Thursday, 28 March 2013

My Childhood Care Bears

"Please fasten your seat belts and prepare for landing," the pilot announced as the Penang-bound flight began its descend. I looked out of the window into the blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds. 

Care Bears used to dance and play amongst the clouds. I would see Wish Bear throwing soft floss at Cheer Bear and laughing, having great fun with their plushy friends. As a nine-year-old, my face would light up and smile at those animated visions playing over and over again in my memories. But, soon after, the reel would stop, and I'm back to reality,"小蔡, 你回来了 (Xiao Cai, you are back)!"

I began my Guangzhou, China training stints when I was in Primary 4, making trips to the mainland every school holidays, at times spending the entire year in the country. Training was intensive and tough, most dark and lonely nights were spent crying and singing ("The Rainbow Connection" - scroll down for self-made music video) myself to sleep as my growing body and blistering hands would hurt. But, I took it all in my stride as I chose to train there, and my parents have invested so much in me, both financially and emotionally, that I could not afford to let them down. 

My coach, Chen Bai Jian & I at the Tian He Sports Complex in Guangzhou, China

We have read about the systematic training development of gymnasts in China; after careful selection from the provincial teams, as young as six, they are torn from their families and friends, and sent for centralised training with the best athletes from all parts the country.  For those who lived in the poor faraway villages, the annual Chinese New Year celebration was the only time they were able to see their relatives, enjoy the comforting hugs of their parents and warmth of their own homes. They lived a very different life from the commoners, with a hope that they can bring better lives to their families when they reach the top spot in the international sporting arena. Coaches are pivotal to their success, and they become their best friend, guardian, confidant, like the role of a parent.

Left: Stopped for a breather - image taken after the completion of a satisfactory routine on the Balance Beam. 
Right: My coach and I celebrating our win - a bronze medal at the 16th SEA Games in Manila, Philippines

My China coaches, in all my three sports, Gymnastics, Track & Field and Diving, showed me how important a coach was to the lives of athletes. Responsibilities of teaching technical skills to their young ones do not end there, but the care for their physiological development, emotional well-being and life skills, made them a complete coach. 

As a child away from home, I felt the care and concern of my coaches. They treated me like one of their athletes, scolded, yelled at and punished, I had it all. However, they were always there for us when we needed them. In 1991, I fell from one of the gymnastic apparatuses, the Uneven Bars and fractured my elbow. Upon assessment, the sports doctor on duty suggested for an x-ray and further checks to be done at the hospital as my arm didn't look that good. Without hesitation, my coach, Chen Bai Jian, cycled me to the nearest hospital, paid for my medical bills and kept me in sight till we were back at the hostel-an act of generosity, sincerity and genuine concern for my well-being. (info: there were more than one coach at all times in the gymnasium hence other coaches could help look after his gymnasts while he was at the hospital)

My injured arm immobilized with a sling

Coaches, mentors, teachers have one thing in common, learnings by their students or athletes, young or old, lie in their life teachings. Everyone lives a different life-some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, some struggle their way to success, some are contented with what they already have. No matter who you are or where you come from, close friends may or would have made an impact in your life, like how my coach showed me the way to generous giving. As educators, we aim to make the subject that we teach a way of life, something that will become part of us and exude its beauty through our daily interaction with people and activities that we do.

My young violin students when I was teaching part-time in 2001

Just like how the Care Bear Stares (Belly magic) can influence love, care and joy on their friends, an educator affects eternity to good life skills.

Here's a short "Rainbow Connection" music video (1min 40 sec), a compilation of childhood gymnastic training and competition in China, Philippines and Singapore. Music rearranged using electronic instrumentation and vocals. Enjoy!

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For violin lessons, please contact me:
+65 9396 5354

Thank you.

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