Every muscle in my body was quivering in protest. The veins in my neck looked as if they would burst and send a bluish-red flood onto everyone around me. The filthy concrete just below my nose was drinking up the sweat dripping from my body.

Yes, it was 6:15 a.m. Yes, I was on a dirty street in China standing on my head. An interesting place to find yourself at such an hour in the morning, for sure.

I tried to take my mind off of the pain by thinking of how people at home, with the 12-hour time difference, were either stuck in traffic or were just sitting down to a nice dinner. Here I was, on the other hand, in an awkward push-up-like position, with only my toes and head on the ground. My body was arched toward the sky so that all my weight was on my head. My hands were locked behind my back to prevent the temptation to cheat. Our sifu (master) prowled around our group looking for an opportunity to pounce on someone who was having trouble digesting this morning’s workout.

Chinese pedestrians stopped to point and chuckle at us foreigners paying penance to the concrete. Finally, I collapsed, but I knew better than to lie on the ground. I sprang to my feet, but it was too late.

“Are you finished?” Sifu was asking me.

This was a loaded question if I ever heard one. An answer of “yes” would give him the opportunity to dig deep into his mental Rolodex of torturous exercises for something new that I was sure to enjoy. A “no” would mean that I would be kissing concrete again. I chose not to answer and just gave him a dumb look like a fish gives to someone holding it above the water.

It didn’t work. He pointed to the ground and back down I went. I did all my cursing in Italian because I’m sure he knows all the colorful English words by now. 🙂

We finished our morning workout, and by 7:00 a.m. I was in the chow hall, watching as a spoonful of the default breakfast of fried rice and eggs with tomato hit my steel tray with an oily plop.

Metal tray of food at Shaolin school in China

And so, for the next 15 days this scenario would repeat itself in different variations of unpleasantness, until I get the bus out of here. Until then, I mark the days off one at a time and smile to myself when they are finished.

Just another day in paradise!!!

Greg Rodgers
Greg Rodgers

Greg is a full-time vagabonding writer and adventurer who escaped the corporate world. Now he helps others begin a life of travel.