Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Try experiences out of your comfort zone

When you travel as much as Larry and I have, especially on cruises, it seems that many of the shore excursions offered are rehashes of similar adventures we have had on other trips—just in another location. While we still enjoy seeing new cities, landscapes, and cultural or historical landmarks, sometimes it’s good to step back and see what else we can try.

So when we found ourselves in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) again, the thought occurred to look for a different activity. Learning Tai Chi at 7:00 a.m. seemed like a novel choice.

Neither of us had ever tried Tai Chi, although we were vaguely familiar with the ancient practice. We sensed that even an introductory class could provide us with certain moves that might help our mature bodies improve balance and flexibility. So we signed up!

The day started with an early morning drive though the city. High rise apartment buildings (financed by the Chinese) are a hallmark of “progress” and modernization. Motorbikes take over highways by virtue of sheer numbers. Masses of locals outnumber cars and trucks as they wind their way around each other and through the streets. It’s an amazing sight to see as you wonder where everyone might be going.

Some folks probably found their way to the same park in the center of the city where our tai chi experience would take place. We followed our guide along manicured paths and lovely landscapes to a paved area where the class would be held.

First we saw demonstrations of Tai Chi by an accomplished group of Vietnamese men and women, who were there with their master. We enjoyed watching their graceful movements, which belied the origin of Tail Chi as a form of self-defense developed in China around 2500 years ago.

Finally, it was time for our group of five, consisting of Larry and me, another mature couple, and a young man who had learned Tai Chi in college, to show our stuff.

Tai Chi is supposed to be easy on the joints, but we found that doing the slow, meditative movements requires good balance and mindfulness. We did our best to follow the flowing, rhythmic movements as they transfer weight from one leg to the other. Graceful we were not.

As soothing music played, we tried to imitate the experts, tried to coordinate hand movements with steps, and tried to stay upright. We repeated the routine several times, hopefully looking a little less clumsy by the end. Mainly, we discovered that Tai Chi is a beautiful form of exercise that is much more difficult than it looks on first glance.

But it was fun learning something outside our normal type of excursions. Even better, we were rewarded with breakfast at a traditional restaurant serving vegetarian and organic foods. The egg rolls were delicious, a fitting finale to this memorable experience.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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