going on either; some of them couldn’t speak English very well. They just sat there looking confused but trying to be polite.

 My hysteria seemed to infect Vin and Lian which only made it worse. I tried so very hard not to laugh audibly and I had to clutch my mouth tightly to stop it coming out. Of course as anyone knows this just makes things so much worse and the odd snort or quiet giggle slipped out.

 

It only got worse as after the speech we stood up and shock everyone’s hand which took about 15 minutes and then we took pictures with the president of the Malaysian cultural office and we were told by Guru Azlan that now we were all trustees to the art of Silat and the royal palace. Then we shock hands again.

 

At the Cultural office in Quantan. Lian far left, Guru George,President at the Cultural office, Guru Azlan, Vin, Tim

Vin and myself trying hard to control our giggling

Myself and Lian have got it under control for the moment but Vin is finding it hard

 

 I tried so hard not to look at Vin or Lian but they too were finding it hard to control their hysteria and in fact some of the harimau group were infected now and they too were added to the list of people I tried not to look at.

 

Looking back now I wonder what the people at the office must have thought. I do feel ashamed that on this occasion which was meant to be so significant I was in such a state.

 

We left and went to a TV and radio recording studio where we performed the lock 3 form on a large stage next to a tall glass window. A camera crew surrounded us and filmed our performance. After that we all walked up to the second floor and met one of the radio hosts who asked Guru Azlan to feature on his talk show. Guru Azlan and Guru George the instructor of the Harimau group went into the studio and so did Vin. I was so relieved to be away from Guru Azlan for a moment as I was just dying to let out my laughter.

 

I suppose the seriousness of being at the Malaysian cultural office had made me nervous and an attack of the giggles had followed. Now that Guru Azlan was out of ear shot I let it all out. Tears came to my eyes as I laughed uncontrollably. I laughed even more when we started listening to Vin speaking on the radio when the host asked him what he thought of Silat. All I can remember is at one point Vin actually said ‘’ I feel like I am Silat’’ and that was enough to send me off again.

Vin is Silat! our room in Quantan

 

 

We spent the next few days training and on the last day we went to the hotel which the harimau group was staying at. It was a huge 5 star hotel with a luxurious swimming pool, much more desirable than the green one at our resort. Guru George and his students invited Vin, Lian and myself to train with them. They taught us their own style. The harimau Silat has movements which imitate the actions of a Tiger.

The swiss garden resort in Quantan where Guru George and his Harimau students stayed

The moves are extra low, involving sweeps executed on the group. Whereas Guru Azlan teaches locks slowly Guru George teaches them quickly and aggressively. One particular set I enjoyed involved grabbing your opponents neck smashing it on your knee and turning them around and biting their Adams apple or nose. Guru George even imitated spitting out the mouthful.

 

We practiced next to the beach by the hotel. Another move I was most impressed with was a kick I had never seen before. It was similar to a low Thai boxing roundhouse kick but instead of kicking the side of the leg you cock your leg and drive it into the front of your opponents leg and when you make contact you extend your leg and slice across theirs. I was practicing with one of the better harimau students taking it in turns to kick each other. It became unbearably painful having him drill his shin into the front of my leg again and again.

 

It was a breath of fresh air to train outside and with a more relaxed atmosphere and I felt I got to know some of the harimau people more in that short time than I had over the few weeks we have been training with them.
Guru George told us about a man who came and challenged him at his school. He was very rude and insisted that Guru George fight him, He accepted the challenge and the man came at him with a baton out of the blue and Guru George kicked him in the nuts so hard it split his scrotum open then Guru George grabbed his neck and broke it. He now has a court case on his hands.

 

It was sad to say goodbye to the Harimau group and we exchanged emails and they invited us to go and train with them some day. When we were walking to the car park Guru Azlan recognized one of his friends who practiced Silat and there and then in the dark car park he gave us a demonstration of his forms. There were similar to the Lian padukan forms, quick short strikes but this man looked like he was about to explode. With tense shoulder and holding his breath be machine-gunned through the moves as if his life depended on it.

 

 

That night I had a waking dream that Guru George and some of his students were attacking me I could clearly see them even though my eyes were open and I was conscious. I was lying down and I began to kick and claw at them, defending myself and I got to my feet and defeated them. For a moment I stood and looked at Guru George and he looked at me. He was smiling.

 

It was only the next day that I realized what a strange hallucination it had been. I have always been subject to sleep walking. When I do it I feel fully awake and my eyes are open. I can move my body but I cannot really see what is around me. The real world is there but it’s weak and far away and hallucinations crowd my vision. I remember one worrying time in China when I was sleep walking, I knew that I had to go out. So I came out from under the mosquito net and walked to the second floor window and opened it. I was already half way out of the window when Sarah woke up and asked me what I was doing ‘’I am going out’’ I said matter of factly. Thankfully Sarah didn’t let me go out.

My waking dreams almost always are connected with what I have been doing the day before although a frequent and incredibly annoying reoccurring waking dream involves me taking all the sheets and pillow covers off and then trying to put them back on again. I will sometimes fully wake up holding my sheets amidst a mass of blankets and pillows.

 

So our time with Guru Azlan had come to an end. We packed our things up from the resort and he drove us to the bus station. We said a sad farewell to Guru Azlan and got the long chilly air con bus back to Penang Island. It’s been a very good experience. Meeting new people, trying out new styles getting to know Lian and Vin better. Swimming, eating, sleep deprivation, holding my breath till my head hurts and shaking a lot of hands.