It started with a Buddhist temple and ended 8 hours later with me hobbling into my apartment on crutches. If I’ve learned anything, it is: don’t mess with the Buddha.
I had arranged to visit a rather famous and old temple with a few of my students today. Jiming Temple (鸡鸣寺 – jīmíng sì – cock/rooster temple) is a beautiful compound originally built in 557 (Liang Dynasty). Living on the outskirts of Nanjing, it takes us a while to travel into the city, but my students are lively and we pass the lengthy travel time easily. We had a few adventures along the way (to be posted separately), and finally got to the temple. Admission is 7 RMB (a little over a dollar US/CA). With the ticket, you get 3 joss sticks, which can be burnt if you choose to kneel and give prayer in the temple proper.
Upon arrival, I got out my camera and began shooting. The buildings are truly gorgeous, painted in bright orange-yellow, and a far, historic cry from the nastiness that is most modern Chinese architecture. You are not allowed to bring cameras into the temple, so I stole a shot of the interior from outside. And therein was the problem. I angered the Buddha, and once I entered, passed through, and exited the temple to resume photo taking of other things, revenge was taken. I didn’t see a small step down in front of me, and I twisted my ankle and fell.
Sigh. Unfortunately, it is a weak ankle that I have injured in falls a few times in the past. It has never healed properly. Despite being Canadian, I haven’t had health insurance in about 10 years, and so that has meant no doctor or treatment for me… There is seldom an option to pay out of pocket, and if you manage to find a willing practitioner, it is very expensive.
Anyhow, realizing I couldn’t walk, my students and I headed off to the hospital. After an X-ray, I was lucky to find out nothing was broken. I have ended up with a brace and crutches.
Strangely, despite knowing I’ll be laid up for a while, I was in good spirits during the whole ordeal. And I think we all got an interesting learning experience out of the whole thing despite not having the full temple immersion that had been the original plan. For my students, they had a chance to practise English in a new context. There was vocabulary that was new to them. They also got a behind-the-scenes tour of the bowels of the subway station – the subway workers rustled up a wheel chair (see photo below) to my great relief and embarrassment, and we entered the employee only zones to navigate an especially large transfer station.
For me, I am getting to understand the relationships that can form between friends and teachers-students. Charity and volunteer work are extremely uncommon things in China. Helping strangers is not at the top of the priority list here. What is strong here – probably a lot stronger than in Western countries – is helping those you choose to have in your network. People go to great lengths to assist close friends, family, and teachers. It is built into the culture in a way that is difficult to explain. You don’t question this form of responsibility. If you know someone needs help, you just do everything that needs to be done. My students not only got me through the day, getting me home safely, but they have offered to be on-call for me for anything that I need. Having taught university students in both Canada and the US, it is hard to imagine that same situation happening. It is humbling and amazing.